Thursday, December 10, 2009

Trade Waiting - Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds

I've been told that one thing every comics fan needs to own in their personal collection is a complete event. Obviously, doing so would almost certainly be costly and probably saddle anyone with a decent amount of bad comics. Of course, there are exceptions. For me, those would be either World War Hulk or Final Crisis. I enjoyed both of the main series for the two events but Final Crisis not only had fewer tie-ins they also had better creative teams, at least on paper. Another reason why I was interested in getting all of Final Crisis was because it was one of the few comics that I managed to keep my enthusiasm for when I switched from buy singles to buying only trades. So, today I am going to take a look at Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds. Hit the jump for my review.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by George Perez
Collects Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #1-5

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds is probably most famous, or infamous, for both it's delays and ending. To me though, those are relatively unimportant issues. My problems with the series go far deeper. I guess I'll start with the title since that where my biggest complaint originates from. No, it is not the fact that this mini has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH FINAL CRISIS but, rather, the fact the series was really only about restoring the Silver Age Legion of Superheroes, not working the three different Legions into one cohesive whole. Well, actually, it does but that's not the point of the series.

A problem I've always had with Geoff Johns's is writing is that his stories often exist to "fix" a problem as much as they exist as stories and, to me, this is has gotten worse as time has gone on. Especially from Infinite Crisis onward. This annoys me for one of two reasons, sometimes both, because I either don't think what Johns is "fixing" is a problem or I think his "fix" is just downright horrible, either in it's execution or conception, whether or not I agree there was a problem in the first place. Johns does this is one of two ways.

The first is that he creates a cohesive version of a character that works all of said character's history into one unified whole. His work on Toyman and Brainiac are perfect examples of this. The other is that he picks and chooses whatever he personally likes, works that into that into something and then discards the rest., his work on Superman: Secret Origin being a good example of this. Ironically, he does both of these things with the various Legions.

Johns's actually does work the Legions' tangled history and continuity into something that actually allows all three versions to co-exist at the same time and allow all of them to have interacting with the larger DCU without the need for any Legion to be the only Legion that existed at that time. The problem is that by the end of the mini Johns basically went "F@#% that!" and all but killed off the other two Legions. Well, actually, the the two non-Silver Age Legions existed basically to be cannon fodder, which one of the Brainiac's actually says in the story, which is the height of stupidity, for obvious reasons. Anyway, Johns takes two, and just two, members of the Lost Legion and then sends to rest of the non-Adult Legion members back off to obscurity again which goes a long way in making this mini a total and utter waste.

Before I get to the rest of my problems with the collection, I guess I'll touch on the Legions real quick since they are supposed to main characters in this disaster of a story. They are the Adult, Silver Age Legion lead by asshole Brainiac 5, the Lost Legion lead by sycophant Brainiac 5 and the "Suck It Grandpa!" Legion lead by dumb ass Brainiac 5. I am not a fan of them. At all. None of them clicked with me and, never really being a fan of the Legion to begin with, Legion of 3 Worlds does nothing but re-enforce that for a variety of reasons. It ranges from the small stuff like them using names like "Dawny" or Brainy" to their actually code names, which I just find completely dull, to the fact that I think that they, as a group(s), have the personality of a piece of cardboard. Well, actually, I did end up being a little interested in the Lost Legion but, obviously, that doesn't matter since Johns deemed them "unworthy" and put them back into limbo, both literally and figuratively. I think they made up most of the canon fodder as well.

Pretty much all of the problems with Legion of 3 Worlds are related to the story, or lack thereof. It starts off well enough with Superboy Prime's arrival in the future and him forming the Legion of Super Villains while the Silver Age Legion's world crumbles around them so they call Superman for help while Brainiac 5 also decides to get the assistance of two other Legions. The "plan," as it were, is for Superman to try and redeem Prime. This is actually a pretty good basis for what could be an interesting story and could have worked as something of a traditional Crisis to Grant Morrison's Final Crisis but it's merely an afterthought by the time issue #2 ends and is completely forgotten by the end of issue #3, where Johns decides to use the series to "fix" stuff instead of telling an actual story.

