Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Classics - The Legion of Super-Heroes #290

It's always fun to be on board with a comic when a creative team turns a corner and creates a story that's destined to become a classic.

That wasn't the case with me on The Legion of Super-Heroes when writer Paul Levitz and artists Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt first started working together. I had drifted away from the Legion at the time, and it took me a while to track down those first issues.

Luckily, I had quickly been tipped off and was reading it when The Great Darkness Saga began with this issue, cover dated August 1982.

Like many team books, the Legion was usually an entertaining read - but this series catapulted the comic into the rarified air of "comics you must not miss."

The story has the Legion investigating a break-in, as a strange and powerful shadow creature steals a mystic artifact (don't miss "Dr. Strange's" cameo). That leads the team on a chase around the world, and further encounters with other shadow creatures that are stealing powerful artifacts for a mysterious master - and the Legion seems helpless to stop them.

One reason for the success of this story was the outstanding writing by Levitz (which is one reason why fans are happy to hear he's returning to the team). Under his guidance the Legion faced worthy foes, mysterious opponents (such as the incredibly powerful menace behind the Darkness), developed relationships, experienced personal drama, and lived in an exotic and well-developed future reality.

Another reason for its success was the fantastic art by Giffen and Mahlstedt. They had done great work before this series, but their style was a perfect match for this title, thanks to their arcane style and vivid imaginations. This future was filled with amazing architecture, strange alien races and stunning panoramas.

You can tell when a creative team has a strong effect on a series, because their style resonates in the comic for years after the team has moved on. That was certainly the case here, as the Legion stepped up to the next level of storytelling, beginning right here - and the future was never the same again.

Grade: A

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