Writers: Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Keith Giffen
Artists: Keith Giffen (p), Al Milgrom (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
The Legion just completed a six issue story arc that pitted the Legion of Super-Heroes against TWO Darkseids from different eras. The struggle was monumental. The stakes were only the continuing existence of the universe, and there was no hope for victory… Of course then the cavalry arrives, Darkseid’s plan is thwarted, and status quo is restored.
Well, before launching into the next multi-issue epic, comic book creative teams usually will produce (what I like to call) a “reprieve issue”; a light-hearted story that lacks dire consequences (but is not necessarily inconsequential). Superhero comics have been following the pattern of epic story/reprieve story/epic story/reprieve story for decades now. These reprieve stories often involve guest contributors, people who can step in to give the regular creative team a breather. Sometimes these guest contributors are writers or artists from the title’s past, professionals who have considerable familiarity with the title’s characters and themes.
For The Legion, one of those men certainly would be Keith Giffen. He was a major contributor to Legion of Super-Heroes throughout the 1980s (when the title became DC Comics’ second best selling title) and early 1990s (during the controversial and still hotly debated “Volume 4” relaunch), and since he has a penchant for humor (Justice League International, Lobo, The Heckler, Trencher, Formerly Known as the Justice League), Giffen is the perfect contributor for a Legion reprieve issue.
The set-up of The Legion #31 is appropriate enough. Chuck Taine and Gear, self-described blue collar maintenance workers of Legion World, are told they need to clean up the mess caused by the recent “Darkseid crisis.” Of course, they’re not too happy about their responsibilities, so they hatch a plan to avoid work in order to kick back and relax. Their plan, of course, blows up in their face, and they spend the rest of the issue scrambling to fix the catastrophe they’ve caused before anyone notices while simultaneously hoping to frame Superboy as the reason for the catastrophe.
Sounds funny, yes?
Unfortunately, Giffen here has too much of a hand in the execution of the story. The jokes, the antics and the character interaction are all so Giffenesque that it’s like it’s 1989 all over again. In and of itself, that isn‘t a problem (there ARE some funny moments here), but because of the 1994 re-boot of the Legion books (and subsequent 2001 relaunch), this just isn’t Keith Giffen’s Legion anymore. This kind of handling doesn’t suit the characters now. Chuck Taine is completely out of character. Instead of being the pragmatic, responsible, work-a-holic custodian of Legion headquarters, in this issue he’s Falstaff. Why? Because Falstaff is funny; work-a-holics are not. Gear and Chuck roaming around Legion World too much resembles Booster Bold and Blue Beetle roaming around the Justice League embassies. In fact, this story would have made better sense if somehow Booster and Beetle were transported from the past into Legion World to cause their typical havoc.
I’m left wondering how much input Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (the writing duo who has guided the past four years’ worth of Legion adventures) had on this issue. I really can’t find much of their influence. If Abnett and Lanning did contribute greatly to this issue, perhaps their intention was to do their best imitation of a Keith Giffen Justice League International issue. For this issue to fit in with the previous 30 issues though, Abnett and Lanning needed to drive the car while Giffen stayed in the back seat, holding the map and telling them where to go. Instead Giffen here is both driving the car and navigating.
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