Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Legion of Super-Heroes #3 review

Reluctant Legionnaire Earth-Man is forced to abandon the team when his new Green Lantern ring compels him to fly off and, even more reluctantly, help some extraterrestrials. Lightning Lad join Saturn Girl in the search for their kidnapped sons. And hypnotic mentalist Saturn Queen continues her one-woman war on the Legion.

Those are the bare bones of this third instalment of the reborn Legion. Warming them are some gripping action sequences and sharp character development. Both show that DC made a wise decision in having longtime Legion writer Paul Levitz return to the team which made his name. Even decades after he last wrote them, there's no one to match him when it comes to showing members' powers in interesting ways, or opening up their personalities without going over the top. For example, Brainiac 5 here uses his traditionally protective forcefield as toughened armour, and we learn that Lightning Lad has something of an eidetic memory.

The incidental detail is fascinating too, such as the revelation that self-immolation is virtually a hobby among Saturn Queen's people. Who, incidentally, weren't the Lanothians we saw populating Titan in the telepathic planet's recently revealed origin.

A couple of pages are devoted to subplots bound to lead down intriguing alleyways, and while the note on which the story closes isn't a movie serial cliffhanger, it scores 10 out of 10 in terms of foreboding.

When this book started I really wasn't looking forward to the addition of the xenophobic Earth-Man, so am surprised to find his mini-Green Lantern adventure here so compelling. It helps that, without having his nature flip 360 degrees, Levitz is toning down Earth-Man's scumbaggery - he at least seems to want to be a hero.

And with this being one of DC's extra-length titles, several pages devoted to an individual focus doesn't derail the storytelling; I look forward to many more, spotlighting characters who are already favourites (pretty much everyone this side of any version of Karate Kid). Before that, 'Earth-Man's Choice' offers loads of little moments for the side-players in this first arc - Sensor Girl, Phantom Girl, Shadow Lass, Brainiac 5 ... they're all on impressive form. And Invisible Kid just has to drop in some of his random French words and maintenant I'm charmed.

Just three months in, and Levitz is weaving a rich tapestry I'm hoping goes on for a good while. With direct connections to the 21st century severed, the Legion's corner of the DC Universe has a chance to shine.

Adding several layers of polish are the art teams of Yildiray Cinar and Wayne Faucher, and Francis Portela and, er, Francis Portela. While they take turns at bat throughout the issue, Cinbar and Portela's pencilling styles are similar enough that there's no jarring disparity. And they're drawing different sections of the tale, which helps. It's good, clear storytelling all round, with every action and emotional beat hit.

Among tons of terrific moments this issue, there's Cinar showing the real love between Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad without sappy looks, and Portela foregrounding the inspiring moxie of Phantom Girl. The anonymous colouring droid at Hi-Fi, and letterer Sal Cipriano, bring their own skills to the mix and help ensure a good-looking, readable comic.

If you've not tried this book yet, please, give it a go. Legion history is present, but doesn't overwhelm. Characters and plot points are succinctly introduced as necessary. The script is smart and the art looks great. The logo is pretty ...

... OK, that last one is a tad desperate - but I want you reading this book. I believe you'll like it a lot. The Legion haven't survived 60 years and 402 reboots for nothing, you know. The concept of young heroes in a shining, yet ever-threatened, future is a grabber. The characters demonstrate infinite variety. And when a creative team gels, the series flies. Right now, we're going into orbit. Grab a transuit and enjoy.

9 comments:

  1. I still can't believe the Legion are back in an ongoing series. OK, these may not be my "exact" legion and sometimes I have to scratch my head to remember why Invisible Kid is French or have dark skin, but I do agree that Levitz does excellent work with the cast.

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  2. It's wonderful, isn't it. Did you stop reading the original team prior to the debut of Invisible Kid Jacques, then?

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  3. Legion is a real treat! Levitz is a master at juggling som many different plotlines.

    And in issue2 , it was revealed that Saturn Queen is a Buddhist (or at least, swears in Buddha's name). So the reference to self-immolation is probably a reference to Buddhist protests.

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  4. Thanks Rob, you are officially the smartest cookie in the box!

    I must say, Eve Aries makes for a pretty rubbish Buddhist!

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  5. The art is very poor and I'm finding this whole thing quite boring.

    It's a bit of an anticlimax since Legion fans have been waiting for the 'proper' team to come back for 20 years.

    What do we get? Projectra in a sex gimp costume and the return of Tyroc. Tsk.

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  6. I quite liked the 372nd reboot when they here all Hungarian turtles.
    But the 80s are a bit fuzzy for me and I might be imagining that.

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  7. Oh, nice one Pip! That version will be back any month now.

    And-Ru, I'm surprised. Projectra costume apart, I thought you'd be enjoying this.

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  8. aside from the Janes-type art, this issue has clinched it for me: love! Paul Levitz hasn't missed a beat. I'm so glad to have him back. I just hope they can pair him with a more imaginative artist. The Legion needs sheen... crackle and bombast. Cinar is stiff and Portela just seems a bad fit. This arc has me craving James Sherman for some reason.

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  9. Mart -- I've gotta agree: Worst. Buddhist. Ever.

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