Friday, 18 May 2012

Legion of Super-Heroes #9 review

Brainiac 5 and Harmonia are at Circadia Senius' lab, disagreeing about the possibility of beating the blockage in the time stream, when Dream Girl drops by. She's had a premonition that something important is going to occur.

And occur it does, as two unknown assailants pop up. Literally - they come out of a Boom Tube that isn't quite a Boom Tube - it's black rather than white, and instead of going 'BOOM' it goes 'PLOINK'. Brainy's force field belt fails due to one alien, Dys, being able to dampen tech-based abilities. But Harmonia's elemental powers are natural, and Dream Girl's knack for anticipating a foe's moves makes her a mean martial artist. Brainy stops pondering the fact that his flight ring is also kaput long enough to enter the fray, belting Dys with a veeblefetzer (or perhaps it's a framistat, I always get them confused). This peeves Dys enough to grab Brainy with his tentacles and slam him into unconsciousness. Dream Girl quickly follows.

By the time Ultra Boy arrives to help Harmonia battle the other enemy, Trog, Dys has escaped with Dream Girl, Brainy and the tech he's disabled. Trog, having been stopped from entering the Ploink Tube by Harmonia and thoroughly pummeled by Ultra Boy, commits suicide, devolving to slime. Dys reports back to his masters - the Dominators. They wanted Brainy because he possesses 'the accelerated intelligence gene' but Dys gambled and brought back Dreamy too, correctly sensing that she's almost as bright as Brainy. What's more, 'she seemed his companion'.

Across United Planets space, Mon-El is accompanying Legion Academy graduate turned Science Police officer Gravity Kid to the cell occupied by Validus. The Legion fears someone is trying to put a Fatal Five back together, and the giant with the mental lightning was the original's most fearsome member. But he's safe and sound in his cell of inertron, the galaxy's toughest metal. Apparently, at least.

Back on Earth, an energy signature links Dys and Trog to the Dominators, and the Legion readies to take the fight to them - until Mon-El arrives with the news that Earthgov won't authorise such a move. There's a treaty with the Dominators in place and not enough evidence against them to risk wrecking it.

One Legionnaire won't stand for this: Star Boy, still recovering from traumas connected to a 21st-century time trip, indicates that if the Legion won't rescue Nura, he's quitting the Legion and going after her himself.

Paul Levitz melds tense action with clever characterisation, building on last issue's hints of a Fatal Five rebirth while upping the threat posed by the Dominators. Interaction between the team members is natural and enjoyable, while there's an enticing tease of what might be to come in Dys's opinion on the Dream Girl/Brainy relationship (a call back to the Mark Waid/Barry Kitson Legion series). There's a fun moment when we see that Ultra Boy doesn't always time his one-power-at-a-time switches to perfection, and the news that the Legion is still scouting for Academy recruits*. Best of all is Star Boy's decision to go it alone - it's classic Thom Kallor.

Francis Portela's illustrations are simply delicious. If anyone at DC or Marvel paid attention to the Legion books they'd be grabbing this guy for the fluidity of his line, the character he puts into faces, the way he lays out both the high drama and the quieter times. Simply put, Portela is proving one of the best artists this series has ever had. And doing his illustrations justice is colour artist Javier Mena, whether it's giving Ultra Boy his very own speed trail or lighting the fight scenes according to the energies unleashed (click on image to enlarge).
The cover, by classic Legion artist Steve Lightle, is a beaut, showing two of the longest-serving Legionnaires are as vital today as when they debutred. And Guy Major uses Dream Girl and Brainy's trademark colours on both illo and logo to make the cover pop further.

This is a wonderful issue all round, the highlight of the current run. The Legion is always at its best as dark forces gather, and here are two separate sets. If you've yet to try this book, dive right in - Levitz, Portela and their teammates make it easy.

* Who, if my translation of Interlac is correct, are named Otaki and Mwifadji. Er ...

9 comments:

  1. As usual I share a lot of your thoughts and observations on this issue (as you will see in my review up tomorrow).

    For me, this was the first issue of Legion in a long time that left me wanting more. It's like everything is simmering at the same time. It's going to boil over soon.

    And I echo your praise of Portela. Beautiful.

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    1. Looking forward to seeing your review over at Supergirl Comic Box Commentary. And indeed, your review of Supergirl #9 which is already up ... I'm behind this week, can't wait to read that one!

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  2. It's always a wonder to behold Portela. It's also a surprise to see that you have the review up so quickly. I enjoyed both the comic and the review, but I'm wondering who are the new recruits. And the Ploinktube? I wonder who's behind that.

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    1. I suppose the Ploinktube must be a Dominators original, Novelty.

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  3. Another great issue; this series does seem to have a much more absorbing impact and feel for its core values than the previous. We have more characterization that just 'feels' right, even if the actual plot serves a lower register to said such. I like whats going on, I like the Legionnaires interactions with each other, even the ongoing villains plots, this new Fatal Five being possibly formed, the Dominators ongoing threats both subtle and overt and so on. But as I said in my recent Legion APA Tales of a Silver Age Snob, are Brainy and Dreamy and Li in their own separate book now, as they never really mix with the others.
    Loving the new look at Star Boy but I suddenly feel theyr gonna kill him off; dont let that happen! Liking the possibility Brainy and Nura may get together; such an odd pairing in the threeboot but it worked, amazingly. Found these new bad-guys fascinating, tho I do hope we see more of them as these days villains appear once and never seen again. Nice mix of powers and abilities going on there.
    Dont really understand [cough, remember] how Validus can be around if Garridian is cured of Darkseid's curse. Are they two separate beings now?
    Tip to Ultra Boy; dont announce what power youre using in a battle so they can get the drop on y'all. And Jo, get your hair cut too.
    Good to see Gravity Kid, the Academy students shouldnt be forgotten. And I like the internal politicking with the UP Council regarding the Dominators.
    The art and the colours...said it before and I will state it again. This book is GORGEOUS. The colours are so vibrant. Its the most attractive book on the market today.

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    1. Very good point about Brainy, Harmonia Li and Dream Girl, but I suppose they're going to be spending lots of time together while there's the time mystery to be solved.

      Kill off Thom, hmm, I can't see it, he's one of Paul Levitz's darlings ... oh.

      I wondered about Validus too ... maybe he was cloned at some point, or grabbed from a time sliver before Darkseid's Curse was undone?

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  4. The art is bee-uu-tiful! I'm not surprised Portela doesn't have the time to do his own covers: he must spend so much time on the interiors. Very impressed!

    I wasn't so sure about the cover though. I thought both Brainy and DG looked a little too young with their overly round, almost chubby, unlined faces. I realise the Legion is part of DC's younger comics, but they both look about 14 on the cover.

    I'm enjoying this run of the Legion more than the previous 16-or-so issue run. It's almost as if Levitz has taken a while to get back into his writing stride after so long having been in management.

    This new Dominator menace is shaping up nicely. Hopefully, it's leading up to a group of super-powered Dominators and a massive bust-up with the Legion. I'm hoping for a big splash page with loads of Legionnaires blasting and punching a whole host of Dominator-engineered villains.

    And the idea of a new Fatal Five is just amazing. Definitely one of my favourite - top 3 maybe? - comics every month.

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    1. And I see what you mean about the cover, Rob, but I'm soooo delighted to have Steve Lightle back in the fold that I'm OK with it.

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  5. Rob, youve just repeated everything Ive said[!].

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