Legion of Super-Heroes #17 review

The joke among longtime Legion fans when it was announced that classic artist and writer Keith Giffen was returning to the 31st century was, how long until he kills his hated Karate Kid yet again? Well, here he is, co-plotting with continuing writer Paul Levitz and no martial artists die. That's the good news.

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.


  1. I thought Giffen's run on the book was cut down to two issues, not one?

    It's almost a painful tease, isn't it? To see just how good the Legion can be, only to have it swept away all too soon. Levitz really needs someone like Giffen working with him - the former definitely benefits from the latter's hyper-kinetic art and crazy ideas.

    Oh, and I'm willing to bet that Sun Boy will be back by the end of the story arc. This just doesn't feel like the kind of death that Levitz wold sign off on.

    1. I'm thrilled to bits to admit I got it wrong - I was going by early reports, I forgot to check the actual solicits. Cheers, I shall amend.

      I wonder if you're right about Dirk - it's a shame his body seems to have been eaten. Mind, that IS 'seems'.

  2. i didn't know you and giffen hated val amorr

    1. karate kid, did you or giffen hate him because you said giffen hated him

  3. What an absolutely enthralling issue; the plots fairly zipped along, it was exciting to read, I wanted to see more, more, more. After so many issues where things are being set-up for possible future plotlines it was good to see a lot happening, seemingly all at once, kicking into high gear; even each dialogue balloon carried with it carefully-applied words chock-full of characterization. It was, quite purely and simply TOO GOOD. I love a Giffen LSH!
    So what a shame I have two complaints [and I hardly ever have complaints about my beloved LSH, which makes this all the harder...]
    First - a pity Giffen has been and gone, He brings such a unique take to his LSH, I adored his original run [who didnt] and wanted him back full time. Was this DCs equivalent of stunt-casting, in luring him back for the publicity, only to jettison him again once they got the required headlines? Im only compensated by this in learning Portela is returning to take his place. DC...give Giffen his LSH back!
    But my main annoyance is Sun Boy being killed off! Such an ignominious way to die, it even seemed comical the way he was positioned like that - no, Dirk deserved so much more than this. I wanted a final fight scene, a true going-out-in-a-blaze-of-glory [and not even an intentional pun here]. Mind you, Id have wanted no-one killed off in the first place.
    Full marks to keeping this quiet by DC, it makes a refreshing change from big announcements about upcoming heroes deaths but it couldve been handled with rather more taste.

    1. A final big scene for Dirk would have been nice. But likewise, the shock value worked for me. I've seen Dirk do the pilot thing before, but the sheer awfulness of turning the page and seeing his fate had a power rare in today's comics.

      Regardless, I'm chuffed you enjoyed this issue too. We need to spread the word!

  4. I very much enjoy reading your reviews so couldn't stop myself from reading your review of this issue even before I'd read the comic! Oh well! I'm not complaining as to do so on your lovely blog would be ungrateful, but perhaps a 'spoiler ahead' warning would be much appreciated the next time a Legionnaire dies!

    I can't quite believe that Levitz and - more importantly - his editors would simply let Sun Boy go the way he did. To die with his face crushed in is bad enough. But then to be eaten by the locals?!? Surely we'll see him popping up in due course.

    I'm not a massive fan of Giffen's Kirby-esque art - I find his women too broad-shouldered and muscular. Yes, I can understand that a couple of the more physical women like Violet might be more powerful given that she's a hand-to-hand combatant. But I found his Lightning Lass in last year's (or was it the year before's?) annual as well as this issue's PG a bit too muscular.

    Having said that, I did enjoy the pace and dynamism of this issue. The Glorith 'I do not like to be touched' page was It's all kicking off in a big big way so it was the best issue for a while.

    I am very pleased that Portela is coming back though. I know that his fight scenes don't have the energy and dynamism of Giffen. But I really do enjoy his clean lines and facial expression and the level of detail he puts into his art. Long may he continue on the Legion!

    1. Oh heck Rob, sorry you were spoiled. I have a bit of a global spoiler warning in the right-hand column, but this may be a case in which a big internal spoiler was advisable.

      I'd not be surprised to see Sun Boy return one way or the other. Perhaps Tinya was touching him at the time and, er, phased his head to Bgztl, where it's floating around in a Gil'dishpan fishbowl. Yeah, that's it. DC should pay me.

      I do agree that the Legion women are a tad too bulky ,generally, under Giffen, but I just love the overall effect.

  5. I'm hoping this is part of the dystopian future that Legion Lost saw, and that Sun Boy will be back when things are reset.

    That being said, it was still a noble way to go if it turns out to be permanent. Dirk has always been shown as being a great pilot and a true & loyal friend. Brek is going to be a wreck for awhile, and I can't even imagine how Gim will react...

    1. That's a rather intriguing idea, Ken - and if this storyline brings the Lost characters, so much the better. I can't imagine Paul hasn't got plans for them. And yes, I hope we see reactions of the team to Dirk's demise - I felt a bit cheated that the Lost team's 'deaths' were (no doubt due to editorial fiat) pretty much glossed over.

    2. I suspect that the Legion Losters will be gone for quite a while. Levitz seems to be reducing the number of Legionnaires at the moment. Sensor Girl is looking after Orando. Gim quit. Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad are taking a break from heroics.

      So either it's a decision on his part or perhaps editorial decree that the team is too unwieldy for new readers.

      Just speculation on my part. But if the Losters were to return, the team would be enormous again. Maybe we just need two Legion comics both set in the 31st century...!

    3. That's be great. Or at the very least, make this 30pp $3.99 book, with almost as many strip pages as in the Seventies' 50 cent period. I really do prefer the Legion to be a big team.


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