Rating: 4/5 – A 30-year Old Story That Still Resonates Today!
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.
Why do we read comics?
There’s no all-encompassing answer to this question. We come into this hobby…some would say this way of life…for a number of reasons. For many of us, it’s the collecting aspect: getting a complete run of issues on a title, preserving them in little plastic bags or getting them graded and packed into Mylar sleeves. For others, it’s devotion to a particular creator or character. We may not regularly read a title that Captain Marvel appears in, for example, but we’ll pick that book up if we hear he’s in it, even for just a panel. I like to imagine, though, that if there were a single answer that applied to all of us, it’s this: We read comics to escape.
The world can be a very tough place to live, no matter what advertisements try to tell you. Particularly in this era of social media, and even more so in an election year. We’re bombarded with news articles, opinion pieces, commentaries, all laden with granules of truth and untruth, and all painting a very dire picture of the world today. Bullying is as prevalent as it has ever been, we’re told we can no longer trust our police, we need a gun just to go to the grocery store, whoever you plan to vote for is the wrong person, we’re going to get killed by that person who looks or acts differently from us…it’s small wonder we look for ways to divert our attention, even for a few minutes, from the chaos in our midst. It’s in this world that I sat down to read the 30th Anniversary re-release of DC’s Legends crossover event.
I had missed this mini-series when it first came out. I’m not sure if I was turned off by the prospect of having to buy a number of tie-in issues to get the full story – a pretty commonplace practice now, but very new in the mid-80s – or if I was just reading more books with “X” in the title and only had so much allowance money to go around. Or it could be that, coming hot on the heels of Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret Wars, I was simply burnt out on massive event comics, and was hoping this wouldn’t become a trend. Hey, I was a nerdy comic reader, not a prophet. Obviously.
The series certainly created a few milestones. The end of the much-maligned Justice League Detroit and the birth of the much-loved Giffen-era Justice League. The reimagining of Task Force X, a.k.a. the Suicide Squad in issue #3. The emergence of a recently reborn post-crisis Amazonian princess into the public eye. The optimist in me likes to see this book as a celebration of 30 years of excellence birthed by writers John Ostrander and Len Wein, teamed up with artist John Byrne. The cynic in me who spends too much time in that social media circus mentioned earlier knows we’ve got movies coming out about each of those properties, and there’s no moss growing on DC Entertainment’s publishing stone. Still, let’s focus on the positive side of things, if we can.
Reading this title for the first time, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to the current climate of the world we live in. If I’m truly reading comics as an escape, Legends might have been a poor choice, because it has moments of eerily prophetic situations that hit a bit too close to home. Darkseid sends his minion Glorious Godfrey to sow the seeds of fear and discontent among the populace of Earth. Godfrey is almost without peer at his work, a fear monger causing the world at large to distrust the superheroes who protect them, forcing a Presidential order prohibiting superheroes to use their powers, and creating an environment of blind…or maybe not so blind…hatred. Mob mentality becomes the order of the day, and soon Earth becomes a divided planet where you’re either “For Us” or “Against Us”.
Sound a bit familiar? I found this book amazingly prescient. Godfrey knew the right words to use and the right way to present his message (it’s part of his power) to get people to follow him, even obey him. It’s not enough to be afraid of a few superheroes. All superheroes are now suspect. Ostrander and Wein do a good job of showing how lines are divided. Obviously we’re supposed to be rooting for the heroes, but equal time is given to show how people could distrust or even actively hate them. If the book falters anywhere, it’s in the quick-solution ending of having Robin and a number of other children point out the world the adults, led by Godfrey, are leaving them. It’s a little too simplistic, but it works. After all, the things we’re arguing about today are likely going to have repercussions for the next generation, right? Maybe it’s not such a simplistic ending after all.
Some comic book “event” series fail to live up to their acclaim. Changes made by the “shocking, history-altering” cataclysms that occur in their pages often get erased, rebooted, or simply ignored within about a year or two. Legends isn’t much different, where that’s concerned. The JLI is no more (though it has a spiritual successor in Justice League 3001), and the Suicide Squad we have now bears only a titular resemblance to the squad launched in Legends. Still, like Legends, they’ve survived, and if you’ve never read it, it’s interesting to read a story penned 30 years ago that still resonates in the world of today.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow
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