Monday, September 14, 2020

Reminders

In case it's of interest to anyone, I guested with The Legion of Substitute Podcasters this week, discussing Legion of Super-Heroes v4 #35, an issue near and dear to my heart. (Earlier this year, I was on this episode, covering issue #29 of that series.) Check it out if you're of a mind to.< /br> < /br> Also, a reminder that I also write basically regularly about time travel and the Legion, in the Time Beacons series of columns at Time Travel Nexus. (It should be easy to predict which issue I'm currently putting together an article about.) Visit Time Travel Nexus for all your time-travel-fiction-commentary-related needs.

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Sunday, September 06, 2020

By Popular Demand

 So I made a big show about how I was going to write an article that blew the lid off of ambiguous character points in the fourboot Legion, and a couple of people have said, ooo, can't wait for this!, and guess what. It's going to be a bit of an anticlimax, because I have been beaten to the punch.


One must assume that most people reading this blog are also familiar with the Legion of Substitute Podcasters podcast, which has been discussing Legion comics weekly for well over a decade now. (I've been a guest several times, and am due to appear again to discuss a Legion issue that's very important to me in a week or so.) Anyway, in their most recent podcast, they said just about everything I was going to say, give or take (they also attached it to Brainiac 5's exposition at the end of LSHv8 #5, which hadn't occurred to me). So, nice job by them; I'll go over the case myself and see if there's anything useful I can add.


The problem is this. We don't know a lot about this Legion yet, and some of what we do know seems contradictory. Let's go over some of the uncertainties about these characters:

- is Mon-El from Daxam or New Krypton?

- is Invisible Kid really Lyle Norg or Jacques Foccart?

- have Ferro Lad and Computo been Legionnaires the whole time, or did they only show up partway through?

- what's the deal with Ayla Ranzz? Is she Lightning Lass or Light Lass or both or what?

- is Soultaker a thing or not?


There may be more; please let me know in the comments.


One obvious explanation for all this is that writer Brian Michael Bendis and editor Brian Cunningham have been sloppy about the details. And, really, from our point of view we can't say for sure that that's <em>not</em> the case. Although some of these details seem like they're too big to get wrong. So how about we assume that these are not just careless mistakes and see where that takes us.


If they aren't mistakes then they're on purpose. The obvious question is, why are they on purpose.


Toward the end of issue #5, Brainy says... well, he says a whole lot of things. You should go back and reread it. But one possible implication of it is that 30th-century reality is always fluctuating based on 21st-century reality, and that this is a permanent state rather than something that can be wrapped up in one six-issue arc.


It's neither necessary nor automatic to conclude that the hazy details around our characters is a consequence of what Brainy is talking about. He does say, for instance, that the reality abnormalities are at the edges of their galactic, which, presumably, is not where the Legion is. So maybe Brainy's explanation has nothing to do with the Legionnaires themselves. But it is suggestive.


Either way, I wonder if Bendis is giving us a situation in which the membership of the Legion is not a known and defined thing, but a loose and fluid haze that ebbs and flows with the tides of reality. If so, then in <em>LSH: Millennium</em>, Invisible Kid really was Lyle Norg... but now, he's not; he's Jacques Foccart. Mon-El really did used to be from Daxam, but now he's not; he's from New Krypton. Ferro Lad wasn't a Legionnaire in the early issues, but now he's always been a Legionnaire.


There are two aspects I want to talk about in relation to this: premise and expectations.


I'm on record as saying that I'm primarily a fan of the Legion as a whole and only secondarily of the individual Legionnaires. And I think that is still true. The idea of the Legion is a great and shining one and it will keep me coming back. The individual Legionnaires are intriguing and colourful figures, but often underdeveloped or even rudimentary; I like them but, outside of their team context, my interest in them is limited. I understand that I may be in the minority in how I construe my fandom but I do think that my description is accurate, and this may be why some Legion fans are often frustrated, because they want more out of the characters and they just aren't getting it.


