Legends: the Collection

By John Ostrander, Len Wein, John Byrne & Karl Kesel (DC Comics)
ISBN: 1-56389-095-X

With the success of Crisis on Infinite Earths (ISBN: 978-1-5638-9750-4) and Marvel’s Secret Wars (ISBN: 978-1-90415-983-4) comicbook publishers had dreams of regular, spectacular sales boosts, but a section of the cantankerous buying public muttered about gimmicks to make them spend more and voiced concerns about keeping the quality high.

At DC fan-interest was still fresh and keen as so many of their major properties – and indeed the entire continuity – was open for radical change, innovation and renewal. So, how best to follow the previous years cosmic catastrophe? Why not a much smaller and more personal Great Disaster, spotlighting those strangers wearing familiar costumes and a bunch of beginnings rather than the deaths and endings of Crisis?

Darkseid of Apokolips decides to attack humanity’s spirit by destroying the very concept of heroism and individuality. To this end he sends the hyper-charismatic New God Glorious Godfrey to America to lead a common man’s crusade against extraordinary heroes, while the God of Evil initiates individual plans intended to demoralize and destroy key champions of Earth. The rampant civil unrest prompts President Ronald Reagan to outlaw costumed crime-busters.

Some comply and many rebel, but as world-wide chaos ensues Darkseid amps up the pressure by adding monstrous artificial threats such as Macro-Man and Brimstone, a sentient mountain of super-heated plasma. With the world in tumult and Godfrey making a power grab using Apokoliptian Warhounds, the destructive anarchy forces the heroes to act: coming together to prevent the conquest of Mankind…

The enthralling core tale contained here can comfortably be read without the assorted spin-offs, crossovers and tie-ins, and it still feels like a magnificent mission statement for that new DC Universe, gritty, witty cohesive and contemporary. This collection also includes covers reproductions of each out-rider installment of the greater story, should you feel like tracking down those missing components…

John Ostrander was new to DC, lured from Chicago’s First Comics with editor Mike Gold where their work on Starslayer, Munden’s Bar and especially Grimjack had made those independent minnows some of the most readable series of the decade. Paired with veteran Len Wein, whose familiarity with the DC stable ensured the scripts would have the right company flavour, they concocted a bold and controversial tale for super-star Superman re-creator John Byrne to draw and the immensely talented Karl Kesel to ink.

Possibly the best and certainly the most cohesive of the company-wide braided mega-series, Legends launched as a six issue miniseries cover-dated November 1986 to April 1987. Like its predecessor the major narrative thread spread out into other DC series, but unlike Crisis each tie-in was consecutively numbered and every pertinent cover was labeled. If you got ’em all you couldn’t help but read them in the right order! The miniseries crossed into 22 other comics and miniseries and premiered three new series, Justice League, Flash and the superb and long neglected Suicide Squad. It even led to another new treatment for Billy Batson in a Shazam! miniseries and a sneak peek at the newly re-minted Wonder Woman.

If anything was ever destined for a complete Absolute Edition…

Until then however you can look for this little cracker and wonder why DC ever let it fall out of print.
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