Legion of Super-Heroes #23 review

As things have fallen apart for the Legion over the past few months, I held onto the hope that the final issue wouldn't let us down, that some weird story choices would be reversed, or revealed to have a greater purpose.

I was sure that of the apparently dead Legionnaires, Sun Boy would return via some solar regeneration, and Star Boy would have used his gravity powers to avoid being crushed as Legion HQ collapsed.

I knew there was no way leader Phantom Girl would not return; yes, she'd fled in the midst of the Fatal Five's attack, but surely she'd catch her breath and return to help the Legion rebuild? Perhaps she'd even bring the Legion Lost crew with her?

What's >sigh< in Interlac.

Because none of that happens in this coda comic from longtime writer Paul Levitz and guest artist Kevin Maguire. The Legion buries their dead, and while Ultra Boy hangs onto the hope that girlfriend Tinya will return, she fails to materialise.

Levitz's script isn't bad - the character writing, in fact, is excellent - but it's what he's chosen to write about that disappoints me. He has 20 pages here to show us the team regrouping and rebuilding after terrible losses, both personally and for the United Planets. And while we see the Legion digging through rubble, while Brainiac 5 tries to come up with a masterplan for renewal, the team doesn't get what it deserves - some real light in the darkness, a little reward to make the losses easier to bear.

The individual moments work. There's an opening scene on Shanghalla, the graveyard world for heroes, with Invisible Kid, Polar Boy and Dream Girl saying farewell to Star Boy and Sun Boy, prior to Sensor Girl chivvying them away, telling them: 'The dead must seek their own path. And we must seek our destiny.' Which makes sense, she's from a world that communicates with the dead, so she'll have a different perspective to her teammates. On the other hand, it's fine for her to be all cool, she's just got dead husband Karate Kid, back, so she comes across as a tad insensitive and selfish.

On Earth, Ultra Boy and Colossal Boy - back briefly from his new Science Police job - clear the mess after Legion HQ's destruction in Metropolis. Jo believes Tinya lives, Gim isn't so sure, and when they join Brainiac 5, he's appallingly dismissive of the idea. He's too focussed on putting the UP worlds back together to worry about Tinya. When Jo and Gim leave, a furious Duplicate Girl hoists Brainy into the air and says to give everyone a break - she knows that he's ultimately responsible for the chaos wrought by the Fatal Five, having left the door open for Tharok to upgrade his powers via the original Brainiac's armoury.

Which explains how Tharok got so powerful - better late than never. And I love that it's Luornu who chews Brainy out - she's just lost at least one of her bodies, thanks to him, as she lost one years earlier when he invented Computo.

Lu's husband Chuck, Bouncing Boy, bounds in enthusiastically, a blast of much-needed cheeriness - he's found something meaningful in the wreckage of the trophy room.  
'Speared'? Hmmmm

Brainy's masterplan needs Mon-El's ability to traverse space under his own power, but Shadow Lass strides in and announces that she's taking her former lover away to heal from his injuries - he's currently in a stasis tank after being maimed by the Emerald Empress. Brainy protests, but Shady's had enough of him - he claims the odds of Mon-El recovering are better with him, but she's had enough of his arrogance, and Lu backs her up.

And then Science Police commander Gigi Cusimano arrives with an announcement. She tells everyone to pack up and return to their home worlds - the United Planets is disbanding the Legion.

Which doesn't really make sense - no one but Lu knows the recent destruction is tied to a Legionnaire's hubris - all they know is that the Legion fought valiantly to save the universe, and sacrificed members along the way.

But this is a last issue, so apparently there has to be closure, and I'll take this over the Legion literally vanishing into limbo once more.

There follows a series of epilogues: Dream Girl adjusting to life back on Naltor; Duplicate Girl and Bouncing Boy reflecting on the good they've done; Sensor Girl finding consolation in having Karate Kid back with her at last; and finally, the founders, the Legionnaires 3 - Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy - just hanging out on Winath with Imra and Garth's twins, chatting about who was the best leader (not poor Phantom Girl!) and half-expecting Brainy to restart the Legion.

