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Some Brief Histories of Time: The Legion Reboots, Part 2
CINESCAPE continues its extended look back at the labyrinthine lore of the modern Legion of Super-Heroes
By Tony Whitt
November 07, 2001
The first issue of the very "adult" Keith Giffen series, LEGION #1 in 1989.
Last time, we followed the career of the Legion up to the DC CRISIS event that eliminated Superboy and necessitated a major rethinking of Legion lore. Now, back to the 30th century...
© 1989 DC Comics
Luckily, the first Legion "reboot" didn't necessitate starting from scratch that would come later. But perhaps it would have been better if it had. In SUPERMAN
#8the new series written by John Byrne following CRISIS
the post-Crisis Superman encountered the Legion for the first time. They were being pursued by a more powerful teenaged version of himself, and this "Superboy" believed he had to destroy the Legion in order to save the universe. Turns out this Superboy was a creation of the Legion's old enemy, the Time Trapper, and he came from a pocket universe that they'd been traveling back to every single time
they went back to the past. Their history was confused about the existence of a Superboy whom they'd modeled themselves aftera Superboy who never actually existed. (It's a Byrne script, remember.) This Superboy was tricked by the Trapper into thinking that serving him was the only way to save his Smallville from the Crisis, and this led him to attack the Legion. Once all the confusion got sorted out, the Legionnaires realized they'd never traveled in time, the Time Trapper was defeatedand Superboy was dead.
The first issue of the Waid/McCraw reboot, LEGION #0 in 1994.
© 1994 DC Comics
Life went on for this Legion until issue #63 in August 1989, but their next incarnation, which began a mere three months later, would show the team as they'd never been seen before. Plotter and artist Keith Giffen, along with script writers Tom and Mary Bierbaum, began the new series five years after the close of the last one, after the Legion has been forcefully disbanded by the Earth President Tayla Wellington. A lot can happen in five years, especially with a group like this, and the creative team went out of their way to create a far darker version of the future as they showed the Legion slowly making its way back together.
The second issue of the Waid/McCraw reboot, LEGIONNAIRES #0 in 1994.
© 1994 DC Comics
The fourth series had been running for forty issues when the SW6 Legionnaires, a group of clones created by the Dominion, were introduced. Originally it seemed like a good idea to have two sets of Legionnaires, one older and more experienced and one younger and more enthusiastic. But as an already crowded series became even more crowded, the DC editors decided it was time for yet another change. In a completely unexpected move, the creative team destroyed 30th century Earth, and a new series was created for the younger team. They became the heroes in charge of keeping the surviving linked domed cities of Earth safe while the older Legionnaires had their own separate adventures. This was the original reason for the split into the two monthly series, LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES
(which continued with the old numbering) and LEGIONNAIRES
(which started afresh with issue #1 and featured the kids). The new series would make it to #18, and the parent series to #61, before another reboot would change both series completely.
The "kids" get their own title...for a little while, with LEGIONNAIRES #1.
© DC Comics
was a sort of mini-CRISIS
which affected only a handful of series whose continuity had been botchedand two of these were, of course, the Legion books. It was decided to retain both titles but to start both from scratch, right at the Legion's beginnings. This allowed writers Mark Waid and Tom McCraw to come up with a completely new continuity that, while still based in Legion history, would be free to evolve beyond its former constraints. This is the reboot that changed everything, and it's also the reboot that has led directly to the current series. For the entirety of their run, the books were linked much as the Superman books previously were, so that one read LEGION
, then LEGIONNAIRES
, and back again, to get the complete story. It seemed the continuity glitches had finally been fixeduntil Superman, who had met Giffen's adult Legion just before the Earth was destroyed, met the "new" Legionnaires during the FINAL NIGHT
crossover event. Ouch. Luckily, no one called much attention to it, and yet another reboot was avoided. Even in this, however, the original Legion continuity was being restored, as FINAL NIGHT
reintroduced the Ferro Lad character to the series and reworked the classic "Sun-Eater" storyline from the old ADVENTURE
They once were lost...
© DC Comics
But after six years, it was decided to end both series, take a brief break, and then reintroduce the characters to new audiences by streamlining the "cast of thousands" and introducing each one slowly. This was done by sending a group of 13 Legionnaires off into an unknown part of space. LEGION LOST
, written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and featuring artwork by Olivier Coipel, followed the travails of those members of the team as they met new friends, lost two old ones, and discovered that one had gone quite, quite mad. Although the storyline "Legion of the Damned," which closed out the previous two series, was considered by fans to be one of the darkest Legion stories ever told, LEGION LOST
ended up being far darker.
...but now they're found!
© DC Comics
ended with the team finding a way back home, leading directly into the six-part miniseries LEGION WORLDS
, which told us what happened to the rest of the Legion while the lost ones were away. After the smaller team went missing, the larger team was forced to disband by new President Leeland McCauley. Sounds awfully familiar, doesn't it? But unlike the Keith Giffen series in 1989, LEGION WORLDS
focused less on the re-establishment of the group and more on what the team members had done in the year since their friends vanished, and some of the answers were very surprising.
Now, after a wait of nearly two years, the Legion will have yet another new title. Abnett and Lanning have promised an interesting mix of old and new characters. Although they have said this new series will not
wipe the slate clean, it should make for an interesting new direction for the team. If nothing else, the previous two series have created such excitement over this new offering that it's never been sweeter to say "Back to square one..."