But at least in previous versions <em>there were characters</em>. Some were just also-rans, sadly, but some were extremely well-developed. Brainiac 5, Saturn Girl, Wildfire. To the extent that Bendis is giving us a Legion that just has, in general, <em>some Legionnaires</em> in it, I think that's a mistake. I'd be a Legion fan no matter what the membership was, but I do want it to have a membership. To say that any or all of these characters doesn't matter enough to even decide who they are or whether they're on the team does not help me care about this comic book. It tells me it's not worth caring about.


That's premise. Now expectations. Brainy's exposition freely discussed the often-rebooted nature of Legion continuity (well, and overall DC continuity too). I kind of got the idea that Bendis was trying to express the idea that the reboots are, or are <em>now</em> anyway, part of the basic premise of the Legion. I would resist this notion.


I think we also heard it from Geoff Johns at one point. I seem to recall some kind of suggestion that the following logic was at work:

1. Some fans really like the Legion of Super-Heroes.

2. The Legion of Super-Heroes gets rebooted all the time.

3. Therefore, some fans really like how the Legion of Super-Heroes gets rebooted all the time.


I may be going way out on a limb here. I don't have anything I can point to about how DC is trying to force ephemeral continuity on the Legion because they think that's what we want. In fact, I think such is probably overstating the case. But I do want to make it clear that it is the opposite of true, that nobody likes reboots, and that we wish they would stop.


Which brings me back around to the current Legion. If Bendis is being cute with us about Light Lass, that's fine, it'll get sorted out. If Bendis's position is that it doesn't matter if there's Light Lass or not, that's not fine. I don't want to read about characters that don't matter.


--


I will end this article by noting that something similar to this vague-continuity situation happened in the pages of Jeff Lemire's "Infinitus Saga" storyline in <em>Justice League United</em>, when Legionnaires from the SW6 and reboot Legions appeared alongside the retroboot Legion. But nothing really came of that.


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Thursday, August 27, 2020

Legion of Super-Heroes #8

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

The Legionnaires fight the Rimborians, and win, but the United Planets puts political pressure on them to stand trial anyway. 

Review: I can't say a ton happened in this issue, but what did happen was chewier than it usually is in this series. I think the exercise of splitting the story among 21 art teams forced Bendis to write something interesting for every page--more or less--which is not generally my experience of this title. Also, forcing our attention on individual Legionnaires in turn is valuable. We get some nice little details about a lot of them! 

This issue is, like next issue will be, a gimmick. I enjoy gimmicks, but I try to remember that that's what they are. Again, this could be an actually good series if it ever gets going. (Usually, when you say that about a series, it never gets going. It stays mediocre. But usually it's boring-mediocre, not interesting-mediocre like this one.) 

I still want more details on Krav the General Nah's personal cadre, or whoever they are. There's no way to pack that into this issue, of course. We did get a couple of glimpses of them doing interesting things. I hope they get better developed than Terror Firma. 

Speaking of which, if there were still any doubts that the threeboot Legion had a big influence on Bendis and this series, it's time to banish them. We've got the "Micro Lad" take on Colossal Boy, and we've got Princess Projectra's director's cut of a name, and, really, her personality, a bit. I'm in favour of this, but I would also like to see the reboot Legion reflected in this team in some way. 

This "Trial" storyline... if we're just looking at it as a framing device to spotlight all the Legionnaires and guest artists, it's fine. But superheroes-on-trial storylines can be tricky. I propose that for a trial to work as a premise in a superhero story, you need several prerequisites: 

1) You need to be able to have some kind of interesting discussion over whether the heroes are actually guilty or not 

2) The court needs to be impartial enough, and the case unclear enough, that there's some suspense about how the court will rule 

3) The court must have authority to enforce their verdict, and it must be of such a nature that the reader respects it 

In this case I think we have 1). The role of the Legion in the United Planets and what their jurisdiction is compared to that of the individual planets is not sufficiently defined yet, and this might be an interesting way of exploring that. I don't think we have 2), though; does anybody really think the Legion will get a fair shake in a Rimborian court? And we don't have 3), either, because who cares what the Rimborians say about the Legion? You don't and I don't. So I don't see the trial as really a thing. 

And now I'm ready for something new to be added to what's going on in this story. 