The vignettes are excellent - it's obvious Nura won't be hanging around Naltor, where she's a fish out of water. Sensor Girl confirms that this is indeed the original Val Armorr, not some new kid with his soul. The Lu and Chuck scene is wonderfully romantic. And ending on the founders is perfect, with Saturn Girl uttering a wonderfully satisfying final line.

The big revelation hinted at in solicitations comes in the Chuck and Lu scene, as they're attending, apparently, a ceremony to memorialise the spot where Legion HQ stood.
Yup, this is the Legion of the post-Flashpoint timeline's Earth 2, meaning that the team seen over in Action Comics is likely the regular timeline version. I'm not sure what the point of this is, it's not like Legion fans aren't used to iterations of the team being shifted on and offstage - it's likely a 'don't worry kids, it's not like this was the real Legion anyway' deal. Well, it's as close to the 'real' Legion, or at least the one I grew up with, as we've had for a couple of decades, so yeah, I feel entitled to miss them.

The art throughout is just wonderful. Kevin Maguire draws this issue because he was down to do the Legion's replacement book, Justice League 3000. No more - it's being retooled for extra grittiness, with Maguire replaced by Howard Porter. Which is ridiculous, as Maguire has shown dozens of times that he's not a humour artist, he's an artist whose facility with facial expressions and body language means he's especially good at illustrating the funnier - usually Justice League - scripts. But he's not a one-trick pony. This very issue shows how he can eke every last drop of drama from a script, showing us Legionnaires who are angry, sad, hopeful, melancholy ... He even evokes poignancy in a panel with just two tiny figures within it, a shot of a phantom HQ in the rubble of Legion Plaza. Of course, when he does get a chance at a more light-hearted moment, he aces it.
His take on individual members is gorgeous, with the likes of puppyish Colossal Boy, strong Duplicate Girl and intense Ultra Boy being worth the price of admission. And I'm tickled that his Brainy has taken on the aspect of the late Five Years Later version, when he was an old guy for awhile, right down to the red specs.

It's sad to wonder just how this series might have sold had a craftsman as gifted as Maguire been assigned to it regularly.

But that's it, a bittersweet ending to this version of the Legion. I know the team - a team, anyway - will be back, but for now, I'm happy that the last issue had so many pleasing moments, but sad that the team didn't get the triumphant send-off it deserves.

Long Live the Legion!


  1. It is nice to see you take some positives from this but, for me at least, this was a disappointing end to the badly told Fatal Five story.

    There's also the spectre of the baffling and sloppy editing the book has suffered from hanging over it as well.

    Maguire's art is nice but not great. I'd hazard he's not directly familiar with the Legion and was sent the last couple of issues as reference so anything not in them was omitted. So Dragonwing and several others who stepped off-panel early in the series just disappear into the ether when even a single background appearance could have dealt with them. Cosmic Boy seems utterly unperturbed by the disappearance of Lydda.

    His Nura was nice but his Tasmia, suddenly and unexplainedly back with Mon-El, looks weirdly stripperific floating on her spiked heels.

    There's dialogue that seems to be setting up another series for Brainy and Jan, but none explaining why there are several characters in medpods or who they are.

    The whole 'such a pity that Thom died and was buried off-panel' exposition from Nura is tonally odd and rather arbitrary. The coda with Jeckie and suddenly resurrected Karate Kid worse.

    Nothing is mentioned of the defeated villains and random Promethean giant, not even to explain what Thanos was. Some kind of energy ghost stuck in an ice-cube now? 'He's quark' means nothing.

    The other epilogues serve but I couldn't connect with them by this point. Bouncing Boy's lines about Steppenwolf seem to determine a link with Earth 2 but the story is deliberately vague over this being a 'real' Legion book. A point in its favour.

    It's hard to say goodbye to the Legion again and due to the constantly clumsy mishandling by the DC regime hard to say if I will be automatically on-board if or when a new version appears

    Grim & gritty space-Batman and company is a definite no, but I'll be interested in reading your take on them :)

    1. Hi Ric, ta for the thoughts. Is Tasmia suddenly back with Mon? I thought they'd been friendly of late, and could certainly see his current situation bringing out the (planetary) protector in her.