In fact, most of the plot, and I'm using the term loosely here, is just used to set up a variety of action scenes while Johns goes around fixing things, the biggest of which don't really have anything to do with the story - the return of Superboy and Bart Allen. Now, granted, Bart Allen's return was set up in JLA/JSA: The Lightning Saga, which is a problem I'll touch on later, but neither Bart Allen or Superboy play a significant role in the story, to my mind, yet their return is treated as a big deal even though it's almost a non sequitur to the rest of the story. Well, Superboy does contribute to the story in the most asinine way possible and it makes no sense if you even think about it for a second.

Another problem with the story is that, as it goes on, it becomes less and less of Legion story and more and more of a Prime story, and a stupid one at that. Well, Prime does have his moments but, as a whole, his story gets worse the longer it goes on because he isn't a metaphor that can be carried on indefinitely. Johns also seems to have gotten lazy in that regards as well, just taking the simplest, and worst, path. This is perfectly high lighted by the several endings to Prime's story. The first, where he punches his future self and vanishes off the page, is the best while him showing up on Earth-Prime and realizing his greatest desire is now a nightmare is also good and the Trollboy-Prime ending is just horrible. Well, horrible as an ending for a comic anyway. I found it amusing and actually like it but it's definitely something that DC should have put up on their website and called "The Real End of Superboy-Prime?" or something.

The one part I actually did enjoy was the stuff with Sodam Yat but even that leads me to another problem the story - there are too many unrelated plot lines that Johns brings into the story. Legion of 3 Worlds picks up on plot lines from Infinite Crisis, post-Infinite Crisis Flash, JLA/JSA: The Lightning Saga, Justice Society of America, Sinestro Corps War, Action Comics, and I wouldn't be surprised that there a few more that I'm unaware of. Of course, you could point out that they were all written by Johns but not everyone who reads one Johns comics is going to read them all. The Sodam Yat stuff would definitely interest Green Lantern fans but it's more of a throw away scene in Legion of 3 Worlds than anything else since it has almost nothing to do with the plot. That goes with a lot of the other plot lines Johns brings in. They either tease a story the reader may or may not be aware of, or even interested in, or just wrap something up for the sake of wrapping it up. All of this just distracts from the main story and adds very little in return.

I know George Perez has a lot of devoted fans but I've never really been a fan of his work, what little I've read, which is pretty much just Crisis on Infinite Earths and JLA/Avengers. Of the three works I've read I only liked the art in Crisis. His later art is a little to cartoony for my tastes and I don't really think it meshes well with his style. That said, the man can cram a lot of characters onto a page or into a panel and his art does a good job of telling the story.

Verdict - Avoid It. Despite the fact that Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds started with some potential, it quickly turned into a mess filled with some of the most off putting trends that have been showing up in superhero comics lately.

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collectededitions said...

Kirk -- Enjoyed your review, and even moreso the fact that you and I picked on many of the same things in this book -- especially that the two secondary Legions appear as poor distillations of themselves -- and yet I still loved the book while you suggested avoiding it. Thanks for your interesting perspective.

Anonymous said...

At the beginning I was really digging what Johns was doing. Bringing in Sodam Yat and having Superman try to redeem Superboy Prime were cool ideas but I agree that nothing really felt like it mattered and everything was done to serve other stories. Superman was only really there to take him away from Final Crisis, Superboy and Kid Flash were brought back so Johns could write them in other books, Sodam Yat was brought in to recharge the GLC in the 31st Century, and all three legions were cleaned up and streamlined to give Johns the team he wanted. As much as I love all of these characters and Johns, he really dropped the ball here in not even attempting to tell a compelling story.

LuchoMon said...

I agree with my pal collectededitions (lol).
Kirk, man. What DO you like?

Sometimes this site surprises me.

It´s true that LOTW is convulted. I enjoyed The Great Darkness Saga as the only and best Legion story.

Still, I found this work by Johns and Perez fun, interesting and even with some time to invest in character development.

I loved the Animal-Man homage with Superboy erasing himself and at the end looking at "us".

LOT3W is not perfect, It´s not Johns´ best but it´s a fun experience for everyone.


Anonymous said...

Kirk- I liked the story a whole lot more than you did but you are right-on in the treatment of the Legions. A couple of things though:

1) I am a big fan of the silver age LSH (I grew up with them) so I happen to enjoy the nicknames and such. A non-LSH fan probably wouldn't care for it though.

2) The stuff you mention concerning Johns weaving his stories together isn't all that problematic to the story. Silver-Age LSH always did little easter eggs of other existing characters, which was done a lot here.

