Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Legion of Super-Heroes #4 review

The conclusion to the Legion's latest encounter with the Dominators begins with rogue Daxamite Res-Vir, aka The Renegade, breaking free of the inertron chains with which he's been bound. Enraged, he attacks the Legionnaires but Chemical Kid overcomes his panic to save the day when, guided by Element Lad, he disrupts Res-Vir's metabolism, bringing him down to earth with a very large bump. Mon-El and Ultra Boy handle the clean-up.

Above the planet Panoptes, a transformed Chameleon Boy eavesdrops on the Dominators' plans for a last-ditch assault on the Legion. They believe that luring the team back to their own space sector will see them regain the advantage. Can Cham get a message back to his colleagues?

On Daxam, Shrinking Violet, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lass and Invisible Kid learn that Res-Vir's anti-lead poisoning serum is Kryptonite based, making it dangerous to recipients over time.

Back on the Dominator mothership, Cham is detected but he turns the situation to his advantage and finds his way to the engine room, offering the chance to disrupt the enemies' plans.

At Legion Headquarters on Earth, Brainiac puzzles over teenage witch Glorith's abilities and, via a chat with Dream Girl, realises that she's displacing energy through time.

Cham hasn't got a message out to the rest of the Legion, but his teammates aren't without resources of their own - Mon-El bursts onto the scene, leading a sub-team in a frontal assault. Facing the power of Mon, Sun Boy, Polar Boy, Dragonwing and Shadow Lass, the Dominators have no chance. Soon Mon is reading them the riot act, ordering them to pack in their experiments on Daxamites and get the hell back to their own territory.

The story ends with Mon's team, joined by Cham, journeying back to Panoptes to pick up Ultra Boy and the other members guarding Res-Vir. And Shadow Lass noticing that Mon is once more the man she fell in love with ...

... methinks an old Legion romance is set to be rekindled and it's probably a bad sign that the prospect gave me the biggest kick of anything this issue. Certainly, the story is as well-plotted as ever by Paul Levitz, but it's the little moments of sharply scripted characterisation I enjoyed most. Such as the oblique reference to Shrinking Violet's time as a kidnap victim, and Lightning Lass's subsequent display of affection; the chat between Cham and Dreamy, the Legion's biggest brain and a woman who's no slouch herself in the smarts department; Vi emphasising that you dont need a telepath when you're a detective; Element Lad's mentoring of new boy Chemical Kid.

The actual main storyline is less affective - sure, there's a nice fight scene at the end of the issue, but it's all of one page. I expected, hoped for, a massive confrontation between the Legion and the Dominators or some super-powered proxies. Instead, we get a calm laying down of the law by Mon, and the Dominators allowed to slope off. I realise that hauling the Dominators back to Earth to answer for their crimes might lead to all-out war, but emotionally I wanted a bigger pay-off.

Illustrator Francis Portela improves by the issue, with the Legionnaires nuanced in their expressions and poses and the Dominators just plain creepy, the storytelling clear and the backgrounds pleasingly detailed. The art is coloured with style by Javier Mena and Santiago Arcas, while Travis Lanham varies the lettering to suit the situation.

The cover is less successful - check out the copy, then count the Legionnaires. Granted, Element Lad is present and supportive, but if you're telling us Chemical Kid is alone and in deep doodoo, show him on his own. That apart, it's a rare dull composition from Chris Sprouse and Karl Story.

Next issue, Walt Simonson guests on art and I'll be amazed if Levitz doesn't come up with something special for the occasion - hopefully it'll make up for this decent, but disappointing, issue.

2 comments:

  1. Portela's art continues to astound and amaze me. He does amusing facial expressions and his bodies are great - sleek and powerful without being too beef-cakey (for the guys) or slutty and massive-chested (for the gals).

    But Levitz's storytelling - what's going on with that!?? Both this issue and the last one just seemed a little flat. After the build up of the first two issues, I was expecting something bigger. Like you, I was disappointed by the lack of a decent fight.

    And Shadow Lass's returning attraction for Mon-El seems wrong. She just buried E-Man and was crying at his grave just moments before this big fight. I have no doubt that she and Mon will get back together, but it seems too soon.

    I really hope Levitz injects some more pace into his storytelling soon. Or, dare I say it, perhaps someone else (Scott Lobdell or Fabian Nicieza would be on my wish list) should step in...?

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  2. I do agree that the ending is a bit of an anti-climax... but an all drawn out fight scene would be boring too since the renegade Daxamite has been defeated. We do really need a nice group of villians for the Legion...

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