      I wonder what job an SP guy might have for Element Lad? Probably just Jed Rikane weanting a date, but it's weird for Levitz to introduce a new end to become loose at this stage.

    2. An SP *guy*? No, an SP *officer*. I assumed this was Paul Levitz's way of telling us Jan will live happily ever after with Shvaughn Erin.

      Very nice review as always Martin. I held off reading it until I had finished writing my own, and then found we are very nearly of one mind...

    3. Ah, of course!

      There's some interesting info on why Keith Giffen left the Legion so early this time, in the new Legion of Substitute Podcasters show, episode #257, last half hour or so:


  2. The idea of them being on Earth-2 should have opened up a TON of possibilities if they had actually planned that from the start but instead if feels tacked on to clear the way for JL3000 without fans wondering where the Legion is.

    Dream Girl is right, this all just seemed like a dream (not a nightmare but not a particularly good one either).

    1. I think you're dead on about the tacked-on nature of the Earth 2 revelation, Tony. Now I'm trying to remember ... the Threeboot, with the Legion reading 'real' DC comic books - was that meant to be (traditional) Earth Prime?

    2. I think the Earth-2 idea is a really late addition, too -- though it does explain why Brainy couldn't find the Lost crew. Has the Legion turned up in Action Comics lately, or just during the Morrison issues? Of course, the last time we saw them there, Jeckie was a snake, right? So who knows?

    3. No, they've not been seen since then, Rob.

    4. It oddly pissed me off more than I expected. Way to write off two years of subpar storytelling by shoveling onto someone else's parallel earth.

      "Welcome to the team, Tom Taylor. Your earth's future is now filled with bad stories. Signed, Paul." (Grrrr.)

    5. The future's always had some bad stories and some good ones. This set of stories is a good reason to not latch onto continuity too much. If they forget about this last arc, I don't think anyone will be too unhappy.

      I think Levitz was not a good camper. He did not leave the property in as good as or better shape than he found it, especially with this arc.

      I also didn't appreciate Levitz's Brainy. Yeah, he's always been a bit off in terms of relating to people but this version is full-on a-hole. And the founders gossiping about him trying to set up his own team with him as leader was really uncalled for.

    6. Hi Fotocub, I suppose future Earth 2 writers can easily ignore the LSH business, and it's not as if JSA stories have previously connected to Earth 2 - I think the Seventies JLA team-up was the only instance. But basically, yeah, darn.

      Tony, I think you're being a bit unfair to Levitz. To keep up the analogy, a big old bear came and stripped his camp site of some prime assets at the start of the new 52, in the shape of the Legion Lost team. And besides, Levitz wasn't charged with leaving the LSH in a fit state, he was told to close up the old campsite for good.

  3. This might explain why Robinson left JSA. His Earth 2 idea for the Legion was introducing a 31th century Infinite Inc.

    1. Hi Gary, interesting thought, but that sounds a relatively small thing over which to quit a book. Me, I like team names to stay in their original period - see Guardians of the Galaxy!

  4. If Legion had Kevin Maguire on art from the beginning, it wouldn't have been canceled, that's for sure. He does some wonderful work here, really selling Levitz's script.

    Like you, I'm saddened by this issue, even though it has some nice moments. I hate to see the Legion shut down by the UP -- I don't think they have that authority anymore, do they? -- although I liked most of the moments with the Legion in retirement, aside from the Jeckie/Val one, which felt flat to me. I'd have rather seen Shady and a convalescing Mon-El, with them both trying to work out if Shady's protectiveness of him meant that they were back together, or were coming back as close friends instead. (Which would be my hope -- I like a DCU with exes in it; exes mean history!)

    Could Shvaughn Erin be the officer who has plans for Jan that Gigi was referring to? Is she still around, and still a she? Is Jan straight, gay, bi? I forget these days, and it changes with the wind.

    Sigh. We'll get a new Legion one of these days. I hope it's a success, but I'll surely miss this one.

