Friday, January 17, 2020

Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #3

Legion of Super-Heroes #3 came out this week and after a couple of months of set-up and settling in, we finally got an issue that felt unabashedly Legion to me. There are plots and subplots. There is interlac everywhere. There are romances and teen angst. There's interplanetary politics and super-villains. And there are a lot of Legionnaires in this book.  I was tickled.

Writer Brian Michael Bendis does his usual great job with snappy banter and characterization here. We pick up a lot of information about some of the Legionnaires we haven't really met yet. Everyone seems to have their own personality, a key to a successful Legion book. He even tosses in some Easter Eggs for fans. By far, this is his best issue of Legion yet.

The art is a mix of Ryan Sook's usual amazing work as well as Travis Moore's more thin lined and refined style. The book really crackles. The scenes on Rimbor and with Crav Nah are well paced and laid out beautifully. The characters really seem like individuals and the action is palpable.

After a long time, there really feels like there is a Legion book on the shelves and in my hand! On to the details.

 Each issue seems to have a great opening splash introducing us to a Legionnaire and giving us a quick recap of the story. Here we meet Dawnstar!

There is a lot to love about this page outside the simple recap. The fact that her full name is Dawnstar Gr'Ell is a fitting testament to Mike Grell, the artist who designed her original look.  It is interesting that she talks about our 21st century as Earth's '13th century', maybe that is StarHaven time placed onto Earth? And the long interlac prose says she is tied for most popular Legionnaire (with Ayla ... of course) and that she thinks power corrupts.

Solid introduction!

 On Rimbor, Ultra Boy's father, the warrior king of Rimbor Crav Nah is irate that both his son and Aquaman's trident is back on the planet.

I can't help but look at this woman wielding katanas and think of Bounty in the 5YL Legion. Given the introduction by Dawnstar, this could make sense. I doubt it's true. But I had to share.

On Earth, Superboy has brought Damian to the future to join the team and help with his detective skills to figure out the mystery behind the trident.

But the new atmosphere seems to have an effect on Damian who quickly passes out.

I do like that Jon talks about the Super-Sons as an entity. And his description to Damian about the Legion and how they pose before a fight like power rangers was hilarious.

 On Rimbor, Cosmic Boy has led a team to discuss events with Warrior King Nah. Rokk seems very worried that the team won't be subtle and keeps reminding them to listen first and only act if needed. It makes it feel like the Legion (or at least this mission team) punch first and ask questions later.

And then some inter-squad romance is revealed. Rokk and Shady are dating. Now that is a new couple for the team, another marker to show this isn't your father's Legion. It is a little wrinkle of the Night Girl classic romance.

How interesting that White Witch thinks that there needs to be updates about romances on the team. Social media hasn't gone out of style!

 In a nice tidbit we hear that Colossal Boy doesn't necessarily like that codename. Small little info dumps like that for each member makes the book seem more real, more three dimensional.

Similarly, when the team meets with General Nah, we learn about Rimbor. Jo is proud to represent 'both sides' of Rimbor, which sounds like it is embroiled in a civil holy war. Again, backstory like this enriches the book.

General Nah is hoping to utilize the trident for his side. And he hates that Jo is on Earth and working with the LSH.

Rokk, ever the diplomat, officially opens the dialogue with a line straight out of Superman. He is there to help.

 But Crav Nah won't hear it and punches Rokk out of the building. After a skirmish with Colossal Boy, Nah ends up being put down by a right hook by Mon-El.

It is impetuous and bold. But it is also an interplanetary incident, just what Rokk was hoping to avoid. And it also means, by Rimbor Law, that Mon-El is now warrior king.

Hoo boy.

Great art here by Moore. You feel that punch, accentuated by Nah flying out of the panel.

 On Prison Planet Gotham, another team heads to Dini City (nice homage) and meet Police Commissioner December SevenBergen.

The Legion asks if they can interrogate Mordru about the trident and are allowed.

Gotham being clean? It is a new world!
Commissioner Bergen? Some riff on Candice Bergen?

I also love small details here like Garth has one blue eye and one brown eye. Who wants to bet Ayla has the same heterochromia but reversed in terms of which eye is what color?

 Imra tries to mind read Mordru ... now a Master Daemon. That sounds way better than magical gangster.

But he senses her in his mind and gives her a nightmare vision which floors her. It is Mordru (I presume) standing over the dead bodies of her friends.

Great panel here.

And soooooo glad Mordru seems more than a common thief!

 But the Mordru interrogation has to end. Crav has woken up on Earth and is skirmishing with the entire Legion.

The away team teleports back and Imra again uses her end move of a "sleep command". Unfortunately, as we have already seen, she can't differentiate who she affects. And not all villains are affected.

I had to include this panel mostly for the Wildfire bit. when he sleeps, his suit seems to deflate. Again, a nice little individual piece of characterization for one of the many Legionnaires.

 Thankfully Jon is there to again render Nah unconscious.

It does lead to a very terse and tense interaction between Jon and Mon. Mon-El seems defensive or irritated with Jon and flies off. (Jon says he looks like someone on a show ... perhaps Chris Woods performance on Supergirl?)

