Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #16

Legion of Super-Heroes #16 came out last week and I thought it was a very good issue.

I have complained in the past that the main problem of this title has been its inability to build momentum, to have big stories, to get somewhere. While there has been great characterization, a staple of writer Paul Levitz' books, the plots have been troubling. Where it was the Legion of Super-villains last volume, or the Dominator problem, or rest issues about Chemical King, or the Dragonwing stories, these have all been muddled or forgettable.

So when another 'rest issue' was announced, another issue where we 'checked in' on the Legionnaires, I initially cringed. Wouldn't that just slow things down more?

Instead this issue continued to move some plots forward, while peeking in on some members we haven't seen in a bit, and lastly has a great surprise ending. There is nothing like an old-fashioned Legion leader election to stir the pot a bit. And maybe after the lackluster Super-titles this week, an issue like this was like a warm bath, comfortable.

The art is by Scott Kolins and it is fine here. His rough style actually works quite well on Validus.

The election is the backdrop of the story as we peek in around the Legion HQ, hearing snippets of conversations. It was fun to hear Ultra Boy joke about his being elected once. It was reassuring to hear Chemical Kid stump for Element Lad. I would think that Kid might have run himself earlier this year, thinking he knew it all. So nice little growth there.

But this line stuck out a bit. Now I know that Dream Girl has always been a bit of a vamp. But she has also been fiercely loyal to Star Boy. During the Dominator arc, I thought for sure a Dreamy/Brainy ('Drainy'?) romance was going to happen. So for her to say something like she is 'available', even in the context of being elected, makes me wonder if she is ready to move on from Thom. Again, probably something that only long-time Legion readers (are there any other) might pick up on. Subtle.

And I thought that Brainy was going to end up with Dreamy back in the Dominator arc too. Instead he is seen walking arm in arm with Harmonia Li. I guess I can understand his interest in her. She is a scientist. But there is as much wisdom in her as there is intelligence.

Still I wonder if she is ready for romance with someone so rigid in his assessments. Wisdom means bending sometimes. Here Harmonia looks visibly steamed that Brainy sort of disparages Dragonwing's upbringing.

Meanwhile the Espionage squad continues its research on the Fatal Five. If the Persuader's axe was an illusion, maybe Validus himself is an illusion on Takron-Galtos.

The team of Cham, Vi, and Ayla head there to investigate. And Cham and Vi head into the Inertron cube prison cell that Validus is constantly banging against. Meanwhile Ayla stays outside.

I thought this was a great exchange. For one, the smile on Ayla's when talking about 'her Vi' was sweet. And Gravity Kid, now working on Takron Galtos, wonders why Lightning Lass, one of the most powerful Legionnaires, isn't in the cell too. So, as an Ayla fan, I was glad to see her recognized as in the upper echelon of Legion strength.

But the best thing was her saying that her power would be meaningless in the cell. That raw power isn't always the answer. I wonder if that simple lesson, or Gravity Kid's still ignorance of it, is what kept him off the Legion roster.

Back on Earth, Star Boy sounds like he is a tired man, maybe ready to retire from the Legion.

It has been a tough couple of years for Thom, insane in the 21st century, returned as a physically broken man to the future, and then pulled out of rehab to rescue Dreamy, fighting off Dominator hordes. I don't think this moment in the Hall of Heroes is a foreshadow to his death. I think of it more that he is ready to retire before he ends up there. I wonder if that will be the final straw in breaking up this longstanding romance.

As an aside, I liked seeing the 'Legion Lost' members immortalized in statues here. It shows that they aren't forgotten. I still hope they make it back to the future.

And how about a peek at another troubled romance? It looks like Mon-El is ready to rekndle his romance with Shadow Lass.

This scene also showed me that Levitz is great when it comes to characterization. We are less than a year out of Earth Man's death. While it would be very easy to settle back into the status quo of Mon-El and Shady together, it wouldn't make sense. Even Mon-El telling her to move on and trying to get cozy like this seemed a bit oafish ... almost sleazy.

Shady squelches any ideas of a reconciliation. She storms off telling him support for him a Legion Leader will be there, but romance is out of the question.

And while the Fatal Five seems to be in the on-deck circle for the Legion to fight, I think we all know that something Glorith/Time Trapper related has to be slated soon thereafter. Glorith is cornered by Brainy into undergoing more tests and, as expected, things swirl a bit crazily. I think there is a lot brewing under the calm and innocent exterior of Glorith.

Really what I want to see is some Black Witch time now. There is enough happening that the Legion should be asking Mysa some tough questions about Glorith.

