Let us here at PoP! guide you through a minefield of books that seem full of win from the word go, but which once you crack them open have you shouting… It’s a Trap!
Long before there was a tenth season of Smallville – or a first, for that matter – DC published a crossover by the name of Legends. Somehow, I’d managed to never hear of it in my roughly twenty years of comic book reading, and that seemed a little odd. It wasn’t until researching the character of Glorious Godfrey in reference to the aforementioned Smallville episodes that I discovered this crossover event. As I read of Godfrey’s involvement in the story, I became intrigued. It seemed as though the final season of the CW drama had been based pretty directly on this storyline. Loving the show as I am, I eagerly sought out the books to log in the annals of Hidden Gems.
Then I started reading the books, and now here we are.
For anyone not watching Smallville, the premise behind Legends is fairly simple – Darkseid hatches a master plot whereby his henchman Glorious Godfrey turns public sentiment against superheros, leaving Earth undefended against the dark lord of Apokolips and his forces. This plan relies heavily on the implementation of a superhero registration act some twenty some-odd years prior to Marvel’s Civil War. It’s a great set up, and early developments add to the taught drama of the story. While Superman willingly steps away from active superheroing, Jason Todd gets beaten half to death by an angry mob outraged at his vigilante antics, and Billy Batson accidentally kills a supervillain while in battle, prompting him to give up being Captain Marvel… FOREVER. It’s all pretty awesome up to that point, but then the tide turns.
Problem number one for this event was its structure. Aside from the six main issues of the story, there are twenty-two tie-ins that add almost nothing to the book. Sure, many help to further establish the anti-hero tone, but others – like the three-issue Superman tie-in – are completely unnecessary clutter. It’s actually a three issue story, amidst everything that’s already going on, about Superman being kidnapped by Darkseid and brainwashed to fight for him. Then there’s the problem of Godfrey himself, drawn three distinctly different ways in his first three appearances across the main Legends book and two Bat-books. Sure, the first two images to the right could at least be unique interpretations of the same man, but the third image is so radically different it’s hard to understand what the artist was even thinking.
Then, in issue two of Legends, the Phantom Stranger shows up. I didn’t know who he was, so fortunately one of the tie-ins is Secret Origins #10 outlining his back story. Here’s a quick run down – he’s the Wandering Jew of Christian folklore, but he has super powers. So why is he on Apokolips with Darkseid, making some sort of semi-wager about the nature of the human spirit? And why, if this wager was part of Darkseid’s motivation, wasn’t he around AT ALL in issue one? Honestly, this whole bit seems bizarre and tacked on, but whatever. I won’t say it’s the least of the story’s problems, but I don’t exactly think it’s the biggest, either.
No, that honor falls to the way the whole thing just sort of falls apart. Darkseid’s endgame is ostensibly an Earth where the human spirit is completely crushed and no heroes stand in the way of the New God’s conquest. This is, in and of itself a flawed plan, because even if no one believed in superheros and they all quit in accordance with the law, it’s not like they’d sit back and allow the hordes of Apokolips to conquer the planet. I don’t care HOW broken Billy Batson’s spirit may have been, he would’ve rejoined the fight if it meant defending his planet against an intergalactic despot. But, good news! It doesn’t have to come to that! Darkseid plays his hand far too soon and in the most asinine way. Once public opinion is well and truly turned against the heroes to the point they don’t dare show their face, what does Darkseid do? He sends in a pack of Warhounds for Godfrey’s followers to pilot in an attack on Washington, DC. The problems here? 1) It tips Godfrey’s hand once his mind control is broken. If he hadn’t pushed people that far, he could easily have regained control of them once his initial hold was broken. 2) It rallies the heroes well ahead of Darkseid’s arrival, giving them a target they can easily battle and a chance to come together to do so.
So that’s how the story ends, with Darkseid’s grand scheme resulting in him being defeated before ever even setting foot on Earth. Bra-VO.
Legends isn’t all bad, though. The original concept is sheer brilliance, for one. This could’ve been a story on a much grander scale if Godfrey’s overt influence hadn’t been so readily apparent and hand-wringingly evil by story’s end. If instead, even after Darkseid’s arrival and defeat, people were left to question the actions of their heroes? That might have been far more interesting. Plus, this serves as the introduction for the Suicide Squad in the most logical way possible, as a stop-gap once the heroes are sent into hiding. Admittedly, Waller clearly had her plans for Task Force X in place well before this ever became a consideration, but still… Finally, as the template for the current – and almost universally considered best – season of Smallville, Legends succeeds at unlocking the show’s hidden potential lo these twenty-five years after its initial inception.
Still, when the Smallville version of something is – thus far – the better version, then the original had to have made some serious mistakes.
2 out of 5 cockteases by-way-of Darkseid. The fact that he never even made it to Earth as part of this whole fiasco may well be what has my ire up the most.