Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Thoughts on the Legion episode of Supergirl

The first thing is this: the title of the show is Supergirl, and, properly, that's who this episode was about. It's not a Legion show; it's a Supergirl show.

(Is it any good? Enh; it's fine. These Arrowverse shows aren't that great in general. They're serviceable, and we're fond of the characters, and that's been good enough so far.)

That said, it is a Legiony kind of spot for them to be in: they're being compelled by the logic of time travel to act in some antisuperheroic way, but they do the right thing in the end. Like in the Infinitus story in Justice League Whatchamathing. So that's fine. And there are some details mentioned that prove that the writers have read at least one Legion comic in their lives.

The problem is that the Legionnaires don't really do anything. Brainy makes some small talk in Supergirl's mind and pilots a Legion cruiser. Saturn Girl throws some weights around telekinetically. Mon-El gets encased in ice. That's about it. Really, what are they there for? Maybe the story's going somewhere that can get some use out of them, but it isn't there now.

As far as the individual portrayals of the Legionnaires... I haven't been a fan of this Mon-El depiction, but maybe they're building him into something more like the character we know rather than making him like that right off the bat. That would be okay. Saturn Girl... they don't seem to be getting anything out of her. If all they want is a love interest for Mon-El, why not use Shadow Lass? Or really anybody? This character doesn't seem to be telepathic, doesn't look like Saturn Girl, doesn't wear a pink costume, isn't a hardass... in what sense is she Saturn Girl? This is not a knock on the actress, by the way, who seems fine. It's just that she doesn't have a part to play.

Brainiac 5, on the other hand, I kind of like. I didn't have high hopes when I saw what he was going to look like, but he won me over. Resembles the animated Brainy more than any of the other versions. In particular he doesn't have the arrogance of the reboot, threeboot, and retroboot Brainys, which I think is a good choice. Those who were hoping that his appearance on this show would lead to a Kara-Brainy romance are bound to be disappointed, though, because a) I don't see this show making a guy who looks like this Brainy a romantic lead, and b) Silver-Age-comics Kara might have gone for the nonthreatening dreamers like Brainy or Jerro the merboy, but contemporary-TV Kara prefers buff men of action like James Olsen or Mon-El. Notice how far Winn got with her in Season 1? (It's to Kara's credit that she wasn't interested in him, actually; he was acting like quite the creeper for a couple of episodes there.)

I'm watching the show anyway, so if there's anything else for me to comment on with regards to the Legion, I will. But I hold to my opinion that what the Legion needs is either a regular comic book of their own, or an animated series of their own. Random guest appearances do not allow the team to appear to their full potential as superhero characters, especially when they're appearing in something where someone else is clearly the main character. It needs to be an ongoing series to highlight the large cast, and it needs to be a comic book or cartoon so that you don't have to skimp on special effects, fake your way through the no-win situation of trying to portray superhero costumes in real life, or have a small regular cast that must appear in X number of episodes. Things like this Supergirl episode are all very well if you just like seeing the Legion anywhere at all and don't mind that it's not actually a good Legion story, but I'd like to watch or read a good Legion story.

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Review: Scooby-Doo Team-Up #33

Hail to you, ye lads and lasses, and the best wishes of the holiday season all around.

What Happened That You Have to Know About

The Legion is haunted by the ghost of Ferro Lad, so they recruit Scooby-Doo and his friends from the present day to help them figure out what's going on. Turns out it's a scheme by the Emerald Empress to try to get the Legion to disband, and the story turns into a fight against the Fatal Five, which the Legion and their new allies win.


Very simple story here, as you might expect. The investigation phase of the story takes up about half the issue; the fight takes up the other half. So there's not a lot of time to really get into anything.

It's a Scooby-Doo comic, so the writer, Sholly Fisch, has to fudge things a bit so that Mystery Inc. can do useful things in the final battle between the Legion and the Fatal Five. That's fine; that's fair. I'm not imagining things, right, Fisch has written the Legion before? Recently? In some kind of one-off or other? Yes? No?

"Bouncing Boy and Shrinking Violet are fighting Darkseid..." Oh, yeah, I remember that story.

I continue to be unimpressed that DC keeps giving us these nostalgic versions of the Legion. I mean, as with the Batman '66 team-up, it's appropriate, but why is that the team-up they're choosing to do in the first place? Anyway, Scooby-Doo is kind of a '70s property; why not bring in the Bates-Cockrum era LSH? Just to mix things up a bit.

So, you know, it's fine. I've certainly read worse comics. The problem is not that this comic exists; the problem is that there aren't any other Legion comics coming out these days. And I have to say I'm not sure we're going to get any.


96 panels/20 pages = 4.8 panels/page. No splash pages.