3) Superboy and Bart returning I think were meant to be important overall, not necessarily to the story as it was.

Still, great review of the book that I certainly can see and respect, even though I don't really agree with it.

Tyler said...

Im pretty sure this book was not meant for you in the first place

Dennis said...

While I'm glad that Conner and Bart are back, I'm tired of this endless effort to bring back the Silver Age. I understand there are times when this works, like bringing back Hal Jordan, but the Silver Age is over. Often times these books are starting to read like love letters to the writer's childhoods. Not to be too harsh, but I'm more attracted to innovation than forcing storylines to line up with the past.

Kirk Warren said...

This review was by Eric, not me. We're looking into something to make the author of the posts more noticable for the next iteration of the site, but you can see the name at the bottom of each post just before the comments start.

El Gostro said...

I find myself agreeing with Eric,and I actually liked more the "ending" of SBP ending in our world trolling the boards,at least he still gets to keep a bit of his power.

I'm not sure if Jhons created him,but I've noticed as well that he seems to be the incarnation of what silver age nostalgics like him seem to hate.

*And I don'care how much people may complain about pouches,non-costumes and over alls in the nineties:
80% of the Silver age costumes and characters were fucking ridiculous,deal with it.*

I liked what they did back in the dreaded last decade of the 20th century with the whole elseword stuff,no need to devise the DCU as if it was some sort of over complicated MMORPG (we'll have the upcoming MMORPG for that)with character and background story "Fixes" as they do nowadays.

The irony lies in that SBP was devised as a means of criticizing fanboys for voicing their purist views and screwing continuity in the process.
Well,that's what Geoff and company ended up doing by reviving and discarding pet characters and continuities at their leisure....

You can count with my support Prime!

This also goes for marvel:
-Norman and Harry Osborn were excellent characters and signs of continuity when they were *dead*
(I love em but them coming ouuta hell free card to mantain status quo?)

Eric Rupe said...

collectededitions - I don't think is an "Avoid It" in the same way I think X-Force is an "Avoid It." It's not completely devoid of merit but I don't there is enough good stuff to warrant anything above an Avoid It mostly because of all the problems I had with it. It's not so much the quality, which is decent enough through out, but the substance.

Anonymous1 - I wouldn't be surprised to find that the story was written sometime after issue #2 since there seems to be a shift after that issue because it does start out well enough.

Anonymous2 - I can agree that the Legion would be a good vehicle for Easter Eggs but I think what Johns include in the series went a little beyond to the point where most of them become noticeable plot points for other stories.

Dennis - I don't necessarily have a problem with DC bringing back Silver Age, a good story is still a good story, most of the time, but DC does seem interested in bring it back for the sake of bringing it back rather than doing anything with it.

El Gostro - Yeah, Prime is definitely a double edged sword like that but I think he's pretty much played out as a character.

As for Norman Osborn, his return was like the greatest thing ever when I was 12/13.

Ivan said...

Ehh...I really don't get why Perez' art is considered "cartoony".

Daryll B. said...

Eric, I am a Legion Fan and I can't AGREE with you more! I came into the Legion a few months after I discovered comics through the New Teen Titans and Uncanny X-Men. I have found things to like and love within each iteration of the Legion. Outside of the Perez art and Legion characters within, one thing is apparent by the time the second issue was over:


It is a story about 'redeeming' Superbaby Prime.
It is a story about getting Sodam Yat to reclaim the Green Lantern mythos.
It is a story about the most pathetic Superman of all time (you talk about redeeming a character who has maimed and killed some of your friends??).
It is a story about the Time Trapper. (And destroying one of the best tales of the Legion in End of an Era).
It is a story about bringing back Superboy and Kid Flash in the most cliched ways possible.
It is a story about killing off members of Legions that the author didn't like (Not taking into account that the Legion HAS FACED all these villains in some iteration before and HAS crafted battle plans for each. Or that each iteration has THEIR OWN fans!!!).
It is a story about Johns cleaning up his own sorry stories' loose ends and using the Legion like cannon fodder.
It is the story the got me swearing off the Legion until Geoff Johns is nowhere around.

I made the stupidest hope after reading S & TLOSH by Johns and Frank that they would take it overone day. For that I am sorry fellow Legionnaire fans.

Sorry guys, I may own the issues but as you see my rage at this has not diminished in the least.

Long Live The Legion!

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