Sunday, 21 November 2010

Legion of Super-Heroes #7 review


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.

11 comments:

  1. This is maybe my favorite book for the reasons you outline.
    I think it extraordinary how welcoming and inclusive the writing is, I think i could give this to anyone not familiar with the book and they could pick up who's who and what's what almost instantly. That's not something you can say about most such team books out there right now....

    Lots of stuff going on this issue and I'm intigued by where this Mon-el, Earth-Man & Shadow Lass tryst is going, I can't help but think somethings fishy here as Shady's attitude is just too pat and frankly unbelievable considering what Earth-Man is!
    Elsewhere I'm continually impressed by the strong characterisation of Cosmic Boy, on the face of it he's a bit square, especially compared to Lightning Lad and Ultra Boy, yet he's by far the stronger more believable character and that's an impressive achievement. If only the X-men's Cyclops was this convincing....

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  2. Great comments Dave, cheers. I'd not thought of comparing Cos to Cyclops, but you're right, they're textbook examples of how to, and how not to, present leadership in comics. Cyclops stopped being a hero to me when he left Maddie Pryor and baby to take up with the apparently resurrected Jean Grey. And he just got worse and worse ...

    I do think you're likely right about Shady - it's not as if Paul Levitz is a new writer unfamiliar with her previous presentations. She must be playing an angle - perhaps she's going to be tuning into the more savage side of a resident of Talok IV.

    One thing I do miss with this new book are the Encyclopedia Galactica entries. Talk about entertaining and informative.

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  3. This book has been great so far, but the dialogue in this issue in particular felt very wooden.

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  4. I wonder if that's a result of Paul Levitz handling two Legion books a month. If less than sparkling dialogue is the price, I'll happily pay it. And I'll take 'wooden' over some of the mannered stufff that passes for naturalistic dialogue over at Marvel.

    Still, there must be a happy medium to be found.

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  5. Some great tidbits as you pointed out Mart. They are really making Tyroc an individual hero. Showing how he has one upped the other super-screamers running around superherodom.

    I think they have Polar Boy keep is own ice arm, because it looks cool. I guess his natural powers would freeze any robotic solution they could muster up. Plus, Brainy is working on other projects and figuring out how to replicate PB's DNA isn't very high on his "to-do list".

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  6. What's ridiculous is to see Polar Boy wearing his flight ring on his ice arm. Loose your powers while flying and you die.

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  7. I agree this book as gone from one of the smallest boom debuts I've ever read to one of my favourite reads of the year.

    It just reads like good comics should. Sure it's still got a couple of kinks here and there but hey - even the Mona Lisa has her cracks!

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  8. Another good issue -- though I have to admit some confusion on how the "which Timber Wolf is real" problem was solved. If Cinar dropped the ball on the storytelling, Levitz should have picked it up on the scripting pass.

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  9. I suspect you're right, Travis, and Polar Boy will have an icy arm again soon.

    And hopefully, MaGnUs, he'll remember not to put the flight ring there - maybe his navel, that would help his centre of balance!

    Dan, I agree. I had my doubts but LSH is one of the books I most look forward to - that hasn't happened since the Abnett and Lanning days.

    Rob, I just read it that the participants in the battle could tell the difference between Timber Wolf and Random Durlan, due to having had eyes on the real deal throughout the skirmish. Maybe he couldn't do the voice

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  10. Could be; I'm just conditioned to expect that when a villain pulls a trick like that, the heroes will have some clever way of telling the difference. "Watching closely" doesn't seem quite clever enough to make the ruse worth including.

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  11. No, he's actually been shown to wear it on his ice arm. :)

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