Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Judge Dredd - Day of Chaos: The Fourth Faction

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Judge Dredd - Day of Chaos: The Fourth Faction (Rebellion, 2013).

I didn't do myself any favors trying to come up with a way to "review" the first of two collected editions that reprint "Day of Chaos," the mammoth 50 (!) episode Judge Dredd epic that ran for a full year from the summer of 2011 into 2012. Taken as a whole, it is one of the biggest game-changers ever seen in Western comics, with a conclusion that just plan screws everything up and leaves the series more shaken and beaten up than almost any similar event in any comic that I can think of. (The destruction of the planet Earth in a late 1992 issue of Legion of Super-Heroes might have counted, but the publishers made everything better and back to normal less than two years later.) But the "you've gotta be kidding" level of rule-changing all happens in the second volume, which will be out in a couple of months. What this book does is set things up by reinforcing reader understanding of how Dredd's world is supposed to work, and then, with an incredibly effective sense of impending doom, starts crumbling the structures that define this world into dust.

When the Judge Dredd comic began in 1977, it was without a firm grasp on its own continuity or world. Over time, new elements would emerge, and odd ideas brought up for consideration. For a few years, the comic, always under the eyes of John Wagner, who has probably written a small majority of the episodes and is acknowledged as the comic's creator and chief architect, placed Dredd in a city-state with a population of 800 million. After five years, this number was halved over the course of the legendary epic "The Apocalypse War," wherein Dredd's home of Mega-City One was invaded by the ruthless Sovs of East-Meg One. Somehow, Wagner considered 400 million a slightly more manageable number than 800 million. Evidently, he's since decided that even that number was too great to control.

From time to time, the events of "The Apocalypse War" have resurfaced to confound our hero. Survivors of East-Meg One were shown to have established a new government on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, intent on convicting Dredd of war crimes, and various sleeper agents and assassins have surfaced from time to time to make potshots at the city. "Day of Chaos" is, naturally, the culmination of decades of episodes, and as such, no simple summary introduction can do it justice. The volume makes a good effort, though. It opens with a couple of pages of introduction that flesh out the long antagonism, and then begins a very effective scene-setting with a reprint of 2010's "The Skinning Room." This is a five-part story (from issues 1700-1704) that shows the political situation in Mega-City One after the events of an earlier year-long epic, "Tour of Duty," and eases readers into things by way of a typical affair of violent future crime. It's written by John Wagner and drawn by Ben Willsher, who provides much of the artwork in the story that follows, and will remind old readers and inform new ones that, as much as this is an action-adventure melodrama, it is also capable of being the absolute finest police procedural in the comic medium, with a wholly successful, cerebral approach to detective fiction that I think many comic fans don't recognize.

The reprint then skips ahead to June 2011, and a three-part story in which Dredd's most cunning ongoing enemy, the serial killer PJ Maybe, escapes from prison. His recapture becomes a priority when "Day of Chaos" properly begins in issue 1743, but there are even more critical problems. Justice Department's Psi-Division has been a deteriorating failure for years, probably since most of their reliable operatives have died in action, but they have a very good prognosticator who foresees her own death and a disaster that will crush the city like nothing before.

With a Sov camp in Siberia preparing a massive germ warfare attack on the city, and PJ Maybe planning to sabotage the city's mayoral election, and suicide assassins at loose targeting key figures, and Justice Department planning for the unbelievable casualty rate to come in such an unthinkable way that... ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself. This rapidly turns into a spectacle completely outside of any hero's ability to solve. Wagner and his artistic collaborators, including Ben Willsher, Henry Flint and Colin MacNeil, kept this escalating for the next several months.