The art here is provided by Dario Brizuela, who's new to me. Can't really say I'm impressed. The backgrounds are almost completely lacking in detail, and the Legionnaires look pretty generic. The action is clear, but everybody seems to be waiting around until it's their turn to do something. The Scooby-Doo characters are on-model, but there are some panels where they're rendered with a thicker outline than the Legionnaires. Not sure what that's all about. If it's a stylistic choice, then why not do it all the time? Anyway, there's nothing actually unpleasant to look at here, which puts Brizuela up on a few Legion artists we've seen, but overall there's not a lot going on here that's of any visual interest.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Batman '66 Meets the Legion of Super-Heroes #1 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

The Legion of Super-Heroes team up with Batman and Robin to fight Universo and Egghead in the 1960s and the 2060s.


I know that this has been out for a while on Comixology. I'm not on Comixology; I read this for the first time yesterday.

It was okay. Cheap-and-cheerful done-in-one superhero story. It worked 75 years ago and it works now. The Allreds are obviously proficient with the material, and gamely try to grapple with futuristic teen slang. I can see myself reading this again.

One little problem I had with the story... why exactly was Projectra disguising herself as Phantom Girl? Did they explain that and I missed it?

Can't help but notice that DC's choice of crossovers for the LSH have included, in recent years, the 1960s Star Trek lineup, the Atomic Knights (a 1960s comic), the Batman and Robin from the 1960s TV show, and Bugs Bunny, whose adventures ran originally from the 1940s through the 1960s. I don't like it. The Legion was not made for nostalgia.

Any LSH news from San Diego?

Art: 125 panels/20 pages = 6.25 panels/page. No splash pages! (Note that the Bugs Bunny/LSH comic had ten more pages than this, and fewer panels!)

The Allreds handle all the creative stuff in this comic, and I have to say I'm not a big fan of the art style. It's, uh... I dunno. Simple? Flat? It's clear and effective and I thoroughly admire how much they pack into a page, but the way it looks just doesn't appeal to me. The specific features that stand out to me as me particularly not liking them are Batman's lips and the lines in his cheeks.

Note that there are a lot of little circular panels, presumably a thematic echo of the two villains of the story; that's cool.

Roster Notes: The lineup featured here is a very mid-sixties one. 1966, probably! (I'm not going to check that to see if it's right or not.) Shadow Lass is cited as the newest member, and as we all know, Shady and Ferro Lad were never teammates in the Silver Age LSH stories. The comic book addresses this, though, describing Ferro Lad's death in the Sun-Eater as a "time-branch" created by the Time Trapper that the Legion has already dealt with. I bring this up not because there's any real reason to scrutinize the continuity of a one-off novelty comic like this one, but because I'm wondering if DC might adopt this approach to continuity in regular Legion comics. It could be very useful.

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Legion of Super-Heroes/Bugs Bunny Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

Nothing in the strictest sense; this story is way out of continuity. Basically, Supergirl is sick and the Legion of Super-Heroes tries to bring in Superboy to help, but they get Bugs Bunny instead, and there are various shenanigans with Computo 2 and Validus.


To me the biggest question about this comic book is, do they get Bugs Bunny right? Because to get Bugs Bunny right is difficult. It hasn't been done often. In the old Warner Brothers cartoons they do, but there's a point in the '60s or '70s where they obviously lose the trick of it and he just isn't funny anymore. The thing that makes Bugs funny is... I don't know if I'm going to be able to say this right... the unhurried deliberateness of his snarkiness. This is a hard thing to get across in comics.

Anyway, the writer, Sam Humphries, does not too bad of a job in this sense. Like, it's not really funny, but it's kinda funny in the right way. There are also jokes that come at the Legion's expense, and those mostly don't land. They're decent enough jokes; they just don't have a lot to do with the Legion. In particular, consider the Timber Wolf jokes. Funny stuff, but this Timber Wolf doesn't resemble any Timber Wolf we've ever seen in comics or on TV. I'm not complaining; I'm just describing.

I've seen people talking up Humphries as a potential Legion writer on the basis of this comic, and I don't know if I see what they see. Not that he did anything wrong; it's a decent comic book. It's more that I don't know what this funny one-shot comic has to do with an ongoing Legion title. They seem to require two different skill sets. Sure, he seems to have an easy familiarity with the material, but that's the smallest part of it. Maybe he would be good! But we shouldn't take this as an audition.

Thing about this comic book; it has an eight-page backup feature which is kind of a juvenile Gold-Key-style retelling of the main story. I don't know why we want this; it doesn't seem to be much value-added. Do all the DC/Looney Tunes crossovers have this?

tl;dr: if you need to scratch your Legion itch, you could do worse than to pick up this comic book. It's pretty good. It's on a different mission from most Legion comics, but it does complete it.

