Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Volume One
I have mixed feelings about this book, in all respects.
First of all, I am obviously delighted that it exists at all, that five years after the last Archive Edition DC decided to continue their reprint programme, even if in different packaging. And I am genuinely astonished that they picked up the series seamlessly, so Archives Volume 13 ended with SLSH #233 and this volume begins with SLSH #234.
But, come on, DC, why have you left me with a shelf that now looks like this?
I mean, you already messed it up with the Volume 6 stupidity, but now you’ve totally destroyed my delicate collector’s sensibilities.
Trade dress aside, I have (again) mixed feelings about the general packaging. It’s a good quality hardback in a dustjacket, and at just over 300 pages it’s almost half as long again as the Archive volumes (though not significantly thicker, see photo above). The paper is decent quality with a dull finish that I like. It works well for colours that were designed for 1970s pulp-quality paper, unlike the glossy paper they used for the last few Archive volumes. There’s a small amount of backmatter—some of Paul Levitz’s original script notes, which are interesting—but in general I don’t like the interior design—the table of contents is poorly laid out and murkily printed (even the font is ugly!), and there’s no kind of introduction at all.
As for the contents: there are around 300 pages covering SLSH #234–240, and including the All-New Collectors’ Edition C-55. The table of contents doesn’t give original dates, but by my reckoning that covers December 1977–June 1978. These were all long comics (yes, kids, we used to get value for money in the 70s), hence the 300 pages from only eight issues. This is an era where I still have gaps in my collection (which was pieced together from scouring market stalls a decade later), so the content is very welcome.
How good is the content? Well, to be honest, it’s mixed. Paul Levitz is still finding his feet and not plotting the complex epics he become known for. It’s nice to see the early stages of his development of the Legionnaires’ individual personalities and relationships, but his plots were awfully melodramatic and bombastic. I think that plot-wise the 70s was the worst era for the Legion. Falling between the wild inventive SF of the 60s and the complex soap opera of the 80s, the stories flounder around looking for inspiration.
The art is a mixed bag, with several artists of variable quality passing through these issues. I know Mike Grell was a “hot” artist at the time, but I’ve never been a huge fan, and here on his last few Legion stories it looks like he wasn’t even trying. Rik Estrada and George Tuska are perfectly competent on their one story each, and I really like James Sherman on the three stories he does, but Howard Chayakin doesn’t impress me. Walter Simonson draws a 34-page that looks spectacular! Dynamic and dramatic, the action just leaps off the page. I think this Simonson guy will go far! My person favourite artist in this collection is Jim Starlin, though, who follows Simonson on another 34-page epic, which he also plots. Starlin’s Legion looks fantastic, his world looks futuristic, and his action is every bit as dynamic as Simonson’s. The best Legion artist since Cockrum, I would say, and I don’t think the Legion will look this good again until Keith Giffen comes on board.
So that’s it. Not the Legion’s best era, but one that definitely needed collecting. Would I recommend this collection? Don’t be silly, of course I would