REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES SATURN GIRL
I've been a longtime fan of DC Comics' legendary LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, like since the late 1960's. Granted, the comics have had their ups and downs -- and even a few sideways -- but I've always been a fan of the basic concept and characters.
However, the Legion has never really had a major presence in the action figure world. I've tended to believe that one of the reasons for this is because, hailing as they did from a thousand years in the future, despite the periodic presence of Superboy and Supergirl, they were always somewhat isolated from the present-day DC Universe. Mego never did anything with them. Neither did Kenner or Hasbro. There was a line of them from DC Direct, but it wasn't really one of their high points, and the figures were in their very original costumes, which weren't my personal favorites.
A while back, there was a special Justice League Unlimited four-pack featuring the Legion, but that seemed to be about it. Until, at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con, Mattel announced that the Legion of Super-Heroes would be joining the line-up in their flagship line -- DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS. As if there hadn't been tons of campaigning on the part of Legion fans for this to happen.
It would be, explained Mattel, a very special set. Not a two-pack, not a three-pack, not a five-pack. No -- it would be a TWELVE-pack. And even at that, the speculation as to who would be included from a membership that over the years had consisted of several dozen characters ran wild for some time until Mattel introduced the line-up.
The final dozen would include Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, and Saturn Girl -- the three founders of the team; Superboy, mostly so Mattel could turn out a classic Superboy figure; Brainiac 5, one of the most popular non-founding members; joined by Ultra Boy, Wildfire, Timber Wolf, Colossal Boy, Karate Kid, Chameleon Boy, and Matter-Eater Lad, in part for a little comic relief there at the end. The set also includes a figure of Proty, a semi-sentient protoplasm pet once belonging to Chameleon Boy, and a Legion flight ring.
I knew even before Mattel announced the line-up that this was a set I had to have, but then they had to go and include some of my most favorite characters. The set, after a few delays, was finally released in October 2010, as an exclusive to MattyCollector.Com.
The package is superb. It is a seven-sided stylized version of the Legion's original headquaters, a yellow rocket-like building with red fins at the top. The twelve figures are displayed within in what are designed to look like teleportation tubes, two to a section. The central section features the far larger Colossal Boy figure, and a smaller space for Proty and the ring. This does leave one empty space among the other six sections, however. This has been labeled for Legion member Invisible Kid. Little joke on Mattel's part...
Now -- there is no way that I can fairly review the entire set in one review and maintain my usual style of presenting a decent amount of backstory on the given character before reviewing the specific figure. Not without this review running the length of a doctoral thesis. And I'm not going to compromise my usual style by shortening this to a brief look at each figure and leaving it at that. There will be other such reviews elsewhere on the Internet, I'm sure.
As such, I am going to give each Legionnaire an individual review. I feel that to do less would be to do an injustice to this very cool concept, and this extremely cool set of figures. This review will take a look at founding member SATURN GIRL. But first, an overview of the Legion itself.
The Legion of Super-Heroes is a fictional superhero team in the 30th and 31st centuries of the DC Comics Universe. The team first appears in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958), and was created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino.
Initially, the team was closely associated with the original Superboy, and was first portrayed as a group of time travelers who frequently visited him. In later years, the Legion's origin and backstory were fleshed out, and the group replaced Superboy as the focus of their stories; eventually Superboy was removed altogether, except as an occasional guest star.
The team has undergone several major reboots during its publication. The original version was replaced with a new rebooted version following the events of Zero Hour and another rebooted team was introduced in 2004. A fourth version of the team, nearly identical to the original version, was introduced in 2007. As a result, Superman (both as an adult and a teenager) and the current version of Supergirl have been reincorporated into Legion history.
Superboy was the featured series in Adventure Comics in the late 1950s. In Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958), he was met by three teenagers from the 30th century: Lightning Boy, Saturn Girl, and Cosmic Boy, who were members of a "super-hero club" called the Legion of Super-Heroes. Their club had been formed with Superboy as an inspiration, and they had time travelled to recruit Superboy as a member. After a series of tests, Superboy was awarded membership and returned to his own time.
