Friday, 20 July 2012

Legion of Super-Heroes #11 review

When DC's New 52 initiative began, only three franchises escaped the big reboot - Batman, Green Lantern and the Legion of Super-Heroes. With other DC Universe books we have little idea of who the characters are, how many of their old stories 'happened'. Not so with Batman, GL and the Legion. And of the three, it's the Legion who keep the most history - Batman has had a 15-year career scrunched into a third of that time. Missing DCU players mean that entire epic storylines can't have happened for Hal Jordan and co as we saw them play out.

But the Legion? Divorced from the rest of the line of DC superstars by 1000 years, they get to keep the vast majority of storylines and relationships. Odd details have changed - Duo Damsel has become Duplicate Damsel, for example, and Brainiac 5's force shield belt is now an heirloom rather than his own invention - but these are very much the exception to the rule. After several reboots, the original Legion is back, and moving into the future with its history mostly intact.

And this month sees writer Paul Levitz, on his third tour of duty with the team, show yet again just how much a book's continuity can enrich proceedings. In fact, I'd say this issue contains the best scene yet in his latest stint. The players are founder Cosmic Boy and veteran teammate - and current leader - Mon-El. The former is frustrated that the latter has failed to organise a rescue of Dream Girl and Brainy from the clutches of the Dominators. And here's what transpires (click on image to enlarge).
It's an understated moment of drama between two old friends, centred on their conflict between loyalty to their loved ones and fidelity to the bigger picture. Plus, we have the revelation that Mon-El was in on Star Boy's assembling of the team to extract Dream Girl and Brainy. Penciller Andres Guinaldo takes Levitz's subtly powerful script and adds the acting, the visuals that sell it to maximum effect. It's a terrific palate cleanser after the forced, character-wrecking melodrama of this week's Justice League. I love it.

The rest of the issue is a rollicking good read too, as we follow that rescue team to the Dominator Homeworld and see that even a ragtag group consisting of, in Cos' words, 'two reservists, a Legionnaire on medical leave, a youngster recovering from a mindwipe ... and two prospective members', can whup Dominator arse. Their secret? Teamwork and team spirit, of course, something their 21st-century supposed inspirations sorely lack for.

It doesn't all go smoothly, though, as Brainy decides he can't leave without getting his force field belt back from his captors, and Star Boy's rescue squad hangs around to provide back-up. Worse still, a betrayal from within their ranks leaves things looking very dodgy indeed.

Levitz' script is just great; dramatic throughout, with the funny lines arising from well-worked characters reacting to their circumstances and one another. There's some especially good work done here with Brainy 5, as we see how he feels about his bred-for-super-genius status, and find he has some new tricks up his purple sleeve. And prospective Legionnaires Otaki and Mwindaji make a fine impression.

The pacing is spot-on too, with every scene getting enough room to make its mark, then ending before the impact is diluted. And that betrayal? Heartbreaking, if we're to take it at face value.

Including the scene above, Guinaldo pencils just six pages, with Dan Green inking. Their work here looks a little looser than last time, with a refreshing vibe of Keith Giffen's late Baxter style in the Mon-El/Cosmic Boy confrontation. And they gain extra points for giving new character Otaki, an empath, a lovely old-fashioned Letratone-style dot head-cloud. Blimey, it's hard to find the proper phrasing. This!
The rest of the book is pencilled and inked by the ever-excellent Francis Portela, who never fails to make the Legionaires look proud and heroic - well, except when one is betraying another (which, let's face it, is itself a proud Legion tradition). Of all the characters Portela draws here, my favourite is Duplicate Damsel who, on this form, will have me voting for her in the next Legion elections (click on image to enlarge).

The woman has style and guts to spare, and Portela shows it in her eyes, and the way she fights and moves.

Those vibrant colours are the work of Javier Mena and Santiago Arcas. They're the opposite of drab, perfect for the wildness of 31st-century space.

Steve Lightle has put a lot of work into this cover, and I'm glad he did - it's the classic superhero scene, with characters in dire straits surrounded by grinning heads of eeeeevil. And very nicely coloured by Guy Major.

One of the few DC books that gets better every issue, I'd love the company to kick Legion Lost to the kerb and make this twice monthly. Levitz can easily provide two scripts every 30 days, while Portela and his back-ups could keep things looking good. The Legion isn't a top seller, but DC can always bank on a certain number of loyal fans buying - how about it, DC?

18 comments:

  1. From you lips to Didio's ears. I actually just told my LCS I was dropping Lost -- even a diehard like me can only take so much.

