Legion of Super-Heroes #22 review

Comic Book Rule 12a: the closer a series is to cancellation, the better it gets.

So it is that the penultimate Legion of Super-Heroes of this run is a better than average issue, featuring some seriously good moments in a chapter that entertains from start to finish. It's not perfect, but it feels more like a Legion book than many issues of late.

And that's despite most of the Legion being unconscious, missing or even dead, meaning the Fatal Five have only founders Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad to beat.

Yes, I said Five - finally, we meet the fifth member, and it's a surprise. And a clever one at that, as it's someone who's been before us all along in this storyline. They're brought into play during a back and forth between Lightning Lad and the Persuader, and Saturn Girl and Emerald Empress. While Garth sticks to his standard bolt blasting, wife Imra uses her mental abilities more effectively than I've seen for years. But impressive as her abilities are, even more awesome is her grit in the face of the vastly powerful Empress.
Sadly though, she's let down by her hair ...

Lightning Lass also gets some play in this fight, showing once more why she's a better Legionnaire than her brother, while a couple of members we've not seen for awhile tackle the final Fiver. Writer Paul Levitz is good enough to show the duo's hands a few pages before a full on-panel appearance, allowing longtime fans to feel clever. Can you tell who it is yet?
Yup, it's Jeckie and Val, aka classic Legionnaires Sensor Girl and Karate Kid. There's a reference to Val having come back from beyond, but no details. It could be that we're picking up from a dangling Legion plot thread of three years back, but given DC's policy of Continuity? HAHA, who knows? Anyway, here's the Legion's master of the martial arts, with his hair black rather than brown, and all inessential to the plot ... but here he is, and I'm delighted. I may laugh at how many times Karate Kid's been killed off in Legion history, but I do rather like him.

Also showing up this time, dimension-hopping members Invisible Kid and Polar Boy, one of whom has a massive part to play in the story's resolution, via a clever bit of science. What's especially nice is that the move is suggested by another member - there's nothing I like more than a bit of Legion teamwork.

Not showing up, sadly, the Legion Lost Brigade. Or Legion leader Phantom Girl - if she doesn't show up in next month's final issue with a ruddy good excuse for fleeing back to homeworld Bgztl, I'll be mighty peeved. I shall shrug, and stamp my feet.

Seriously, it was decades before longtime favourite Tinya got a shot at heading the team, and she goes to pieces at the first big crisis. It makes no sense given everything we've seen her face - including the aforementioned leader of Apokolips. Should this book end with Tinya a shamed coward, I shall, er ... cancel my subscription?

Ach, I still have faith Levitz won't let me down. Tinya will show up next time with the Losties, I just know it. And hopefully we'll then learn that the Legion's body count isn't so high as feared - though one more death is confirmed this time.

Assuming my problems are merely delightful surprises waiting to be unveiled, I'm happy with Levitz's script, which nicely balances characterisation, smarts, action and history. As for the art, Andy Smith's welcome inks sharpen the look of Jeff Johnson's work. And Johnson's layouts remain sharp, with plenty of variety in points of view, big moments that work and fine facial expressions. I hope this artistic pairing gets some play elsewhere in the DC Universe soon.

JJ Kirby's cover is an efficient representation of the contents, but something's off, mainly around Lightning Lad - he looks plasticky and pallid.

So, one more issue. One more issue to tie up some worrying details and send the Legion out with a bang. Come on Paul Levitz, you can do it ...

Comments

  1. A good issue -- I especially liked the use of Brek -- but man, like you I'll be really disappointed if we don't see Tinya next issue.

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    1. Yeah, given how great Tinya was as a Legionnaire, and a L.E.G.I.O.N.naire (well, before she was retconned as Enya), it's rubbish that she'd fall apart in the first place. I can't countenance that Levitz wouldn't give her redemption.

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  2. I disagree with your rule 12a; I find that quite often comic books become really terrible just before they're cancelled. I could give you lots of examples, but it wouldn't be fun for anybody.

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    1. I think the worst Comic About To Be Cancelled I ever saw was the final Primal Force, which was horribly choppy.

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  3. I thought this issue was pretty awful overall. Really bad writing. Lots of hanging plot lines that aren't resolved. No Mano! The Legion has been presented as a bunch of cowards who can barely fight their way out of a paper bag in this storyline. I hate it. And bringing forth this new (?) Karate Kid with so little explanation or fanfare? WTF. This final issue has a lot of explaining and reveals to take care of and I'll be truly disappointed it they just leave us hanging.

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    1. Oh, if I'd gone into up who the fifth member was above I'd have been railing about the revelation - I still think it should've been a turned Glorith. I agree that the Legion has been unimpressive tactically, to say the least.

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  4. I thought the 5th member reveal was lame. The 5th member is basically Tharok controlling the Promethean. The 5th member was a essentially a remote controlled robot that we've known is under Tharok's control for most of the arc.
    Pretty anticlimactic way to bring back Jeckie and Val. She turns off the robot so "hey, everything is ok. Except for all our dead teammates but my man is back so that's fine with me"
    Lots of great pieces in this story that did not add up to much in the end.

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  5. This may turn into one of those LSH runs/arcs where a few years from now the book is revived that this is just referred to as that "great unpleasantness from that one time at band camp" sort of like the 3-boot "that one time at band camp where I got food poisoning but I didn't die so it wasn't the WORST experience ever but close"

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    1. Hmmm, I wouldn't say it's that bad! I suspect it'll be remembered with a sigh rather than outright reviled. We shall see!

