Legion of Super-Heroes #19 review



The Fatal Five's attacks on the United Planets continue with the Emerald Empress devastating Weber's World, the organisation's admin HQ. Perched on the deadly Emerald Eye of Ekron like a witch on a broomstick, she's murdering by the dozen. Can Mon-El, one of the most powerful Legionnaires, withstand her fury?

Across space, Phantom Girl, Invisible Kid and Polar Boy scramble to avoid being crushed by a Promethean Giant, little knowing it's being controlled by Fatal Five leader Tharok.

And arriving on the Sorcerors' World after nearly dying on Rimbor, Ultra Boy, Glorith and Chameleon Boy face a bigger problem - Fatal Five strongman Validus.

Meanwhile, there's trouble in villain paradise as the Persuader shows signs he plans to betray Tharok. But hopefully, not before we meet traditional fifth member Mano.

Well, it's fair to say that the Fatal Five storyline has kicked into high gear, with escalating problems for the Legion throughout the galaxy. They've already seen Sun Boy killed, Star Boy may have followed and here there are more deaths. Well, possibly. We see events that could easily terminate Legion lives, but scene changes frustrate confirmation. And while Mon-El is gravely injured by the Empress, he's not dead yet.

And I can't see writer Paul Levitz killing him off for the sake of this story - it's not like 'Superboy's big brother' dying would send sales soaring, whereas offing him would cut off various avenues of storytelling. Likewise, I can't envisage the other threatened Legionnaires dying either; Levitz is toying with us, having 'proven' with the death of Sun Boy that he's willing to sacrifice major characters. But 'proven' gets quotation marks because Sun Boy will be back any month now. Those aliens the Legion keeps calling 'cannibals' - on their own terms, they're not - were saved from the giant by the team this time, and I don't doubt they'll repay the kindness by farting old Dirk back into existence. Or something.

I was a bit disappointed by Phantom Girl getting rather hysterical and sorta suicidal - is this why I voted for her to be Legion leader? I think not. This isn't the Tinya who's survived as a Legionnaire since the beginning, never flagging in courage or faithfulness to the dream.

Truth be told, three issues into this storyline, I'm ready for the Legion to be a bit more proactive; yes, things are tough, but this is the Legion - the greatest collection of powers and minds the United Planets has. Maybe next month ...

Drawing Levitz's script - recent co-plotter Keith Giffen is credited as Consulting Destructionist - are two artists, Scott Kolins and Jeff Johnson. Kolins is up at bat first, so he gets to debut the frankly alarming new look for the Emerald Empress. Given its Jack Kirby stylings, I'm guessing it's a Giffen creation ... certainly someone should take the blame, because it's awful. Hair the size of Bouncing Boy, tits the size of, well, Bouncing Boy times two. It's all just too big. I can see the Asgardian homage headpiece working if it wasn't perched on a Botanical Garden, while the boobs don't have to be quite so in the face.

Villainess apart, there are things to like in Kolins' compositons, such as the palpable sense of danger as Mon-El faces the Empress, and Polar Boy holds back the giant. Things get a little too sketchy for me in the latter scene's finishes, but I assume that's an artistic choice on Kolins' part - a simpler style for more direct emotion.

Picking up the artistic baton is Jeff Johnson, whose work I've not seen since his Wonder Man at Marvel in the Nineties. You can see he's feeling his way as he gets to know the Legionnaires, but Johnson does a good job of giving the members individual faces without veering off model, and conjures up some dramatic layouts. His Persuader is pleasingly imposing and his Empress is indeed taken down a visual notch, and works better. I can't wait to see how regular artist Francis Portela approaches the new look next month.

There's another artist drawing the Empress on the gatefold cover, one JJ Kirby (any relation?). I like the composition, but the characters look way too dweeby - the Empress, in particular, looks like the evil queen of some tweenie cartoon, not so much homicidal space siren as leering moppet.

All in all, another exciting issue. But I do hope Levitz shows us the Legion organising and fighting back soon, reaffirming their position as the galaxy's greatest super-team. Right now they're being played, and the Legion should be smarter than that.

Comments

  1. I voted for Shrinking Violet! ;-)

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    1. Another of my old faves, though she's been a bit titchy bitch queen of late!

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  2. Kolins is clearly channeling Giffen, himself channeling Kirby. A certain dynamic abstraction is perhaps inevitable.

    While Phantom Girl's reaction tended to melodrama, I can't really blame her for panicking. Sun Boy's dead, Polar Boy and Invisible Kid seem to die, and she's still standing on a Source Wall Giant scratching at her like she were an itchy dust mite.

    More shocking for me was Mon-El's injury. That's pretty freaky. And while we're used to that from younger writers where it's a cliché and cheap, it surprised me from Levitz.

    You sound a little cynical about the issue. I don't think Sun Boy will be back, no more than Levitz brought back Karate Kid in the 80s. He'll make it stick so it means something. I think it'd be a good opportunity to bring back the female Inferno from the 90s to replace him.

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    1. Inferno? But wsan't she among the most unpopular Legion characters ever?

      And yeah, poor Mon-El - it's a very New 52 injury.

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    2. If she was, she had a funny way of showing it, i.e. getting her own mini-series.

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    3. It was Stuart Immonen who was popular, so DC gave him a shot at a Legion mini series. I honestly can't remember any fans liking her - certainly she was hugely unpopular among my fellow members of UK Legion apa Apa 247. But you will have known different fans!

