Star Trek / The Legion of Super-Heroes

A story in five reactions.

Reaction #1 – experienced when first hearing about this special six issue mini-series featuring two of my favorite properties

Summed up very well in a post a friend of mine put on Facebook about the news:  “I just died and went to geek heaven. See you there, Ben McClure.”

Reaction #2 – experience upon buying the first issue at the local comic shop

Something like, “Wow, this is a pretty thick book.  Cool!  That makes it pretty expensive, especially here in Australia.  But so what?  This is Star Trek meeting the Legion of Super-Heroes!  I’m willing to pay some extra dollars for that.”

Reaction #3 – experienced upon reading the first issue

This is what I wrote on a Legion-related message board after reading the first issue:

I was pretty disappointed by the length of the set up involved – that it took the entire issue to get the point where the two teams realized that they were even in another universe, something that we the readers of course new just from reading any of the advanced press (or failing that, reading the first couple of pages of the book).

I think the way the characters are entering into this situation feels a bit “cheap” – almost “low budget”. It’s the way the story very quickly isolates two groups of characters from their established contexts (and in the Legion’s case, not even introducing their normal context) – makes me worry the whole story will be just these dozen characters running around on their mirror world. I’d rather see a larger sense of the two “fictional universes” really meeting – a grander sense of scale. Ultra Boy blocking a [ship’s]  phaser shot with his body, that sort of thing. Instead all we have are “shout outs” to Darkseid and the Dominion.

Of course, I’m hoping I’ll be pleasantly surprised by the rest of the story, but it does not encourage me that by the end of the issue the characters haven’t even bumped into each other yet. Isn’t that more of the payoff we want from such a crossover?

On top of this I discovered that the book’s page count was just normal, and that the extra pages were some preview of some other series that I don’t remember anymore

Reaction #4 – experienced upon skimming future issues in the comic shop

Something like:  “End of second issue and they still haven’t met face to face…ho hum.  I think I was right to not buy the rest of this.”

Reaction #5 – experienced upon reading the entire story in a hardcover picked up at the library

Hmm, I didn’t hate the story as much as I thought I would.  I mean, it still develops very slowly, and it still makes the fatal flaw of removing the characters from their setting, which is part of what makes the character’s interesting.  But I found that the experience of reading it without the general expectation that it would actually be good to be more enjoyable than I anticipated.  It was fun to see Kirk, Spock, Cosmic Boy, Brainiac 5 and the others come to realization that their worlds were not all that different and start teaming up to figure out what had happened and how they could stop it.

But that said, I still see it as a wasted opportunity.  None of the characters are written to be all that interesting, and you don’t feel you learn anything particularly new about anyone by having them encounter each other.  Most of the story is built around just trying to shoe-horn in as many references or easter eggs that writer Chris Roberson (a guy who was “controversially” fired by DC Comics after he announced that he didn’t want to work for them anymore for ethical reasons) could fit in.  So in place of characterization, you get random references to Cosmic Boy’s brother, Chameleon Boy’s disastrous mission to the Khund homeworld, Uhura’s Orion roommate, Chekov’s love of Russia, and so on.  And instead of classic settings, you get an alternate universe full of things like Talokians working for an evil Federation, Controllers meeting with Organians, Khunds fighting Klingons, the Borg being from Tyrraz, a Fatal Five made up largely of Star Trek aliens, Kirk trying to pick up Shadow Lass, and most imaginatively of all, the revelation that Flint (from one of the worst episodes of the Star Trek of all, Requiem for Methuselah) and Vandal Savage are one and the same.  So it’s sort of fun, but doesn’t lend itself to rich storytelling.

You also get a plot that features such trite cliches such as the heroes all needlessly fighting each other when they first meet, except for the two smart guys who realize that this is pointless.  You also get to have a bit where the characters split up into two groups each made up of a mixing from the respective franchises, but where one of the groups (the one led by Kirk, who confront the “present day” Flint / Vandal Savage) end up accomplishing nothing at all except for some serious plot expositions, some visual easter eggs of time machines from other franchises (the Tardis, a phone booth, a hot tub, a Stargate) and some thematic speeches.

The lead artist on the series is Jeffrey Moy, who drew the Legion for a long time during the “post-boot” era.  I wasn’t a huge fan of him at the time but his style did seem to fit the Legion of the period.  I don’t think it does here.  The compositions and storytelling is fine but the figure work looks too cartoony for the series, making it hard for me to engage with the characters.  Some of the Star Trek characters look quite different from their TV counterparts, as well.  His rendition of Q is so unrecognizable that I wonder if the actor refused to license his likeness or something.

Ultimately, the series never becomes anything more than the chance to see two normally separate sets of characters in the same pictures – sort of like sophisticated fan art.  As such, the best parts of it are the covers, with a few decent ones by regular cover artist Phil Jimenez, and some cool variants supplied by classic Legion artists like Keith Giffen, Mike Grell, and Chris Sprouse, and an awesome one by non-Legion artist Mike Allred.

Anyway, so I had a diverting time reading this, but I’m pretty disappointed with the results, and yet still pleased with my restraint of avoiding spending more money than necessary to discover this.  However, I’ll end these comments on a high point:  the funniest line I read in the whole book, which made me genuinely laugh, was this exchange:

Chekov:  Oh yes.  The steam engine, the printing press, even Scotch–all inwented in Russia.
Cosmic Boy:  That’s amazing.  Our timelines must be even more different than I thought.

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