dreamcatchings: (stv: keep talking)
[personal profile] dreamcatchings
Before I begin actually covering this run of the LSH (get used to the acronym because the title is completely too long to keep typing out) I need to talk a little bit about my history with it because that's going to impact my reading of this version. Over the years, I've read quite a bit of LSH stuff. I have some of the LSH DC Archive books for the really old stuff. I have the complete L.E.G.I.O.N. aka Five Years Later run, which features adult versions of the LSH. I also have the run for the "SW6" LSH. Then I have the Reboot run after Zero Hour. (If you're not a follower of LSH this is probably where you're really confused. This stuff isn't really important, and I'm hopefully going to double back to examine each run in its own entry so don't worry all that much about it at the moment. This is basically just to establish my cred with the comic.) I also have quite a bit of the Post-Infinite Crisis run although I'm missing chunks of that and anything newer. I started reading about these characters in the SW6 spin-off of Legionnaires when it came out way back in 1993. I've been collecting on-going runs and back tracking for others ever since.

To sum up, I've been around a while and read a wide berth of stories and versions of these characters. I care about them enough to keep enduring DC's never ending quest to create something that makes sense? I'm not exactly sure what DC is doing. To be quite honest, they don't need to go through these endless permutations. The LSH is removed enough from the normal DC continuity that as long as you keep their own history straight and avoid senseless time travel (I'm looking at Brainy and XS here) then there's not much you can screw up. Sometimes I think that LSH is one of DC's throw away titles. They assume that either no one is reading or no one cares so they just toss people at it and tell them to have fun and do whatever they want. I'm up for new and exciting versions when they're done right, but I feel like you also need to be respectful of the crapton of history you're inheriting before you just destroy it all on a whim.

Despite a lot of praise that people I know have heaped on the Threeboot run, I wasn't that impressed. I think that a lot of this stems from the fact that I went into it carrying so much LSH baggage of my own. Like I said, I'm all for alternate realities, new versions, etc. If anything I prefer when things are drastically different than the base reality. For example I am in love with Marvel's Age of Apocalypse event, but I was disappointed with how closely their Ultimate universe mirrored the default 616 universe in some ways. (More on all of that to come later.) So I am not anti-reboot or alternate reality or anything like that. Sometimes you end up creatively painting yourself into a corner, especially if you're not paying attention to the history, or everything's just so jumbled that you need a clean slate. It happens. I'm down. Just do it right. Threeboot did some things really right, and it handled others completely wrong.

This entry probably isn't going to be as in-depth as some of my others. For one thing, this version of the LSH only ran for fifty issues. It's not insubstantial, but this is the LSH we're talking about. It's a massive, decade spanning opus. To be a fifty issue run of a reboot universe isn't really much of anything. At first this run felt too short (mostly in the first few TPBs when Waid was predominantly writing) but it quickly got to the point where I just wanted it to be end (mostly the TPBs after Waid stopped writing). In a lot of ways, Waid's Threeboot LSH was just as revolutionary to the series as they wanted to be in their own universe. The future that Waid created was one where people limited their interactions to digital most of the time. Interaction in person was limited to being as little as possible. Adults had also decided that their children needed to be controlled and protected through a governing computer network that would monitor their movements and control stimulus that they received. The LSH, of course, fought against these and other key principles of thought. Anyone who agreed with the ideals of the LSH could consider themselves a Legionnaire. It was just the core team who held the group together and did the fighting. Their other members were spread out over the universe and could be anyone. A number of them actually made the area around Legion plaza their home. The main reason behind this was in order to protect the plaza from being destroyed by the United Planets. In fact that palpable animosity between the LSH and the UP is also a radically new turn of events. Normally the UP either embraces the Legion or begrudgingly accepts their existence. This is the first time I can recall that the UP is out and out working to dissolve the LSH in any way it possibly can. To me these are the best things about the Threeboot. These changes shake up the entire foundation of the world the LSH resides in.If this had been followed through properly, the comic could have worked as a fine piece of social commentary especially when one considers how our current world is becoming more digital and less personal with every passing day. Unfortunately this was not properly followed through, and the run quickly became the prototypical super hero comic.