    1. Oh good Lord, yes, the masculine presumption - I hear 'officer', I think 'male'. I am ashamed. It has to be Shvaughn - I imagine she's female since birth, as the revelation that she'd been Sean came after the Five Year Gap. But who knows?

      And a Tasmia/Lar scene would have been great.

    2. You're overblowing the "confusion" around Jan (and Shvaughn) quite a bit. Jan was asexual from his creation in 1963 until Shvaughn was revealed to be the transgender Sean in 1992. That '5 Year Gap' Legion was rebooted in 1994 in favor of the Zero Hour team. Jan was never confirmed to be sexual in any way during that 10-year run, and in the "threeboot" Legion 2004-2009 he was shown to be heterosexual.

      With the reintegration of an approximation of the original team back into continuity in the last few years both before and after the "New 52" reboot of the DC universe, Jan has again not been confirmed to have a sexuality. So Jan has been asexual for the vast majority of his 50 years (!) of publishing history through multiple reboots. There was a 2-year window of homosexuality two decades ago, and the poorly received stint of heterosexuality (along with the entire threeboot Legion) was quickly discarded by DC as a failure.

    3. Hello KentonIndy, ta for the comments. I'm not dreadfully confused about Jan (who was dating SE in the Seventies and Eighties, so surely had some sexual interest). My 'who knows?' refers to not knowing the state of continuity at any given time. At one point we were told this was the original Legion, last seen around the time of Magic Wars. Then we saw Levitz make changes to the history eg the Fatal Five. And know we're told this is the LSH in the future of the New Earth 2. So I think it's not unreasonable to wonder what the history of a character is.

    4. That's about where I stand on it, too. My confusion stems from not ever really getting to know *this* Jan, or how far his relationships with Shvaughn/Sean progressed. I don't think it's correct to call him "asexual" though -- that's an orientation unto itself. "undetermined/unrevealed" is more accurate for those times when no evidence is given.

      As far as I know, Tremor (of Secret Six and The Movement) is the only stated asexual human in comics (as opposed to, say Computo)... and in The Movement, her asexuality is only assumed so far, as a carryover from her Secret Six appearances, IIRC.

    5. It's weird, I know I was reading Secret Six with Tremor in it, I remember the visual - heck, I probably reviewed an issue or two with her in it - but I don't recall a single thing about her. How on Earth Gail fitted a mention of her sexuality into, what, a couple of issues, is beyond me.

      Is it too much to hope she has an aunt Athena?

  5. So, no last minute save for Star Boy...
    no resurrection as an elemental being for Sun Boy...
    a soppy final scene for the LSH founders...
    no 'new' Karate Kid with Val's memories, just the original back from the dead with no explanation...
    Brainy ONCE AGAIN taking the blame for everything. How many times must we see this plot?
    Kevin Maguire and his endless 'face-pulling' and gurning faces art. He WAS good in this, but Id have liked Portela on this final issue...
    It was nice to have Gim mention Year
    And NO mention of Tinya - I feared this would happen and wasnt really expecting any answers or last minute revelations in here.
    Youre right about the last issue being nothing more than a series of epilogoes [did I spell that right?] it reminds me of that dreaded 'dream season' of Dallas, where they had multiple storylines and cliffhangers that the following season would all be erased/forgotten about. Lots of things happening but nothing actually interesting or worse we suspect worth following up on.
    VERY disappointed. Roll on the next LSH.

    1. I don't think Brainy has to take the blame for everything, but he did provide the spark for Tharok's fire. And there was mention of Tinya, I referenced it.

      Perhaps the Legion are all in the shower?

    2. "no 'new' Karate Kid with Val's memories, just the original back from the dead with no explanation..."

      I read that scene as Projecta having gone a little nuts, and her insanity is now creating an illusion for her to interact with - she's interacting with someone who isn't really there.

    3. Oh, well played! I think you hit the nail on the head - why else would lapdog Val be absent from the Shanghalla scene.

      You just made my day, thanks Knightsky!

    4. Perhaps the Legion are all in the shower?

      Well, that's a line to launch a thousand fanfic stories...

