Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #8

My reviews of Legion of Super-Heroes since Paul Levitz took over have been for the most part tepid.

I wonder if I am being too tough.

The thing about the Legion is that it was my first comic love, a comic that I looked for on the spinner rack back in the late 70's, one of the first comics I aimed to buy monthly back in the sweet spot of the early 80s, those years around The Great Darkness Saga. I keep expecting to get that sense of wonder and spectacle that I got as a tween. And there isn't going home again.

That said, I do feel that the Legion as a concept is in a tough position. There are gray beards like me who love the heavy continuity and scope of the book. We love the big cast and the huge rogue's gallery. But it is hard to get new readers if you stay laden down by continuity. But if you 'reboot' Legion, you alienate the built in but small and aging market.

Legion of Super-Heroes #8 came out last week and remained a sort of lukewarm read. There were some nice moments. There was a new plot thread hinted at. There was a nice story with the original three. And some continuity was worked in. So those things worked.

And the issue also had art by Steve Lightle (who simply rocked my world on the early Baxter issues) and Yildiray Cinar who was on the last volume. So that was a plus.

But I wasn't necessarily 'wowed' by anything here. And after the 'Stonehenge' rest issue, and the 2 part Dragonwind story, and now this 'rest issue', it feels like the book is sort of aimless right now. The promise of a big Dominator arc is helping me stay attached.

The first half of the comic is the Lightle story called '1 of 5'.

In it, a group of thugs invade the medical center on planet Zardon to find the 'gold master for nano-amp #108'. I don't recognize any of these guys, a sort of 4-armed Blue Devil/Venom mix, a 3-eyed guy, and a sort of Dumb Bunny variant/Kangaroo girl with a power glove.

Despite the power levels of these guys, the Bunny and Venom characters are taken out by Invisible Kid. I liked that he thanks Shadow Lass for the Legion combat training. It shows that there is more to the Legion than just their powers. You would think Jacques would be outclassed here.

Unfortunately, the three-eyed man escaped with the tech.

In a nice continuity touch, Jacques asks if it is the Computo circuit being used to help Jacques' sister Danielle. Long time readers know Danielle was 'possessed' by Computo, became a villain for a bit, then got control of her powers and became a Legionnaire (although that may have been in the 5YL run).

But does everyone know that?

Mon-El and Ultra Boy get called in to try and re-acquire the 'nano-amp'. But despite apprehending the 3-eyed alien, the amp itself has been rocketed away to an unknown destination. And the amp is the technology that was used to create Tharok, the mastermind of the Fatal Five. Someone is trying to 'recreate' the Five.

I have to be honest, I don't know that exact condition of some of the original Fatal Five. The Empress is dead but Vi absorbed some emerald energy in the annual a year ago. Validus is now a toddler. Is the original Tharok out there? Mano? The Persuader?

There really isn't anything like a Legion/Fatal Five brawl. So I am interested to see where this goes.

The second half is the Cinar story and focuses on the Legionnaires Three.

This story opens with an exhausted Cos depressed that he can't find the Legion Lost members. I am glad that the predicament of those heroes isn't just forgotten here. But Garth and Imra know that Rokk needs a break and come to take him out for a night on the town.

Even Brainy realizes Rokk is overworked. He doesn't want Cos overtired and off his game. I love that Brainy says that he has been there. No one has been overtired to the point of insanity/paranoia like Brainy. But being aware of the problem is the first step.

And I love that Brainy mocks Cos' attempt to find the lost team.

In some ways it is a set-up by Garth and Imra. They bring Cos to a dance club where Night Girl is waiting.

It implies that Rok and Lydda aren't together right now. And I have to be honest, if that is true I had forgotten it. Those two should be together.

You know what we need ... a Legion wedding!

The weather satellite in the area is out of control with rain so Lightning Lad has to show he still has his powers and short circuit it. This is some solid work by Cinar, probably my favorite page of the issue.

I tend to underestimate Garth's power level until I see him light it up.

In the end, all ends well. Garth (who Imra says gets extra frisky around lightning storms) comes back for a last dance and we see that maybe Cos and Night Girl have reconnected.

