Four issues and nearly one year (!) into "Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds" and there's nary a "Final Crisis" connection to be found. One might even begin to suspect -- since one has had plenty of time to think about such things -- that the words "Final" and "Crisis" which so prominently frame the cover image might be mere marketing tools, a not-so-secret code of sorts which compels its victims to buy a comic one might normally skip just because of some elusive promise of relevance to something more eventful.
If such a crass and misleading ploy is used in the service of promoting the Legion of Super-Heroes, and it is, then I can't really complain, especially when it's an old-school superhero spectacle like this.
And, yes, we do know that this series does connect to "Final Crisis" eventually, and the connection with Brainiac 5 and the Miracle Machine sets up Superman's final confrontation with Darkseid. We know that because "Final Crisis," even with all of its delays, wrapped up nearly six months before this spin-off will conclude. But if it's a matter of waiting a few (or six, or twelve) extra months to get George Perez to finish the art on this series, I'll take it. I can just imagine one of those "Countdown" journeymen coming in to pencil the last two issues of "Legion of 3 Worlds" instead. The horror on my face right now has nothing to do with the revelation at the end of this issue.
Luckily, Perez is here to finish up the series (as late as it may be), and his work here is the absolute Platonic ideal of a DC superhero "Crisis"-style comic. Perez is a master of the hyper-detailed, hyper-dense, multi-character superhero narrative, and though it might be easy to say that his style is a relic of an earlier age, it's also easy to say that his approach to comic book storytelling is still unmatched. His facility with balancing close-ups and long shots, his use of page layout and design, his ability to evoke outrageous drama -- all of these traits make him an astonishing comic book stylist. He's been so good for so long that we can take him for granted, but compare "Legion of 3 Worlds" #4 to any other comic on the shelf this month and see how many of those artists could do what Perez does so gracefully.
But this is a Geoff Johns comic as much as it is a George Perez one, and though it has a few jarring moments (Superboy came back to life after 1,000 years and he's still wearing that late-1990s t-shirt and tight jeans look? Better that than the earring, sunglasses, jacket, and thigh straps, I suppose. And the twist ending? Is that guy really the Time Trapper? Because the Trapper has been revealed to be various characters throughout Legion history and this one makes less sense than any of them) it's still an enjoyable comic that does what it seems to want to do: bring the various iterations of the Legion together into a unified whole and tell an epic story of superhero bombast at the same time.
This series is scheduled to end with the next issue (though who knows how many moons it will be until we actually see it on the stands), and if there's one major flaw with "Legion of 3 Worlds" it's that five issues is far too few to tell a story with as many characters as Johns and Perez have included here. It's dangerously close to becoming page after page of Legion wallpaper, even with Perez doing his best to keep our attention focused at just the right moments. But this isn't a comic about the small moments. It's about Polar Boy teaming up with Sun Boy to fend off a maniacal Superboy from a lost dimension. And it's about old friends, returning from a long absence.