Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #11

Legion of Super-Heroes #11 came out last week and picked up right where the Legion of Super-Villains One Shot ended. I have to say that I think this title is finally clicking on all cylinders. This just feels like the Legion I want to be reading. And as a long time Legion fan who has picked up some of the reboots and ignored others, I am happy to be enjoying the Legion again.

Of course, one the beauties of the Legion is the deep continuity of the characters and the series. In fact, in some ways I think that continuity might be a double edged sword. For old-timers like me, the history and legend of the Legion is really one of the draws. I think many long-time Legion fans pride themselves on a deep understanding of Legion lore. But that same deep history might make it difficult for a brand new reader to pick up the book. But if you reboot and lose that history, you probably will lose the core foundation of the Legion fanbase. It can't be easy for the folks at DC to figure out what to do.

In this issue, for example, there is great characterization throughout, as events hearken back to some personal moments in the Legionnaires lives. Writer Paul Levitz knows that adding that depth to the characters is what makes this book so special. And I know exactly what he's talking about. But do new readers? Does it frustrate them?

The book opens with a Legion away team starting the arduous task of rounding up some of the villains who escaped Takron-Galtos when Saturn Queen started her riot. And what a team of personalities. Wildfire and Lightning Lass get into a minor quarrel during the battle. That's not surprising. Both of those characters are headstrong and opinionated. They are two of my favorite Legionnaires so it was great to see them get some screen time.

Ayla talks about how the last time the LSV got together, the Legion lost 'a good man', talking about the original Karate Kid. Now I know that. But that story is almost 30yrs old. Do new readers know who she is talking about or how that death impacted the Legion?

Phantom Girl knows that Ayla also had a hard time in that skirmish. Lightning Lass was imprisoned and tortured by Lightning Lord as he tried to get her to see his way of thinking. For some reason, this hug felt wrong. For one, it seemed like the wrong time to do it, in the middle of the crime scene. Also, Ayla doesn't strike me as a 'hug it out' person.

Meanwhile on Takron Galtos, another group of Legionnaires is investigating the site of Saturn Queen's escape.

Shrinking Violet is another of my favorite Legionnaires. When Vi discovers the dead body of Micro Lad, she spits on the corpse. There is no love lost for him as he was the Imskian rebel who placed her in a sensory deprivation tank for months while a Durlan (Chameleon Girl) replaced her in the Legion.

Again, Vi has hardened a lot since that storyline and I am glad she referenced it. That clearly was a turning point in her life.

Back in the Legion HQ, Dreamy arrives with Star Boy. She has brought him back from the past and demands that Brainy helps him with his insanity. Brainy doesn't think that he'll be able to immediately help because as acting Legion leader, he is dealing with multiple crises.

As if on cue, Mon-El, the elected leader ,arrives.

I have never really thought of Mon-El as a big time leader type so his victory in the election surprised me.

And his tenure isn't starting out easily. As  Brainy delineates, there is the breakout on Takron-Galtos with 37 major villains free, Dawnstar is off in space, Saturn Queen is forming a new LSV, Colu has shut off communications, and now Star Boy has returned. Now we know that all of these things (outside of Star Boy) are connected, but Mon-El doesn't.

I liked the panel construction here. The panels are off a little, overlapping. It sort of literally felt like things were piling up.

Back on Earth, Timber Wolf is searching for Sun Killer and instead runs into the Sun Emperor. The Emperor was always one of the scarier members of the classic LSV, a clear sadist who burned through chambermaids for fun.

Again, Levitz does a great job injecting Legion history references into this book. The Emperor calls Brin an animal and that strikes a nerve. Enraged, Timber Wolf allows himself to be immolated in order to get close enough to the Emperor to take him out. Of course, early on in his career, Wolf thought he was a robot. And he has always battled with the 'call of the wild'. This little encounter gives some nice insight into Wolf's personality.

In the meantime, Brainy starts the slow process of helping Star Boy regain his sanity. A weepy Dream Girl actually wonders if Brainy cares about the Legion. I read his response in an irked tone of voice as he says he wouldn't be with the Legion if he didn't regard them as his friends.

This far into his career, knowing all he has been through, Dreamy shouldn't be asking or crying about this.

Finally, the enigmatic Dr. Li tells the Legion that she is responsible for what is happening on Colu. She has been a mystery in the book since her arrival. My guess is she is somehow responsible for the events which led to the Blue Entity's escape.

I thought this was very good issue from a story viewpoint. There are a lot of pokers in the fire right now and Paul Levitz gives us a look at most of them with the much appreciated wrinkle of strong characterization. While we didn't learn more about the LSV plot here, we did see the Legion begin it's investigation and start cleaning up the extraneous stuff.

The artwork done by HDR was serviceable. I do think that the Legion cast is variable enough that we should see different body types. Brainy looks as buff as Timber Wolf.

I was also happy to see the election results posted. How sad that my favorite Legionnaire Wildfire got trounced overall, and even defeated by Gates and Quislet.

This series is finally starting to feel right to me. We have a big story arc ahead of us, and Levitz is filling in al the small details that make the Legionnaires themselves such great characters. I just hope that all this continuity doesn't scare new readers away.

Overall grade: B+ 


valerie21601 said...

From what I could see it's taken Levitz a year to build up to his big story. Rebuilding the old, while building up the new stories at the same time. It would have been very hard to do the new current big story straight out of the box. Many things, characters and plot lines had to be set up before this.

Unknown said...

I'm, not a brand new, but a relatively new Legion fan in the sense that the cartoon brought me in. I've felt like I've done the necessary homework, but I do feel like I was missing things in this issue. I don't know, though, if it is the writing or just things that are going over my head.
The fact that you're going over this book has gotten me excited about reading the title again though. The way you apply each issue to history and the bigger picture (and how that issue fails or succeeds in expounding on it) is very helpful.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

I agree Val that there was a slow burn at the beginning, probably so Levitz could get everyone where he wanted them to be.

And I consider myself a novice Legion historian Elise, but will try to keep up with the references Levitz is injecting here.