      And I'd heard that there were hints that Val is an illusion. I'm really curious how that plays out. Gotta give it a second look!

  6. This pretty much fell into the 'whimper, not bang' category.

  7. Thanks for the summary. Think the first Legion books I came across were Cockrum, thru Grell, Levitz&Giffen to the Five Years Later era, leaving after the reboot.

    They deserved a better sendoff than this seems to be. Levitz' heart was in the right place, but...wouldn't have expected the momentum from "Legion Of 3 Worlds" to end up here.

    As a kid Earth 2 fan as a kid, always wanted to see the LSH of Earth 2; be careful wbat you wish for.

    Thanks, Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen, Mike Grell, Jim Shooter, Cary Bates,Dave Cockrum, and all those who told these stories. Even with all the entertainment available to them, sad that those stories won't open up the imaginations of another generation of kids.

    End of an era, more definitively this time around.

    Maybe the Supergirl/LSH episode of JLU is the best place to leave them off.

    1. Elegantly put, thank you

      I never did see that cartoon, but I think I have it in a boxed set somewhere. I should watchit right now ...

  8. It is an odd way to write and end such a series. Legion comics have usually been about fun and today's hardcore fans of the Legion have a very sentimental spot for the Legion usually from past reading, so it is quite odd to write and end it in such a 'gritty' way. Watchmen really has ruined many a comic!

    1. I could not agree more. Suddenly I'm missing the early days of the Archie Legion

  9. My impression is this is not what issue 23 was originally intended to have as a story. I expect that there was supposed to be a lot of devastation from the Fatal Five, but this issue was not planned to be an epilogue but instead the start of the rebuilding of the 31st century. Knowing that Giffen left after only the second issue of a planned six issue arc, I think that was when they were told to shut down the Legion and wanted nothing to do with it. I fully expected Thom to have survived somehow and Tinya to have returned, with Dirk being the only casualty and Mon-El badly injured. Heck, I would have loved to see the lost members return this issue, too late to have helped out in the fight but there for the rebuilding. Tinya leaving the way she that did probably would not have happened if the Fatal Five story had not been changed mid-way through (Tinya going for reinforcements, yes; chickening out, never!) And I agree that too many characters dropped out of sight and were never mentioned again. Some of that may have been this was not meant to be a finale issue, or those follow-ups would have happened in issue 24 as Legionnaires trapped on other worlds found a way back to Earth or Brainy found a way to communicate with them. The Legion has ended with a whimper, and a bad one at that. As a Legion fan since Wildfire joined, I am sorely disappointed.

    1. I think you;re right, Wild Card - wasn't there an early solicitation at some point with a reference to 'the new shape of the 31st century' or something? My expectations for the issue are pretty much the same as yours - it's incredible to me that having build up characters and plotlines for so long, Levitz would simply leave them hanging.

  10. I had a glimmer of hope when the Silver Age Legion re-emerged from the Lightning Saga. What a sad ending to a great DC franchise. It's odd that Geoff Johns, who brought back so much of the Silver Age continuity would be involved in the Flashpoint/New 52 fiasco that literally destroyed two of DC's greatest franchises...the Legion of Super-Heroes and the Justice Society of America. I no longer purchase any DC comics. Plus, I now have time to go back and re-read back issues. Jim Shooter's Legion stories still hold up very well nearly 50 years later.

    1. It's really sad that we're entering a Legion-free period. I still say, give Legion Action Comics back-ups for a while.

      I loved the Sixties Shooter Legion too - they're a little dated, but so they should be, given how fresh they must have felt at the time.

  11. Only managed to buy the comic today - so I read your review and the many comments to keep me going in the meantime. I shall miss the Legion reviews and comments almost as much as the comic itself!

    Well, for me (as for so many others) it was also a sad way to end the comic. It just didn't make sense for the Legion to get disbanded. Even though the Legion has now been shunted off sideways onto Earth 2, I would have preferred a slightly more upbeat ending in which the Legion say that they're going to focus on rebuilding rather than heroics. Yes, that would have been better.

