Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #1

Perhaps one of the things I am most grateful for in the midst of this DC relaunch is the simple fact the Legion of Super-Heroes is not being rebooted. After multiple recreations over the last decade, I am happy to settle into one Legion and not have to 're-learn' everyone again. Of course, the converse is also true. One of the perceived problems with the Legion is that it is hard to jump into the book given it's history and large cast. So this relaunch isn't a true jumping on point as we pick up right where the last Legion book left us. (I always laugh about that perception of Legion being tough for new readers. No one ever says that about the XMen.)

Legion of Super-Heroes #1 tidied up some of the plot threads from the last volume and started a couple of new storylines so it's not like we are in a middle chapter. And writer Paul Levitz does a good job of giving all the Legionnaires some screen time while focusing on a new Dominator-centric plot.

The real joy of this new title is Francis Portela on art. I have enjoyed Portela's work wherever I have seen it and his style seems perfect for the Legion with it's futuristic landscapes. Really beautiful stuff here.

The main plot of the book is Cham (here in the shape of a military man on the left) leading a semi-espionage squad to the 'world watcher' planet Panoptes (get it ... 'all eyes'). Panoptes is supposed to be keeping an eye on the Dominators but the UP has lost contact with the world. So the Legion is sent in to investigate.

It is an interesting sort of stealth team. Sure, Phantom Girl and Ultra Boy don military garb to blend in. But Jo has never struck me as an understated 'quiet' Legionnaire. And Chemical King and Dragonwing are fresh from the academy. Their role here is to play young lovers who have lost their way, but seems risky to take them along.

I suppose with the LSV story still in the recent past, other Espionage members like Vi and Invisible Kid might not be available. I do like the faux bravado and military stuffiness by Tinya and Jo. These are seasoned Legionnaires who know when to poke fun at Cham.

As I said, Levitz gives us a quick peek around the Legion roster here including Colossal Boy.

In the aftermath of the LSV war and with Chameleon Girl marooned in the past, Gim has decided to leave the Legion and join (re-join) the Science Police. Colossal Boy was a SciPo recruit when he got his powers so seeing him go back to the force makes some sense.

And then Levitz brings up to the Legion Headquarters where Mon-El and Brainy are catching up with all the squads currently deployed. It is a quick way of showing the entire roster to the new readers, including the text boxes with names and powers.

Portela does an excellent job here adding slight flourishes to members of the team, with some body language clues that give them some depth. You can feel Shadow Lass' pain as she deals with Earth Man's death. You know Comet Queen is excited to be with the big club. Dream Girl has a quiet confidence about her. Glorith is mourning Variable Lad's death. And Star Boy is just tired. It's all very nice.

Back n Panoptes, we see how Dragonwing is dealing with the death of Variable Lad. If things go wrong, she isn't going down alone.

I wonder if she is going to take the role of 'hot-head' on the team now that Wildfire and Timber Wolf are stuck in the past.

I didn't think I would care for her but she is showing me some depth. I don't know if I will ever like Chemical Kid.

The Panoptes team moves in with Cham becoming a bug to do some recon. It's a bit risky but he does find some information about the 'Renegade' giving orders.

Any thoughts on who that could be?

I was a bit confused about Cham saying that a telepath isn't on the team. Is Saturn Girl back in retirement?

And we catch up with Star Boy, Dream Girl, Glorith, and Harmonia Li.

We finally learn about Harmonia Li's powers. She is a 'nature elemental', whatever that is. We see some of her powers as she conjures up a wind to cool everyone off.

But the more chilling part of the discussion is Glorith saying she is so distraught from Variable Lad's death that she would like to go into the past and change things. So whenever I hear someone named Glorith talking about manipulating time, it makes me worried. Remember, Glorith was the 'Time Trapper' equivalent in the '5 Years Later' Legion. Hmmm ... could she be the hooded woman in all the new 52's?

Finally the Panoptes team sheds its disguises when it discovers technology that proves the planet is sending information to the Dominators. The Legionnaires skirmish with the troops and try to destroy the communication array only to discover Panoptes' secret weapon. A Daxamite is working for the Dominators!

I have to say that I liked this issue. I am a Legion fan and know all these characters so I am sure that helps. But the last story arc with the Blue Entity and Saturn Queen seemed to plod along, spinning its wheels a bit. This issue felt more energized. And Levitz is at his best juggling the large cast of the book, keeping tabs on everyone in a natural and unforced way. This issue showed that.

And Portela is a great addition to the book. Just solid and slick stuff here, adding a wonderful sheen to the story.

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

I started reading comics again in 2008, after a 14-year break, and the first time I ever read a Legion story was in the Adventure Comics New Krypton features from a few years ago. I was instantly hooked, so I have Sterling Gates and James Robinson to thank for that. I have accumulated almost complete runs of LoSH from the 1980s, the Levitz-penned Baxter series, and a handful of 1970s Superboy titles.

However, I have always felt daunted by the "5 Years Later" continuity. Are these stories worth reading? I am just curious.

Anj said...

I am one of the few people who liked the '5 yr later continuity', especially the first couple of years of that book.

You can probably find them dirt cheap at conventions.

valerie21601 said...

I thought the first issue of this run was a wonderful read. My only concern is that new readers wouldn't be able to follow along especially with so many Legionnaires in one issue, their inner politics and understand what happened in their personal lives.

It's an enjoyable read for those of us, who have been with the Legion for several years.

BTW Anj, did you check out the TPB of the first six issues of the Legion? The trade book even hit the top of the New York Times best seller list for graphic novels for awhile. It does show there is an audience out there for it. My guess they were older Legion fans who prefer TPB's over individual issues especially when it comes to reading them in a public place.