This time out I’m tackling my all-time favourite stories of the Legion of Super-Heroes. There are ten to twenty titles that I have read every single story of and Legion is one of them, at least until recently. I completely gave up on the latest Jim Shooter incarnation.
I love epic stories, and the Legion with its large cast is perfectly suited for epic. The best stories are the ones where the threat is so dire it takes the entire Legion to handle. DC is forever tinkering with the concept, and is always throwing the baby out with the bathwater by twisting it like a pretzel to fit whatever vision the current powers that be have.
The best era for the characters was late 70’s and early 80’s when Paul Levitz was writing and Keith Giffen was drawing. It appears DC finally figured that out and has been slowly bringing back those versions of the characters.
I have to admit I liked the direction of the “Five Years Later” storyline, but, by all reports, editorial interference kept Keith Giffen from telling the story he wanted. The title became a trainwreck that completely went off the rails with the introduction on the Batch 23 clones.
1. “The Great Darkness Saga” from Legion of Super-Heroes (volume 1) #290-294.
This is the high water mark of the Levitz/Giffen era. Darkseid awakens, steals the powers of Time Trapper and Mordru and then (almost) conquers the universe. Dark Clones of Orion and other New Gods and the entire population of Daxam pushed the Legion as far as it could. Superboy and Girl bursting out of flames to pound on Darkseid is one of my all-time favourite comics pages.
2. “Earthwar” from Superboy and the Legion #241-245
An epic story of how the Legion averts an intergalactic War started by their old nemesis, Mordru the Merciless. Double crosses, political intrigues, and space battles galore. I’d really like to see this puppy reprinted.
3. Adventure Comics #352-353 (the Sun-Eater story)
A skeleton staff of Legionnaires has to handle the greatest threat they’ve ever faced– a Sun-Eater. Part one sees the Legion knowing it’s over-matched and enlists the aid of five supervillains (and in the process creates their deadliest team enemy– the Fatal Five). Part two sees the defeat of the Sun-eater and the death of Ferro Lad, the first Legionnaire to lose his life in the line of duty. The aftershocks of this story ran through the title for literally decades afterwards. The death of main characters in battle was virtually unheard of in the 1960’s.
4. Adventure Comics #354-355
The “Adult” Legion story. The premise of this storyline was Superman goes into the future to visit his grown up counter-parts in the Legion. They wind up taking on the Legion of Super-villains but it was the glimpses of the Legion’s future that influenced the title for (again) decades after. Subsequent writers were introducing and writing stories about throw away ideas from this story many years later. This was probably one of the most influential Legion stories of all-time.
5. Adventure Comics #359-360 or “The Super Outlaws of Earth/The Legion Chain Gang”.
The new President of the United Planets outlaws the Legion; most are imprisoned or given to the supervision of their parents. While it starts with a small underpowered group of Legionnaires trying to get to the bottom of what happened, eventually the whole Legion gets involved to defeat the baddie, their old foe, Universo. Really one of the most fun Legion stories there’s ever been.
6. Legion Lost
A small group of Legionnaires is thrown across the universe and has to fight to get home. DC shut down the Legion franchise for a year, making way for this twelve issue maxi-series in an effort to re-boot the concept. This was an extremely dark but engaging story– what happens to a group of Legionnaires when they’re cut off from their support systems and their comrades and don’t know where they are. Lots of action and a character study of how the various characters dealt with an impossible situation. Not sure why DC has never reprinted this. It’s virtually impossible to find in the back issue bins.
7. “An Eye for an Eye” from Legion of Super-Heroes volume 2 #1-7.
This is the first storyline of the “baxter” Legion of Super-Heroestitle by Levitz and Giffen. For the first time, the Legion of Super-Villains was literally a Legion, an army of the Legion’s greatest foes banding together to exterminate the LSH. A VERY dark story culminating in the death of Karate Kid and the repowering of Light Lass into LIGHTNING Lass. Yet another great story of the Legion prevailing against overpowering odds.
8. Adventure Comics #369-370 or “Mordru the Merciless”
The introduction of one of the Legion’s deadliest floes, the Sorceror Supreme of the DC Universe. A skeleton crew of four Legionnaires, knowing they are outclassed, escape through time to 1960’s Smallville. Mordru and an army follow them and try to enslave the Earth. A fun story and sentimental favourite– I have a fondness for Sorcerous characters.
9. “Crisis in the 30th Century” from JLA volume 1 #147-148
Mordru seeks three mystical artifacts under the guardianship of the JLA, inadvertently kidnaps a group of JLA and JSA characters and hijacks them to the 30th Century. In a graphic novel length story, the combined forces of the JLA, JSA, and LSH take on Mordru, three demons, and eventually each other in a really fun story that mixes and matches the teams in some really strange combinations.
10A. Superboy #147 or “The Origin of the Legion”
It took almost ten years but the origin of the team was finally told in an 80-page Giant. It was unusual that the 80 pagers rarely contained new material. Not only was the lead story new, but also the reprints were carefully chosen to represent various characters’ introductions to the team. One of the greatest single Legion issues there’s ever been.
10B. The Wedding of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl DC Treasury
One of the first ever DC graphic novels. A great oversized epic (there’s that word again) adventure that sees a major status quo change for the Legion. Probably Mike Grell’s best work on the Legion.
Honourable Mentions: Don’t know where it’s going yet but Final Crisis: Legion of 3 World’s has the potential of being on this list. It looks like it’s going to shake the Legion Universe up big-time and hopefully untangle the continuity mess this book’s been for the past twenty years. (Ken Boechler)