The bad news is that one of the Legion's longest-serving, most popular members is no more by the fourth page, horribly crushed while saving teammates Phantom Girl, Polar Boy and Invisible Kid by crash-landing a failed Legion cruiser on an unknown world. With all their tech out of commission, the members can't communicate with the locals, a failure which perhaps motivates another horrific occurrence.
And it's not just the heroes' flight rings, translators and transport that aren't working. Across the galaxy, Ultra Boy finds that his homeworld, Rimbor, is having similar problems. He and Glorith are looking for the criminal Tharok, thought to be leading a new Fatal Five, when their camouflage suits fail. While Chameleon Boy is his own disguise, he's shocked into dropping his jellyfish-mushroom look on being attacked by an angry local.
As the action shifts back and forth between the two locales, we learn that the first world's settlement is built on the arm of one of the legendary Promethean Giants, while on Rimbor Glorith shows that it doesn't pay to manhandle her.
And throughout, there's a real sense of tension, a feeling that the stakes have been raised. As the book ends, with multiple attacks by the reborn Fatal Five, we see just how big a threat the Legion is facing.
Even without the unexpected death of Sun Boy, this would be an issue to remember. After a brief reunion in a recent Legion Annual, longtime collaborators Levitz and Giffen are back together once more and this book is on fire. Giffen injects drama into every panel, with powerful close-ups, unexpected angles, imaginative aliens, characters bursting off the page and a gorgeous spread harking back to Jack Kirby's Marvel peak. And I must give a big shout-out to Scott Koblish, who embellishes Giffen's pencils with flair.
The intensity of the character visuals, or perhaps the simple promise of working with Giffen again, inspires Levitz to heights we've not seen for awhile. I've praised his Legion characterisations over and over, but here they seem to have risen by a level again. There's Phantom Girl's despair as her first mission as Legion leader is hit by tragedy, Polar Boy's frustration and fury, Invisible Kid's polite pragmatism ... it makes me desperate for more Levitz/Giffen Legion.
Which is why I'm so upset that for whatever reason - perhaps the coming solo book for 'Greed Lantern' Larfleeze, spinning out of Threshold - Giffen is gone again after next issue. With a beginning this great, a brilliant Legion run would surely have followed. The good news is that Francis Portela is coming back as Legion artist, and he's only been getting better with each outing. What I hope is that Portela, who has to be a Legion fan after sticking with the series for so long, is given a shot at co-plotting with Levitz, who always shines brighter when sparked by an artist bursting with ideas. Portela may not be that artist, he may not want to take more responsibility - but I'd be happy to see him given a chance.
Javier Mena does his usual superb job on colours, heightening the intensity, while Dezi Sienty really earns his money, giving the aliens a language font that's visually disturbing - all the more so when you realise what they were probably saying to Polar Boy throughout the issue.
Oh, and this comic taught me a new word: cauchemar. Given the context, I rather wish it hadn't.