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    2. Oh, this run wasn't as bad as most of the 3boot (the food poisoning). This was more "it rained a lot but we still had a few good times" I actually liked all the big pieces that were in play, just didn't like how they all came together for the most part. Especially this arc.

      As Ric G notes, the "did they or didn't they" know them dialogue left me feeling confused and Dirk's "death" felt hollow. Don't even get my started on Tinya. I'm not even her biggest fan and I thought it was terrible what they've done to her.

      RE: Dirk's Death: we've still yet to see if the cannibalism was part of some promethean giant resurrection magic thing. It certainly could be undone that way. And hopefully one day it will be.

      I wanted to like this so much. I'm curious to see how they justify just calling it quits next issue to clear the path for JL3000 and I will wait patiently for the next iteration to come along some day. Maybe the zero-hour team as the new Wanderers flitting about the multiverse saving the day. I'd read the hell out of that book.

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    3. I was convinced Dirk would show up again via an encounter with a Sun-Eater that was in a solicitation at some point. Maybe next issue (he said, cock-eyed optimist/blind fool that he is).

      I thought that Wanderers book was coming awhile back, when we had a cover showing old versions of characters such as Blok. Sadly not.

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  6. Apart from the art and writing this story has suffered greatly from several things:

    Firstly after the shock death of Dirk there has never really been a real set of threat or stakes. The Legion barely interacts with any non-member or villain. A switch is flicked and suddenly the whole galaxy is flaming rubble. What are they saving afterwards is never made clear.

    Last issue it seemed like the Legionnaires faff about looking for Mon-El's arm in, what we've been told, is the only working spaceship, while Weber's World has apparently fallen into space debris and Tinya's team all abandon the space-lice people without a backwards glance. Nice.

    Secondly the editorially mandated in-run reboot has given us an all new Fatal Five that the Legion have never met before. So we as readers are supposed to forget all the stories we've read before. Except the Legion DOES seem to know them. Sometimes. But it's never made clear to us in context so we have no idea how anything relates to anything else. Case in point the mysterious 5th member who acts IN NO WAY as we have been shown before. They're chained up, for one thing, that's how they get their bloody name.

    These points, along with what are clearly fill-in artists (why else resurrect Projectra's depressing ugly last Sensor Girl look as a reference) give us a muted story it's almost impossible to connect to.

    And lastly it's seems clear that Levitz was told to just wrap it up, as was obviously the case with the pre52 blue guy who didn't even get a name.

    For all that's seriously wrong with his work on the book I'll give him credit as yet again the Legion succumbs to it's greatest foe; top-down editorial that doesn't know it's arse from A teakettle.

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    1. Thanks for the insightful appraisal, Ric.

      And yes, the history of the Fatal Five is now completely confusing, I don't understand what was to be gained by messing around with it.

      I feel we should have an end of comic party ...

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  7. Thanks. Sorry for getting a bit ranty but it's the frustration that it didn't have to be like this.

    I have to admit if this was the story Giffen and Levitz wanted to tell, and Giffen had stuck with it, the energy of his artwork and attention to background detail may have carried it off.

    As it stands his OTT near-comedy takedown of Dirk is just an ugly finger to the fans and the rest of the story alienates everyone.

    This will be more ammunition 'but the Legion's too *confusing* for the average dumb-as-muck reader' lobby, which grates further.

    The air of defeat around the book doesn't call for a party. Maybe a wake. I'll definitely have a large drink ready for the last issue.

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    1. Hmm, maybe I could organise something!

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  8. I have to disagree with you about the quality of the book. The writing is so bad it stinks. It's just one long fight. Boring! Key Legionnaires in this (and previous) issues are totally out of character - most notably Phantom Girl, but also Saturn Girl who has apparently acquired a new super-power (for over 50 years she could read minds, nothing more) and does something actively useful for the second time in her entire existence - unbelievable! And I know DC probably wants to keep copyright on Karate Kid, but his appearance had no function in the story. Pity they didn't cancel the title five issues back.

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    1. Aha, a member of the League of Imra Haters - poor lass. Maybe she's been learning some new tricks, a la Sensor Girl and Dreamy back in the day.

      I'm still holding into some hope that next issue will redeem Tinya ...

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  9. Only just got this issue, after my comics parcel was delayed[!!!].
    This issue was hit and miss for me, maybe cause its all winding down now and we desperately need some form of resolution, plus some glimmer of hope that the LSH wont be away for too long before their next series.
    I did like the return of Sensor Girl and the new Karate Kid - I glean from this that this isn't Val Arrmor, but a young student of his taken under Jeckie's wing, in honour of him. And isn't there something about this new boy having the 'soul' of Val, thus the connection to SG? That's how I read/see it.
    Not before time we had Garth and Imra back in the field, they've been gone for ages!
    The Promethean Giant being the missing fifth member...I totally get it! In the original Fatal Five, didn't Tharok control Validus to some extent? This is just another extension of that.
    When I saw the above panel, must admit I [somehow] thought it was Bouncing Boy and one of Duplicate Girl's selves [after all, we only saw one of her selves killed in the rubble of Legion HQ], but was relieved it wasn't, but Jeckie and her student.
    Hey, Mart you know that http thingy you did for me in the latest LSH APA, [thanks, btw!] I cant access it. How do I see it?
    Thanks.

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  10. So the hair colour on Karate Kid wasn't a mistake (mind, it's been non-highlight dark once or twice over the years)? A kid with Val's soul is a rather creepy idea!

    I've emailed about that link, good luck!

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