I don't exactly understand why Cham uses this strategy. But he takes the form of Validus and that somehow makes the 'real' Validus fade away as an illusion. So it seems the Fatal Five seem to be reformed ... but for who knows how long.

It is interesting that this was not only a visual illusion, but one with sound, and tactile as people felt the tremors of this thing's pounding on the walls. That is more than a simple hologram. Sounds almost Sensor-Girlish.

And is Vi being possessed by the Eye as seen the early 2011 Legion Annual still in continuity?

As I said, the best thing about this issue was sort of cruising around and reading these small moments.

I thought that this conversation between Cos and Mon-El was great. At the potential end of his time as Leader, Mon-El wonders if he was effective. Looking back at all that has happened, including the current Fatal Five stuff, it hasn't been a peaceful time.

Cos has always been the sort of backbone of the Legion, the sounding board, the voice of experience. So I thought this brief bit, about how things aren't simple any more, that there is a full cemetery of Legionnaires, that they don't always win, but that they have saved lives ... I thought that was poignant. I can imagine that running the Legion has to be extremely stressful.

And then, a nice surprise ending. Phantom Girl has won the election!

I don't think I would put her at the top of my ballot but I think, in retrospect, it makes perfect sense.

She is intelligent. She is a lifer. She seems to have a solid core, rarely getting flustered. And I think she has common sense never getting to high or too low.

I look forward to seeing how she runs the big board.

So what can I say. This issue was exactly the sort of issue that I have complained about in the past. And yet, for one of these 'catch up' issues, it was meatier, had more great character moments, and moved some of the plots ahead, much better than ... let's say ... this Legion rest issue. I do wonder if newer readers might like the smaller moments less than I did.

And Tinya running the show! That should be fun!

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

I've been enjoying this book a lot, but I am getting a bit concerned. With "Legion Lost" cancelled and sales of this book kind of low, how long do you guys think this book will last? I love Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen. But I can't help but wonder: How much of today's comic-reading audience really considers Giffen a "big name" (as I surely do)? And is Giffen's name enough to actually add new readers? I hope so, because with Grant Morrison leaving "Action Comics" and the H'el on Earth crossover leaving me cold, this is the only thing I look forward to from DC each month (with the exception of the wonderful "Joe Kubert Presents" mini-series).

valerie21601 said...

The only thing that annoyed in the story is where Harmonia tries to cuddle up to Brainy physically and he looks so sour about it. The relationship feels too forced.

Yes, I am a pro-Kara and Brainy gal even I can enjoy a good story when it's done right.

Re-reading my issue I noticed in the lab how Glorith leaked energy when Brainy hurt her feelings while treating her as a mere object at the same. Talking as if she wasn't there in the same room with him.

Anonymous said...

The Validus scene might have been a callback to the Curt Swan Adult Legion sequence in LSH #300...

Marc Burkhardt said...

All I can say is Scott Kolins' art looks ugly as H'el. It makes me long for the glory days of Dave Cockrum, Mike Grell and Keith Geffen.

Martin Gray said...

Yes indeed, this was a top issue. I'm an ancient reader but I missed the ambiguity of Dreamy's comment. I just thought she meant she wasn't running but would take the post if offered (and maybe she dreamt the result, so saw no point campaigning).

I agree, Mysa should be brought into the Glorith mystery, and Saturn Girl too.

If Tinya taps into her LEGION 89 etc self, she'll be an ace leader.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

Anon - I don't know if Giffen is 'hot' with newer readers but maybe it won't matter. Didn't I read somewhere he is already off the book?

Val - nice pick up on Glorith and her energy. If she is that fragile, she might turn.

Gear - Kolins is no Portela that's for sure.

And Mart, I might be off on Dreamy. I thought the bold 'am' might be read as her vamping. But maybe I'm off.

Anonymous said...

I liked this issue. A lot of interaction between a lot of Legionnaires. Tho, I'm not a fan of the art, the colours are nice.

Looking forward to Tinya in charge.

I'll have to go back and read this series again just for the Harmonia bits just to get a handle on how far she's progressed in what amount of time. Seems like every time I see her it's like a time jump and she has a different name and outfit/costume.

Anonymous said...

Also, i give credit to whomever is responsible for being able to get a nice image of Vi, Cham and Validus onto the cover. Between the direct sales box, 'The New 52!', tagline, book title, DC logo, issue and price and the Arrow ad it's awesome they found the space.

I like Arrow but the move and tv ads DC is running on their covers are annoying.