      We liked yhe panda ....

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    4. She wouldn't be my favorite SW6 Legionnaire to show up in the current continuity, mind you. That would probably be Andromeda.

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    5. Do we count her as SW6, having originated with the Workforce? Anyway, I love Andromeda too!

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    6. Well in the reality where Laurel Gand was a member of the older Legion, she was the younger Laurel, decanted with the rest of SW6.

      At least, that's how I remember it.

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    7. No argument on Laurel being SW6, I was talking about Inferno, whom you peg as SW6 above.

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    8. Oh yeah, no, she wouldn't have been Sun Boy's clone obviously. You're right, I misspoke there. My general name for the post-5YL Legion, whether they were part of the batch or not.

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  3. This is the worst comic of the run so far, it made me sad reading it.

    You're far kinder to the art than I can be, it was hurried and repulsive. What the hell was happening to Ayla on the cover? Was the art meant to be manga-inspired or did he think he was drawing some kind of fish-alien and then gave up?

    We start the book full of near contextless debris & destruction and end with near contextless figures in space for page after page.

    There's barely hints of character, except for team leader Hysterical Girl. Tinya's not one of my faves but she doesn't deserve this.

    As for Dirk, I point you towards Dreamy's prophecy of a rock and Dirk attending a druidic ritual of the rebirth of tge sun. Maybe Tharok can't control the giant because there's already a spirit in there.
    Whether that means Dirk, or the book itself, will be left in a condition to go on I can't say.

    The best I can say about this was the new Empress was somewhat funky and at 20 pages it was a very, very short read.

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    1. Hi Ric, this issue wasn't a classic, I'll give you that!

      Next month George Perez is doing the cover, so that should be good.

      I'd be very impressed were Dirk's druid moment pre-planned as part of a return ... so far as I know, that scene was there because Walt Simonson wanted to draw Stonehenge, but that wouldn't stop Paul Levitz from using it later.

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  4. Strange as this issue was, I'm still enjoying the New Bombast. It feels a bit like those odd, kinetic WTF "Omen and Prophet" issues of decades past -- the shit hitting whatever the 30th century equivalent of a fan. But yeah, I want to see the Legion start getting hold of itself soon, and I want to see a *lot* more backbone from Tinya, once the shock wears off.

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    1. 'The New Bombast' - DC should pay you for that one, Rob! Beware of citing 'Omen and Prophet' though - you may wind up with a 'thematic sequel'.

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  5. That new Empress is sure fat-looking, what a weirdo, tho I thought she had an Apokoliptian vibe, a la Darkseid's Female Furies. How weird looking is she, tho I appreciate her viciousness. Not since Saturn Queen [please return soon] have we had a truly evil villainess.
    I agree the LSH are merely reacting to events and should be leading the fight-back instead of standing around watching the galaxy turn to shit and waiting to see who the next Legionnnaire to drop dead will be. I cannot bear Scott Kolin's art, too, er, cartoony-looking.
    Love seeing each of the Fatal Five giving it large in their solo fights against the separate LSH teams. They are quite fearsome now; about time we got a Five who are serious f***ers.
    And why does every Legion leader start their term being such a wuss? Tinya darling get your act together.

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    1. Apokoliptian is fair, Karl - one way or another, EE is pure Kirby homage.

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  6. I quite liked the look of the new Empress - it's better than the look she had from the Annual last year (or was it the year before?) Apart from the overly large hair, she looked suitably sleek as befits her newly, more vicious-seeming status.

    I will be interested to see how the injured Legionnaire within this issue will heal. I hope it's used as an interesting plot point rather than just a tool to get this Legionnaire out of the way for the foreseeable future.

    TOTALLY agree with the other commenters who would like to see the Legion take a more assertive approach. Three issues of the universe falling apart are plenty. Okay Mister Levitz, we get the picture. This is a Big Deal.

    Really, really looking forward to the return of Francis Portela. I think his art is amazing!

    Overall, still enjoying the comic. It's still the first comic I read that week!

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    1. That poor injured Legionnaire, he's gone through this previously, though with the more serious injury of death. Better luck this time, eh Rob?

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  7. We seem to be on the same page about this issue Mart.

    I was a bit dismayed by Tinya's meltdown. And I hope you are right that not everybody is dead.

    And this Empress seems a bit off from prior.

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    1. I reckon it's a new EE, maybe a drag queen.

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  8. I was surprised not to mind the art, considering how much I usually loathe Kolins' work. The story has been great because of its scope and eventual consequences to my way of thinking. The only thing that has me worried is that this is what Mister Levitz did on his last time out the door. While that led to the awesome 5YL, that was eventually followed by reboots damaging the Legion for good...

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    1. I've not heard that Levitz is going anywhere, Steve - if he is, the editor's chair might be a god fit.

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  9. I thumbed through this issue at one of my local comic shops,and I was very surprised to see the Emerald Empress' Eye nearly killing Mon El. In the past, Mon El was not affected by the the Eyes' power, (see Superboy and the Legion of Super Heroes #231 September 1977)so why the big change?
    I was a real Legion fan for years, but after Keith Giffen changed his art style, and all the constant rebooting, I lost interest.

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    1. Heaven knows why the Eye now affects Mon-El ... a post-Flashpoint thing?

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