"The Fourth Faction" is certain to leave anybody reading it desperate for the conclusion. What you'll get until then is twenty-three episodes of things getting worse and worse, a densely-narrated and subplot-heavy story with multiple antagonists, plotlines that weave masterfully in and out of the story, and a tone so grim that readers will agree that nobody and nothing is safe in this tale. I would have preferred that Rebellion release both volumes together - the second is due in July - but there's no chance that anybody spending the hours it will take to absorb this deep and heavy story will miss coming back for the conclusion. Highly recommended.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

LSH 1994 Reread, part three

(Covering Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 4 # 68-71, (but not Annual # 6), and Legionnaires # 25-28 (but not Annual #2), 1995)

Major developments:

*The Legionnaires defeat Tangleweb, who has been augmenting his intelligence by absorbing his victims' minds, but Andromeda's horrible attitude and phobias are not winning her any friends, even though she comes through in the end.
*A war criminal from Durla comes to Earth to hunt down Cham. He has the power to not just shape-shift, but to copy all the Legionnaires' powers. He calls himself the Composite Man. Shutting down the villain's brain is more than Imra can take; she is transferred to a psychiatric facility, catatonic.
*Kinetix, looking to increase her power or gain more through ancient artifacts, loses her abilities when she uncovers a star-shaped object that counteracts the effects of the first one that had originally given her superpowers.
*Jo and Tinya get to know each other a little better, and Jo's team, the Work Force, breaks up a criminal gang. These are revealed to be more members of the White Triangle, who resent the Work Force's owner, McCauley, selling arms to both themselves as well as to the people of other planets whom they detest.
*The White Triangle makes its move. Mostly racist Daxamites, they start murdering interspecies couples on Earth before destroying the stargates that allow interplanetary transport, and then wiping out the population of the planet Trom in a genocidal attack from space.
*Andromeda confesses that she's an unwitting White Triangle agent and, after Brainiac 5 gives her a new serum to make her immune to lead poisoning, she goes out for revenge on the Daxamite diplomats who maneuvered her into the Legion.
*The White Triangle attacks Earth, and I'm not sure how it ends because I didn't know that I needed Legionnaires Annual # 2 to finish the story. Blast.
*The basic creative team is as before: Mark Waid, Tom McCraw, and Tom Peyer writing, with Lee Moder and Jeffrey Moy the principal artists. Guest artists include Mike Collins and Joyce Chin.

Mark Waid finished out his co-writing and development of the Legion with this run of issues. They wrap up the first major subplots, culminating in a battle with the White Triangle. That will have big repercussions, which I'll look at in the next installment.

Beyond that... well, I apologize to anybody following along who's looking for any real insight from me into these issues, but I find analyzing them a little tough. They are rock-solid, very entertaining comics. As the team wrapped up their first year developing the new Legion, they could honestly say that they did even better than anybody reading would have guessed. The letters pages of both books were absent for several months, and when they returned, the editors had the right attitude and printed quite a few letters from older fans who were aggravated that DC Comics had closed the original Legion off and started fresh.

I would love to see a good reprint program for these comics, and not in any half-assed way, either. This book is every bit as good, if not better, than the wonderful Starman from the same period, and look at how beautifully DC spruced up those collections.

Well, I say that now, but looking ahead to the next batch of issues, I see that the very silly and badly dated '90s Superboy - you remember, the one with the really bad haircut and the Lennon spectacles - shows up for a three-issue guest star part. Gulp.

Anyway, my favorite moments involve the nascent formation of the Espionage Squad, with Invisible Kid, Apparition, Triad, Vi, and Chameleon basically doing their own thing regardless of what the leader-man tells them. It leads to the big cliffhanger about halfway through the run, when Vi comes back from Andromeda's room holding a White Triangle pendant. My least favorite moments were realizing that I needed two more issues to read the whole story. I don't own either of the 1995 Annuals. LSH Annual # 6 contains the story in which Kinetix loses her powers, and the whole shebang is wrapped up in Legionnaires Annual # 2. I ran by a couple of places in the 'burbs that still sell back issues and they didn't have copies of these issues. What an aggravation. Maybe I'll find them one day.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Black Money

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Black Money (Knopf, 1965).