Let's move on to the bad. I remember that when I was younger there was a little rhyme my mother would say, "There was a little girl who has a little curl right in the middle of her forehead, and when she was good, she was very, very good. But when she was bad, she was horrid." (We can talk about guilt complex manipulation in my childhood another time.) This is sort of how I felt about Threeboot. When it was good, it was really pushing the limits of what I had ever though to expect from LSH, but when it declined it got so low I was seriously considering not finishing it. True story I was working on the final TPB (Enemy Manifest) last night and debating whether or not it would be cheating to try and write this entry without finishing it. My desire for completion won out, although I'll admit that the damn thing was putting me to sleep so that I switched to more Books of Magic before going to bed and then read the last (thank the divine) issue this morning.

The thing that bothered me the most was the blatant disregard to character development. I don't know if Waid and the other creators were expecting all their readers to already know the LSH or if they just thought the social commentary would carry the book. I can't understand people who refuse to give me a sense of the character they're writing about. I want a sense of these characters even if they're supposed to function as vehicles for a larger message. And if you're counting on your readers to rely on their preconceived notions of a character when you have completely changed the world that character exists in then you're just lazy. That's just lazy writing in my mind. I know that with Waid the message about the LSH and their mission was the overarching statement. That was the point of the comic. The LSH was more than its parts. I didn't mind so much not getting to know the characters inside and out then. As the series progressed, though, and the focus shifted, the disregard to characterization and the deviations from roughly established traits was irksome. Things would happen to characters, things that I, as a reader, was probably supposed to care about and I didn't simply because I had never gotten a good sense of what the hell was going on or why these emotional connections were supposed to exist.

I try not to get into too much detail with these because I don't want to completely spoil things for people, and I also don't want to get so close to the grain that people who haven't read the comic get utterly confused, but I'm going to zoom in on a couple of examples of events presented in the series that were probably supposed to be emotional touch points but came across as flat as the pages they were printed on.

One of the long standing romantic relationships in LSH history is Lightning Lad (Garth) and Saturn Girl (Imra). I know this relationship and these characters pretty well in their other incarnations. Garth is a bit of a hot head who makes stupid boy mistakes A LOT, but he's really a very good person at his core even if he's sort of slow to get there sometimes. Imra, like the rest of the inhabitants of Saturn's moon Titan, is a telepath who is mostly level headed and eons more emotionally mature than Garth. It's more complicated than this, of course, but they compliment each other. I've always liked their relationship, and I like when writers add twists and turns to it. Even though it's a facet of LSH history, though, if it's being used, I want it to feel real, which was something that was lamentably lacking in the Threeboot version. I could have lived with this if, as I said earlier, this book was all about being a vehicle to convey a more social message. At one point towards the end of the run, Saturn Girl has a "moment" with known playboy Ultra Boy. It's unclear (and I don't care) exactly what happened between them physically when they're interrupted by Invisible Kid, but Imra makes it clear to Garth in a conversation that she and Ultra Boy had a psychic tryst. Since Imra is from a race of telepaths, this totally counts as cheating.

Now it's at this point that I should care that their relationship is on the rocks, but I don't give a shit. Their relationship was never given any time. There are a few scenes between them in earlier issues that are probably supposed to make me think it counts, but they're one off, throw away things that are utterly devoid of any sort of real emotion. There's also never any sort of resolution about what occurs. Imra cheats on Garth and tells him. He tells her it's over. He maybe has sex with someone else. They bicker. They have to work together to save the world. The end. Excuse me? What? Don't even bother to include anything about the destruction of this relationship if you're going to handle it that way. I would have been fine with you just glossing over that whole attempt at an emotional connection to simply going the terribly handled end of the universe storyline.(We won't even get into how two TPBs are used to frame up the end all, be all threat to the universe and it's resolved in about two pages toward the end of the final issue because by that time I just wanted everything to be over.)

