Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #21

We are nearing the end aren't we.

Legion of Super-Heroes #21 came out last week and that means there are only two more issues left in this incarnation of the Legion, which is essentially a glomming on of an old incarnation of Legion. I have to say that after reading this issue now, I can't help but feel some resonance with all I feel about the Man of Steel movie.

The ending is marked by a lot of carnage, a lot of destruction, and a lot of death ... all in some mad dash to 'relevancy in the current comic market' ... all to make the comic 'modern'. If that is what we have come to with the Legion, maybe it is time to move on to Justice League 3000.

Now I am sure that this opening paragraph is going to lead to the usual comments about me as a reader. That I am stuck in the 50s, that I want sticky-sweet stories without conflict, that I want the heroes to be so pure as to be boring.

And frankly I am sick of that.

You know what I want? Good stories.

My favorite Legion era is the years around Great Darkness Saga into the Baxter years. Reread those stories. There isn't gore or carnage or heroes killing people. And they stand up to 3 decades of time.

My second favorite Legion era? The Five Years Later book, a dystopic look at a future bogged down by politics and isolationism. Different milieu for a Legion book to be sure. But the team was still heroic, trying to do what was right in a tougher time.

Heck, I even like big noisy brawls if they are part of the story not the purpose of the story.

I don't know if the last 5 years have brought good Legion stories. And I don't know if this loud Fatal Five story packed with killing and pandemonium leading into the demise of the book is any different. The concept of the Legion has suffered so much recently that Keith Giffen ... whose fame is built on the foundation of the Legion ... said the word Braal in an interview like it was a swear word, like it was the antithesis of a good comic. What a shame.

Paul Levitz seems to be speeding to the finish line, trying to put in some character flourishes that echo prior greatness, that utilize the wonder of the Legion. And Jeff Johnson is on art here, bringing a Scott Kolins feel to the book which feels consistent.

But the Legion is about to go away ... and it feels like it is going away for a while this time. And that depresses me.

With the galaxy crumbling around them, the Legion is surprised to find that their 'quark' technology is suddenly back on line.

One thing I love in this scene is the curious and bemused look on Brainy's face as he tries to figure out why that is happening. It would be hard to be curious and bemused in the middle of an apocalypse but if anyone would be it is Brainy. This is a man who has had questionable sanity in the past. Everything is a problem to be solved. It is that characterization that makes the Legion such a great book.

So why is it back on line? My guess is that Tharok is preoccupied. Controlling a Promethean Giant can't be easy.

Back on Earth, Cham and Ultra Boy battle the Persuader. The city is in rubble around them. Duo Damsel looks dead.

I love the shock on Jo's face when he hears that Phantom Girl is gone, probably for good. This is the love of his life. He had faith in her as Legion Leader. It is completely deflating to hear she is gone.

Again, solid characterization is more important here than the devastation that accompanies it.

Another thing I have enjoyed in this book is the slow change in Chemical Kid's personality. He started out as a snot-nosed entitled jerk who bought his powers and his way into the Legion. Some risky missions later and he suddenly has adopted the Legion way, thinking more of others than himself.

Here he uses his powers on the thrashed Mon-El, trying to control the chemical reactions in Lars' body to save him.

I hated this character when he was first introduced. I have to say watching him grow has been a great side story in this title.

Even more interesting has been Shadow Lass' struggle with her feelings about Mon-El. I love her dedication to him despite shutting him out of her life in the recent past. Why can't these two kids just admit they still love each other???

And I wonder if there is a meta-textual message in Dream Girl's visions. All is dark and funereal! That sounds about right for this book and for Legion fans.

But apparently there is more death around the corner. Invisible Kid and Polar Boy have been shunted into a 'near death' limbo. The ghosts of dead Legionnaires lead them to a way home but tell them one mistake and they will be back forever.

Foreshadowing? Probably. I can't imagine Jacques making it out alive.

As for the Fatal Five. Well they are more like the Fatal Three. Validus has been marooned in deep space. But Tharok, Persuader, and Emerald Empress are still around and bring the fight to the Legionnaires on Earth. They wipe out most of the cruiser team (and that is saying something since Element Lad and Lightning Lass ... two big guns ... were aboard).

