Friday, December 28, 2007

Legion of Super-Heroes #37 Review

What Happened That You Have To Know About:

Karate Kid defeats a big pointy purple monster (PPM) on a mining asteroid. Lightning Lad is having leadership problems; he's letting details get away from him and sending Legionnaires out on missions unsuited to their talents. United Planets bureaucracy is hampering the Legion at every turn, including stopping their transmatter privileges and removing Projectra's diplomatic status as ruler of Orando. A team of Saturn Girl, Star Boy, Invisible Kid and Timber Wolf goes to Triton to prepare for another PPM attack, which comes on schedule, but the Legionnaires don't do so well and Timber Wolf is the only Legionnaire still standing when the issue ends. Plus the UP submits seven 'pre-approved candidates' for Legion membership.


Francis Manapul exceeds my wildest expectations with his art. He seems to be trying to pick up where Barry Kitson left off, although some of his faces remind me of... Georges Jeanty's fill-in issues, possibly? Not sure. A couple of points of note: the Phantom Girl panel on page 7 is very pretty but perhaps not the kind of thing that matches the tone of Legion comics, and Karate Kid's blasting the PPM's guts out through his spine on page 2 may have been a bit much, especially since, as far as he knew, the PPM was a sentient living thing.

We've only learned a little about where Shooter's going with all of this, long-term, but that's okay because we've got all the short-term information we need. There was a lot packed into this issue: Val's initial encounter, Lightning Lad's problems, the Triton mission, Projectra's subplot... We're being pitched right into the middle of things, which is something that should happen more often in comic books.

I counted how many single-panel pages there were in this issue. Just one, the first page. Action #860, also out this week and also starring the Legion, had seven of them. In fact, it had only six panels in those seven pages, because there was one two-page spread. So it looks like Shooter is giving us a bit of recompression here, and I appreciate it.

Whatever misgivings I had about Shooter writing this book have been mostly quelled. Of course, ending a story is not the same as beginning one, but this was as good as any Legion issue we've had since, oh, let's say the Lemnos arc. I did get a few Silver Age twinges from this issue, though. Some of the characters' names (Winch Boone, Nimra C. Lafong), some of the dialogue, some of the Legionnaires' nicknames (Phant?)... they would not be out of place in a 1970s comic. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

What's the 'Scattered Disk'? At first I thought it might have been some kind of Dominion diaspora thing...

Oh, and: take note, everyone, there's no sign of Mark Waid's generation gap theme. So can we stop talking about it? It hasn't been part of the comic for almost two years now...

I liked it! I think it'll work. More like this!

Membership Notes:

No sign of the quasi-Legionnaires like Theena, Dream Girl, Dream Boy, Wildfire, Tenzil Kem or Terror Firma. We'll be seeing seven new candidates next issue, and Shooter gives us a look at a Tritonian girl who seems promising, but according to Invisible Kid, she dies on the third-last page. Is she secretly alive, or did Shooter fake us out? I'm betting on 'alive'. She sure looked like someone who'd be sticking around for a while, and Lyle could have been fooled by her metabolic abilities. Think of this: if she became a Legionnaire, she'd be only the second Legionnaire native to someplace in our solar system that isn't Earth.

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Action Comics: Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes (Part 3-#860)

What Happened That You Have To Know About:

The Just Not League has discovered Superman's arrival in the future, but decides to stay the course. Superman, Colossal Boy, Wildfire and Dawnstar raid an alien holding camp, rescue some people (including Polar Boy), and trace Brainy to Colu. Colu seems to be even more xenophobic than Earth these days. Then they go to the Legion's new clubhouse, an underground-railroad kinda place where the Legionnaires use stargates to evacuate aliens from Earth. They set up a stargate trip to Colu, but then the Justice League attacks, and Superman, Wildfire, Dawnstar, and possibly Colossal Boy and Polar Boy only just get away through the stargate. They crashland on Colu where some zombielike Coluans try to eat their brains. They're brought before the new Coluan leader, who is, unsurprisingly, Brainiac 5. Brainy sentences Superman and the other Legionnaires to death.

Not Quite a Review:

I'm falling more and more out of love with Gary Frank's art with each succeeding issue. Maybe it's unsophisticated of me to dwell on this, but I just can't get past how he depicts the characters' faces. Everybody has a bad case of the Manson Lamps, everyone's an unsettling veiny mix of pale and shadowy, and even the bodies often look awkward. I think it was the full-page shot of Shady and Lydda where I finally decided that Frank just wasn't doing it for me.

I'd have to check, but is there a resemblance between the Legion's new underground-railroad clubhouse, and Nightowl's Owlcave from Watchmen? Maybe it's just me.

The story advanced only a little this issue. Really, the only thing that happened worth mentioning was that they got to Colu and met Brainy. The rest is just more of what we already had. We've already had the setup; I hope there are actually some intriguing developments to come before the final resolution. We've got three issues to go, and I don't want the next two to be wasted.

Speaking of the final resolution, I hope we haven't met the main villain yet. 'Earth-Man' doesn't cut it. Polar Boy seems to agree with me that these Justice Leaguers aren't much of an opposition. Look at how Storm Boy is characterized--he's totally insecure about his position as a 'superhero'. Calling the Legionnaires 'bullies'. I don't object to characterizing him that way, but it's not going to be satisfying to have the Legion knock over these yutzes--they need a foeman worthy of their steel.

For now, though, they're the only real villains we've got in the story, which doesn't bode well for the Legionnaires and refugees Superman and crew left behind in the underground lair (Night Girl, Shadow Lass, Lightning Lass, Timber Wolf, at least); the JLA can't lose this fight or it lets a lot of the air out of the plot. I presume Earth-Man will be adding their powers to his own in short order.

I've run into the notion that this is the best Legion story since the Robotica story early in DnA's The Legion series. I have a couple of problems with that. First, this is primarily a Superman story. That doesn't mean it can't be a Legion story, but it does mean that it might not be. We'll know more about that once it's over, anyway. The other thing is... how much of this is really new? We've seen the Earth turned against the Legion before, we've seen Legion rejects banding together for revenge before... the Superman angle is kind of cute, though. I'm certainly willing to admit it's the best extended Legion story since the Lemnos arc, anyway.

Running Legion Count: We encounter Polar Boy, Shadow Lass, Night Girl, Lightning Lass and Timber Wolf this issue, and get news about Mon-El (back in the Phantom Zone), the White Witch (prisoner of Mordru), Chameleon Boy (back on Durla), the rest of the Subs (deep underground), and, not that he was ever a Legionnaire, Double-Header (dead). I'm going to assume that Night Girl is a Legionnaire now (Colossal Boy does hand her a flight ring), although I'd like it to have been said a little more explicitly.

(New entries this week in bold)

Bouncing Boy*, Blok*, Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy*, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Dawnstar, Dream Girl*, Element Lad*, Ferro Lad*, Invisible Kid I*, Invisible Kid II*, Karate Kid*, Light Lass, Lightning Lad, Matter-Eater Lad*, Mon-El*, Night Girl, Phantom Girl*, Polar Boy, Princess Projectra/Sensor Girl*, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, Shrinking Violet*, Spider Girl, Star Boy/Starman*, Storm Boy, Sun Boy*, Superman, Timber Wolf, Triplicate Girl/Duo Damsel*, Ultra Boy*, Wildfire (33) (* only in brief flashback or non-speaking background appearance: 18)

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