I have been reading some of Ross Macdonald's detective fiction from the 1950s and 1960s lately. These haven't aged quite as well as Chandler, but they are still excellent reads and I am enjoying them a good deal.

I like how they have the velocity of avalanches. Macdonald's lead character, Lew Archer, will take a case and grab hold for dear life as it barrels down a hill instantly. I've read four of these now and that's the only common trait that they all share, this manic acceleration toward secrets and toward things that people have really been trying to bury and forget.

The fourth book that I have read is 1965's Black Money, the thirteenth in a series of eighteen books featuring Archer. This character was played in two feature films by Paul Newman, and it's very easy to visualize and hear that actor as Archer. This time out, he's hired by a jilted fellow to get the dirt on his ex's very weird and troubling new boyfriend, a guy who is talking like a big shot about being on the run from political turmoil in France. To say that there's some question about his bona fides is an understatement.

I really enjoy the very realistic feel of these books, particularly where money is concerned. Archer shares Philip Marlowe's need to find the truth, but he also needs to ensure that his expenses are going to be covered. This time out, Archer is certain that there is more to learn about how the increasingly bloody events of the present are tied into a suicide from seven years previously, and he's glad that his client didn't specifically tell him that the job was finished after Mr. Pretends-to-Be-French ends up dead, because that way he can spend a few more hours making people relive that old tragedy.

I also really enjoy the cut-with-a-knife tension in these books. Both the violence and the sexual energy are painfully tight. There's very little actual bed-hopping here, but Archer meets so many people looking for a way out, of poor decisions, of bad marriages, of the lower-light nothing of bottom-rung academia, that it would be merciful if he found some way to bring somebody a means of positive escape, but of course, he can't. These stories tend to deal with the suburbs outside of Los Angeles, increasing the sense of desperation for escape as the sprawl moves away from the heart of the city. These are bleak, fast-moving stories that embrace most of the hard-boiled tropes while blinking in the harsh, colorful light of the 1960s. Recommended.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

LSH 1994 Reread, part two

(Covering Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 4 # 65-67 and Legionnaires# 21-24, 1995)

Major developments:

*Brande's competitor McCauley has formed a superhero team of his own. Live Wire finds a place there, along with the new characters Evolvo Lad, Inferno, Karate Kid, Spider Girl, and Ultra Boy, who we met in the previous issue and who introduced Live Wire to the others. McCauley's micromanagement in the field is undermining the group's effectiveness.
*The UP has asked the Legion to repair the power grid of a super-secure prison facility on an asteroid inside the sun of the planet Wakeet. The magnetic tunnel that allows travel to the prison and back broke down some years ago. Brainiac 5's people, the Coluans, agreed to build a new magnetic tunnel-bridge, but a criminal gang has just been waiting for the bridge to go up so that they can send cruisers in to free all the prisoners. The Legion, on site to make the repairs, and the Work Force, who had been tracking the criminals, are trapped on the surface with the prisoners.
*It's love at first sight when Jo and Tinya notice each other for the first time. Unfortunately, he's kind of dating Spider Girl.
*Three new heroes are drafted: Andromeda of the planet Daxam, Shrinking Violet of Imsk, and Kinetix of Aleph. Leviathan instantly starts crushing on Kinetix, and Brainy on Andromeda.
*Andromeda struggles to befriend the others, as, like many Daxamites, she was raised with xenophobic beliefs. She is off-duty with some of the others who witness a xeno-attack on an alien. She corners the perps, but recognizes a white triangle symbol worn by one and lets them "escape."
*This will come back to haunt her: just days later, one of Triad's three bodies is badly beaten and hospitalized by other members of this white triangle gang.
*In space, a group of Legionnaires is tracking Tangleweb (see Reread One), but the alien surprises them and captures Cos and Spark. They trail him back to what appears to be his home planet...

