We May Finally Get a Collection of the Infamous Five Years Later Legion of Super-Heroes
A fan on Facebook found this listing on the international sales site for Penguin Random House. Apparently, we’re finally going to get a collection of the infamous “Five Years Later” Legion of Super-Heroes run next July.
Also known as Volume 4 of the series, it was published from 1989-1994 (when the series was rebooted by Zero Hour after 61 issues). It was drawn by Keith Giffen and co-written by him and a fan couple, Tom and Mary Bierbaum. Giffen had been artist on the previous series, written by Paul Levitz, but after it ended, this version was restarted with a new #1 to capture the new mood and events, which were somber and dark.
The storyline jumped the long-running franchise ahead without revealing key events to readers, and the approach was one of gloom and dismay, with favorite characters missing, no one in spandex, and the earth overrun by the invading alien Dominators. Many key plot points were never revealed, or only discussed in a role-playing game sourcebook much later. That approach of letting the reader figure things out had faith in the audience and was a more grown-up way to make comics, but it also set up a bunch of expectations that after too long, could never be satisfied.
The series was hobbled by retcons, as DC was still restructuring their universe after Crisis on Infinite Earths (1986). The Legion began, back in 1958, as a group of teen friends for Superboy, but with the relaunch of Superman after Crisis, Superboy had been declared to have never existed. Thus, Mon-El helped form the Legion now.
The Time Trapper and later, his apprentice Glorith, were the in-story reasons for timelines changing. The series also introduced the SW6 clones, the brighter, younger, and happier Legionnaires, who got their own series for those who missed the shinier, more traditional science fiction approach of the franchise. (Giffen reportedly wanted to have the two groups fight to the death, drawing survivors out of a hat to reform the teams. I mention this to indicate the unusual approaches to plotting used during this run.)
LSH v4 fractured Legion fandom irrevocably and changed my life. I started reading the series with issue #38 of this run, when they blew up the earth, which led to my meeting my now-husband of 20 years (who started as editor on the title with that same issue). It was like nothing else in comics at the time, or since, and it was shockingly unusual. Some loved it, others hated it. Now, we’re way too used to reboots and restarts and grim’n’gritty. There are no more continuously-running-for-30-years comic storylines to blow up. It can never be done again (and the crowd cheers).
The description of Legion of Super-Heroes: Five Years Later Volume 1 at that site is wrong, obviously — the Five Years Later series led into Zero Hour, it didn’t come out of it. The book is planned to collect Legion of Super-Heroes (1989) #1-12 and Annual #1 as a $50 hardcover.
Already fans are complaining about the cost, with one particularly clueless person demanding the entire run in one book. (I know printing technology has advanced, but a 1,500-page collection seems a bit much to ask.) It’s almost 400 pages as is.
I hope that they plan to include extras, but I’m not confident they will. While DC is releasing more different comics in collected editions these days, they’re often straight reprints. In this case, particularly, though, a retrospective look back by the creators and editors would provide some important context.