Thursday, December 29, 2011

Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #4

Legion of Super-Heroes #4 came out last week and had all the elements that make me love the Legion. There was a big galactic threat in the form of a Dominator fleet poised to invade the UP. There were multiple squads of Legionnaires each dealing with a facet of this adventure. And there were vastly different locales throughout the universe in which the Legion has to adapt. These all are parts of the scope of the Legion that makes it such a special comic for me. And Paul Levitz has always been the best writer for this sort of story. Each Legionnaire seems to have time in the spotlight and each place seems unique and yet no aspect of the story feels short-changed ... usually.

Unfortunately, the pacing of this story seemed off as this arc raced to its finish. Creators must hate someone like me, who is constantly talking about how pace is either too fast or too slow. But here, crucial elements of this story are glossed over or barely discussed as things come to a close. I was hoping for some more satisfactory conclusion to some of the threads here.

And I also wonder about the nature of this comic's relaunch. It basically was untouched by the new DCU, picking up right where the last comic left off. But is this 'new' Legion book accessible to new readers? I don't know. Now for an old-timer like me, I am pretty happy as this has felt like what a Legion book should be. But I doubt people who don't know this universe are able to grasp everything that's happening here.

One thing I do have to say is that I am loving Francis Portela's art on this book. It is sleek and polished and clean, echoing the tone of the book perfectly. 

Now one Legion squad is on the UP outpost planet Panoptes, the linchpin for an apparent Dominator invasion into UP space. These Legionnaires on the ground are dealing with Res-Vir, a Daxamite who is working for the Dominion and has access to a version of Brainy's anti-lead serum.

I really liked this scene as the rookie Chemical Kid is able to stop Res-Vir with some guidance by the more veteran Element Lad. It is this sort of camaraderie that works so well in the Legion. And these two could become an extremely powerful combination for the team. One controls elements. The other controls chemistry. The combos of their powers are limitless.

Luckily, Chemical Kid is able to stop Res-Vir by slowing down some processes and speeding up others. What I also liked here is that Kid is scared here, not the cocky rich kid we saw in the Adventure Comics issues earlier this year.

Another squad is on Dazam trying to figure out what made Res-Vir go rogue. There are two questions to be answered here. How did the Dominators 'cure' Res-Vir of his weakness to lead? And how did they convince him to leave the planet when Daxamites are quarantined to their planet and don't want to leave.

Despite the Science Police thinking this is a dead end, Shrinking Violet has this squad press on, leading them to Res-Vir's training site, a micronuclear plant which also has access to Kryptonite. Now long time readers like me know that Kryptonite is a crucial ingredient to Brainy's anti-lead serum so this is something of a revelation. But that isn't explained at all. Will new readers know why access to Kryptonite means anything? Shouldn't this have been expounded on? And even if he has Kryptonite, how can Res-Vir synthesize the serum? And how would the Dominator pick him out, talk to him, convince him to join the cause? None of these plot elements are discussed further. And I think they should have been.

I am a big Lightning Lass fan and this is a lovely version of her by Portela. What I like is that Portela uses different body types for different characters; they all aren't cookie cutter similar. Ayla here looks slim and fit.

Contrast that to the more voluptuous Dream Girl as she talks to Brainiac 5. Nura has always been drawn in a zaftig manner, so I don't mind her drawn this way. But I am glad that Ayla looks different than Dreamy who looks different than Comet Queen.

Now Dream Girl has always been a big flirt and she sort of is here with Querl. There was a Dreamy/Brainy romance in the Waid version of the team. Is that carrying over? Or is she still faithful to Star Boy?

But Brainy is having no part of this talk about magic in the 31st century. He is too busy studying Glorith's force fields.

And then he has a breakthrough. She shunts the attacks thrown at her through time! Not exactly a shock for me. All along I knew that 'Glorith' had to be somehow linked to the Glorith of old. But will she be the Purple hooded woman like we all think?

With Res-Vir stopped, the Legion on Panoptes can focus their energies on stopping the Dominator fleet.

Incredibly, this small squad basically wipes out the ships of the fleet easily. Maybe too easily? The ships don't seem to get off a shot. And none of these Legionnaires outside of Mon-El are invulnerable. There was no element of threat here, and so no real concern on my part for the characters.

Yes, the Legion are a powerful team. But if a fleet of starships can't scratch even one of them, what conflict can't they overcome?