I am really, really liking these comics! They have aged incredibly well. Unburdened by continuity or tie-ins - so far - they just tell a really good story of adventure and melodrama in a fun, science fiction setting and they tell it really well.

Maybe this is just me trying to find a connection to hang an opinion on and make these things worth doing, but the conventional wisdom, for years, has been that Starman by James Robinson and Tony Harris had been by far the best thing, if not the only good thing, to come out of DC's 1994 Zero Hour crossover / revamp. And this isn't to knock Starman at all, because, apart from some occasionally clunky dialogue, it is a truly fantastic comic, and one that I repurchased in those amazing hardcover omnibus editions, but that comic really lives and breathes from the continuity of the comics of that time. It's a book that relishes its place in history, with the latest in a long line of heroes to use that name, and it is about family and generations and titles. For all of its triumphs, Starman is a book that probably means more to readers with a fond memory or two of all the rest of DC Comics' line of superhero books.

This Legion does not seem to care. It is off doing its own thing. I think that when it does begin interacting with DC continuity and history, it will have its first fumbles.

I really like how the creators are aware of what the original iteration of the Legion did, and how it is so confidently able to foil expectations. There's the early rumblings of a love triangle between Rokk, Garth, and Imra. (Rokk and Imra are wearing clunky "Virtual Reality" helmets, like a lot of speculative fiction written in the mid-1990s thought that we'd use in "the future." It's kind of charming.) When the team gets three new members, we're all set to see Gim Allon get a crush on Shrinking Violet, because that's what Colossal Boy did in the original iteration. But no, he looks right past her and sees the brand new character Kinetix and gets a goofy grin.

Andromeda is the really interesting character this time, though. See, a few years previously, the original iteration of the Legion had suffered from Superman's editorial office having a hissy fit about other comics using the Superman Family, and so the Legion team dealt with their tantrum by having a history-altering time-whatsit rewrite everybody's backstory and replace Supergirl, the longtime supporting player and reserve member, with a Daxamite super-blonde with the same power set. Andromeda had proven popular with the fans of the Legion between 1990-93, and while I have only faded memories of the character, I remember her as being a smiling and upbeat, friendly person, much like the old, popular Girl of Steel.

This time around, Andromeda completely confounds expectations because she's a surly bigot who's slowly learning to get used to other humanoids. She completely screws over her teammates on Earth by letting some criminals go after she recognizes the white triangle that one of them wears, and she could have ended the threat of Tangleweb immediately with a punch to its face, only she refuses to touch any other sentient, finding the concept of other races or species' skin revolting. This character has a long, long way to go. I'm forcing myself to wait in between batches of seven, and I'm really impatient to start the next ones.

(As with Reread part one, the stories are written by Mark Waid, Tom Peyer, and Tom McCraw, with terrific artwork spearheaded by Lee Moder and Jeffrey Moy. Fantastic stuff across the board.)

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of The Yiddish Policemen's Union (HarperCollins, 2007).

I made the worst mistake that I probably ever made reading any book, ever, when I got about forty pages into Michael Chabon's absolutely triumphant and incredibly strange work of detective fiction, 2007's The Yiddish Policemen's Union. Something about its setting had me a little baffled, so I made the remarkable error of looking it up on Wikipedia to learn... but no. You don't need Wikipedia. You don't need the description from the back cover of the book. You don't need anything beyond me telling you this: buy this book and dive into it.

Very briefly, then, the lead character is a police detective named Meyer Landsman, who lives in a fleabit building and who is informed by the manager that there's a dead body in one of the rooms. A heroin addict who played a lot of chess is dead, and looking into this killing will bring Landsman and his partner, the happily married Berko Shemets, into conflict with powerful organized crime, a strangely detached mother, and a religious movement that believes that the deceased was the once-in-a-generation potential messiah.

The complications are absolutely mammoth. There's a political thing going on that can't be described for fear of spoiling what in the world is going on with this story, there's our hero's ex-wife, Bina Landsman, another cop who has been assigned to take charge of Landsman and Shemets' department, there's the rather stunning realization that Landsman's sister, a pilot who died a few weeks before the book begins, had met the deceased man and flown him to a very weird location shortly before she died.

