Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Legends #4 - "Cry Havoc..."

Writers: John Ostrander & Len Wein
Artists: John Byrne & Karl Kesel

It seems to me that one of the points of DC's big crossover events is to throw together a number of disparate and even incommensurate elements and then try to make them work. When they do work (as with, IMO, the original Crisis, Infinite Crisis, and 52), it isn't because all the different elements get smoothly mixed in together but because the disparities and differences themselves are used evocatively - they become thematically compelling.

Legends is almost there, but it's a case where falling short by inches feels like falling short by miles. On a big picture level, Ostrander and Wein have come up with a thematic reason for their story, but scene-by-scene the comic doesn't earn that theme. It feels like a failed attempt at reverse engineering a meaningful story: they know what it should be about, but they rushed the part where they were trying to figure out how it should be about that.

The best scenes in Legends - like the one at the beginning of this issue, Black Canary, violating the President's order and still playing super-hero, is framed for murder after a police officer who is trying to arrest her accidentally shoots and kill his own partner - offer an interesting set-up that ends up going nowhere. My guess this is partly because of (a) the top down approach and (b) the requirement to hit all of the line-wide "marketing"* needs.

Speaking of marketing, Darkseid is shown playing with what looks like action figure versions of Earth's super-heroes (again, actually: the first issue had a scene like this, too). This is a pretty blatant attempt to tie Legends to the Super Powers cartoons and toys and probably explains some of the choices for why certain characters show up in the series.

Hey - another problem with this series is that even from a marketing p.o.v. the details don't make sense. You have the appeal to fans of Super Powers right next to the attempt to launch an "edgy" book like Suicide Squad.

And there seems to be little thought into which characters are thrown into this crossover. Warlord shows up for a panel or two, I guess to set up a crossover story in that comic. And all of a sudden Dr. Fate seems to be a very important character in all of this.

*Using marketing very loosely here.

No comments: