Of all of the "Final Crisis" spin-off specials and mini-series, "Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds" was almost certainly the one that threatened to be the least-accessible, and yet the most hotly-anticipated. When Mark Waid co-chaired the rebooting of "Legion of Super-Heroes" after "Zero Hour" in 1994, I remember him noting that Legion fans were extremely dedicated people, and that's a statement that I think they'd agree with. With three different incarnations of "Legion of Super-Heroes" (the original incarnation, the post-"Zero Hour" edition, and the current series) over the years, there are a lot of different characters and versions from which to pick and choose. And of course, each of them have their own dedicated group of fans who picks their Legion over the other two.
With three different continuities to sort through and fan groups that would be eyeing every decision cautiously, Geoff Johns and George Perez seemed to have a thankless task when it came to "Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds." And even if it would appeal to everyone involved, certainly it would alienate the casual readers, right? Maybe that's why I'm so impressed with where "Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds" has gone after just two of its planned five issues, because it seems to have side-stepped most of the obvious pitfalls.
While Johns has clearly picked a version of these characters to base his story around (the original Legion, and set almost immediately after their appearances in "Justice League of America" and "Action Comics" over the past two years), he's wisely requiring little back story to enjoy these current events. Characters are reintroduced quickly but simply, and while even a casual fan might not be able to identify all the members of the Legion of Super-Villains that show up in a massive two-page splash, it's not necessary. The context for who they are (the bad guys, out to get our heroes) is there, and any sort of fine details is the proverbial icing on the cake.
I also have to give Johns credit that the up-until-now intensely annoying character of Superboy-Prime is, well, not that annoying. Sure, he's a spoiled brat of a villain, but (maybe because all the focus isn't strictly on him) he's acceptable in small doses here. It's probably too much to hope that "Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds" is also the final appearance of this character, but based on what we've seen so far it would certainly be a more than satisfactory conclusion to his run through DC Comics the past few years.
Perez's art is, unsurprisingly, beautifully detailed. There are some scenes that are real Perez hallmarks; the 30+ members of the Legion of Super-Villains charging to attack in a huge two-page spread, or his drawing of almost 50 members of the other two Legions tumbling between worlds to assist the original Legion. It's to Perez's credit that he's more than just cramming lots of characters into a small space, though. A scene as simple as a Green Lantern ring flying through space ends up crisp and attractive, each planetscape and starfield looking intriguing and interesting. Over the years, a lot of people have tried to replicate Perez's style, but reading "Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds" has reminded me how it's not just how he draws his characters, it's how he attacks each page and panel, showing that his skill for composition is another one of his talents.
Last but not least, while "Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds" is great for new readers, Legion-philes will find a treasure trove of details to examine. I'm sure theories are already abounding like wildfire on exactly how much, if any, of Giffen's Five Year Gap still exists, and where the divergence point exists for each of the three Legions. But if that doesn't apply to you? It doesn't matter. It's just good solid fun. Somehow I suspect that if once all the dust settles Johns wants to write a "Legion of Super-Heroes" series, there won't be too much complaining going on. I know I'd be on board every month.