There is a whole mess of stuff going on here, and it is told brilliantly. It is every inch as wonderful a story as the works by Hammett and Chandler to which Chabon is clearly paying homage. Please believe me when I tell you that any kind of a summary or introduction more detailed than what I've provided is guaranteed to blow the lid off a pile of surprises. I enjoyed this tremendously, and while Chabon's work has ranged from deeply disappointing to very entertaining, this is by leagues my favorite of his novels. It's flawless and in many respects utterly unlike anything else that I've read. Read it with my strongest recommendation, and then go check Wikipedia and see why I was so amazingly aggravated and annoyed that I didn't allow the book to embrace me with its wonderful surprises.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

LSH 1994 Reread, part one

(Covering Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 4 issue zero and # 62-64 and Legionnaires issue zero and # 19-20, 1994)

Major developments:

*Rokk Krinn, an athlete from the planet Braal with the native power to control magnetism, Imra Ardeen, a cadet police officer from Saturn's moon of Titan with the native power of telepathy, and Garth Ranzz, a runaway from the panel Winath who has the power to generate electricity, meet on a shuttle to Earth. They save the life of RJ Brande, one of the richest men in the universe thanks to his invention of stargate technology. The nascent United Planets is a fragile alliance, and he proposes that they join forces with his backing as a Legion of Super-Heroes as symbols to unite the many squabbling planets in the systems.
*The next assassination attempt comes when Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Live Wire are introduced to the diplomats. Tinya Wazzo of Bgtzl and Luorno Durgo of Cargg help the new heroes and are drafted to join them as Apparition and Triad. The UP and the public loves the kids. Their ranks are swiftly increased as new members are drafted to join them: Leviathan (Gim Allon) of Earth, Kid Quantum (James Cullum) of Xanthu, XS (Jenni Ognats) of Aarok, Chameleon (Reep Daggle) of Durla, Invisible Kid (Lyle Norg) of Earth, and Brainiac 5 (Querl Dox) of Colu, who initially ignores his draft.
*The team does not work well together. Chameleon does not speak Interlac, and only Invisible Kid can converse with him. The initial five mildly resents the draftees, especially when it's learned that the UP has decided that Leviathan, a Science Police officer, will be team leader. James Cullum, who uses a device housed in a belt to generate stasis fields, strongly resents being drafted at all, or taking orders. On their first mission together, Cullum is killed by an alien calling itself Tangleweb, who escapes.
*Brande shells out for a huge new headquarters for the team, which comes with its own chef in the cafeteria, a Bismollian named Tenzil Kem.
*Leland McCauley, Brande's most ruthless competitor, asks for the Legion's help. A criminal named Mano is killing his technicians on the moonbase. Mano wants vengeance after McCauley sold one warring faction on the planet of Angtu untested chemical weapons that ended up killing everybody.
*Winath drafts Garth's twin sister Ayla to be their formal representative in the Legion, replacing Garth, a runaway, who the UP President kicks off the team. Ayla takes the code name Spark. Garth agrees, grudgingly, that he's still a minor under Winath law and represents a possible PR nightmare and willingly leaves.
*A superpowered stranger who calls himself Ultra Boy and can use one of several different powers at a time tells Garth about a new opportunity for him. McCauley, impressed by the Legion, is assembling his own team...

Several chapters back, I explained briefly how DC decided to end the troubled Legion of Super-Heroes franchise in 1994 with its most audacious change to continuity, ever. The entire universe was wiped out, closing the doors for good during a silly crossover event called Zero Hour. When things returned to normal for the comic book world of the present day, it gave the editors the chance to relaunch a few titles and create several new ones, the most celebrated of which was certainly the extremely good Starman by James Robinson and Tony Harris.

