Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Leroy Douresseaux on Legion of Super-Heroes The Great Darkness Saga The Deluxe Edition

WRITER: Paul Levitz
PENCILS: Keith Giffen with Pat Broderick, Howard Bender, Carmine Infantino
INKS: Larry Mahlstedt with Bruce D. Patterson, Rodin Rodriguez, Dave Hunt
COLORS: Carl Gafford, Gene D’Angelo
LETTERS: John Costanza, Bruce D. Patterson, Ben Oda, Adam Kubert, Annette Kawecki, Todd Klein, Janice Chiang
COVER: Keith Giffen and Al Milgrom with Drew R. Moore
ISBN: 978-14012-2961-0; hardcover
416pp, Color, $39.99 U.S., $47.99

If there are superhero comic book stories that deserve to be called legendary, then, The Great Darkness Saga is legendary. It may be the most famous Legion of Super-Heroes comic book storyline, and DC Comics is bringing The Great Darkness Saga, first published in the early 1980s, back to print.

No, make that DC Comics is celebrating The Great Darkness Saga with a new book, Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga The Deluxe Edition. This 416-page (7.25in x 11in) hardcover reprints Legion of Super-Heroes #284-296 and Legion of Super-Heroes Annual 1. The Great Darkness Saga started in #290 and ended in the double-sized #294, but the event was foreshadowed before it actually began in a half-year’s worth of Legion of Super-Heroes comic books. After the end of the epic, the series continued to deal with the repercussions on the Legionnaires.

Written by Paul Levitz and largely drawn by penciller Keith Giffen and inker Larry Mahlstedt, The Great Darkness Saga is basically about the Legion of Super-Heroes war against the forces of Darkseid. The New God quietly reawakens in the 30th century and hatches a complicated, but ingenious plan to both revive his powers and to finally conquer the universe and subvert it to darkness.

Unaware, the Legion of Super-Heroes is in a state of flux with retirements and resignations, and also with Legionnaires moving to reserve status. Older members find themselves feeling replaced by newer members and also dealing with their own adult issues and midlife-like problems. Personal problems become team problems, and personal and professional failings take a toll on the team. When Darkseid’s minions attack, the Legion basically wakes up with their lives like a house on fire.

The Great Darkness Saga was of its time and ahead of its time. The character drama and storylines captured the best elements of two of the most popular comic book series of the time, Chris Claremont’s soap operatic Uncanny X-Men and Marv Wolfman’s emerging New Teen Titans. As the story gets deeper into the conflict with Darkseid, the Legion of Super-Heroes basically establishes the template for series-wide and company-wide crossover events that are common today.

In a more compact manner and with fewer characters (although there are lots of Legionnaires) than most crossover events, Paul Levitz takes readers across the 30th century version of the DC Universe to experience a super powers fight club, in which the superheroes try to stop their existence-as-they-know-it from blinking out in favor of eternal darkness. Levitz deftly balances sustained battles with electrifying, fleeting glimpses at other clashes. This epic is the stencil for Crisis on Infinite Earths and its children; one might even recognize Marvel Comics Secret Invasion in this.

One also cannot help but be impressed by how Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt drew this without the art ever looking hurried or rushed. There is a consistency to the storytelling, and the compositions, also stunningly consistent, are impeccable in their professionalism.

What would a grand hardcover collection of classic comics be without some extras? Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga The Deluxe Edition offers the standard sketchbook material and bonus cover art, but by far the best extra – the one that really makes this collection – is the inclusion of Levitz’s plot for issue #290, the opening chapter of Darkness. This detailed plot breakdown (one paragraph for each page) will be a treat for Legion fans and of importance for those who want to write superhero comic books.

The Great Darkness Saga was popular at the time of its publication, but because it was so ahead of its time that it seems of this time; so it deserves the deluxe treatment. Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga The Deluxe Edition is one of those pricey books that should have place in the home of every reader of superhero comic books.


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