The Quantum Age (2019)
Reprints The Quantum Age #1-6
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Wilfredo Torres
In the tradition of DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes, Jeff Lemire jumps 125 years into the future of Spiral City to introduce the Quantum League. And just like the core series of this line, things are not what we expect. Once there were bright, youthful heroes operating in the tradition of their 21st-century idols. Now a totalitarian regime has taken over the city. This stems from a conflict with the Martians years earlier. This story also ties into the overall narrative happening in Black Hammer in ways that will surprise longtime readers.
A young Martian inspired by Barbalien has come to Earth in hopes of getting the help of the Quantum League; instead, he finds the members splintered and spread across the galaxy, most having given hope against the authoritarian forces. Archive, a play on Brainiac 5, has returned to dormancy in his hive mothers bank of androids. Another member, Modula, uses a wheelchair but still leads an insurgency against the powers that be. Hammer Lass, the descendant of Lucy Weber, works as a bartender and lives under an assumed name, hoping not to draw attention. This is the Legion of Super-Heroes after everything went wrong.
Because there is not as much continuity baggage as picking up a Legion comic book, this is has a much smoother entry point, keeping the cast small and making good introductions of characters when they appear. One of the problems with the comic book is that the characters stay too close to the ones they are a pastiche of that the story never presents a style of its own. Even the artwork, which I am not a big fan of, is aping Chris Sprouse whose run on Legion in the 1990s is very well regarded. When you hold this up against Black Hammer, it feels much more traditional without any real insightful commentary on this particular type of superhero comic.
There are some excellent reveals related to the Black Hammer characters, discovering where they have ended up in the wake of their own story. These moments also tie into the overall plot, so they don’t just exist as neat easter eggs. I was very excited to read this book because I have always loved the Legion concept and was interested to see Lemire’s take on that. The tone felt a little dumbed down, almost childishly simplistic, and not in a good way. I don’t think we needed a Watchmen-style deconstruction of the Legion, but I wanted a narrative that carried a little more intellectual weight than what we ended up with.
One aspect of Black Hammer that I love is how each character has a very distinctive voice. Abraham Slam has a certain cadence that conflicts with Golden Gail. Colonel Weird is mysterious in a way that Madame Dragonfly differentiates with her own ambiguity. The Quantum League members feel pretty generic and lacking that specific tone to each member. I wanted to know how Hammer Lass is different that Lucy Weber, but she seems pretty much the same. I was curious to see how Archive would be unlike Brainiac 5, but he seems like a renamed copy. I’m not quite sure what the intent of this volume was in the grand universe Lemire is building. It’s not terrible, but it’s not terribly fantastic either.