DC Space Trade Post: Invasion & Legion Of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga

Invasion! (DC)
Written by Keith Giffen & Bill Mantlo, drawn by Giffen, Todd McFarlane & Bart Sears
Collects Invasion #1-3

I can’t tell you how long I’ve had the (as far as I know) most recent printing of Invasion sitting in my to-read box. I mean, I probably could. I got it from the comp boxes back when it came out and I was still working at Wizard, so that gives you some idea. Anyway, I tried reading it at one point a few years back, put it down for just a little too long and forgot what I’d read, so it went back in the box. That’s partially because this 256 page trade collects only three issues. Can you imagine DC or Marvel trying to pull that now? Only three months of an event? Ha! Putting out the story in three 88 page installments? You’re out of your mind! Having each book be a specific chapter that’s related to the previous, but mostly goes in a different direction? Get out of here kid, you’re bothering me.

I’ll admit, all those elements that make this 1988 event so different than the ones I’m used to (I wasn’t reading comics when all this went down, but I’ve read many of the tie-ins over the years), did throw me a bit. The first issue is completely from the villains’ perspective. We get a lot of the details about the invading Dominators and their allies. You’re not even on Earth until the very end and only see a few heroes at all. The second issue deals with the invasion and shows the heroes successfully deflecting it. Wait, what happens in the third issue then? Well, one Dominator drops a bomb on Earth that mitigates the metagene that gives many heroes and villains their powers, so an unaffected group (mostly those who got powers from supernatural, extraterrestrial or scientific means) go on a mission to find the cure. It’s a pretty big turn, but it winds up making sense and adding an interesting extra layer to the story.

Right before reading this book I read the four existing trades of the most recent R.E.B.E.L.S. series, which I really enjoyed (the only reason I’m not reviewing them is because the last arc isn’t collected and I want to write about the whole thing). I found it interesting how heavily writer Tony Bedard mined Invasion for source material. Just about every alien in that book was in Invasion, though I’m sure some or most of them go back further than that. It’s interesting how you can stumble upon two series’ separated by decades and find so many touchstones between them. The same goes for The Great Darkness Saga too, but I’ll get to that in a paragraph.

So, the real question is whether I would recommend you my reader picking up Invasion. That’s a tough one. Like I said, it was interesting reading an event done differently. There’s plenty of allusions to the tie-ins, but they don’t seem as necessary. One thing that this book did that something like Blackest Night did not is explaining the tie-ins in a panel or two when needed. There’s also some pretty rad McFarlane and Sears artwork in these pages. It’s fun to see someone like McFarlane so known for a particular group of characters drawing other ones. I also like seeing Sears’ art recolored as a fan of his Justice League work. On the other hand, it’s kind of a tricky story to dig into because so much is going on and so many characters pop in and out. I don’t think someone who isn’t a die hard pre-DC 52 fan would have as good or as easy of a time reading this collection. At the end of the day, I’d suggest checking it out on a site like Sequential Swap where you can make a trade for it instead of dropping down the $25 cover price. I always feel better about recommending a book when I know people can get it on the cheap.

Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga (DC)
Written by Paul Levitz & Keith Giffen, drawn by Giffen, Pat Broderick, Howard Bender & Carmine Infantino
Collects Legion of Super-Heroes #284-296, Legion Annual #1

The Great Darkness Saga is one of those stories that you hear a lot about how great it is from older comic readers or at least I did at Wizard. I think I tried reading one of the earlier softcover trade versions at some point but really didn’t know what was going on. This deluxe edition collects a whole year’s worth of stories leading up to, including and following the Great Darkness Saga, a story that had a mysterious bad guy sending his shadowy henchmen across the galaxy to grab a few things so he can achieve his nefarious goal.

The funny thing about this story is that it’s one of the most spoiled ones in history. I mean, you spend 12 issues trying to figure out who the bad guy is — in theory — but he’s right there on the cover and has been on every other collected edition cover I’ve seen. It’s not like people even talk about it that much, that Darkseid is the bad guy, just that it’s right there front and center. The problem with that, of course, is that it kind of undercuts the whole point of the story which is who this guy is. I thought that was kind of lame. I mean, I expect as a longtime comic fan not to go into every store completely clean and innocent, but this is a little ridiculous, isn’t it?

The huge spoiler is but one thing working against this book. The other is how infamously difficult it is to collect Legion comics from the Levitz/Giffen era. Unlike today, the stories weren’t told in six issue arcs, instead each character got the spotlight at different times and things moved along more like a soap opera than today’s comics. I actually prefer this method of comic storytelling, but it definitely poses a problem when collecting said issues. The first issue in this collection doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Darkseid, but it does have to do with characters who will pop up to fight him and his people later on. One of the reasons I didn’t read the previous version I saw was because I had no idea what was going on or who the characters were. By including so many additional issues, this book gives you a much better idea of who the Legionnaires are and what they’re up to even if you’re not exactly coming in on the ground floor. Since first trying TGDS, I’ve read the Eye For An Eye and The More Things Change collections from this era as well as a few other Legion trades from different eras, so I was much more well-versed in the characters and what was going on.

Still, I think if you’re open and quick on the uptake, this book works really well for readers completely new to the Legion concept. I was going to suggest letting a friend borrow it, but removing the slip cover and telling them not to look at the covers in the back to give them a more pure reading experience, but then I looked at the book’s cover and it has a silver embossed Darkseid on it. Oi.

