See, after what seemed like forever, comic legend Paul Levitz left the writing duties of the Legion and Keith Giffen, with some help from Tom and Mary Bierbaum, stepped in to take over stewardship of the series. Giffen was no stranger to the Legion of Super-Heroes as he had drawn a large number of issues and even done some co-plotting with Levitz. The difference here was that under Giffen, the Legion took a decidedly darker turn.
Picking up 5 years after the final issue of the previous volume, the universe we are introduced to in Legion of Super-Heroes #1 is one without hope, a grim, gritty place where the economy has collapsed and the Legion has disbanded. No reason is given as to what happened to the Legion and the members have scattered to the far corners of the galaxy. But one Legionnaire remembers what is was to stand up for what you believe in and want to make the world a better place. And he is going to begin to reassemble the Legion of Super-Heroes and bring peace and hope to the galaxy.
Giffen uses a lot of small panels (9 per page) to tell the story and the result is a claustrophobic sensation that really adds a unique dynamic to the issue. You can really feel the weight of what happened and the hopelessness of this new world. The art is classic Giffen, some of the best he ever did on a Legion title. The Bierbaums do a good job with the dialogue but the plot and story in all Giffen. What I really liked about this version of the Legion was that everything wasn’t resolved all neat and tidy in six issues. The narrative plays out in a gradual fashion that takes it’s time and gives us a chance to really get to know the characters. I think that’s one of the reasons I liked the “5 years later” Legion; instead of quick blurbs introducing the cast, we really get to know them over the course of the story.
Of all the various Legion reboots, this is the one most fans like the least and I can see why. The Legion of Super-Heroes was always a very light, positive title where the future is a pleasant place that we should all be looking forward to. This Legion was darker, serious and almost depressing; in a word, very un-Legion like. But that is the reason I liked it so much. It was different, new and exciting. All bets were off and Giffen used that to great advantage during the time he worked on the title. When the series ended and the Legion was rebooted yet again, I stopped reading and haven’t really been back since.
The real shame is that this version doesn’t even “count” anymore (like that means anything at this point). Geoff Johns wrote the “5 years later” Legion out of the title’s continuity all together during the Legion of 3 Worlds miniseries. That means that the chance of ever seeing these in trade paperback is slim to none.
However, if you are interested in reading these issues (and you really should), most of the time you can find this version of the Legion of Super-Heroes in the quarter bins of any good size comic book convention. I highly recommend you give them a read. It’s a Legion you won’t expect and a story you won’t be able to put down.