Although intended as a one-off story focusing on Superboy, the Legion proved so popular that it returned for an encore in Adventure Comics #267 (December 1959). Lightning Boy had been renamed Lightning Lad, and their costumes were very close to those they wore throughout the Silver Age of Comic Books. The Legion's popularity grew, and they appeared in further stories in Adventure Comics and Action Comics over the next few years. The ranks of the Legion, only hinted at in those first two stories, were filled with new heroes, such as Chameleon Boy, Invisible Kid, Colossal Boy, Star Boy, Brainiac 5, Triplicate Girl, Shrinking Violet, Sun Boy, Bouncing Boy, Phantom Girl, and Ultra Boy. Even Supergirl was recruited as a member.
In Adventure Comics #300 (September 1962), the Legion received their own regular feature, cover-billed "Superboy in 'Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes'". While they would share space with Superboy solo stories for a couple of years, they eventually displaced Superboy entirely as their popularity grew.
It was this run which established the Legion's general workings and environment. A club of teenagers, they operated out of a clubhouse in the shape of a yellow rocket ship inverted as if it had been driven into the ground. The position of Legion leader rotated among the membership, sometimes through election, and sometimes by more arcane methods. Each Legionnaire had to possess at least one natural superpower, in particular a power which no other member possessed. Despite this, several members had overlapping powers, particularly Superboy, Supergirl, Mon-El, and Ultra Boy. The Legion was based on Earth, and protected an organization of humans and aliens called the United Planets. The regular police force in the UP was the Science Police. The setting for each story was almost always 1000 years from the date of publication.
In 1973, the Legion returned to cover billing on a book when Superboy became Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes with #197 (August 1973). Crafted by Cary Bates and Dave Cockrum, the feature proved highly popular. Cockrum was later replaced on art by Mike Grell. With #231 (September 1977), the book's title officially changed to Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Following a wide range of epic storylines, and several rather confusing reboots, largely tied in with certain "crises" of the time, a far more familiar Legion returned on the heels of Infinite Crisis. The "Lightning Saga" crossover in Justice League of America and Justice Society of America features the return of the original versions of Star Boy (now called Starman), Dream Girl, Wildfire, Karate Kid, Timber Wolf, Sensor Girl, Dawnstar, and Brainiac 5. Though several differences between the original and Lightning Saga Legions exist, Geoff Johns has stated that this incarnation of the Legion shares the same history as the original Legion up to the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, with Clark Kent having joined the team as the teenage Superboy prior to the start of his career as Superman.
This version of the Legion next appeared in the "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" storyline in Action Comics #858-863, and next appeared in the 2008 Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds limited series, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by George Pérez. The mini-series features the post-Infinite Crisis Legion and Superman teaming up with the "Reboot" and "Threeboot" incarnations of the Legion to fight Superboy-Prime, the Legion of Super-Villains, and the Time Trapper. Geoff Johns stated that the intent of the mini-series was to validate the existence of all three versions of the team while simultaneously restoring the pre-Crisis Legion's continuity as well. This Legion would then go on to star in its own title, which, although renumbered following the repugnant "DC Relaunch", is proving to be one of the titles least affected, although mention of the "Flashpoint event" closing off time travel to Superman's era has been made. Be nice if it turned into some sort of loophole at some point to put things right.
As for the character of SATURN GIRL: Her real name is Imra Ardeen, and she first appeared in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958) as a founding member of the Legion. Imra's "Saturn Girl" title refers to her homeworld of Titan, the largest moon of the planet Saturn.
