Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Legion of Super-Heroes #10 Review

 What Happened That You Have to Know About:

The Legion splits up to achieve several purposes: Superboy and Saturn Girl go to Gotham for a date and get involved with the hunt for Mordru, also bringing in Doctor Fate to help. Brainiac 5, Blok, and Gold Lantern deliver Crav the General Nah to Oa so the Guardians can lock him up. Chameleon Boy, Phantom Girl, Colossal Boy, Shadow Lass, Karate Kid, and Wildfire go to New Krypton to find Mon-El, who seems to think he's quit the Legion. Lightning Lass consults with Brainy and Computo about whether she belongs in the Legion. Ultra Boy takes Monster Boy, Bouncing Boy, Dawnstar, Lightning Lad, and Timber Wolf with him as he tries to get Rimbor sorted out, and ends up becoming the leader of the planet. Mordru, it turns out, has gone to Xanthu, where he meets Rogol Zaar, who is apparently some kind of a guy or something.


Review:

See, this is better. This is more like it. We're still following a lot of Legionnaires, but not all of them, and in smaller groups at a time. And it pays off: we get motion on a few plots and subplots, and insight on a few more Legionnaires. This is the first issue of a new burst of story, and first issues are always easier, but this is certainly the kind of thing I've been asking for, and now that I've got it, I like it.

I haven't been reading the Superman titles, so all of this stuff with Zod on New Krypton and Rogol Zaar is a mystery to me. I have no intention of hunting down information on any of it; I'm just going to rely on whatever exposition Brian Michael Bendis provides in this title. I'm basically okay with this storyline, however it ends up going.

Really that's true of all the storylines. Great Darkness, Mon-El sulking, Mon-El with three kids, Ultra Boy leading Rimbor, Superboy and Saturn Girl dating. Sounds good; do a good job telling it to us.

A brief word on the Aristotelian unities. Basically, as I understand it (which may very well be inadequate), Aristotle had some ideas about drama and laid out some rules about how stories should take place in a single place and at a single time. The way I understand this is that he was guarding against amateurs with no technique jumping all over in time and space and losing their audience, and providing guidance to mitigate against that. Of course, the state of the art has advanced quite a bit since then and writers these days have all kinds of techniques for how to use different settings without confusing anybody. But I think Bendis may have made a slight mistake in this issue. Nothing terrible; just a little jarring.

See, we've got this comic where the superhero team has split up into smaller groups to accomplish various missions. We've seen this kind of thing before. The idea is, they're all simultaneous. So it's weird for us to see Brainy on Oa with Blok and Gold Lantern and then again on Earth with Lightning Lass and Computo. There's no logical reason why not; Ayla just goes to see Brainy when he gets home from Oa. It's fine. But we do have the expectation that these things are not happening sequentially but simultaneously. Not a big thing, but not ideal storytelling.

I got a kick out of Rimborean politics: "(POW!) As I was saying..." It seems to be pretty easy to become leader of the place, though; they should look into that. Last thing you want is some bad-faith mattressflipper becoming your leader; what if it turns out you can't get rid of them?

I also appreciate Cham entertaining young Laraz. I wonder where Laraz's mom is. And if Conner and Lane are the same age and, therefore, if the mother is Carggite. 

There's some kind of shenanigans going on with this title in the new year; I hope it's temporary and the steady supply of Legion comics continues, in this or any form.


Art: 107 panels/22 pages = 4.9 panels/page. 2 splash pages; 1 double-paged spread of 10 panels.

This time Sook gives us a header image introducing whatever planet the story happens to be visiting at the time. I like it when artists do stuff like that. Otherwise it's a normal good Sook performance. No standout panels for me. I did like Blok's face on page 8 panel 5.


Membership Notes:

It's possible that Mon-El has quit the Legion. We'll see how it plays out.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Couple of Links

 I appeared on the Legion of Substitute Podcasters podcast this week, talking about LSH v4 #37; that's the Star Boy/baseball issue that I previously discussed here. I managed to say not exactly the same things about the comic book in the two places, so I can't guarantee that your time spent reading or listening will be a complete waste of time.

In addition, my latest Time Beacons article is up at Time Travel Nexus. It's about LSH v2 #300, a very important Legion issue, and I'm pleased with how it came out. Check it out if you're of a mind to.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Legion of Super-Heroes #9 Review

 What Happened That You Have to Know About:

The Legion's trial continues. There's some back-and-forth about whether the Legion is actually loyal to the United Planets or not, but this gets swept aside when Dream Girl reveals that a Great Darkness is coming. Dr. Fate and the White Witch back her up, and it turns out that Krav the General Nah already knew about it and was trying to take over the United Planets to fight it. Gold Lantern takes Krav into custody and President Brande says that this was what she was after with the trial all along, which, sure.

Review:

So let's break down this trial story. We've had Krav as one of our major villains for quite a few issues now. The Legion has had a few fights with him, with mixed results, but it took this trial to finish him off for good. The key to his defeat was not the kind of traditional superheroics that the Legion is trying to bring back, but President Brande's political machinations. I'm not sure what I think about that. On the one hand it's quite off-brand for a superhero comic; on the other hand I can't really argue against "legal authorities acting responsively within their authority in the pursuit of justice" being a better way to deal with problems than "punching".

One of the features of the threeboot Legion was that the Legionnaires all believed different things about the purpose of the Legion and that this caused strife and disunity on the team. We get a different take on that here: Dawnstar and Bouncing Boy, for instance, are very anti-United-Planets, while Timber Wolf and Wildfire are very pro-United-Planets... but they're all invited into the team anyway, because the point is that they're all united by being superheroes and by their shared commitment to fighting for what's right. Really I like this better.

Not super stoked about the approach of another Great Darkness. For one thing, we've already had one. You may have heard about it; it was pretty great. For another, I think that big events should be few and far between. This Legion hasn't really earned a big event yet. Maybe it'll be okay if it's the kind of thing that's built up to over a long period?

Trying to figure out what bothered me about this issue, and I'm settling on, I don't think this comic book can ever be really good if Brian Michael Bendis insists on featuring the whole team in every issue. I don't think it works if we always have to zoom out as far as we can to see everything at once. Sometimes you have to zoom in and look at just a couple of things for a while. That's how every other Legion writer has handled it, and I'm skeptical about whether Bendis has perfected a new technique for how to write about a superhero team with three dozen members in it. I'd like to think that, now that the first storyline is over and the readers have a sense of what's going on here, that he'll switch to a more conventional arrangement, but, uh, I'm not getting that vibe.

Art: 95 panels/22 pages = 4.3 panels/page. 5 splash pages.

The art show continues this issue, with a few pinup type pages (like the ones for the White Witch and Dr. Fate, which I enjoyed). Even with that, the panel count is pretty good. Note page 10, which is Invisible Kid's page--it isn't credited to a particular artist. I think it's just a detail of page 3, all blurred out to give the desired visual effect. Anyway, I like that. Also Reis & Prado's Bouncing Boy page.

Membership Notes:

Someone else pointed it out first, I believe on Twitter, but it's true: look at the top left of page 3, north of Rose, south of Bouncing Boy, west of Ultra Boy and east of Gold Lantern. Chap with a black-green-grey costume and a long purple head with a pointy skull. He's standing with the Legionnaires while they're on trial, so I guess he's a Legionnaire? I guess we'll find out more about him when we do. Anyway, we get details about more of the Legionnaires, which I'll collect up, but no solutions to any of our deeper mysteries.

Labels: ,

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.

Labels: ,

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.


Labels: , ,