But darned if Legion of Super-Heroes didn't also emerge from the Zero Hour debacle stronger than it had been in years. The editors decided to go in for the really audacious move of just starting clean and brand-new, despite, foolishly, the holdover numbering from the previous issues. The new Legion was being told across two issues, with a new installment published every other week. Initially, it was being written by a team of three, Mark Waid, Tom McCraw, and Tom Peyer, and a host of artists. The leads were Stuart Immonen, Jeffrey Moy, and Lee Moder, with lots of fill-in work. A typical issue (take LSH # 63) credits Waid and McCraw with story, and Moder for pencils on pages 1-15, Brian Apthorp for pages 16-20, and Scott Benefiel for pages 21-25, with inking by Ron Boyd on pages 1-13 and 21-25, and Tom Simmons on 14-20. This would settle down in 1995, but it's obvious that this team hit the ground running, and breathlessly at that.

Somehow, I guess because the writers are paying such close attention to characterization and motive, giving these teen draftees a reason to trust each other and provide an image of unity, it really works. The tension between Leviathan and Cos is short-lived but natural; the founding three are happy to welcome Apparition and Triad as members, but are surprised and baffled that the United Planets are instantly in their affairs and telling them who is in charge. Leviathan, with his police background, is simply told by the government that he is the leader. This does not last long. After a disastrous first mission, he asks Cos to be in charge again. This will set up considerable, and reasonable tension between the heroes and the government.

So far, the "history" of this group has strong similarities to the Legion that readers remember. It was a bold and brazen move to just cancel things and start again, but so far, the payoff is really good. I dismissed it when I first heard about it, enjoyed it when I gave it a fair shake a few years later, and think it's just terrific today. Very fun stuff!

Monday, May 6, 2013

LSH 2010 Reread, part five

(Covering Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 6 # 14-16 and vol. 7 # 1, Adventure Comics # 528-529, and Legion Lost vol. 2 # 1, 2011)

Major developments:

*Punch, blast, punch, kick... issue 14 is just another fight scene. Thom is restored to sanity, and Saturn Queen sacrifices Atta in order to get a little blue being - the same one that Dawnstar has been looking for since part three of this reread - to provide her with the location of the next planet of immortals.
*To prevent the heroes from sending any reservists or the like to further interfere with her schemes, Saturn Queen sends her old ally Cosmic King to attack the Legion Academy. He kills the trainee Variable Lad.
*Another fatality: Kirt, the villain-turned-hero Earth-Man, absorbs all of the Green Lantern energy and duplicates all of the Legionnaires' powers to further absorb and blast back the blue energy from the unnamed blue enemy, killing himself in the process.
*There is then a break of a few weeks. A team of seven Legionnaires - Dawnstar, Gates, Tellus, Timber Wolf, Tyroc, and Wildfire, along with Yera (Gim's wife, who was apparently a Legionnaire) - gets trapped in the 21st Century when their time machine is destroyed. They may be carrying a dangerous plague. Thanks to the "Flashpoint" incident, timelines are all scrambled and the 21st Century is no longer accessible. The seven are presumed dead (and, at the conclusion of issue 1 of Legion Lost, it really does look like Gates and Yera are dead), and, mourning his wife, Gim quits the team.
*With eight down on the active roster, Star Boy - his sanity restored - signs back up, and Mon-El calls up the Academy members Chemical Kid, Comet Queen, Dragonwing, and Glorith. Also, Professor Exposition from the previous chapters has shown herself to have elemental powers and she joins the team as Harmonia. This is all backstory dumped into issue one of volume seven, part of DC's "New 52" initiative to give new readers a simple and easy to understand jump-on starting point.
*What also happens in issue one is that Cham, Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl take two of the new kids - Dragonwing and Chemical Kid - on a mission to find out why a United Planets base is sending secret signals to the Dominators, and find there's a Daxamite working with them. That's where I jumped off.