During the Silver Age of comics, Imra was portrayed as the most talented telepath among a race of powerful mentalists, and left her homeworld of Titan to join the Science Police as a teenager. However, during her flight to Earth, an assassination attempt was made on the life of fellow passenger and billionaire R.J. Brande. Using her powers of telepathy, Imra discovered the plot, and, with the help of two other teenagers on board, Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy, caught the assassin and saved Brande's life. At Brande's urging, she adopted the persona of Saturn Girl, and joined Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy in founding the Legion of Super-Heroes - an organization of teenage heroes formed to honor the legacy of Superboy. They traveled back to the 20th century and gave him a place on the team after he passed their tests.
As a Legionnaire, Imra gained a reputation for self-sacrifice; just prior to the leadership elections of 2975, she learned that a Legionnaire would die during an attack on Earth and decided to take on that responsibility herself. Using her telepathy, Imra forced the other Legionnaires to vote her leader and then ordered them not to use their powers during the attack. However, Lightning Lad defied her orders and took her place in death. Distraught over his selfless act of devotion, Imra vowed to do all in her power to bring him back. A method was soon developed which could revive Lightning Lad, but only at the cost of another member's life. Imra again interfered in the process to ensure hers was the life taken, but her plan was foiled by Proty, the telepathic shape-shifting pet of Chameleon Boy. Proty admired Imra and tricked her so that it could take her place. Upon Proty's death, Lightning Lad was restored. Despite this series of events, Imra's leadership was highly valued in the Legion, and her position as leader, despite its means of acquisition, was allowed to stand. She earned a second term the following year. As leader of the Legion, Saturn Girl was the first female comic book character to head a group of superheroes.
As with most prominent Legionnaires, given the continuity alterations over the decades, the character's history is a convoluted one, and I intend to stick with the most prominent version for the purposes of this review.
The events of the Infinite Crisis miniseries have apparently restored a close analogue of the Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths Legion to continuity, as seen in "The Lightning Saga" story arc in Justice League of America and Justice Society of America, and in the "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" story arc in Action Comics. Saturn Girl is included in their number. She is still married to Lightning Lad, an event that took place before the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, as she is identified as Imra Ardeen-Ranzz.
Writer Geoff Johns has commented on the character stating, "Saturn Girl is the heart and soul of the Legion of Super-Heroes. When everybody's saying, 'Legion doesn't work anymore. There's too much xenophobia. You can't change people.' Saturn Girl says, 'Yes, you can.' Then suddenly, you realize she can read people's minds. She knows everyone's deepest darkest secrets. If she has faith, then at the base level, human beings and aliens and everybody can reach that goal, can reach achievement and have that goodness inside them. I believe her. I'm with her. And that's why Saturn Girl is so important to the Legion. She's at the epicenter of truth for the entire universe for me."
As to her powers and abilities, Saturn Girl's powers in her initial Silver Age appearances appeared to be great: she could summon distant people; probe human, electronic, and animal minds; "push" weakened minds, and even directly control others' thoughts and emotions. In later years, her abilities were portrayed more conservatively: her telepathy was used most often for communication or sensing surface thoughts, while her ability to influence and probe minds was usually limited to minds that had already been weakened in some way, such as by fatigue or a villain's mind control.
The current version of Imra has also demonstrated a telekinetic ability, using this power to shatter a window blocking her path to her two sons. She also is seen holding back a collapsing building column from crushing some people apparently with some form of telekinetic force. In addition she is later seen to apparently telekinetically "catch" or at least levitate a very large block of falling masonry about to crush another group of people.
The version is essentially a continuation of "Silver Age" Saturn Girl so it's possible telekinesis is either something Imra learned how to do over the passing years, possibly by studying with Legion member Tellus, who is both an Esper and a Telekinetic, or perhaps is an ability that took some time to manifest in Imra.
So how's the figure? Extremely impressive. Saturn Girl is the lone female in this set, even if she's certainly not the lone female on the team. I suppose that we are looking at a case of the oft-used axiom that female action figures aren't especially popular, although the DC Universe Classics line has been slightly more generous than some in this regard. However, in this instance, as Saturn Girl is one of the founding members of the Legion, leaving her out would be a little like leaving the Pink Ranger out of a collection of Power Rangers figures. You just don't do that.