Art: 98 panels/22 pages = 4.5 panels/page (2 splash pages, 1 double-page spread) 

I was worried that this issue would be like a portfolio: 22 individual splash pages. Didn't happen, though; the panel count is actually higher than normal. I guess it's not so strenuous when you only have one page to do all month. Anyway, the guest-artist-extravaganza gimmick basically worked, I think. I liked some artists' takes better than others. Dan Hipp's Blok page was charming, but I wasn't really smelling what Jeff Lemire was cooking, for instance. Favourite panel: panel 3 on Dustin Nguyen's Dream Girl page (p3). 

Membership Notes

We can confirm Ferro Lad as a member, and it turns out Lightning Lass is who we thought Light Lass was all along, I think, but I'm not going to pick up this particular ball until it stops rolling. We discover more details, too, which I'll put on the roster page; presumably there will be more of this next issue.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Legion of Super-Heroes #7 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

The fraught relationships between the Legion, the United Planets, and Rimbor continue to be fraught. This time it ends with Krav the General Nah arresting the Legion to put them on trial next issue. Also, the Legionnaires elect Ultra Boy their new leader.

Review:

The core of this issue is the disagreements between Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, and Brainiac 5. Note what the core of the problem is: Saturn Girl is used to a world in which everyone can just casually see what each other are thinking, and Cosmic Boy is not; Brainiac 5 is used to a world in which everyone trusts each other with whatever they're interested in investigating; Cosmic Boy is not. Obviously our sympathies are supposed to be with Cosmic Boy, but that's not the point. Saturn Girl's and Brainy's positions are not unreasonable! It's just that these people are all strangers and don't know how this is going to work yet, and anyway they're dumb teenagers.

You know what this is really like, is the threeboot. Remember in the first arc of the threeboot there was all that infighting between Cosmic Boy and Brainiac 5? This is like that. It's different in the sense that, in the threeboot, the two of them were actually jockeying for power, while here in the fourboot the disagreements seem more innocent and unintentional. (Which I like better.) But I am gratified that the threeboot is such an influence on Bendis.

Not a lot of action this issue, but plenty of characterization, which is welcome. One thing I don't care for is that really not much new happens. Arguments with R.J. Brande, disputes with Rimbor, Lightning Lad's family, Mon-El has some kind of issue with Superboy... I guess the election is new. (And over quickly. Do we not get to vote on this?)

Let's take note of how different Ultra Boy is in the fourboot. He's generally been portrayed as a brash physical type, more of a follower than a leader, not a complex thinker. This new Ultra Boy has the same powers but isn't drawn as burly as original, reboot, threeboot, and animated Jo was. He's more thoughtful and more of an independent operator, and I wonder if Bendis sees him as the protagonist of this series. Imagine any other version of Ultra Boy investigating Aquaman's trident and taking the initiative to go and steal it from the thieves who have it all by himself. Doesn't fit. And for him now to get himself elected leader based on an argument about styles of leadership? He's a whole new character.

Next issue we start into this super-artist-spectacular thing, which, uh... I mean, I like it when people try things. I'm sure the results will be worthy of note. But I'd be satisfied with a good comic book.

Notes:
- Monster Boy seems to be Arune somebody from planet Tor-Etto
- I hope Krav the General Nah's entourage gets some kind of character development
- Computo seems to have recovered since last issue

Art: 85 panels/22 pages = 3.9 panels/page. 2 splash pages, 1 double-page spread, 4 cases of multiple panels being depicted across 2 pages.

Ryan Sook only draws the first page of this one, and Stephen Byrne takes over the rest of the way. I don't begrudge Sook the time off; it's got to be a demanding book to draw. Anyway, Byrne does his very best Sook impression all the way through; the panel layouts are Sookesque and the character renderings not so very different. Only distinction that stands out to me is that some of the characters have goonier faces. Check out Superboy, for instance. One of the most seamless fill-ins I've ever seen.

