Friday, 25 June 2010

Legion of Super-Heroes #2 review

Titan has blown up and the Legion are reacting on two fronts. There's a sub-team in space looking after search and rescue and another on Earth trying to keep peace at the camp set up for Titan refugees. Saturn Girl is in the timestream searching for her missing kids. Lightning Lad and Lass are leaving Winath to assist her. Dream Girl, Dawnstar and Gates are on a diplomatic mission to Naltor. The xenophobic Earthman is, in his own way, trying to work with the Legionnaires. And Titan-born villain Saturn Queen takes control of one of the most powerful Legion members.

This is not a dull issue. With 30 pages to play with, writer Paul Levitz can give good face time to 19 team members. Nineteen! I don't think we've seen the like since the Eighties, because most writers aren't as confident in their talent as Levitz. Or maybe just not as talented. They stick to small casts and even then, team members often all sound the same ('... the hell!'). There are no identikit folk here, though, with plenty of personality on display. Even without the visuals, there's no way you'd mistake Brainiac 5 for Ultra Boy, or Invisible Kid for Gates, for example.

With the visuals, this is a gem of a comic, Hill Street Blues with superheroes. Characters and storylines are quickly and efficiently sketched in, with adventure always at the forefront. The Legion are working to make the United Planets safe for all sentients, acting as a mature team rather than snarky teenagers. So when Cosmic Boy keeps the alien-looking Chameleon Boy away from the xenophobes, I baulk, but as a political decision it makes sense - quiet the mob now, raise their consciousness later; safety first, all the way.

This version of the Legion is basically the original team last seen around the time of Crisis on Infinite Earths, but with the addition of the always fun Gates from the 'Archie' years. It gives a new look to the rarely seen Tyroc, making Marzal an actual world rather than an embarrassingly segregationist island for black folk (don't ask me how his sonic powers work in space - vibrations rather than sound?). It's the best of the Silver, Bronze and Modern Age team, a tasty legion jam for today.

I'm gushing, aren't I? But look at the way Brainiac directs superhero traffic, how Sun Boy lets his feelings be known, how vicious Saturn Queen is, how Saturn Girl is calm without being cold. This is the work of a writer in his comfort zone, yet ready to stretch beyond it.

Mind, Wildfire really does need an invulnerable costume - how many times has he been rendered useless via the simple tactic of exploding his suit? Or perhaps he could actually learn how to be effective in his shapeless energy ball form?

I'd love to see Levitz say bugger it, and just bring back thought balloons. He can work the narration boxes as well as anybody, and their distinctive looks make sense, but really, what's wrong with a simple bubble? The tool worked for generations. The thought boxes are like kids who laugh at their parents, only to one day realise the old guys were right after all.

And boy oh boy, the artwork is marvellous. Yildiray Cinar shares the book with Francis Portela, with the former inked by Wayne Faucher and the latter handling his own blacks. I could guess at who drew which scenes (come on DC and Marvel, gives us credits breakdowns like in the old days of, oh, a year or so ago), but the entire book is a love letter to spiffiness. The updated costumes look particularly good as rendered by Portela (that would be one of those guesses), recognisably superheroic sexy, but wearable. If I were to pick a favourite scene from the eye candy point of view, it might be Saturn Girl's journey through time, for the kinetic layout and smooth colour effects from Hi-Fi - which I'm attributing to Cinar. Or it might be every scene Portela's sultry Shadow Lass appears in.

The colour is also wonderful on Cinar and Faucher's cover - a nice pink logo to tone with Saturn Queen's costume - unusual, and attractive.

This latest Legion comeback is a winner. DC just need to keep promoting it so audiences applaud.

12 comments:

  1. I loved everything about it but the cliffhanger. "What will Earthman do now that he has a power ring?" is essentially the same as "What will Earthman do now that he knows how to use the power ring?" -- especially since we didn't know he didn't know how to use it at the end of last issue. I'm fine with the delaying tactic, I just wish the issue had been structured to end on a different note.

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  2. Good point, well made! But if Levitz keeps pushing Earthman to the back of the book, with luck he’ll drop out of it altogether.

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  3. Ha! I wouldn't shed a tear.

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  4. Given Levitz's track record and ability, I would not be surprised if he eventually makes me like Earth-Man. Or at least view him more sympathetically.

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  5. Full faith in Paul Levitz here. I've enjoyed everything I've read, and am happy to have someone resembling the Saturn Girl I knew and loved back. May she never wear a ponytail again...

    The art doesn't work for me, though. I'm hoping it'll click for me in an issue or two. It seems...dry? Stiff? Jimmy Janes-ish (serviceable but lacking a spark). I shouldn't really be expecting wild creativity right out of the gate with a new artist.... or should I? I am PAYING for the thing, after all. Dilemmas, dilemmas.

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  6. Meerkatdon, I think you're right - already, this issue, I hated Earthman a little less. It's Levitz lemonade (which may be kono juice).

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  7. I see what you mean about the Jimmy Janes aspect of the art, Craig, especially with the eyebrows and some of the faces.

    I'm so with you on the Imra hair business. I do like Tinya's more constructed style here, though.

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  8. what about Tinya's more constructed boobs? maybe perfect circles are future fashion?

    always enjoy your reviews, Mart. they don't pander, they celebrate the artform. mucho kudos.

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  9. Artwise, I think the stiffness may lie in Wayne Faucher's inks. Every time I've seen Yildiray Cinar's pencils online, I've been *stunned,* and yet it doesn't quite translate to the page.

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  10. Good observation, Rob. It's fascinating to see how inkers and colourists can effect pencils - I was stunned when I saw Francis Manapul in Adventure Comics compared to his Legion run, for example.

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  11. Tyroc can breathe, right? When his vibrations hit they air in the trans-suit, that is when they cause the energy blast. Energy blasts are able to escape trans-suits.

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  12. Could be - I'm rubbish at science!

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