I think that these three are sort of the legacy of the Legion so I was happy to see them getting some attention. Again, with a book with as a big a cast as Legion, you need to jump around to make sure that everyone gets enough screen time.

So overall this was a nice story and this was a nice issue. The art was very good, the nods to continuity were solid, and we are on the cusp of the Dominator arc. So not bad.

But I wasn't really wowed. And I really want to be wowed by the Legion.

Overall grade: B-


Dave Mullen said...

I've said all I have to say on Paul Levitz in previous posts, but yes I do enjoy his Legion work. Like you however I come away with mixed feelings. He's a great character writer, much like other great teambook writers such as Wolfman and Claremont he knows how to put a believable character across with just a few words, it's just that his actual plotting is nearly non-existent. Like I've said before this modern Legion is very much the same as his Baxter series in the 80s, all good fun and a pleasure to visit this world, but storywise very very slow... There's so much competition now for the Legion, that's the real worry for me, this style of pacing isn't going to cut it in todays market, far too many other temptations.

I really did like this issue though, some actual romance and a feelgood human read is unusual in todays nihilistic DCU, only Aquaman bucks the trend with his romance and a contented marriage making the book for me. This sort of character relations is what makes the best team books work, too many books today think you have to have everybody at each others throats and in constant turmoil and lonliness. The Legion is almost unique in this regard.

It was nice to see Danielle Foccart get a mention, always liked her and wouldn't mind seeing her active again; though at the same time there are probobly too many members already with serving family.
As to the Fatal Five... it's weird - I'm sure the Five were active in this continuity, but trying to nail down when I last saw them I'm drawing a blank. Too many continuities sloshing around my head. :(
Surely we saw them in Legion of 3 Worlds... or not?

Anj said...

Thanks for the great comment.

I agree about how this was a nice issue for showing just what a family the Legion is. But does that resonate with people who don't know the Legion at all?

And I also don't know about the Five.

Dave Mullen said...

I agree about how this was a nice issue for showing just what a family the Legion is. But does that resonate with people who don't know the Legion at all?

Sure, why on earth not? There's no magic ingredient for pulling in an audience to a book as specialist as the Legion, it's a premise that is only ever going to be an aquired taste. I'm showing my age saying this but when I first saw the Legion it was like All-Star Squadron or Arak, a book 'out there' and very hard to get your head around. I looked at these books with some suspicion and fear as I felt they demanded special understanding to read and were too difficult and inaccessable to easily interest me. It's the same attitude a lot of the public have to science Fiction... they just don't understand it.
But eventually I DID start picking up odd issues of the Legion and All Star, I liked them but the switch to the Baxter format made it near impossible to get the Legion for me and it took a chance find of the early Infinity Inc to truly ignite my passion for the JSA. My moral in all of this is that these books are never going to be mass audience like X-Men or possibly Teen Titans but if the world they inhabit is solid and well crafted they will find their audience.

Now having said that the marketplace we are in, especially with the Internet, demands constant overhype and 'big bangs', that's what the writer and editorial of the Legion must get to grips with. Better stories, more 'event' driven, and a bigger push for making a mark on the news sites. One rumor I saw recentlly has it that Keith Giffen might be returning to the book shortly - now that's the sort of thing that will draw headlines and get people talking. :)

Anj said...

Thanks for follow-up.

Yes, I know people will understand and appreciate the relationship aspect of comics. What I wonder is whether people will understand what it means that Garth and Imra rescued Rokk. What it means that Jacques asked about Danielle.

I think people shy away from the Legion because they think it is all sunshine/lollipops when it isn't. They also think it is continuity burdened - but no more than the intricate history of the X-teams I would say.

Quality should trump any concerns. The first X-book I bought was Morrison's. I could care less about all that came before.

I just wonder if the quality is where it should be. The 'blue man'/LSV story arc which closed the last book was pretty lackluster. And nothing has been fantastic here ... yet.

Martin Gray said...

I perhaps focus too much on the good stuff in the Legion series - like you, I really want to be knocked out by this comic. A co-plotter, or more input from the editor, may well be the way to go. Giffen back regularly would get a massive 'woo woo! from me.