Membership Notes:

There'll probably be a lot more to report here over the next couple of issues, but one thing we can say from this issue is that both Light Lass and Lightning Lass seem to be Legionnaires. Ayla is there, with her lightning powers, with the rest of Garth's family, and she has a flight ring, so I think that must mean she's a Legionnaire. And the woman we've seen with the feather emblem is *also* there, separately, so if she's Light Lass (as we have been assuming), then Light Lass is a different person from Ayla Ranzz, who I guess we should call Lightning Lass. (Scrutinize pages 16-17 to verify this for yourself.)

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Saturday, June 13, 2020

Current Legion of Super-Heroes Roster

I've probably told this story before, but starting in the early '90s I quit comics for a while, and only came back to them in about 2001, when I had a sudden hankering for Legion of Super-Heroes comics and nothing would do but that I start collecting them again. 

When I did, it was in the middle of the DnA run of the reboot. I fancy the "Dream Crime" storyline had just started. Anyway, I snarfed up a whole batch of back issues and was able to get myself up to speed without too much trouble. But one thing that would have really helped me was the answer to this question: who all is in the Legion of Super-Heroes these days? 

I couldn't find an answer anywhere. There was no list in the comics; there was no definitive list online. So when, at the dawn of the threeboot, I launched Legion Abstract, one thing I wanted to make sure I did was provide a list of current Legionnaires. 

I haven't updated it since the fourboot came along; I was waiting for Bendis and Sook to come up with some kind of handy reference. They haven't. So I'm doing what I can. Here's what I'm drawing on. I have Superman #14, but not Superman #15 (my comic shop sold out of it). I have both issues of Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium. I don't have Doomsday Clock, although I will refer to it once. And I have Legion of Super-Heroes v8 #1-6. I'm going to be going through all of these and see what information about the Legion roster we can regard as established. Squinting at Frichtman tags and so on. I won't provide footnotes, but I will hold myself to the standard of, I won't put anything in there that wasn't on the page someplace. 

If you can come up with something I missed, please let me know in the comments. Anything with a question mark is something that needs to be confirmed. (Note: Bendis and Sook seem to be mostly playing it conventional when it comes to the Legionnaires' real names and home planets. Anything like that that I leave out of this list, it's not that I'm doubting that what we all think is the answer is the answer. I'm just saying, here's what we know that we know.) 
 
Legionnaire Name Planet Notes
Blok Blok Dryad
Bouncing Boy Charles Earth
Brainiac 5 Querl Dox Colu
Chameleon Boy Reep Daggle
Chemical King? possible identity of green-suited skeletal Legionnaire
Colossal Boy Gim Allon Earth
Computo Computo n/a?
Cosmic Boy Rokk Krinn Braal
Dawnstar Dawnstar Gr'Ell Starhaven I hate the "Gr'Ell" thing
Dr. Fate
Dream Girl? Nura Nal Naltor
Element Lad Jan Arrah Trom
Ferro Lad Andrew Nolan
Gold Lantern
Invisible Kid Lyle in LSH:Millennium #2
Invisible Kid II Jacques Foccart Earth in LSH #5; it's not clear what the deal is with the Invisible Kids
Karate Kid Val
Light Lass? May not be the same person as Lightning Lass; it's not clear. Is there a Light Lass?
Lightning Lad Garth Ranzz Winath
Lightning Lass Ayla Ranzz Winath Not 100% sure she's a Legionnaire, but she does have a flight ring
Matter-Eater Lad?
Mon-El Lar Gand Daxam or New Krypton
Monster Boy Arune Tor-Etto
Phantom Girl Tinya Wazzo Bgztl
Princess Projectra? Wilimena Morgana Daergina Annaxandra Projectra Velorya Vauxhall Orando
Saturn Girl Imra Ardeen Titan
Shadow Lass
Shrinking Violet?
Soultaker has only appeared in Doomsday Clock
Star Boy
Sun Boy?
Superboy Jon Kent Earth
Timber Wolf Brin Londo Zuun
Thorn Rose Forrest Earth officially the Legion's liaison to the UP; not necessarily a regular Legionnaire
Triplicate Girl Luornu Durgo Cargg
Ultra Boy Jo Nah Rimbor
White Witch Mysa Nal Naltor
Wildfire Drake Burroughs Earth

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