Music Mondays: KISS

Before 7th grade I wasn’t much of a KISS fan. Sure, I liked “Rock and Roll All Night” and “Detroit Rock City” as much as the next kid who was learning about rock and roll for the first time, but aside from that they weren’t really on my radar. Then they reunited with all four original members (Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehly and Peter Criss) in 1997 and kicked off a tour. My dad–a huge rock fan in his own right who helped introduce me to all kinds of classic rock from the 60s and 70s–brought the idea up to me: “Do you want to see KISS?” I thought about it for about two seconds, said yes and then we started trying to get tickets through the Ticketmaster at Kroger (I don’t believe Ticketmaster was online at that time and if they were, waiting for dial-up to load on our Compaq would have taken longer than the several dozen phone calls I made trying to get through to Ticketmaster). Unfortunately, we didn’t get through and figured we’d have to wait until the next time they came to town.

Later that week, on the way home from dinner or church, we pulled into another grocery store with a Ticketmaster (Food Town, I believe) and my dad ran in. Turns out they had released another group of tickets that were really great seats (up in the stands to the right if you were onstage, but right by the railing). He snatched two up and we were set to go to my very first rock concert. And holy shit, was it amazing. There are plenty of better bands out there in the world than KISS, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find a band that puts on a better stage show. They started playing and it was awesome, then, out of nowhere, a whole wall of speakers raised up behind them, but that was just the beginning. There was fire and flying and blood and the members of the bend coming out on these extending platforms and playing above the crowd (right near us in fact) and it was just awesome, like going to the circus, really. I also think that was the show where the guy next to my dad asked if “your friend” (meaning me) wanted a hit from the dude’s joint. He told the guy that I was his son and the guy was like “Oh, okay, do you want a hit?” My dad declined, but it’s still a funny story. After that, I was hooked. Not so much on the music, but the whole idea of KISS. In fact, I own more toys based on the band than actual KISS CDs (the only ones I own are the greatest hits Double Platinum and their post-reunion original Psycho Circus. Hell I even had a KISS tie (the third from the left in the picture above). See, I went to an all guy Catholic high school where we had to wear a shirt and tie every day, but they didn’t care what ties. I distinctly remember sitting in class one time and this dude leans over and says “Hey, KISS sucks,” like it was going to destroy my world. I looked at him and said “No shit, but they put on an awesome show.” He then said they weren’t as good as Jimi Hendrix which made me want to dope slap him and say “No shit,” but I didn’t. Sure, I’d rather see Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd live in concert because they are and were amazing musicians and bands, but that’s not happening so I’ll take what I can get. Like I said, the action figures from Todd McFarlane came out at just the right time because I was not only a huge comic and toy geek, but also getting into KISS. There’s not much of a leap from liking superheroes to liking KISS what with their masks, crazy costumes and that fact that toys were being made of them and of course every geek worth his salt knows that Simmons borrowed elements of Blackbolt’s costume for his stage look. I got all of the above figures and still have them in a box in our storage unit along with a few others. I think my dad may have gotten them for me for Christmas or my birthday or something. It was cool because he was never into toys or comics, but this was an easy bridge for us to meet on. Soon enough their highly anticipated (eh maybe just somewhat anticipated) new record Psycho Circus came out and the band went on another tour that my dad and I got tickets for, but this time we took my dad’s brother and his son who’s about three years younger than me with us. Ted Nugent opened for them which was awesome and then KISS came out and did their thing. I think my dad and I were into it way more than my cousin and uncle, but what are you gonna do? I don’t remember that show as vividly, but I know I had a good time and anticipated all the gags I remembered from the first time around and wasn’t disappointed. There’s something about sitting in your seat and feeling the heat from the pyrotechnics that just screams ROCK to me. I even like the record, especially the song “We Are One.”Such a fan was I that I even picked up a bootleg copy of the TV movie KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park which is awesomely bad and ridiculous. I wish I had my copy here in New York because I really want to watch it for my upcoming daily horror movie double feature throughout October. The only scene I really remember is one where the band (or maybe just Gene) are sitting on director’s chairs outside and some guy runs up to them. Man, it’s bad, but perfectly so.

Anyway, my love affair with KISS would not last forever. Eventually Gene and Paul became too much to work with and Peter and Ace bounced (or were bounced? I don’t recall) from the band and I didn’t really care about seeing them live anymore (what’s the point of seeing impostors once you’ve seen the real thing?). Plus, I went to realize what an asshole Gene Simmons is. I always knew he was a world class hustler getting the KISS name on everything from coffins to condoms, but I’d learn from various sources that he’s also an asshole. The last nail in the coffin for my fandom was seeing his “reality show” Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels which stated off as what seemed like a look at a fairly down to earth family who just happen to be famous and wealthy and turned into one of the worst, stagey reality shows I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot of them). Oh and then his son plagiarized a bunch of manga for his comics or whatever. Blech.

So, while I wouldn’t call myself a die-hard KISS fan anymore, I still have a lot of fond memories from the band thanks to their tours and every now and then I’ll smile when one of their songs comes up on my iPod’s shuffle mix, but I don’t think I’d call myself a fan anymore. They served their purpose and really built a concert bond between my dad and I that I hope we can continue at some point (the last show we went to together was The Who’s tour right after bass player John Entwistle died back in 2002), so for that I’ll always be thankful.