Sunday, 25 September 2011

Legion of Super-Heroes #1 review

One batch of Legionnaires infiltrates a United Planets world keeping an eye on the empire of the evil Dominators, while the rest mourn recent losses. The first group includes new members Dragonwing and Chemical Kid, whose enthusiasm gets the better of them when it turns out the military observers are working with the alien scientists. The second, among them other newbies Glorith, Comet Queen and Harmonia, wrestle with the problem of how to break into the timestream and find out what's happened to the Legion Lost.

That's the short version. Skip ahead if you don't want chapter and verse ...

Morale is low among the 31st century's greatest super team. Earth-Man died to bring down the Legion of Super-Villains. Several members are missing on a mission to the 21st century. Problems with the timestream stifle investigation by the surviving members. And Colossal Boy, having lost wife Chameleon Girl, has quit the team to join Starfleet.

Normally, an intake of new, younger members would perk things up, but Dragonwing, Chemical Kid and Glorith are mourning their friend Variable Lad, another victim of the LSV conflict. Still, the former two have been assigned a mission with more senior members and are determined to do their bit. A military watchworld, Panoptes, tasked with keeping an eye on alien conquerors the Dominators from a safe distance, has stopped contacting the United Planets. Dragonwing and Chemical Kid sneak onto the planet and pretend to be shipwrecked sweethearts, while a disguised Chameleon Boy, Phantom Girl and Ultra Boy infiltrate the military base.

At Legion HQ on Earth, Brainiac isn't impressed that a memorial statue is being erected to honour Earth-Man, given that until his final Legion days he was a nasty piece of work, but Mon-El points out that he came through in the end. The rest of the active Legion is then gathered for an update meeting, and the sadness is evident, with only another new member, Comet Queen, managing a cheery note. Cosmic Boy reckons the Academy members have been pulled into the team too quickly; Star Boy looks to be confined to a chair after recent exertions; Mon-El is missing his Green Lantern ring; Brainy wants Mon to step down as leader in favour of him; and Dream Girl notes that 'the Flashpoint effect has definitely closed off time travel to the past ... we can't look for help from Superman anymore'.

Back on Panoptes, Dragonwing isn't holding back as she plays Chemical Kid's girlfriend, and he seems less than thrilled. 'Luckily,' the military shows up and takes the pair into custody. Which is exactly what the senior Legionnaires said to let happen. Dragonwing and Chemical Kid, though, are rather wilful ...

At Legion HQ, another former Academy student, Glorith, is in the Time Lab with Dream Girl, Star Boy and another new member, the rather older Harmonia Li. The trainee witch is distressed at the death of Variable Lad, and not feeling at all well. Harmonia cools her down with a blast of wind, but it doesn't improve her mood - she wishes there were a way to change the past. Star Boy counsels that tampering never works, sometimes you have to accept 'that there's a destiny written for us all'. Girlfriend Dreamy disagrees, suggesting she wouldn't have been given the gift of prophecy if all events were fixed.

Meanwhile, the military men on Panoptes are following orders from more senior officers to modify a comms tower so it can send signals to the Dominators. Dragonwing and Chemical Kid attack the traitorous soldiers and the senior members drop their disguises to join in. Phantom Girl and Chameleon Boy get stuck into the fray while Ultra Boy moves to take down the tower. But someone takes the Legion powerhouse out first.

A busy first issue, this, but writer Paul Levitz introduces characters and places quickly and economically with his patented infobytes. It's always nice if basics and background details can be incorporated into the story, but with all the characters in this book it could easily turn into the Legion of Expository Dialogue. Instead, we're quickly into the story, with enough of the Legion flavour for newcomers enticed by the DC New 52 initiative to decide whether or not to stick around.

Existing readers may be intrigued by the Legion's new method of planetary touchdown, the introduction of 'stealth suits' and the new-look Espionage Squad. There's an interesting wrinkle to one of Cham's changes, the revelation of Harmonia Li's powers and hints that Glorith will go down a dangerous path.

It's great that Levitz doesn't go for predictable tension between the older and younger members. The vets are supportive of the newcomers, and the freshers - while adding a bit of spice - are trying to be good Legionnaires. I especially like the tenderness of the scene in which Star Boy, Dreamy and Harmonia Li bid to comfort Glorith

And Brainy's comments on martyrdom serve as a necessary coda to Earth-Man's shortlived Legion career.

My only negative criticism of the script is the same one I had last time the Legion had a number one issue - the lack of a big, splashy threat. Hopefully someone formidable in powers and presence will be along soon.

Francis Portela has drawn a fair few Legion stories over the last couple of years, and never disappointed with his clean, well-composed illustrations. I think this is the first time he's inked himself on the strip and everything continues to look very good. A few of the costumes have been tweaked to bad effect - Mon-El has yet another version of his classic look and as is always the case, it's no improvement - but that's happening in every DC comic right now. A gratuitous Dream Girl torso aside, I relished every panel.

Javier Mena's colours are mostly attractive, darker than recent work on the Legion strip by Hi-Fi, but as with the new costumes, there's likely a DC directive involved. I do, though, hope he lightens up on the facial modelling; some of the toning makes characters look bruised

Pat Brosseau's lettering is excellent throughout - plain, italic, red ... it's all good. As is the cover by Karl Kerschl, Ultra Boy's Blue Steel look and Cham's scary eyes apart

All in all, it's a fine start to yet another Legion of Super-Heroes series - I do hope this one sticks around for a long while.