And... wow, what a hugely disappointing disaster this was in the end. I thought that perhaps I just misremembered it as being scattershot and uninvolving, but no, it really is a massive stinkbomb.

So the situation in 2011 was, as they say on Facebook, complicated. I should explain that I was getting my comics once every five or six weeks from Bizarro Wuxtry in Athens, the best comic shop in the USA, about seventy-ish miles away. I had also, after years and years of getting fed up with the comic book distribution company, Diamond, screwing up my orders of 2000 AD, elected to go digital early in 2011 and my trips to Athens became less frequent.

At the same time, DC Comics was doing its umpteenth "start again" rejigging of its continuity, this time starting from one of those forty-six episode crossover events called "Flashpoint." This would lead to the umpteenth endpoint of the DC Universe and a brand new continuity rising from its ashes, this time called "The New 52" and intended to be new reader-friendly, with every single title starting from scratch, except for Legion, which was a thousand years in the future and didn't need to do that. It would certainly mean, however, brand new continuity hiccups any time anybody wanted to mention Superboy.

Frankly, I am old and tired and sick of DC Comics doing this.

It also meant the cancellation of Adventure Comics, which didn't bother me much. After seven months of flashback stories, it had switched to telling tales of the Legion Academy which were remarkably skippable. It would be replaced by Legion Lost in which seven superheroes were trapped in our time, written not by Paul Levitz but by Fabian Nicieza.

And around this time, we started to get word of Before Watchmen, in which the corporation that owns the property that should have reverted to its creators, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, many years ago hired a bunch of scabs and ringers to tell new stories. I consider this series just about the basest, stupidest, and most unethical, immoral, and mercenary thing that they could have done. I am perfectly happy to no longer give any money to that company in any way. It's not as though DC Comics has any kind of admirable track record of doing the right thing, but Before Watchmen was the final straw for me. For a publisher of superhero comic books, they are, flatly, the bad guys.

So, no longer needing to drive to Athens and no longer wishing to purchase books from DC, I asked Bizarro Wuxtry to end my subscriptions, and they did, one month before both books ended. I picked up the final issues of each from a shop in Marietta to close out the collections and read the end of the story. Then, curiosity overpowered ethics and I went by another store and bought issue one of the seventh volume of LSH. This book tells us that some Legionnaires were killed - having read the advance press, I knew that they were actually in their own book - but it doesn't even tell us who. For that, readers had to buy Legion Lost # 1. That's a terrific way to start a brand new funnybook for brand new readers. Entry-level launches! And oh, look, Professor Exposition and all the awful new characters from the Legion Academy - plus Comet Queen, who I didn't like thirty years ago - are all members now! This is why you should never let curiosity overpower your sense of morality. You will always be unhappy with that decision.

Really, honestly, this stinks.

What's almost as bad is that the big battle with the LSV, which started out so promising, just coasts and whimpers to a conclusion. I can only speculate, but it feels like Levitz was told that the title would end with # 16 and that he needed to wrap everything up, but at the same time not introduce any new plots or storylines. So if the early issues of Levitz's 2010 run suffered from too many things happening in too many places to too many characters, the last four have a different problem: it's just one incredibly long and boring fight scene. The concept of the immortal world of wisdom is badly underdeveloped, and I looked twice but I never saw a name for Saturn Queen's strange blue energy friend. He knows Dyogene and the power of the Green Lanterns, so I wonder whether he's one of those Blue Lanterns that I read about? It's all badly unclear.

At least Kirt Niedrich dies. It was a very poor decision to center the stories around him in the first place. It's best that this era of the Legion, despite some good artwork and a better-than-expected middle period, ended with him. It was badly planned, rushed, and disappointing, especially the ending.

Legion Lost was canceled after 17 issues. Legion of Super-Heroes continues on and has hit 21 issues at the time of writing.

Thanks for reading that recap, everybody. Come back later this week for the first of at least eleven chapters of another Reread covering the 1994 relaunch. It's much better. Much.