All-New Collectors’ Edition (1978) #C-55

Anc3e55

The cover promises an “epic-length novel,” which apparently works out to sixty-one pages. It’s four chapters, starting with Superboy traveling to the future for Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad’s wedding. Once there, he discovers a militaristic world where the Legion (and the U.S.) is fighting moon colonists, led by the Chinese. We find out later it’s the Chinese. Because they stole something from the Americans in the 1980s.

It’s initially not too moldy, but once the action gets to the moon and the Chinese villain is basically future Fu Manchu, it’s ick. Though the scene doesn’t last long, and the whole moon colonists versus Earth thing is a time aberration red herring.

The “bad guys” interrupt the wedding, kidnapping the couple after their vows; the plan is to ransom them for the polar ice caps to create oceans on the moon. As if there are any polar ice caps in the future.

Anyway.

Superboy wants to go to the past and fix the timeline; Wildfire intends to attack the moon and rescue the hostages. Writer Paul Levitz does each of those missions as a chapter, then brings everyone back together for the finale.

The Superboy team goes back to 1978, natch, where they’ve got to stop a mysterious businessman from destroying the United Nations. Only Superboy can’t be seen in 1978 (Superman’s there, after all), and the villain is prepared for the Legionnaires even though they ought to be a surprise. There’s not much in the way of time travel hijinks (though there’s a disappearing spaceship in a park eight years before The Voyage Home), and there’s not enough time for it to be a mystery, but it’s engaging.

The hostage rescue story is more exciting. Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl are in danger, and it turns out the Legion’s got the wrong kind of powers to rescue them. Unless they can all work together and figure out the right power formula to save the day. Err. The couple. While the chapter relies a lot on familiar characters—whereas the time travel one is about the period and villain—it’s better with the danger tension.

The finale, however, is a familiar Legion villain monologuing about his evil plan with an editor’s note every fifth panel referring to a previous Legion of Super-Heroes comic. And Levitz does even try to cook up a good solution; it’s very basic, very silly. Though Mike Grell and Vince Colletta’s art sells it.

I’ve always been bearish on Grell and Colletta’s a punchline, but their art’s good. There’s a lot of it, but Grell loves drawing capes, and lots of the heroes have capes, so it works. The flow’s good, though. It’s about the flow. And it’s consistent through the sixty-one pages. Even the opening with Superboy is good art, along with the interesting tidbit Smallville pre-Crisis was in… Massachusetts or something?

Levitz’s plotting is good. His details less so. Despite being three times the size of a regular story, there’s very little character work. Wildfire’s a dick, and Superboy’s fed up with him. The newlyweds only get to respond to their plight, nothing else.

It’s an immensely readable “epic-length” novel, but it’s not particularly substantial. Unless you’re really into the mystery villain and all the callbacks to previous Legion stories.

The last few pages are a combination Legion history and roll call, going over the various heroes, giving each a paragraph, and a nice drawing from James Sherman (inked by Jack Abel). Nothing in the backup relates to the main story’s callbacks, which is kind of amusing; the feature requires different reader foreknowledge than Levitz drops in his history lesson.

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