Saturday, September 15, 2012

Review: Legion Lost #0

Legion Lost #0 was the first of the zero month issues that sort of fell a bit short.

Now don't get me wrong, this was a fine rethinking of Timber Wolf's origin and a decent if somewhat formulaic morality play.And Pete Woods' art remained slick to look at.

But the bar was set kind of high. We had the inspirational Action Comics #0. The tragedy of  Worlds' Finest #0. The (as yet unreviewed) historic revelations of Superboy #0. Even the dramatic twist of a hero crossing the line in Earth 2 #0. All those issues felt like a mini-event or eye opener. After that, this nice little story of Timber Wolf maintaining an ethical line while avenging his parents seemed to fall short of those issues. The other zero issues felt like mini-events. This could have been a rest issue at any point really. And the truth is, I might have enjoyed it more then. 

What this issue should have been was a look back at this squad in the 31st century when they were hunting for Alastor. Maybe writer Tom DeFalco could have pulled back the curtains on one of the character's hidden agenda, their specific 'origin' for this book and this team.

Maybe I am sounding too harsh. In this day and age I should be praising a book where the hero is tempted to kill and instead doesn't.

The issue starts with a nice scene of Brin Londo, here called the 'vigilante Lone Wolf' trying to make his way into the compound of a crime boss named Lord Vykor. We don't know how we got here but I like the 'dropped into the middle of the action' opening in comics sometimes. It brings a sort of energy to the book and is a little off-putting (in a good way) to the reader as you have to catch up about how we got here.

I like Pete Woods' young Timber Wolf look complete with long crazy pony tail. It has a sort of 80's feel to it which is befitting given that it takes place in the 'past' of Timber Wolf. And there is a ferocity to his attacks that is palpable.

It turns out that Brin is on a mission of vengeance. His father Marr Londo has been accepting funds from Vykor to create a sort of super-healing, super-durability, super-power serum. Vykor wants it for himself.

When Londo tells him that despite great strides in creating the serum (we see it work on rodents) it won't be ready for human usage for years, Vykor ups the ante, gunning down Brin's mother and Marr's wife. Londo better perfect the drug before Vykor comes back to shoot Brin.

As I always say when art and words mesh, no medium is better than comics. I love the expressions on the Londo's face coupled with their silence. I like the blase look on Vykor as he kills this innocent woman, showing what a villain he is. And I love the red background, which started white at the top of the page and grew darker down to this panel, echoing the procession to this violent act. Solid stuff.

Enraged, Marr does perfect the serum and injects it into himself and Brin. When Vykor comes calling, the Londo's attack. But after briefly getting the upper hand, Vykor's men batter Marr leaving him no choice but to destroy his lab and all his work. Brin is able to escape.

One thing that this issue does do nicely is talk about how events turn Brin from a little kid excited to go to the zoo to a near-feral fighter. I mean, to defend his dying father he brutally bites Vykor.

And with no where else to turn, Brin ends up living on the streets, becoming a vigilante protecting the weak. It is a one page montage of a cold young Brin living out of a card board box (they still have those in the  31st century) and then realizing he wouldn't let another person be harmed the way his parents were. In many ways it is sort of a Batman story but told from the perspective of poverty rather than riches.

So we finally catch up to that early action piece and Wolf, after a skirmish with the Science Police, finally is able to break into Vykor's home.

Now here is where things get just a bit wonky for me. Vykor found a vial of Londo's and injected it into himself and his son Tor. He has been luring Brin into this attack so he can capture him, dissect him, and reverse engineer the serum.

And so, this great crime lord decided that after luring the animalistic vigilante into his home he would have his only son defeat him in hand-to-hand combat? Wouldn't a real crime lord have about 60 people with guns in this house or paralyzing gas or ninjas or a rogue Durlan? I mean, I'm not a crime lord and that is what I would do.

Now, while not bright, it does allow some resonance between Brin's story, a son defending his father. And it allows DeFalco the opportunity to get inside Brin's head, to hear his internal conversation about finally avenging his parent's death by killing Vykor and son but realizing that crossing that line will change him too. It is a pretty good speech as Wolf differentiates himself from the 'beast' within by realizing he will lose himself if he murders.

And I also like that the street-hardened brawler had an edge over the educated person who has only sparred. It is sort of an anti-Batman riff!

Of course, in the end, Brin subdues the two rather than killing them. And in comics today, that is to be lauded.

Even the Science Police who frown on vigilantes realize that there is more to Brin than just a street fighter. One even recognizes that he would be a good addition to the Legion. Nice touch.

But Brin is still the Lone Wolf ... or Timber Wolf as he renames himself.

Okay, after berating comics for being too dark and too focused on anti-hero, I am thrilled that this book showed how justice doesn't need to be meted out with executions. And the internal struggle within Brin to remain human and not give in to his more primal urges was relatively well done.

Still, this felt like a standard comic book origin story. And certainly couldn't be looked at as a jumping on point for a book set in the 21st century and made up of Legionnaires harboring secrets. So it just felt a little flat.

Overall grade: C+


valerie21601 said...

I haven't read it yet but I have read the comment/reviews on other forums and quite a few are calling it, Timber Wolf's bow wow issue.

So many are agreeing on the same points you made, Anj.

Martin Gray said...

Spot on Anj, for what it is, this is very good; it's just a shame it's not fitting the zero model we've already seen (apart from GL #0).

'I'm not a crime lord...' So YOU say!

Anj said...

Yeah, GL#0 did feel like just another issue too.

All the other DC titles I collect have so far made the issue feel special and impactful.