Now is a better time than ever to jump aboard the DC Universe Online bandwagon. Last week the super successful MMORPG went free-to-play, and this week DC Comics released volume one of the 12-part comic book tie-in series, DC Universe Online Legends. Superstar comic book writer Marv Wolfman, along with Tony Bedard, have the entire DCU to play with, and they aren’t afraid to use it. And it all begins with this must-see DCUO trailer setting up the story’s premise.
Writers: Marv Wolfman & Tony Bedard
Artists: Howard Porter, Adriana Melo, Norman Lee, Mike Miller, Bruno Redondo
Colors: Carrie Strachan
Editor: Ben Abernathy
The story picks up right where the trailer leaves off. Brainiac, having tricked Lex Luthor into killing Superman, is now unstoppable in his quest to preserve Earth’s culture and delete the remains. Luthor, understanding that the destruction of the planet is bad for business, and just pissed off for having been lied to and double crossed, becomes the story’s unlikely hero to stop Brainiac. The beauty of Legends is how much it embellishes on the war before Luthor goes time hopping to the past for help, and the scope of the events is worthy of being a DC mega event.
With most of the Justice League dead, Luthor has assembled a motley crew of heroes and villains, none of which trust Luthor the slightest bit. Even as the anti-hero of this book, Marv Wolfman keep’s Luthor’s unique personal qualities intact. He’s still ever the evil genius, often leaving the reader unsure if even they can trust this main character, and sometimes proving they can’t. Luthor looks to the Atom — the second smartest person on the planet — for an ally, and Dr. Palmer begrudgingly agrees, which makes for some very cool odd-couple moments. The dichotomy of Luthor and Atom’s moral perspective and mutual respect between is so intriguing, I wish they starred in their own regular series.
Luthor is never without a plan for any situation, and, along with Atom and Black Canary, sets out to infiltrate Brainiac’s trophy room to find the already preserved planet of Korugar, home world of the Sinestro Corps, and gather some yellow power rings. The very idea of Luthor with a fist full of fear is as scary a thought as it is awesome!
Though Lex Luthor may be the book’s main character, it isn’t without all the top heroes we want in a massive DC event. The story jumps back and forth through time, showing us how Luthor and Brainiac’s unholy alliance was conceived, and how the JLA got into the state of reckoning the narrative began with. When a secret Luthor Corp production of hundreds of thousands of Brainiac drones is complete, Brainiac begins his preservation of Earth with the Daily Planet. Superman snaps when Lois disappears into his robotic rival’s clutches, and is torn between saving his wife and saving the rest of the planet.
Eventually, I found these jumps to the past pretty annoying. The idea definitely adds a welcome addition to the story, but they’re poorly placed at times, giving the issue a weird pace. But I only found this to be a big problem with issues #4 and 6, which were scripted by Tony Bedard.
The gargantuan level of this conflict, while very cool, sometimes seems to work against the writing. With so much happening with so many characters, it feels like the writers just didn’t have enough pages to express these characters properly. Pretty important happenings like characters dying, or losing limbs, or suddenly waking up and realizing they’re not human anymore are just ignored and met with little to no reaction. Worse than that are the several ill-conceived moments of lightheartedness sprinkled throughout. When in the most urgent of moments we see characters exchanging goofy banter, and it begins to feel more like the Super Friends than the Justice League of America. I’m usually okay with some nonsensical silliness, but not when it’s so inappropriately placed it ends up killing the drama.
There was one particular scene in issue #5 that was so dumb and unintentionally hilarious I can’t hate it, though I know it’s extremely ridiculous. As the JLA evacuates the Watchtower, they double check their numbers, making sure everyone gets out safely, but still somehow manage to completely forget about Aquaman, who’s recovering from battle in the infirmary. Once the team is teleported away safely, Superman and Batman, like terrible parents, share a great Home Alone moment.
This series has quite a few artists attached to it, many of which split duties in a single issue. Howard Porter and Mike Miller stay consistent with some very nice panels, but there are a few pages of some really awkward art that I’m frankly shocked made it past the editor’s desk.
DC Universe Online Legends is nowhere near perfect, but the overall story and action is highly addicting if you’re a hardcore DC fan. Even though some parts are tough to get through, I could not put this book down. Through the crudeness is a plot stacked with shocking twists and a maddening cliffhanger that left me hating myself for very unique reasons. Marv Wolfman has me hooked, and though we all basically know that the story ends with Luthor reaching out to the Justice League of the past for help, it’s the journey getting there which is so enthralling. I’ll definitely be adding volume two to my collection when it releases in March.
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