But more importantly, we hear from Triplicate Girl that Mon-El and Jon are somehow linked. Perhaps Mon-El is truly a descendant now? Not from Daxam at all?

 But the presence of Damian is not taken well by the team.

Imra induces sleep, makes Robin forget all he has seen, and dumps him back in the past.

This makes Jon somewhat sad. After all, Damian is his friend. How could the Legion do that? Maybe Jon needs to return to the past as well.

It all will be answered in the orientation video that Jon has been ignoring. Hopefully we see that film next issue.

Because history does not seem to look favorably on Damian, called 'Baby Hitler' by Cham. Now that *is* intriguing.

But there is still a lot at play here. The Legion are holding a sovereign king in jail in their headquarters. The alarm goes off and we learn the trident has been stolen. And the UP probably won't look fondly on any of this.


An honest to goodness, classic and new Legion book in my hands. With great characterization and great art, with nods to the past and new paths shown?

I am sooooo buzzed right now.

I want the next issue in my hand now.

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Great review of a great comic. I suspect Bendis is looking to the Baxter Legion in terms of vibe, and so far he's doing very well.

I wonder where Wildfire's energy goes when he can't will it into shape? I was expecting to see some sizzle.

I wondered if 'Sevenbergen' was a nod to Karen Berger, but then, why not 'Sevenberger'?

Anonymous said...

This issue gave me hope. I cancelled the title after the first two issues that were far from good, but this issue was too late to stop so it ended up in my hands.

I'm not going to go so far as giving it an A. I think it still struggles with giving me a pleasant read while also handling a huge cast, but it is leaps and bounds bettet than the first issues and might get there with time.

I'm giving it a B-.

Bostondreams said...

It seems like they are still leaning into the 'Batman 666' stuff with Damian perhaps, what with the 'Baby Hitler' line.

I have loved the Legion since the early 80's, but I think I'm one of the few who found the '5 Years later...' version of the team one of the more fascinating and interesting runs.

I have high hopes for this new series.

Martin Gray said...

I'm a big fan of that run two, Imra's disturbing marital status and all; I'm so glad an omnibus is finally coming this year.

Have you read Anj's reviews of this series over at Legion of Super Bloggers? Fab stuff.

John (somewhere in England) said...

I haven't read the new issue yet - it's in the post - but I recently reread the first two issues and I'm really pleased with this series so far.

Given the current state of Supergirl, it's interesting that Bendis seems to be trying to make the individual legionnaires as appealing as possible and is perhaps turning to the Legion's wonderful run in Adventure Comics for inspiration.

In the Legionnaires series, for example, Ultra Boy was an aggressive and unstable personality who was difficult for people like me who remembered the old Jo Nah to relate to. But in the new Legion stories he comes across as someone who is both likeable and completely committed to his role as a member of a team of super-powered heroes.

Likewise with Braniac 5. I loved Brainy's remark "Is it a bird?" in issue 1. This recalls the Braniac 5 of the latter part of the Adventure run who displayed a refreshingly flippant sense of humour on occasions. ("Braniac 5! I was thinking ..." says Karate Kid in Adventure Comics 366. "I do it myself sometimes!" replies Brainy.)

Similarly, the new Saturn Girl seems warmer and friendlier than the more aloof telepath of some earlier Legion incarnations. She keeps smiling at Superboy and doesn't talk like the ice maiden.

Maybe Bendis believes this approach will increase the popularity of the comic or maybe he simply prefers to write stories about heros who are nice.

Whatever the reason, the comic is better for it. Supergirl writers, please take note.

Martin Gray said...

Great comments on Bendis and optimism, John. This is why I tweeted him this week asking him to pitch DC on Supergirl joining the Wonder Comics stable - just imagine the levels of optimism.

Maybe I can persuade Anj to lead a campaign!

Rob S. said...

I loved this issue too, Anj.

As for your question about Dawnstar, I think she means the 13th century when she says it -- a time before European colonization of the Americas. She refers to Superboy as "a person from somewhat *close* to that era" -- which, from our perspective, seems really off-base. But from her perspective, well -- how much do we know about differences between the 10th century and the 3rd? That's about the span of time she's looking at, from a similar distance.

Rob S. said...

Also, it looks like Catwoman's new writer is named Paula Sevenbergen, so maybe the commissioner's name comes from her?

William Ashley Vaughan said...

"Given the current state of Supergirl, it's interesting that Bendis seems to be trying to make the individual legionnaires as appealing as possible and is perhaps turning to the Legion's wonderful run in Adventure Comics for inspiration."

I agree that this run us shaping up to be a modern version of the Adventure Comics Legion before Shooter. The attitude of Siegel and Hamilton seems to have been, "these are new characters off in the future away from all of DC's other superheroes. We can do anything no matter how off the wall. A serum that turns a boy into a giant rubber ball? No problem. A dead man brought to life by the noble sacrifice of heroic protoplasm? Let's do it."

Bendis seems to be taking the same attitude and running with it. "What's a show?" Religious civil war on Rimbor- of which Mon El is now king. Cosmic Boy and Shady sweethearts. Mongul being a slang tern for jerk. I'm loving it.