Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #5

Legion of Super-Heroes #5 came out last week and I am really struggling to come up with a grade for it; I am really of two minds about it.

One of the joys and I am sure challenges of being a creator on Legion is the huge cast in the book. The roster is twenty-something strong. So losing track of a character for a long period of time could be a problem. Writer Paul Levitz has always been able to juggle all these characters, making sure that everyone is checked in on now and then. This issue take a bit of an easy route to solving that problem. It is literally a day in the life of the Legion, a way for Levitz to check in on what all the Legionnaires are doing as the clock rolls by. And, for that purpose it works extremely well. If you are a Blok fan, or a Saturn Girl fan, or an Invisible Kid fan, you haven't seen much of them in the last couple of Legion arcs. So Levitz gives the majority of the team members a couple of panels and a little characterization to get us up to speed. And for that reason, and as a Legion fan, I thought this was a decent issue, reminding me of where everybody is.

On the down side, each vignette is short (they have to be) and somewhat scattershot as we check in for a moment and leave. If you are a Blok fan or a Saturn Girl fan you might want more than just 3 panels. So as a result, the book reads a little disjointed and doesn't seem to add up to much.

On top of that, comic legend Walt Simonson drew this book. When I heard Simonson was on board for a Legion issue I was thrilled. But Simonson doesn't get much chance to shine here, instead drawing normal 'day to day' stuff like Vi running on a treadmill or Brainy working in his lab. Where is the Infinite Man when you need him!

And for those reasons, the book felt a little flat.

There was something of a running theme of a 'vision of stones' through the book. We open with Dreamy telling Star Boy she saw an image of stones, not a nightmare but a vision. I suppose it is nice to see Thom recovering.

In one appreciated segment, we see Rokk distraught over the apparent deaths of the Legion Lost gang. The Legion has always been like a giant family so the loss of seven Legionnaires should have the team upset. At least somebody is. And Rokk is the perfect choice. He has always been the bedrock of the team.

Meanwhile, Pandora the cloaked woman ... I mean Glorith ... continues to struggle with adapting to the world of the Legion. She has locked herself into her room and written a letter to the Black Witch that she wants to return to Sorceror's World.

Luckily, Invisible Kid comes to pry her out of the room and into the social network of the team. Again, Jacques is a good choice to do this. He was certainly out of his element when he joined the team. So he would probably try to help someone else adjust.

Nice view of the hall of heroes here.

And after receiving Twilight Sparkle's letter, Queen Celestia ... oops ... after receiving Glorith's letter, Black Queen thinks Glorith needs to stay where she is, that Glorith is the Legion's responsibility now. It reeks of foreshadowing that Glorith is going to turn to the dark side. But Mysa is too busy suppressing the absorbed Mordru to have the energy to stop it.

It was nice to see these two again, even briefly. Although, to be honest, I miss the White Witch.

Just what were those stones that Dreamy saw?

Not Stone Boy. Again, a nice little moment.

And as a big fan of the original three, I was glad to see that Imra and Garth were having fun settling down as parents to their twins.

Still, Imra needs to be an active member, especially with Tellus gone. Do the right thing Levitz!

Meanwhile, Brainy is working so hard to break the 'Flashpoint' barrier of time travel that he falls asleep working in his lab.

And the big stones are Stone Henge? People have gathered there, including Sun Boy. Is this a celebration? Something more ominous?

And there were other scenes. Polar Boy returning from a night of bar hopping and amour. Cham talking to the Science Police. Ultra Boy working out some frustrations. Still, I want Walt Simonson showing something like Ayla flinging lightning at The Persuader! Or Sun Boy immolating Doctor Regulus. Not Legionnaires eating lunch and people staring at rocks.

So some decent nuggets of characterization. But nothing exciting.

I feel like the Legion right now is a comfortable read. But I was hoping for something more invigorating after the relaunch. And I don't think this book would be interesting to anyone other than the most die-hard continuity-filled fan.

Overall grade: C


Dave Mullen said...

Agree totally. I've reviewed the last couple of issues for another site and my verdict is much the same as yours. Strong character work but not a lot of plot.

Paul Levitz is perhaps one of those older generation of writers like Chris Claremont and Marv Wolfman who are accustomed to slow boiling long ranged plotting and a focus on character over actual action, that was the style that made them succesful and delivered quality runs (legendary in fact) on the titles they are famous for, it's just that today everything is so demanding on instant action and fast pacing for team books that style they used back then just can't fly today. And definitly not in a low priority book like the Legion. The Legion is unfortunatly an acquired taste, It took me many years to get the bug and come to love it but most readers out there in comicbook land aren't that selective or willing to try different stuff, so the Legion is always going to have a very uphill fight to grab a sizable audience.
Right now the book is hovering with sales of around 22'000 (I think) which is not good.
And to be honest given the rubbish end to the previous volume and the confused, flat, Dominator plot in the last four issues I can't say as any of this is a surprise.
This book needs serious action and a direction. Fast.

At this rate I fear the worst.

Martin Gray said...

I enjoyed the book more than you, given it was meant to be a 'day in the life' deal and that's exactly what it was. But yes, there's no reason a couple of the vignettes couldn't have seen a few members fighting villains or doing something similarly splashy.

Did you see the interview with Walt Simonson over at at
CBR? I found it really interesting, but unless I'm reading it wrong, it turns out the Stonehenge scene is a throwaway because .... well, see for yourself!

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments! I love Legion talk!

I don't know if I need crazy fast paced action every time.

But I just worry that this book isn't going to last long because it is catering to the pre-existing audience.

Quiet issues like this work when people know the back stories. I don't know how many people know it all enough to have appreciated the characterization.

In that sense, I think Legion Lost (with the rotating narrators) is probably more accessible. That book, albeit with a smaller cast, is able to fill in the gaps.

Dave Mullen said...

But I just worry that this book isn't going to last long because it is catering to the pre-existing audience..

There's some truth to that - a lot of time has been spent catching up with old sub-plots and character details that go back decades, As a fan I like that but I can also see that that obsession with revisiting old history is a bit pointless when done as intensely as this. You run the risk of it feeling like Gerard Jones' run on Green Lantern, which was a book too much into mining its own mythos and trivia to move forward in a positive and fresh way.
But at the same time that's not really the chief problem with the book, history isn't a bad thing in and of itself so long as the storyline and premise is actually engaging and exciting to follow.

I like Levitz writing generally, despite the extremely poor finale to the last series. The problem is this book feels like it's in a rut and living in a tired universe with not much going on, sort of like how the Bierbaums run ended up after Giffen had left.

Apart from a lack of any challenges and a depleted membership the focus has been mostly on the team dynamic. It's fair to say not much has actually happened in this book so far and a reader would legitimatly ask why the Legion is needed at all... what's it there for?
As I previously said (here or elsewhere) what this book needs is a plotter to step in and fuel Levitz imagination, Keith Giffen ideally. Look back over the last 20 odd years and the Legion has typically been written by two writers, not one!

Anj said...

But at the same time that's not really the chief problem with the book, history isn't a bad thing in and of itself so long as the storyline and premise is actually engaging and exciting to follow.

I agree with this. We all had our 'first' Legion comic, became fans, and then immersed ourselves in their history. So it can happen ... if it is folded into the story and explained.

I agree that I need something more dynamic here. The LSV story in the last volume and the Dominator story (the last 2 arcs) both ended with a whimper.