Monday, April 27, 2015

Review: Convergence:Superboy And The Legion Of Super-Heroes #1

Convergence:Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #1 was one of the books I was most looking forward to when these titles were announced. I am a lifelong Legion fan. I cut my teeth on the Bates/Grell books. And I remember a Legion that was optimistic and a future that was bright. So of course I would want to revisit this time.

Writer Stuart Moore instead gives us a team struggling with their existence under the dome and trying not to lose hope. It has been a year without powers and without chance of escape. How would the Legion cope with this? And how would Superboy?

Given that these stories have to be told in two issues, there isn't slow build up of characterization. Instead, characters wear their feelings on their sleeves. This includes Superboy, who seems to be struggling the most with this imprisonment. It is a new take on the Boy of Steel, one which mostly doesn't feel right.

While Moore writes the characters with broad strokes, artist Gus Storms provides pretty minimalist art. I haven't seen Storms work before. His art is sparse and simple, a contrast to the detailed work I am used to seeing on Legion books.

The issue starts with Superboy broadcasting a message to the entire city of Metropolis, telling the citizens to not lose hope. The Legion is doing their best, tirelessly examining the dome in hopes of punching through.

The speech includes a mention of the great loss everyone has endured, including the Legion. Wildfire's suit is now in the hall of heroes as he simply dissipated when the dome arose.

Of course, for me, this means Wildfire will return when the dome drops. It would even smack a bit of his initiation into the Legion way back in Superboy and the Legion #201. Back then, they had his suit in their headquarters because he had died as ERG-1. He had to sneak in to reanimate it.

There is resolve in Superboy's words. He talks about surviving the loss of a world. He gives an oath to his Kryptonian ancestors that he will find and defeat whoever did this.

I did find it odd that he would vow to his Kryptonian family here, especially given his tone the rest of the book.

But we discover that these words don't ring true for him. He has lost hope here and is unsure if they will ever escape. We see him weeping in the Hall of Heroes, saying how much he misses Ma, Pa, Lana, and even Krypton. So to go from a nod to his Kryptonian heritage to then weeping about Smallville was     Weird. I suppose it shows the two sides of Superboy, the alien powerhouse and the farm boy.

This looks like the Legion in the early issues of the Baxter series with Ayla sporting lightning powers and Shadow Lass with a slickback hairstyle.

It also has a curmudgeon of a Brainiac 5, yelling at the Legionnaires for barging into his lab.

Brainy has received a message from beyond the dome. "We are here. But soon we are there." The message includes an image of 2 interlocking rings. For the first time, Brainy wonders if they are no longer on Earth.

Earlier, Ayla seemed to flirt with Superboy. In a somewhat heated discussion, she challenges Superboy to pull himself together. He talks about how his Legion adventures were like playtime for him. But his home was the past. He wants playtime to end.

Ayla reminds him that this is her reality, not some fun time. That she has suffered. First off Timber Wolf has left her. She suffered at the hands of Lightning Lord when she got her powers back. Now she is just as trapped. And she needs Superboy to be Superboy.

Again, this might be someone's first Legion comic. Who knows how many people remember the Legion continuity from decades ago. But this reads wrong. Ayla dumped Timber Wolf and never looked back. Superboy never seemed to have this 'fantasy' idea about his future adventures. 

If these Convergence books are supposed to celebrate these times, they should respect the times.

And then all those feelings bubble to the surface. Ayla and Superboy are about to kiss. And there is a spark ... literally!

The dome drops. Powers are restored.

As someone who loved the Ayla/Vi relationship and Ayla's character growth in the 80's and 90's, this also seemed off. Lightning Lass is my second favorite Legionnaire. I love that she is the one who tells Superboy to grow up. But her lamenting Brin and pining for Superboy didn't work for me.

Still,  literal spark with a kiss is a nice touch.

With the dome down, Telos delivers his statement about the tournament of cities. 

Brainy continues to try to decipher the message, the entwined circle image, and the tournament reveal.

I like that Brainy says the whole thing is 'disturbingly familiar'. Of course it is! This is Brainiac's planet and tech. It should be familiar.

Still, I don't know if I should understand this 'we are here, but soon we will be there' message. Am I missing something?

But the tournament is the more pressing matter. Who will they need to fight? And Sun Boy wonders if it is to be a battle to the death. Heroes obviously don't kill. And the Legion even has it in their constitution.

I do like that Ultra Boy wonders if this is the time to break from that code. He was raised on the rough streets if Rimbor. It makes sense that he would be the one to question this.

But I like that Superboy remains the moral compass. No killing will happen.

And then the mantle of Leadership is thrust on Clark. The Legion needs to kno what to do next. Do you reconnoiter? Establish your battle positions? 

The Legion asks Clark to lead. And he looks pretty reluctant in that last panel. He is hurting. He sounds depressed. He might not grab the role of leader role with gusto.

I wish there was time to explore that concept a little. That would have been a decent cliffhanger. What do you do when your leader can't lead?

Unfortunately, the decision is made for him. The Atomic Knights show up to battle. Not that I think they are a threat even to this tiny Legion force.

These Convergence titles are frustrating. They have often been a tease, giving me a tiny taste of something I miss but not delivering 100%. This is a Legion I miss. These are characters I love. And there are whiffs of characterization I miss. But it isn't perfect. And there are some missteps.

But I keep saying that living a year under a dome might explain away some of the character issues I have. Who knows how people would change after a year of imprisonment like that?

But what this book does do is remind me that there is no Legion book on the shelves. And that it has been a while since we had a great legion book to read.

Overall grade: B


Martin Gray said...

Well, this is our week for disagreement, I just loved this one. I do let the year of dome imprisonment explain such things as Superboy's angst - there's no hero closer to his parents, and he's missing them, and worried about them. As for the Timber Wolf bit, I don't mind, probably because he's never been a favourite. And who hasn't had a wee snog with a mate in weird circumstances?

I like seeing the symbol from the Convergence covers inside a comic, it's rather smart. I can't see a writer as smart as Stuart Moore not following up on the enigmatic quote.

One of the guys over in the Legion of Substitute Podcasters asked Moore some questions about this on Twitter, I shall email!

Anj said...

Thanks for the comment and the screen cap of the Facebook discussion.

I think you are right that the year under the dome cando anything. And, as everyone in the book points out, he has held the city together despite that.

And while the angst was a little off for me, I end up wanting to see more.

I have been going through my own Crisis of Infinite Reviewing, wondering if I grade too high.

Anonymous said...

I thought the art in this book was awful. The body shapes were all out of whack, imo. I feel the same about the art on the other Convergence books I bought. It's like DC hired some lesserthans to draw the books while the big guns made their move west.