Thursday, 20 June 2013

Legion of Super-Heroes #21 review

There's a real sense of doom around current Legion issues. It's not just that the 31st century universe is being torn apart by the Fatal Five, it's the real-world knowledge that an end is coming. That the series is being cancelled in a couple of months, to be replaced by a future Justice League series. Yes, that may turn out to be a backdoor Legion revival, but at the moment everything feels so depressing.

This issue doesn't help, with relentless setbacks for the Legion throughout. We begin with Duplicate Damsel apparently dead at the hands of the Persuader, motivating a brutal battle with Ultra Boy and Chameleon Boy. They're joined by other Legionnaires and look to have the advantage, until Persuader's fellow Fatal Five members Tharok and Emerald Empress arrive. The three bring Metropolis around our heroes' ears.

Along the way there are prophecies of doom from Dream Girl and the (supposed) ghosts of Ferro Lad and Earth Man. Legion leader Phantom Girl is a no-show, having fled to her home dimension. White Witch, Blok and Glorith aren't seen either. The only moments of hope come as Chemical Kid reveals he may be able to help Mon-El, dying after battling the Empress, and at the very end, as Legion veterans Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad arrive.

There's a touching show of faith in Phantom Girl from longtime love Ultra Boy, one the Persuader is delighted to dash - Jo just knows she'll turn up with a plan, but his enemy jeers, says she's gone. Me, I reckon she'll turn up and save the day before the end - writer Paul Levitz isn't going to let one of his - and the readers' - favourite Legionnaires become a figure of shame.

This is a busy issue, but it all feels like padding. Lots of fights. Lots of foreboding. Precious little in the way of  planning or teamwork from the Legion - at one point we have nine Legionnaires vs three villains, but the bad guys have them totally on the backfoot. A couple of months back the Empress was encased in intertron - the future's strongest material - by Element Lad, but her escape is simply waved away. We still don't know who the current Fatal Five's fifth member is. There's no grand plan from resident super-genius Brainiac 5. There's not even a simple pile-on, with one-on-one attacks followed by speeches which give the villains time to regroup. It's a shabby showing all-round.

There may be something coming from Brainy - at the start of the issue he seems to have two ideas, one of which is likely the summoning of Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad. I only hope this is actual set-up from Levitz, rather than a red herring en route to a humiliating defeat.
Jeff Johnson's art is effective in the big fight scenes - that's most of the issue - especially when the Fatal Three show up. Occasional facial expressions are a tad wonky, but marks for trying to convey big emotions. Javier Mena's colours are as vibrant as ever, while Dezi Sienty's lettering is unshowy, but does the job.

The excellent Francis Portela's cover is an interesting composition, but figures are either too big or too small to make an impact - the Empress is so squeezed into the corner that she looks like an elf, the Persuader's USP axe is hidden by the logo and the Legionnaires are barely there.

Two issues to go. I really hope Levitz and co pull something amazing out of the bag, so the Legion book can go out in a blaze of glory. And  that means life, and victory, not darkness and death.

4 comments:

  1. ROB STAEGER WRITES: (but Mart posts - Blogger acting up!):


    I can't say I was happy with this issue. Much of that is the real-world knowledge you speak of when you start the review: I know there are two issues to go, and one of them's an epilogue. So I really, REALLY wanted to see the turning point come at the end of the issue. I agree that Brainy probably has an inkling of a plan, but I would have liked to see it get a little further along.

    There are a few Legionnaires seen in this run unaccounted for: Comet Queen, last seen in an induced coma in Brainy's lab. I worry that she's dead in the headquarters collapse. Also, there's Sensor Girl, who I believe is back to being full-time ruler of Orando. Also, Colossal Boy -- a science police officer now, but once a Legionnaire... Problem is, the fifth member of the Fatal Five hasn't yet been revealed. Could it be a traitor? Comet Queen has already acted against the Legion due to post-hypnotic suggestions, but it's Sensor Girl I'm worried about. I've no idea what her motivation would be, but her expanded powers would make her a formidable foe for the Legion (and would help explain how the Empress isn't still trapped).

    In lighter thoughts: Sun Boy didn't show up in the supposed realm of the dead! So that's something.

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  2. One reason I enjoy reading your reviews Martin - even for a couple of comics I don't keep up with - is because you generally have sentiments that are quite close to mine.

    On this occasion, I'm sad to say that I echo both your thoughts and those of Rob Staeger. Knowing that the comic is coming to an end (and having seen some concept art for Justice League 3000) really is dreadful.

    This Fatal Five arc just hasn't been terribly good either. There have been far too many issues of the FF bashing Legionnaires without them forming a cohesive plan. I couldn't even quite believe in this issue that the Persuader (without his axe) could simply wriggle free of Cham AND use Cham to take down Ultra Boy. C'mon. Really?

    The only glimmer of hope for next issue is the call for help that Brainy has put out. It would be lovely if Brainy's call for help went out to all of the other presently inactive Legionnaires like Sensor Girl. I for one would love to see the team together for one last time.

    And whatever happened to Dragonwing?

    Having said that, I have a feeling of dread at who else might be killed in action. I suspect that the JL3000 is unlikely to take on many (if any) Legionnaires - surely the editors will want the 31st century Justice League to echo the present day one as much as possible to make it reader-friendly. So that means that literally any or indeed even most of the Legion could end up on the slaughter heap.

    Oh well. At least we had a good few years of the Legion since the whole Final Crisis reboot thing. That's better than nothing I guess!

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  3. Thanks so much, Rob - and I agree, a last-minute rallying of Legionaires would be wonderful, Imra and Garth could even have gathered them and they're waiting to show up on next issue's splash. Wouldn't it be amazing if Levitz just thought, 'the heck with it', and brought in the original Supergirl and Superboy.

    Heck, maybe even have Threeboot Cosmic Boy show up from the 41st Century with the Knights Tempus,

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  4. Having finally written my review, I came here to see so many thoughts echoed.

    For me, hearing Dream Girl say everything was 'dark and funereal' in the future was metatextual. This is the death of the Legion who, after all these years, are probably felt to be too antiquated and toxic for DC to give them another shot. It's a shame.

    There are glimmers of classic characterization here, stuff which I love. These characters are so three-dimensional unlike a lot of what is out there.

    But those bits are mixed in with this disaster drama, these endless fights. I actually like a good brawl in comics when it is part of the story and not the story itself.

    Anyways, I am still waiting for Glorith to show up as the fifth member, having magically jacked up Tharok, and pulling the strings.

    JLA 3000? Yawn.

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