I'm rather disappointed.
I was expecting a story set in the 31st century, by which time the Planet Lexor would prove a massive threat to both Superman and co-Lex irritant Batman. A big team-up with our heroes and the future's super-teens taking on Lex and an entire planet.
Well, there's a 31st century sequence, and Lex does indeed seem to be worshipped by the planet, but we don't actually see the world. The only representative is a green clone of Lex Luthor who gives the Legion more trouble than he should. He then pops back to the 21st century and bashes Superman around because he's laced with Kryptonite. The Legion follow and enlist Batman's help to steal something from Lexcorp that may help them beat the clone ... while Batman babysits the poorly Superman in the Batcave.
The clone thinks it's killed Superman, so, er, goes back in time to kill Superman again/before, while he's Superboy. Work that one out. Anyway, the clone is defeated but the Legion fret that there are more out there. The end.
Writer Paul Levitz has proven again and again that he's one of the best plotters in comics, so I have no idea why this story is so disjointed. Why Superman and Batman would be relegated to cameo roles in their anniversary issue. Why Lex Luthor, the big villain of the arc, appears on a single page, and then he's not involved in the issue's events. Was the final part plotted to fill a double-sized issue, then squeezed down to 26pp when it was decided to include a series of two-page mini-tributes to the Superman-Batman team?
Whatever the case, it took the shine of what has been a terrific storyline.
It wasn't all bad, I liked seeing Jerry Ordway, coloured by Pete Pantazis, draw the Legion. The clone's prophecy was clever, and very nicely lettered by Steve Wands. Superman can hear the time barrier crack open. Batman's reactions to the Legion - and philosophy - made sense. Frank Quitely's cover is sharp, I've never seen Saturn Girl looking such a minx. There's a nice wink to the Smallville telly show.
And Superboy has this line (click to enlarge):
So the problem wasn't the detail, it was the story said detail was plugged into. If there's a Director's Cut out there somewhere - even if it's just a plot outline - I'd like to see it.
The comic soon put the smile back on my face with the two page back-ups. Let's have a speedy run-through.
- 'It's a bat ... Conjoined!' by Steven T Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen is self-referential/indulgent fun - a breath of fresh air.
- 'Brightest Day' - oh, hang on, that's an ad ...
- Con fable 'Brothers in arms' by Billy Tucci is sweet, and sexy.
- 'World's end' by Adam Hughes is surprisingly touching as it contrasts the fates of Barbara Gordon and Kara Zor-El. It's set on a world where the Crisis never happened - oh, who cares, it's gloriously illustrated, sad and hopeful at the same time.
- 'Friendly advice' sees Superboy and Red Robin individually seeking romantic advice from their mentors, and has a pleasant script by JT Krul and lovely linework and clever colouring by Francis Manapul.
- 'Batman's siren' and 'Superman's better half' are pin-ups of Catwoman and Lois, both beauts, by Jill Thompson.
- 'Night and Day' is the least successful to me, as I didn't 'get' it. It features a very morbid teeny Batman and a possibly deceased l'il Superman. I suspect it may be a call-back to when writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson were on the book. Shane Davis and Sandra Hope provide the artwork for page one, Rafael Albuquerque goes wild on page two.
- Krypto (the Superdog) vs Ace (the Bathound) in 'A Superhero's best friend' is just awwwwwwwww. Seriously, this is cute without being icky as the madly underrated Duncan Rouleau compares and contrasts the relative merits of the pooch partners. Here's my favourite panel:
- 'Joker & Lex' is a spot-on homage to the look and sensibility of Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo.
- 'Eternal' aims to be inspirational but somehow depressed me in a scene starring future Conner Kent and Damian Wayne, with links to Batman Beyond. The art by David Finch, also writing, is impressively gloomy, with elderly Conner actually looking dead.
- 'We can be heroes' sees a dad and his kid share their love of superheroes in a sweet vignette.
There are more hits than misses in that lot, and every short has some merit. I hope DC gives us more experiments in anniversary issues - even made-up ones like a 75th issue!