I have never been one to think that continuity impedes good stories or prevents new readers from jumping in. Books like Starman, Grant Morrison’s Batman or Valiant Comics’… err… The Valiant have shown that, under the proper direction, continuity only enhances the quality of a book. Having said that, there is one franchise that could make the argument that its own continuity and scale is its own worst enemy.
Legion of Superheroes from DC Comics is a franchise I hold in similar regard as the X-Men. Meaning, it’s a franchise I want to like but have been prevented from for a variety of reasons. However, unlike X-Men, I actually have some semblance of faith that it could be good.
Something that is considered a unique feature for the Legion is its robust cast. And I agree with that. It’s almost Game of Thrones-like in character and setting scope and the potential for these characters is astonishing. Plus: there really is no space opera at DC or Marvel. No massive comic story with political and social topics at play. Venditti’s Green Lantern is good, but more adventure story and the less said about Brian Michael Bendis’ Guardians of the Galaxy the better.
However, this expansiveness can be something that works against the Legion. I read the first issue of the New 52’s relaunch (and it was a “relaunch”, not a “reboot”. It kept its continuity. More on that later) and it introduced fifteen named characters in the span of twenty pages and not one of them really had any character in it. Even more damning, because of this lack of character, it provided me with no reason to care and subsequently no reason to come back for issue #2.
The next problem that the Legion faces is… well… its fanbase.
Put your torches down and let me explain!
It is incredibly hard to get something in the Big 2 to stick. And it doesn’t help when a property has been so many incredibly different things to so many different people. Tell Me:
-Do you prefer your Legion as teens or adults?
-Have a direct connection to Superboy or not?
-Do you prefer them to have the “Lad/Lass” aspect of their superhero names?
-What about tone? Light or dark?
-How big/small should the teams be?
-Based on Earth or not?
And that’s not even going into the multiple continuities to follow! Seriously, of all the franchises that DC needed to reboot in 2011, this was the one that kept its continuity? Do you keep the classic continuity? What about the Post-Zero Hour continuity where they lost their “lass/lad” names but gained the original Science Bros in Brainiac 5 and Invisible Kid and the glory that is Gates? What about the “Threeboot” where everything was just kind of dull but we got some nice Francis Manupal art at the end? Or do you go with the “Retroboot” where it brings the classic continuity back except for the things from the other continuities that Geoff Johns liked or what about–
–aaaaand my brain is melting.
My point is, the fanbase for the Legion is so shattered in what they consider “their” Legion it would be difficult to consider any of the camps large enough to maintain an ongoing. And because of the core characteristics- sci-fi, large cast, e.t.c.- you need a long ongoing to make anything of value to make the franchise noticeable.
I do have hope for this franchise. I think it could be a vessel to tell stories outside of traditional superhero norm. However, I also do think the traits that it prides itself on are the traits that do damn it a bit. But considering the absolutely tone-deaf and transphobic dreck that is Justice League 3001 is the only source of future superheroes, we desperately need a Legion to be proud of. A Legion that doesn’t scare off new readers, but is welcoming to all. A Legion where I can go “Long Live the Legion” without it coming off as hilariously and tragically ironic.