I wasn't going to review this issue - I've done every one since the relaunch, and should be looking at neglected books. Plus, I may be getting repetitive.
Then I read it, and once more the little suprises, the fine bits of characterisation, the sparkling artwork had me itching to tell people about this. I dunno if I've helped sell a single copy, but what the heck ...
Before the praise, though, a line or two of negative criticism ... that is one very dull cover. Nicely produced by penciller Yildiray Cinar, inker Wayne Faucher and colour house Hi-Fi, but far from a grabber. Under the line 'Trapped by the Science Police' we have four Legionnaires cornered by several members of said force. That would be the Science Police who are traditionally the Legion's allies - OK, there's suspense as to why the falling out, but it's not likely the two sides won't sort out their differences within a couple of minutes.
And if they don't, well, the weakest Legion member could take out several space cops without getting out of breath, if not with their abilities, then with their training and smarts. So it's not like the Legion are particularly threatened here.
And so it goes inside, with Cosmic Boy, Tyroc, Ultra Boy and Timber Wolf bypassing the SP to get to a murder scene by the end of page one, via one of Cosmic Boy's wonderful 'SPROING!' zaps. A diplomat has been offed by person or persons unknown, leaving the lads to protect his twin, and find his killer.
And this is where we get one of those surprises I mentioned. Tyroc, whose sonic screams are usually used as power blasts a la Black Canary and Banshee, generates an ultrasound scan of the victim's body. 'I've been developing my powers,' he tells an impressed Cosmic Boy.
I love this sort of thing, a specialty of writer Paul Levitz since way back when he had Dream Girl, then considered the lamest team member by many, use the gravity nulling powers of her flight ring to rip up a pavement or somesuch. Now if he'd done this last month, Tyroc would have had a much-better chance in the reader vote for the new Legion leader.
But back to the story at hand, in which Tyroc stays behind to guard the twin, while Ultra Boy, Cosmic Boy and Timber Wolf (whose super-sniffing comes in very handy) work out that shape-shifting Durlans - Chameleon Boy's people - are likely behind the killing. Sure enough, Durlans are soon attacking the surviving diplomat and all four Legionnaires put up a fine defence, especially Timber Wolf, who faces a doppleganger.
The rest of the story features Mon-El rather magnificently telling Earth-Man that his past relationship with Shadow Lass is none of his business, and the return of the subplot in which green guy Diogenes tries to nag someone into being a Green Lantern (if you've read previous reviews, you'll guess how thrilled that makes me).
Happier returns are the comeback made by Polar Boy, who has been offworld recently with the aforementioned Mon-El, and the tradition of Legionnaires playing holographic games in their downtime - we've had so many years, decades even, of gloomy stories that it's brilliant to see there's time for fun. And fun character interplay, with the also-present Sun Boy and Dream Girl having an amusing ten-second tiff. Oh, and Polar Boy shows off his replacement arm, having lost his right one a few months back; I actually liked his self-generated ice limb, but it would beggar belief for the 31st century not to have regenerative medical procedures.
Levitz's script, combined with the assertive artwork of Cinar, Faucher and Hi-Fi - particularly rewarding in the ultrasound reveal - make for a thoroughly entertaining instalment.
But wait, there's more - a back-up strip featuring a trip to Dream Girl's homeworld, Naltor, by Brainiac 5 and Chameleon Boy. Brainy's come to ask Time Institute chief Harmonia Li who the heck she is, having learned she's lots older than the records state. We don't find out yet, but the information Brainy rattles off hints, to my mind, that she has some good fortune powers going for her, or influences people with her mind. Cham, meanwhile, is present as Naltor's High Seer experiences a powerful, painful vision about him - and it isn't good news.
This intriguing diversion is again written by Levitz, though the art baton passes to regular co-penciller Francis Portela, whose illustrations sit nicely beside Cinar's. Previous issues have had them literally side by side, but it seems the creative team is experimenting here, slicing off a couple of strong sub-plots into a side story rather than incorporating them into the lead strip.
There's more creative thinking in the script, as we learn that Naltor runs its air traffic control via precognition - a scary prospect for an offworlder.
And Levitz may have to get even more creative next month, as the leader election results are revealed, if a leftfield Legionnaire is asked to step up. Just so long as it isn't Muttonchop, sorry, Earth-Man, I'll be happy.