Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Legion of Super-Heroes #1 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

Earthgov's agreement with the United Planets and the Legion has some conditions: the Time Institute moves off of Earth to Titan; the Legion gets to stay on Earth; Earth-Man becomes a Legionnaire (with a specially rigged flight ring to keep him in line) to appease the xenophobic sector of Earth's population. Meanwhile, Saturn Girl and her kids are vacationing on Titan.

All of this goes spectacularly wrong; some scientists at the Time Institute perform the same experiment that Krona did and manage to reproduce his results to the extent that Titan is destroyed; the Legion manages to evacuate some of the population, including Saturn Girl, but in the middle of the chaos someone kidnaps her kids. So she steals a time bubble to try to get them back. The experiment also wakes up some kind of entity on Oa who starts going around handing out Green Lantern rings, and the first one goes to Earth-Man.


Well, that feels better.

Seems like forever since we've had a real Legion comic. More than 20 years, according to some, but by my count it's more like 15 months, so either I'm not paying enough attention or they're not.

Not only that, it's a pretty good Legion comic. Let's start with the art: Yildiray Cinar seems to be a keeper. In particular I like his faces: Saturn Girl on page 4 and Brainiac 5 on page 14, for instance. One of the things you have to do when you're the Legion artist is draw future stuff well, and Cinar's 31st century looks fine, but I'm not sure he's really put his mark on it the way, say, Giffen or Coipel did. Still early, though. Panel Count: 4.8 panels/page, over 39 pages. 3 single-panel pages.

One thing I liked was how Paul Levitz took a single factor from Geoff Johns's... well, I can't call it a run... from Geoff Johns's interregnum, the political situation on Earth, and spun several subplots out of it that interacted with each other in interesting ways. There's craft in there; that doesn't happen randomly.

Levitz doesn't seem constrained by his own earlier portrayals of the Legionnaires. His Brainiac 5 was never this cranky, for one thing. I like it that the stories he's starting off seem calculated not to appeal to some barometer of awesomeness, but to make things challenging and awkward for the Legion. Earth-Man as an unwilling and unwelcome Legionnaire--that's a Legion story I've never read before. (I guess Gates was kind of comparable, but it's really not at all the same thing.) I've been waiting for Legion stories I've never read before!

I mean, I don't like Earth-Man. After the Action Comics story, I never wanted to see him again. I don't like his powers, I don't like his attitude, and I don't think he deserves to be a Legionnaire. But I'm looking forward to the rest of this story. Such a simple trick--what's the worst thing that can happen to the Legion, and how can it be made even worse?

I hope the destruction of Titan is explored in ways beyond its effect on Saturn Girl. The attention to detail in this one issue seems to be of such a high level that it'd be a shame for an important event like that to be treated like a throwaway.

Hands, hands... I've got a giant blogpost about hands that's been brewing up in me for years now, and this issue may provide more material for it. There's a hand on the cover: Earth-Man's hand. In the DC Universe, the hand is also the symbol of the birth of the universe, and this of course plays an important role in this issue. I don't know. Both hands are dangerous, especially if Earth-Man has a flight ring and a Green Lantern ring, and that's without taking his powers into account. Is that the limit of the comparison? I could run through the issue and find lots of other depictions of hands gesturing meaningfully in this or that way, but there's really no reason to build any kind of analysis on that. The only panel that makes me pause a little is the Polar Boy one: he's missing a hand, famously, but we can't see that. Probably not significant...

Normally this is where I'd warn everyone about the dangers of reading too much into a first issue, about how it's easy to do a first issue or a first arc, and it's what comes after that that gives you an idea of the quality of comic book you're reading. I don't know if that's necessary this time, though. First, it didn't really seem like a first issue; it seemed like a middle issue that didn't happen to have any storylines that we were already in the midst of. Second, Levitz's style is to play the long game in which his titles don't break down easily into distinct arcs; his Legion will simmer for a long time before he lets it boil over. It can get frustrating, because you want closure and he won't give it to you, but if you look past that you'll see that a lot of interesting stuff is happening.

- Chief Cusimano. Did we already know that? I forget. Anyway, good for her.
- Bouncing Boy and Duplicate Damsel are still instructors at the Academy; it's nice to have that established.
- Polar Boy is not alone.
- What's with the third eyes on the Coluans?
- Nice circularity, with the apparent meaning of the title and the real meaning of the title.
- Prediction: next issue, something important will happen involving a Legionnaire who didn't appear in this issue, something that has nothing to do with anything that happened ithis issue.

Membership Notes:

It is implied that Earth-Man joins the Legion this issue. I'm not going to put him on the roster page yet; we'll see how it plays out.

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