    But this? This was wonderful. It seems there's more to the betrayal than we've been shown -- and probably has a lot to do with the character's cloudy recent past -- but who knows?

    And I loved that speech that Mon-El gave Rokk, too. It was just pitch-perfect.

    Great review!

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    1. Thanks Rob. I've never done such a thing, but I'm tempted to put a link to my review on Dan DiDio's Facebook page in the hope he'll see how much we're loving this comic. It saddens me that sites I enjoy such as CBR, Newsarama and iFanboy just ignore this series ... I want him to see it's appreciated.

      Meanwhile, we have six issues with Keith Giffen to look forward to - yay!

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  2. Legion has me down to my DNA and this run is rewarding that. I found myself even daydreaming Brainy and Dreamy in captivity scenes before buying the book. I especially liked Mon not putting up with Cos's neurotic bullshit and that the traitor's dialog was cut off at just the right point to show us that this is not some simple heel turn...

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    1. I'm sure a lot of people have similar dreams...

      By the way, I loved your post about Astonishing X-Men # 51. I had never read a Marjorie Liu comic but as soon as I found out that Northstar was getting married I knew I had to buy it. And to be honest I was thrilled. It's one of the best X-Men stories I've read in recent years. So many touching moments. Awesome!

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    2. Steve, I'm actually rather pleased there were romantic moments between Brainy and Nura - I like to think she's better than thar (not like blog inspiration Saturn Girl, tossing herself at Timber Wolf, the slapper). If she's at all interested in Brainy, let her break up with Thom first.

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    3. I'm so glad you enjoyed that Astonishing, too, Arion! And I love your screen name, I do miss that guy.

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    4. Martin, my daydreams were decisively non-romantic for Brainy and Dreamy. I was imagining how they could plot under surveillance. It would have started with her asking him if he still learned new languages when bored and every fifth or sixth language would have been a language the Dominators couldn't possibly know to hide an escape plan...

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    5. Ah, those daydreams I like, Steve - clever stuff that would be in keeping for these characters.

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  3. This book just gets better and better - the lush artwork, the even lusher colour that makes it the brightest in the comic firmanent; I just love it. The unpredictability of the scripts is what draws me in too; Mon knowing what he knows, the traitor being who they are, everything.
    A pleasure.

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  4. I still miss Secret Origins, but that story has all played out. This issue moves along fine, but I do wish we have a bi-monthly!

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    1. I enjoyed Secret Origin well enough, I usually like Legion Lost, but the idea of two Levitz Legions a month makes me drool, now he's in his stride.

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  5. Confusingly enough, Novelty, we actually want a biweekly -- bimonthly means 'every other month.' We don't want Didio getting confused...

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    1. 'Bimonthly' is one of those words that it's easy to get wrong, isn't it?

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  6. I'm a die heard Legion fan. Crazy enough to sell my whole collection back when Zero Hour "deleted" MY Legion and crazy enough to buy it all over again, including the Archie Legion, when they brought them back in JLA/JSA.

    And I agree. This book is getting better and better.
    The irony is that the book has been in the "Flashpoint" universe before the New 52, hence why they didn't change much, but they would have had more success with it if they had started the New 52 run with the Secret Origin story. I love the fact that there's references here and there to the "flashpoint" incident, which tends to show that maybe, there's something with the Legion intervening in the past coming up... And that they may be aware that the past has changed. Food for thought.

    The Betrayal is heartbreaking, and I can only hope it has to do with her amnesia and possibly some brainwashing...

    So looking forward to the Giffen arc coming up soon!

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    1. Bruno, Bruno, at this point I would just live the Legion to get into a fleet of time bubbles and undo Flashpoint - give me back a JLA to respect, characters with history, Wally, Donna ... the good stuff could be integrated back into the last continuity, and new ideas could still be tried.

      I can't see Paul Levitz letting us down as regards The Betrayal. The character is surely too popular.

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  7. There is a reason I don't read your Legion reviews until I post mine Mart. They read very similar, hitting on the high points, and I don't want to ever worry about plagiarism!

    This book continues to gain momentum with wonderful side moments. You comment on the side scene with Mon-El/Cos and the intensity of Luornu ... both of which struck me as well.

    What the book could use is a little publicity. And I hope Portela remains here. His stuff is great.

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    1. Yeah, we do often agree on lots of points, Anj. Men of taste, I guess

      I agree, more publicity for this book would be great. Too many reboots have scared people off from trying LSH books over the years.

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