Thursday, 17 November 2011

Legion of Super-Heroes #3 review

The Dominator fleet is ready to set down on the United Planet watchworld of Panoptes but a team of Legionnaires aren't taking the threat lying down. They leap into the sky and wipe the graveyard grins off the faces of their longtime foes. The bad guys don't know new members Chemical Kid and Dragonwing, recognising only Phantom Girl and Chameleon Boy, and assume the quartet won't be much trouble.

Wrong. Cham changes into a massive winged beast to attack the space destroyers, while Tinya uses her intangibility to first enter, then cripple, several ships. Chemical Kid throws himself into the fray, speeding up fuel reactions, while Dragonwing sprays firebreath and acid venom around.

Elsewhere on the world, other Legionnaires try to take down Daxamite Res-Vir, the planetary patriot who opened the door to the Dominators. But with fellow Daxamite Mon-El, powerhouse Ultra Boy, matter transmuter Element Lad and the very distracting Shadow Lass on hand (I'm being literal, not sexist!), he doesn't stand much of a chance.

While these five are tussling, nearby other members attack the Dominator fleet, with Sun Boy and Comet Queen proving useful, and Polar Boy devastating.

Across the galaxy, on Daxam, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lass, Shrinking Violet and Invisible Kid try to learn more about Res-Vir. And on Earth, even as he's advising his teammates via interplanetary hologram, Brainiac 5 tests the limits of teenage witch Glorith's powers.

Whew! A busy one this. And easily the best Legion comic since the New 52 relaunch - writer Paul Levitz really knows his characters and is one of the few writers who regularly has metahumans use their powers in smart, surprising ways. So here we have Phantom Girl doing some Kitty Pryde-style mechanical disrupting, while Polar Boy uses the ships' cold-proofing against itself.

What's also wonderful is the camaraderie between the team - while there are occasional fallings out back at Legion HQ, in the field this gang acts as one. Not for Mon-El any lingering resentment over Shadow Lass having left him, he's too busy praising her heroism. Newbies Chemical Kid and Comet Queen are fitting in nicely, while Dragonwing is less irritating than she was (she's still attention-seeking, mind). With little touches such as the protocol when disembarking onto a new planet, Levitz reminds us that the Legion are professionals. And hurrah, Res-Vir gets a villain name - the Renegade - this issue, as the Dominators reveal that they have 'our answer to the Legionnaires' almost ready to launch.

Illustrator Francis Portela gets better by the month, choreographing massive battles like a veteran, and giving almost every member a moment in the artistic spotlight. Only Invisible Kid seems to vanish into the background, but for all I know he could be having a big old hero moment right in front of me. Portela seems comfortable with all the character designs, with Phantom Girl and Cosmic Boy apparent favourites, and he looks to relish Cham's transformations. He's also getting a little wilder with the layouts, giving us panel designs that progress the story while tickling the eyes. My one request would be to tweak Dragonwing so that I stop mistaking her for the Secret Six's Ragdoll.
I'm used to bright and shiny scenes from Portela, but he surprises with the interior of the Dominators' ships and the horrible visages of its operators. I don't think they've looked so scary since Todd McFarlane drew them over 20 years ago. Praise is also due to the talented duo of colourist Javier Mena and letterer Pat Brosseau, both of whom are vital to this good-looking comic.

The Dominators look differently eerie on that Chris Sprouse/Karl Story cover up top, while the Legionnaires are suited and booted and ready for their close-up.

Levitz and co seem to be hitting their stride now, so hopefully superhero fans will sit up and take notice. It's about time the Legion had a hit comic once again, and this could well be it.

9 comments:

  1. I love when we see the Legionnaires being effective. Good for Comet Queen

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  2. I completely agree - this book is all kinds of awesome. Was before DC 52 and is something else entirely after the DC 52. Yip, it's a good time to be a Legion Fan.

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  3. Thanks for another great review. My best line of the issue was Vi's!

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  4. Yeah, I'm really enjoy this series still... though it feels even a little more throwback than it used to in the New 52.

    Rich Johnston compared Portela's work to Tom of Finland (well, sorta.. he said "Tom of Sweden"), but to me, I see an awful lot of Colleen Doran influence. Which ain't a bad thing, nosiree.

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  5. Comet Queen is just great, isn't she, Marvelboy? Her fun visual seems to make her a bit of a cover hogger.

    That it is, Dan. But where's my lettercol, DC?

    Vi was quite the wit there, Novelty!

    Colleen Doran I can see, Rob, Tom of Finland, less so - there's nothing in the way of ludicrous man-meat, thank goodness.

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  6. I can't praise this series enough! I was quite happy with the relaunch before this one...but Levitz somehow upped the anty and made it even better. I was concerned when I heard Cinar was not going to be doing the art and I had never even heard of Portela, but, I'm loving his style equally if not more so. I especially like his Element Lad. I do wish, that Gravity Kid and Power Boy were included. It would be interesting to see a gay male couple in the Legion together. LSH was the first comic I ever read way back in the 70's, and as such, holds a special place in my heart. I'm so glad DC (and especially Paul Levitz) is putting this book out.

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  7. I agree about Power Boy and Gravity Kid, I'd love to see them as members (well, so long as GK gets a new hairdo).

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  8. I agree across the board. I really like the Dominators, and I'm glad the Legion is settling into a single story, and not 100 different subplots.

    What I most liked about this issue is that it was all about Brainy, sitting back at base. It seemed like everyone was trying tricks he taught them, or that the solutions were coming from his desk. It was the best example of yet of why, despite being an aloof, manipulative jerk, he makes a good and interesting/unusual leader.

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  9. It is indeed excellent to see a Brainy who's not loony, incompetent or manipulative!

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