I will say that Tharok's powers are so ill-defined that they are becoming almost comical. He somehow can teleport Emerald Empress out of an inertron cocoon as well as breach Brainy's force field to attack the belt it has sprung from. Will we ever hear how his powers expanded like this? Unlikely.

And where is the fifth member?? Isn't Glorith ready for her big close-up??

In a nice cliffhanger which has a 'book end' feel to it, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl arrive to join the fight. Cosmic Boy was on the cruiser. So it looks like things boil down to the original three Legionnaires wrapping up the fight. Hey, they were there at the beginning ... why not the end. Again, nice characterization, especially for long-time Legion fans who grasp it best.

So overall all this was a brawl filled issue with some nice nuggets of characterization scattered throughout. I suppose that might be an improvement the ennui the book was in before.

But are these characters so toxic that they need to be cast aside and forgotten? I don't think so.

Overall grade: C+


Dave Mullen said...

I've enjoyed it. My thinking is sort of back to front from yours Anj as I wasn't looking at this arc as a slaughterfest but as a legitimate attempt to overhaul the 31st century and realign the book, give it a shake up in beneficial way and rebuild it from the ground up.
As an exercise I feel it's been a great read so far, what's now changed is the JL:3000 bombshell, I had honestly thought the Legion would probably be given a new series with either Giffen involved in the relaunching of it. So on the one hand I'm reasonable enough to understand why DC have given up on the book - it had its chances after all. But on the other JL:3000 and what it represents is not good news for any Legion fan. Even if this is a temporary replacement for the Legion it works in the same way all those reboots in the 90s worked, diminishing the Legions rightful place as the DCUs future and again undermining the teams importance.
This is a big part of why the Legion declined over the last couple of decades, If DC aren't seen to support its integrity and are happy to constantly reboot, chop and change then the book ends up feeling insecure and transient.

Still, I'm fine with the quality of this final storyline so far, the test will be whether some future writer will pick up from it and rebuild the Legion on its foundation...

Anonymous said...

I agree with Dave Mullen, the Fatal Five storyline has been an interesting read. It's intention, according to Keith Giffen, was to do a soft reboot from within the framework of the story so that it was "organic" to the story. I was ok with the universe getting messed up and the Legion going through alterations if it A) produced a good story. B) kept the original/retroboot characters in tact and C) and created a new environment for the Legion to grow and thrive. Unfortunately when DC pulled the plug on the title before we could see the results of the in story reboot and replaced it with JL3000, I became a bit disillusioned. Now I just want to see Levitz end well so I can finish my Legion collection and walk away from DC Comics for good.

I really think DC really slapped all Legion fans across the face with this one. Sure, sales were lower than anticipated, but DC should have at least let the organic reboot happen and see what fruit it yielded before pulling the plug on Levitz, the Legion and all of us fans.

Martin Gray said...

Thanks for the great review, it is all very depressing. I wonder how things would have gone had Paul Levitz had a veteran editor, encouraging him to give us more focussed stories with quicker pay-offs.

I think it says in the comic that Tharok of the Indefinable Powers brought the power back on to lure the LSH to Earth.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

It is an interesting idea that DC feels they need to raze the 30th century earth of the Legion so JLA3000 can start out on a blank slate.

Still, it is sad for Legion fans that they need to be scrubbed away.

I missed that line by Tharok Mart. Thanks for pointing it out to me.

Will we ever see a fifth member?

Anonymous said...

I'll be happy when this LSH series is over. I buy it and read it and see the good things as you have but I feel it's being run into the ground. The gratuitous slaughter does not interest me.

I think it was Keith in a recent interview that commented on the low sales numbers. Like, it's the readers who have let the book down and not the other way around. Jeezuz.

This Volume (7?) of LSH started off fine but along the way it became distant and forgettable. I remember more covers and story lines in previous volumes than this one.

The constant change in creative teams doesn't help.

I look forward to a new LSH in future.

HellBlazerRaiser said...

My favorite Legion era is the years around Great Darkness Saga into the Baxter years. Reread those stories. There isn't gore or carnage or heroes killing people. And they stand up to 3 decades of time.

The first Baxter arc featured the murder of Karate Kid I and the execution of Nemesis Kid by Projectra.