The second example, which is hopefully going to be shorter, centers on Brainy. He has a sort of flirtation with Dream Girl who out and out states that she's more interested in Star Boy when confronted by Saturn Girl, which could have just been a deflection on her part except that Dreamy operates on a tell the truth basis. You kind of have to when you're a precog, and people are taking your word to help stop the world from ending. Anyway they flirt. She dies heroically. Brainy has a weird moment where he saves her corpse, steals it and puts it in stasis because that will trap her bioelectrical essence. He then gets some of the Legion members to help him try and get her essence back into her body. Her body is destroyed, but her "spirit" starts haunting his dreams. Brainy also starts to become less an unbearable ass, which was disappointing because I like intellectually superior, totally aloof Brainy. (Also I HATE Dream Girl.)

This is never really explored. It just sort of comes up whenever a precognitive hint would be useful to the story. The other LSH members find out about it and instead of, y'know, sending their teammate to a psychologist (not that he would go), they just continue to ignore him and use his potential delusion for their own means. (This is just one of many examples of the almost complete lack of camaraderie in Threeboot. Yes, it makes sense that not all the kids would get along but sometimes these people just treat each other like throwaway objects. It could be another interesting facet of their society if it was explored, but it's not so it just seems like lazy storytelling and makes me wish they would almost all die at some point.) Eventually Brainy and Dream Girl fall in love. He hires a medium so Dream Girl can take over her body for a date. (This just burns.) Then they get engaged. (I couldn't make this shit up.) At the end of the series Brainy discovers a way to get Dream Girl's spirit out of his brain and into a body. She's alive. They're getting married. The book ends. No, really. This is the last panel of the book. I think it just gave up because of the impossibility.

I cannot believe in this relationship. I think it's entirely more realistic that Brainy suffered an advanced form of delusional that caused his mind to create this template of Dream Girl from his memories and desires. Brainy has a 12th level intelligence so I think this is well within his cerebral means. Once he has a method, he grows a clone of the body (since he vaporized the original that he stole) and separates part of his own mind out to drive the now corporeal manifestation of his own delusional. It's sick on a lot of levels.

It's not that I don't believe Brainy can love. He's had multiple relationships over the various LSH runs. In fact he and Laurel Gand (more on her later as she does not exist in Threeboot) are one of my OTPs. The way that this entire situation is handled is ridiculous even for comic books. Moreover it's callous and terrifying. If Dream Girl's spirit did live on in Brainy's mind, she's likely latched onto him because he's virtually the only person she had contact with. Of course she's going to fall in love with him. There's no one else for her to talk to or rely on. She's trapped in his mind. Brainy's mind cannot be a very comfortable place. It only makes sense to fall in love with her admittedly unintentional captor. Plus since this is only mentioned once in every, oh, five comics it's never given much time and thus seems completely bizarre and staggeringly unreal.

Throughout the Threeboot run members of the Legion disappear. No one really seems to care. No one goes looking for them, and we never learn what happens to them. More lazy storytelling. It's almost as though they just got tired of those characters and just got rid of them. If you take a character like Cosmic Boy and have him leave the Legion, give us some reactions. He's one of the founding members. People are going to care. It's just glossed over. They go on a "mission" to find him, which is all carefully orchestrated by Brainy for other means, and when they don't locate Cos, no more is said. No more is said.

I really don't understand what went wrong with Threeboot. It had an opening message that could have been employed as a very successful social commentary, but then all that potential was squandered. I don't just want to blame the change in creative teams, but sometimes that's the make or break point. If you bring in someone with one vision and then hand the comic over to someone with a different vision, things are gonna get rough in paradise. If you have to play Chinese checkers with your writers at least make sure that the new one understands the path you're trying to tread. I still can't help but think of LSH as that comic where anything goes. DC gives it out haphazardly and if it sells it sells. If it doesn't, they reboot and try again.

I know that a lot of this entry seems to have focused on the ways that Threeboot disappointed me, but it's overall not terrible. I actually do suggest picking up the trades that contain Mark Waid's work although I think those who already have a sense of the history of the LSH will appreciate it more than the newbie. This is not where you want to begin if this is your first time to the rodeo.
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July 2012

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