Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: Legion Lost #2

Legion Lost #2 was released last week and was an interesting issue to have as a second chapter of a 'relaunch' title.

I was somewhat disappointed with last month's premiere issue as it never quite grabbed me. Despite a pretty good roster of characters for me as a Legion fan, the overall plot of 'stranded in the past' Legionnaires trying to stop a plague from altering the timeline just isn't one that captured me. On top of that, despite being a brand new book with a brand new story, there wasn't the magical 'relaunch' feel here. But that was last issue.

This issue was better ... at least for me. Writer Fabien Nicieza spotlights Wildfire in the issue, concentrating on the psychological makeup and inner thoughts of the Legionnaire. An in-depth character analysis is an intriguing choice for a second issue of a team book like this but it is in-depth look at my favorite Legionnaire which might explain my affinity for this issue. Nicieza reveals just how tortured an existence it is to be a disembodied energy construct, rare introspection for this character most noted for his hotheaded 'jump into action' heroics. The way we get to that introspection is what lags a bit.

Pete Woods seems to be more on his game this issue with some flashes of brilliance.

The issue starts at the funeral of Dr, Scanlon, the physician who cared for plague-carrier Alastor last issue. In a 'Tom Sawyer' riff, the doctor decides to attend his own funeral and here how great and caring individual he is. But the doctor is very much alive, infected and mutated by the plague, the first victim of Alastor's plot.

But immediately we are brought into Wildfire's internal dialogue.  The doctor has become an energy being, "a freak", someone who thinks he is still a man, someone like Wildfire. There is a sense of despair and self-loathing here which only gets deeper as we move along.

Sensed by Timber Wolf amidst the throngs of mourners, the doctor takes off. And the team gives chase both to save this man and to limit the spread of the virus.

Wildfire leads the charge. But his thoughts are probably not as focused as his teammates. He almost feels guilt for this man's predicament. He cannot believe he played a part in dooming someone to an existence like his.

Trust me, as a Wildfire fan, this sort of self-analysis is rare for the character.

Unfortunately, before he can be stopped, the doctor explodes/dissipates. The Legion seem to already know that he will reform sometime soon and so the chase continues.

The idea of characters being 'alienated', 'isolated', and 'trapped in a backward world' has been discussed a lot about the new interpretation of Supergirl. It works here as well. Flight rings don't work. The new LSH headquarters is a motel room, and the Legion needs to acclimate themselves to our times. Will the Legion's response be similar to Supergirl's?

One part about this I do like is that Dawnstar's senses are assaulted by the filth of our times. She is 'disgusted'. But her powers still work. She is able to get the residue of the Scanlon's energy off Wildfire and is able to track him down.

I really like the Legion's response when they do find the physician holed up in a cabin. Instead of immediately attacking they try honesty. They explain that they are from the future, that they want to help limit this virus, they want to help him. That shows the optimism of the team and the future.

At the very least we get more back story about Alastor. He was a victim of the xenophobic feeling of the Legion's time (a holdover of the Johns/Levitz stuff) and decided the best revenge would be to create a virus which would rewrite its victims DNA, merging alien genetics into humanity's, making everyone alien. Pretty powerful stuff, especially since somehow multiple species' genetic codes are in the virus. This doctor, for example, has become part Teallian.This was a very nice two page spread by Wood as the story unfolds around the listening doctor.

Ominously, the Legionnaires think they have also been infected. What does that mean?

But here is what I felt was something of a low point for the book. Rather than being completely freaked out by everything he has heard or by his new physiology, the doctor takes it all in stride. He even starts to ask medical questions about the virus, a sort of impersonal fact gathering rather than wondering if he will live or what is happening to him.

For some reason Scanlon embraces the changes to his body. And I don't know if that makes 100% sense.

But again it is the Wildfire internal monologue that raises the issue.

Scanlon lashes out  at the Legion, dissipating again. And Wildfire is both 'seething and crying', angry that this guy is embracing this horrific change and sad that he couldn't save the doctor. And Wildfire even thinks he might be able to help the guy.

Perhaps there is more to this story. Because Scanlon is able to control his energy even more than Wildfire can control his own. This guy can form a body out of the energy. Maybe Wildfire gets infected by the same strain and will be able to create a body for himself?

For now, Wildfire pleads with the doctor, trying to explain how he lives in an armored prison, unable to kiss or love Dawnstar ... living in pain. It is depth rarely stated by Wildfire.

Unfortunately, the doctor comes out saying he has already 'stopped being human', whatever that means. Is there backstory to this guy we have yet to learn? Does it matter? Scanlon simply gives up, discarding his humanity completely by exploding himself, killing himself. So that unexplained turnaround by the doctor, this crazy response to his condition, somehow lessened Wildfire's pleas (no matter how great that stuff was).

But this was only the first victim of this plague.

Overall I thought this was a good character driven issue. While long time Legion readers might appreciate it, it felt a little too early in this series and story to focus on one character rather than moving the whole team forward. We did get some more backstory, some glimpses of the Legion's interaction with the 21st century. And I felt this was a step up from last issue.

Pete Woods art is his typical fantastic stuff. I do like this Wildfire suit more than the more recent one which was almost completely 'Kirby dots'.

Overall grade: B


Martin Gray said...

Fine review, Anj, but while I agree this was a terrific exploration of Wildfire, I don't view it as being at the expense of the other characters. Wildfire seemed to be acting as a gateway, introducing the others, commenting on them. Plus, we saw them presented 'straight', in the present moment - everyone got a little chance to shine.

And indeedy, bet on Scanlon having a backstory. Characters with white streaks in their hair always have a backstory.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comment Mart. I am glad we agree that this issue was a huge upgrade from the last.

I think it might be a good idea if Nicieza had a different Legionnaire 'narrate' each issue giving us a look at their personalities and how they perceive their colleagues.

This issue has made me commit to the book for a short bit. And that is good news.