12 comments:

  1. How delicious was this issue? It wasnt bad...it wasnt bad at all! Like the new recruits [tho I wish Power Boy had been given a chance]; as soon as Chem King rejects Glorith her evil self will be back.
    Loving the return of the Espionage Squad.
    Liking the return of the Dominators; takes me right back to Earthwar back in the late 70s. I think of them as the Romulans to the LSH's Trek.
    Mon-El was uncharacteristically [long word] benevolent to Earth-Man...I wouldnt be.
    Nice touch of humanity from Brainy and Dreamy. Is Prof Li some sort of elemental like the Inhumans Crystal or a weather witch like Storm?
    Writing was good...very good. Like WW, were expected to be dropped right into the action and it suits me fine. I get the hint a short space of time has elapsed since the past series. Colours...in the current nu-DC they are light abd dark in equal measure and it suits this unpredictable new look LSH where thet cant contact Superman [I prefer the LSH without him, anyway].
    Hey, I was th efirst to predict that Colossal Boy would resign! Thought hed join Gigi back at the Science Police, though.
    All in all, a very thourough read indeed.
    9/10.

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  2. Definitely dark days ahead. I'm not sure if they ever gave an upper limit to Comet Queen speed and flight abilities, but I think that should be enhanced to make her one of the fastest spaceflight Legionnaires.

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  3. Martin,

    I have to say you surprised me by grudgingly giving ol' Muttonchops some kind words in this review. I see it's not only the Japanese that refrain from speaking evil about the dead.

    Otherwise, a good review about a #1 that contains almost nothing. I think it was too expository and although there's some action near the end, the pace was a bit slow.

    Harmonia's power being revealed out of the blue was a bit of a surprise, and Cos being an ass was well, not so much a surprise.

    Oh and did we find out who's hand was it that was at the presence of the stone of infinity a few months back?

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  4. Agree there was too much exposition. Too much tying up of loose ends from the previous short volume of LSH. So I'm not sure how accessible this would have been to new readers. In fact, I suspect that it wasn't at all welcoming. It would have been more welcoming to have focused on just the espionage squad of 5 plus maybe Mon-El and Brainy at HQ coordinating their efforts. A small number of characters would have been much more suited to broadening the readership and encouraging new readers to stick with the title.

    Having said all that though, I thought Portela's art was amazing. He seems to be going for the Jiminez/Perez school of detail - packing in quite dense scenes. I only hope that he can keep it up, given that he is inking his own art. Yildiray who? Portela rocked.

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  5. Now I'm intrigued, Karl - have you spotted Glorith pining for Chemical Kid? I'd not noticed, if so. Or I've forgotten.

    It looks as if Li is more Crystal than Storm - handwave as opposed to manipulation of existing patterns.

    Nice one on your Colossal Boy prediction. I suppose joining Starfleet (isn't that copyright Paramount or someone?) is the 31st-century equivalent of running away to sea to forget.

    That's a wonderful idea re: Comet Queen, Marvelboy - it would make some kind of sense, and really give her extra oomph.

    Are you accusing me of being nice to Earth-Man, Novelty? Never! But you can't deny he came through at the end.

    I see what you mean, Rob, but I do like a (quarter of a) Legion in my Legion books. I'd have begun with the Rededication Day ceremony being attacked by someone or other, allowing for lots of little scenes showcasing everyone - with a pictorial roll call at the start. Am so old-fashioned ...

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  6. I read elsewhere [dont ask me, cant remember at 1.am!] that all the DC comics are being given six issues to appeal to readers, otherwise theyll be 're-evaluated' and may be axed.
    Only six issues! DC cant have much faith in some of them...it could explain why Birds of Prey will have a drastiic shift in its story line [whatever it is] very early, around issue four.

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  7. This sudden six-issue thing is odd, Karl. I'm sure DC originally said everything would get 12 issues, and with all the crowing about excellent sales, what's the problem?

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  8. I read the six issue thing, too, but it was only a rumor. I suspect different books will have leashes of different lengths.

    In the midst of all the change surrounding the (relatively) stable Legion books, it occurs to me that this would have been the perfect time to introduce the Waid/Kitson Legion. Not that I'm complaining -- I'm enjoying the Levitz run a lot!

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  9. I think most of the books will survive the initial four-issue cull; I cant see JLA, Superman, Batman and [especially after her high sales and generally well-received reviews] Wonder Woman getting the axe at all. I also think the LSH books will be safe, tho BOP and Catwoman will be in doubt imo.
    btw, Mart, a slight correction on my part if I may. I meant to say Dragonwing having a thing for Chemical Kid, not Glorith. Glorith came to mind because she became friendly with him during the Adventure run; I can see a triangle happening!

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  10. Now that'd be funny, Rob, if DC suddenly began rotating in other Legions. There were some decent aspects to the Waid/Kitson run.

    'Four-issue cull', Karl? Behave! :)

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  11. Im new to the Legion world and on the whole enjoyed the book, there was enough to get me to buy the second issue which is more than can be said for Legion Lostn

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  12. Welcome to the Legion Rob M. The comic needs as many new supporters as it can get, so you are very welcome.

    As a newcomer, what were your thoughts about the comic?

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