    Oh well. At least 3 of the 4 epilogues were a little more hopeful. Dreamy giving us the hope that all the deaths in this final conflict have been nothing more than a bad dream; Luornu and Chuck telling us that this is 'just' the Earth 2 Legion; and the 3 page final epilogue with the Legion founders was a little more upbeat.

    I did think that the Sensor Girl epilogue was clever - her speaking about the "reality" of what happened to the ever-silent KK. I got the feeling that the re-introduction of Karate Kid had been written into the comic by Levitz some time before the cancellation of the comic was announced. Perhaps Maguire had even started on the art, so I guess it would have been more expensive to do away with that side plot. I would have been most intrigued to read Sensor Girl's deterioration into mental delusion and her own unreal little world.

    I'll leave the last 3 years' worth of Legion issues aside for a few months and perhaps read them again in one go. Perhaps I'll find new things to appreciate in this run when reading them the second time around?

    Thanks for the Legion (and other) reviews Martin! Long live TDFAG!

  12. You're very welcome, Rob - thanks for the comments, it's everyone's feedback that keeps me going.

    I'm very surprised the issue ended on such a melancholy note - since the series was ending, and there was apparently no mandate to erase the team (again), why didn't Levitz go with a 'Legion spirit' ending? OK, so the UP disbands the Legion, takes away their tax breaks and privileges, but so what? So long as the LSH aren't breaking laws, what's to stop them being an independent team again? You don't need to be a government organisation in order to do good. The final page could've been the team having a rededication ceremony, or running off to find the Lost crew, or anything, with LLL in the dialogue. I'd love to see Levitz talk about his story choices.

  13. Big Fan of the Legion ever since the Lighting Saga and the Legion of 3 Worlds but this plot twist comes right out of no where. Not only did the previous 23 issues take place on an alternative Earth but there are multiple inconsistencies. Pandora appeared in every first issue of the First and Second wave of the New 52 except in the titles of Earth 2 is now negated. If This does take place Earth 2 then why was Pandora there anyway.The Legion in Action Comics and Legion of the New 52 title aren't the same Legion. All of Geoff John's work on the Legion and the continuing were they left off pre-flashpoint is mute.What happened to the Legion of the main earth? Did the main Earth's Legion experience the same events besides the Earth 2 reference? Was the plot twist all for the JL3K to have a "clean" slate. I will miss the Legion and I hope for their return.

  14. Best way to bid farewell to the LSH

  15. alt, here. See if this isn't a better way to leave these character than LSH 23

  16. Thanks great clip, thanks Astoria!

  17. I haven't read the issue yet but depressing as it all sounds, I am especially dismayed that Jeckie is being portrayed as unhinged again. As i recall, she was going down that path during the last Shooter run.

    While an illusory Val is completely logical, could it be her mediumistic abilities (established in the 60s) are coming into play here? Is this KK a 31st century Deadman or Spectre?

    The LSH is one of my favourite teams in comics and this New 52 incarnation has been such a disappointment. The demise of the title was inevitable given the plodding pace and the Claremont-esque dangling plot threads. Who the Hell was Harmonia? Why did she join the Legion? Where did Quislet go? I think Levitz needed a firmer hand. If the Legion returns, I'd like Jason Aaron as scripter; I think he's be ideal.

    1. Excellent idea about Jeckie's mediumship, perhaps he is indeed a ghost.

      I asked Paul about Harmonia on Facebook. He says he'll tell me at a con sometime. Let's collar him!

  18. The Harmonia thing was a baffling writing choice. Levitz this time around was worse than Claremont ever was at having story elements happen off panel and creating "danglers" that now never will get resolved.

    That final issue was a depressing and shoddily done ending to the biggest waste of opportunity ever committed against my favorite superhero franchise. And there were plenty of those over the decades!

  19. It was all very weird - in the new Back Issue, Paul Levitz sounds happy that he got to write a Legion pretty darn close to his again, so why start messing around with Legion history after the restart eg with the Fatal Five? If DC weren't going to restart completely with the reboot, why not tick with the history? It was a case of not reaching out to new readers, while messing around the longtimers


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