Mon-El seems to have a personal gripe in this as the Dominators have included a Daxamite in their schemes. He rips open the command ship and orders the Dominator fleet to return to their space.

He also says, pretty off the cuff, that their anti-lead serum would eventually poison Res-Vir and so shouldn't be used again. How did he learn that? Is it true? And isn't that a very neat way to end that plot thread. Again, a bit more background info about that line would have been appreciated.

And isn't a bit too convenient to simply let the Dominator fleet return home after they tried to invade? Won't the UP declare war? Or want to be part of these negotiations? Again, this felt a bit too easy.

The issue ends with Shady and Mon-El talking. She thinks he is finally acting like the 'old' Mon-El. And I agree. I am glad the Green Lantern Mon-El storyline is over. And maybe this will lead to a reconciliation between these two. I do love how Portela has Shady's hair as a mass of tendrils until it slowly smudges out to more of a cloud of shadows. Very slick.

So this was a good skeleton of a story - a big threat in the opening arc, multiple Legion squads, and stellar art. But the 'meat' on that skeleton, the small details of the plots, seemed to be glossed over a bit as we rushed to the finale. Pieces of this Dominator plot which I would want discussed in depth were wrapped up without much explanation. And so that detracted a bit from this overall.

Overall grade: B


valerie21601 said...

As I remember Paul Levitz past writings, the loose ends often turn into full stories later on. I wouldn't be surprised we will get answers to many of the loose ends, eventually.

Dave Mullen said...

val1601 - Yes I agree this is all building up to a bigger story, I have faith in Levitz, but Still... I agree with Anj that this was left far too open ended for either old or new reader. I was expecting something major to be revealed, and it should have been, something on the last page that springs from that plotline and opens the door to something bigger to come.

Some counterpoints for Anj's review and general thoughts:
The set up and need for Kryptonite to be used for the Anti-lead serum was actually shown either last issue or the one before as we see Mon-el stock up!

I liked the fact the Legion repel the Dominator fleet relatively easily, It harks back to the fact the Legion is the pre-eminent police force in the galaxy and this is their bread & butter, just another day in the office so to speak. To me the Legion should be that powerful and competent. I'm tired of superteams and heroes who aren't confident and up to tackling the job they've subscribed to...

Res-Vir being poisioned by the Serum was fairly evident I think, he was clearly shown and stated to be beserk thanks to the serum and Mon having experience and being a scientist himself should know a few more dodes like that is going to kill him, so no problem from me with that scene.

The first page was a nice nod to Inertron. I've been doing some research on its history and it's a wildly inconsistent and (being harsh) somewhat overrated commodity. Supposed to be the hardest metal in the known universe yet it seems everyone can shatter it with a bit of effort... I'd like a line to be drawn ideally concerning it's limit.

Overall I do enjoy Legion but after the last volume limped to a very poor end and this current one has yet to really fire up, I do worry more and more about its future. Levitz is a good writer, strong characterisation, but his plotting has always been questionable. As far back as the 80's Baxter series you'd go issues without any actual plot as such but the Levitz/Laroque team kept it all very readable and satisfying. Today that's not going to be enough, stories have to be faster and more contained. Plots bigger and tighter. I am hoping this book does start to pick up steam and Levitz can get into some real world building and reposition the Legion as a cohesive universe again with big storylines.

I confess I do think Keith Giffen would be absolutely fabulous as his once again Co-Plotter, given Giffen is becoming ever more useful and popular around the DCU I live in hope he might end up asked to return and help steer this ship with Levitz, Giffen as Plotter would make this book.

Anj said...

I liked the fact the Legion repel the Dominator fleet relatively easily, It harks back to the fact the Legion is the pre-eminent police force in the galaxy and this is their bread & butter, just another day in the office so to speak. To me the Legion should be that powerful and competent

Thanks so much for the awesome post!

I have to admit I forgot about that Mon-El scene with his serum last issue. And Res-Vir becoming unhinged should have been a tip-off for me about his version being imperfect.

As for the fleet, I agree the Legion should be able to defeat them. But this just felt too easy, as if they were simply walking through the fleet. A few laser blasts and some evasive body positions by the Legionnaires would have made it at least feel more exciting.

But like you, I was hoping for a bit more of a payoff. I hope this book is given some time to find its audience.

eddie blake said...

lar gand was an exo biologist before he was an astronaut and before he was a legion stalwart. at least the original mon-el was.

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