Speaking of pink, Saturn Girl's costume is -- a slight compromise, colorwise, I believe. In her most traditional outfit, a variation of which has been used in more modern times, she is dressed in a mostly red uniform, with white trim. The uniform is pretty much all-covering. This uniform is similar to that in most respects, but it's a dark pink, more or less a magenta.
I think this might be, perhaps even unintentionally, a slight nod to her 1970's costume, which was basically a magenta-pink two-piece swimsuit with high boots and gloves. While certainly an attractive costume, it was also very 1970's, and was one of the prime examples of the time, of Mike Grell's artwork especially, of fairly minimally-dressed Legionnaires. That's not a complaint in the least. The man is an amazing artist, and the designs worked for the time, but -- there's retro and there's retro...
Saturn Girl's costume, as it appears on this figure, is mostly a deep magenta in color, with the top tapering into a sort of tunic-skirt. She has a white belt, white gloves, white boots, and a wide, vertical white stripe running from the collar to the waist. Within this white stripe is her emblem, a symbol of the planet Saturn, a circle with a ring around it, yellow with a black outline.
Many of the male figures in the Legion of Super-Heroes set use a distinctive set of slightly shorter body molds, to represent teenagers, that first saw some use on the figures of Kamandi and the Connor Kent Superboy figure. This resulted in figures that are about 6" in height, for a line where the average adult male is about 6-1/2". Not at all inappropriate.
However, Saturn Girl uses the standard female body molds for many of the adult characters. Now, there are larger female body molds, that have been used for more prominent DC women, such as Wonder Woman. What's interesting is that the standard female body molds used for a lot of the other characters are noticeably shorter than the males. As such, Saturn Girl is just about the same height as the teenage male Legionnaires. So -- it works. She's very fractionally taller, but the boots also have high heels on them, so let's chalk it up to that.
Saturn Girl looks very human, and has relatively short blonde hair, parted in the middle and swept out and up on the sides and back. It's a fairly basic hairstyle, but as one would expect from the Four Horsemen, it's been carried out exceptionally well in the sculpt. She has a superbly rendered face, with well-painted blue eyes.
Overall, I would call the look of the Saturn Girl figure to be both modern and quite definitive for the character, who admittedly has had a number of looks over the years. But this is arguably her most recognizable.
Of course, the figure is extremely well articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
One additional detail. Saturn Girl is wearing a Legion Flight Ring on her right hand. Actually, they all are. Nice touch -- and I can guarantee you that the fans would've been screaming if it hadn't been included. It bears the Legion emblem, if you look close enough, and has been painted in metallic gold.
So, what's my final word? Obviously, I'm hugely impressed with the entire set. There's no shortage of females in the Legion, and there are already cries being heard for Dawnstar, another popular female character. Personally, I'd rather see Shadow Lass first. The set as a whole may show a bit of a bias against female characters, but perhaps that's not entirely unexpected, and really, Saturn Girl HAD to be included -- and I'm very glad she was.
And certainly, this Legion of Super-Heroes set is one of the most astounding masterpieces of action figures that I've ever encountered. Now, I will say that there's still plenty of Legionnaires out there. I realize that in 2012, the DC Universe Classics line will move to an online subscription service, which will also limit the number of figures being produced. But I also sincerely hope we haven't seen the last of the Legion. If I were to list my top five of additional Legionnaires that I would like to see, that list would likely feature Mon-El, Sun Boy, Element Lad, Shadow Lass, and Blok. Let's hope it happens.
In the meantime, I am profoundly grateful for this amazing twelve-pack, and certainly for Saturn Girl. I can't imagine any longtime Legion fan or DC Universe fan not wanting to add this set to their collection.
The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of SATURN GIRL, part of the LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES 12-pack, most definitely has my highest recommendation! Long live the Legion!