- of course scholars of old cartoons will recognize "illudium phosdex" as the shaving cream molecule from the original Duck Dodgers short
- Bugs dresses up like Wonder Wabbit of the Just'a Lotta Animals at one point
- note that there's a resemblance between this story, with Computo 2, and the '70s story where Brainiac 5 builds a Supergirl robot
- I had to squint at the page for a while to make sure I had the layout of Bugs's house straight
- Where did this Lightning Lass costume originate? Was it from Convergence? I know it's fairly new


The art is provided by Tom Grummett and Scott Hanna, and it's very attractive. Everybody looks like what they should look like; the 31st century and 21st century are both well-rendered. Maybe a little light on the backgrounds, and too many splash pages. But it was a lot nicer work than you might expect to find in a novelty crossover comic like this.

Panel count: 122 panels/30 pages = 4.0 panels/pg; 4 splash pages.

Membership Notes:

We're borrowing from all across original-Legion history here. Notice we've got Shadow Lass's 1960s look, and we've also got Invisible Kid II. So there's no point in paying too much attention to this. But I do have one question. Where's Lightning Lad? He's not there. He also wasn't there in the Convergence series. I wonder if DC is trying to de-emphasize him for some reason, like if they want to use Lightning Lass instead.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Broken Ladder

There's a pattern I noticed recently that I've never seen any comment on. This pattern is for Legion of Super-Heroes comics (and related materials) to increase in quality as time goes on.

Let's break it down by decade. Obviously the '50s were better than the '40s, since the Legion didn't exist at all in the '40s. Just as obviously, the '60s were better than the '50s, since there were only two short Legion stories in the '50s. Meanwhile, the '60s had the famous Adventure Comics run, in which most of the key concepts and characters of the Legion franchise were created. Jim Shooter took over as the primary writer in 1966 and helped modernize DC Comics's storytelling as he did so.

But the 1970s was even better! There was a little publishing hiccup at the start, sure, but young up-and-coming creators like Shooter, Cary Bates, Paul Levitz, Dave Cockrum, Mike Grell, and Jim Sherman brought more sophisticated stories to the Legion than we had ever seen before. Plus, Karate Kid got his own title for a while there; the Legion's first spinoff. And the Legion got to share the title of the comic book with Superboy; they hadn't had that in the '60s.

But the 1980s was even better! The Legion got the title all to themselves, and Paul Levitz returned as writer. Paul Levitz's second run as Legion writer is one of the most highly-regarded in comics' history, and justly so. The '80s brought us the Great Darkness Saga, the deluxe Baxter format, and more spinoffs: Cosmic Boy, Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Legionnaires 3, and Who's Who in the Legion of Super-Heroes.

But the 1990s was even better! The Five Years Later era had the most powerful stories the Legion has ever seen, before or since. That was brought to an end by a reboot, unfortunately, but the new reboot Legion neatly sidestepped some of the common dysfunctions of the era and gave us years of bright, fun comics that updated many of the characters and stories of the Silver Age. Plus: Valor! L.E.G.I.O.N.! Timber Wolf! Legends of the Legion! Legion: Science Police! Superboy's Legion! Not only that, but the Legion made their first TV appearance on an episode of Superman: The Animated Series.

But the 2000s was even better! Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning took over and gave us five years of some of the best Legion comics ever created, perhaps as good as the Five Years Later era. When a reboot shut that down, Mark Waid picked up the baton for thirty issues of the best-conceived version of the Legion we had seen; finally, the team made sense in a way they never really had before. Meanwhile, the Legion got their own cartoon for two seasons, and the cartoon had its own spinoff comic; both were good with occasional gusts to great. Meanwhile meanwhile, DC introduced yet another version of the Legion, the retroboot Legion, to appeal to those fans who missed the original Legion and had never warmed to the reboot or threeboot. This had its problems but was very well-received, and it culminated in the magnificent crowdpleaser Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds limited series. In addition to all of this, the '00s also brought us Titans/Legion: Universe Ablaze, appearances on Smallville and Justice League Unlimited, and any number of Legion-related toys. We blogged! We podcasted!

But the 2010s was... pretty poor, actually. DC didn't seem to know what to do with the Legion after FC:L3W, and futzed around with it in this title and that one before bringing back Paul Levitz for another kick at the can. Levitz was unable to summon the old magic, and after a while the comic book was cancelled, and it remains cancelled years later. We've had insufficiently-interesting limited series like Legion: Secret Origin and a crossover with Star Trek, and DC occasionally gives the LSH a guest appearance here or there, or hints that they're going to have a big appearance in this title or that TV show but then doesn't follow through on it. Even worse, there was Legion Lost v2.

I write this in the spring of 2017. It's not too late for DC to make the 2010s a better decade for Legion fans than the 2000s were... but they'd better hurry, and they'd better come up with something pretty damn awesome, if that's their intention. Unfortunately, I don't think that's their intention, and I don't think they could accomplish it if it was. But, hey: crossover issues with Bugs Bunny and Batman '66! That's what we've wanted all along, right?

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