Saturday, November 28, 2020

Legion of Super-Heroes #11 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About: The Legionnaires on their various missions all are dealing with some kind of escalation: the group on Krypton get taken out by some kind of blind dragon in conjunction with Rogol Zaar. On Xanthu, Doctor Fate gets... destroyed? On Rimbor, Ultra Boy accepts leadership of the planet. On Earth, the remaining Legionnaires are called into action and head out to Krypton, where they are immediately defeated. A group on Daxam runs into Mordru, who attacks, steals Cosmic Boy, turns Rose to Thorn, and teleports Blok into deep space. Superboy arrives on Krypton and confronts Rogol Zaar.

Review: This series is still being spread too thin. There are... five different groups? And they all do get some advancement, and there's some consolidation of the storylines. But the point of sending smaller groups out on missions is so that you can temporarily limit the number of characters involved and focus on individual characters more, and to give them longer turns in the spotlight. That didn't really happen here.

Still, it is an improvement over the whole Legion staying in one big group the entire time, which is what we had before. One might expect Bendis to have more proficiency with superhero-team comics, but... is there another group that's really like the Legion, with their dozens and dozens of characters? I don't think writing the Avengers prepares you for it. (Although... it's not like Paul Levitz (who clearly did have not just proficiency but mastery) kept his technique a secret.)

I'm glad to see that we're picking up on a couple of threads from LSH: Millennium, namely Superman's cape and Rose herself. Let's not take our eye off the ball here: I'm convinced that whatever Rose's deal is is the key to understanding everything Bendis is trying to do in this series.

So here's a question. How many stories are we dealing with here? It isn't just one. I think the main event is Superboy vs. Rogol Zaar, but the other stuff isn't related. It's just other stuff the Legion is also dealing with. This is not a problem; it's actually the kind of thing Levitz would do all the time. But I wonder how many of these other threads are going to get folded into the Krypton one. "None," I think, is an appropriate answer.

I have no idea what to expect from next issue. Bring it on! Should be a good read! Of some kind!

Notes:

- so what the flip is the deal with Karate Kid's word balloon on page 3?

- look at Mon-El's page-one monologue. Bottom of the first column of word balloons, top of the second. The word "more" appears 4 times in 22 words. To me this is a failure of editing

- couple of times at the end of the issue where Brainiac 5 changes his mind very quickly in a short time. Uncharacteristic. Editing again?

- losing interest in Rimborian politics. And I didn't have much to begin with

- I think the practice of naming stuff in comics after comics creators has reached the point of cliche and they should stop doing it

- notice Invisible Kid on page 20?

Art: 82 panels/23 pages = 3.6 panels/page. 1 splash page, 7 double-paged spreads of 1 or more panels.

You know what I'm curious about? I'm curious about what Dream Girl is supposed to look like. Is she sandy or golden or luminous or cloudy or starry or what? She's basically all one colour and that would make it easy for artists and colourists to take shortcuts and make her look simple and uninteresting (not that simple = uninteresting!), and so far Sook and the others have managed to avoid that (see pages 12-13 of this issue). I remember she looked particularly good in her introduction in the Trial issue artfest (although I can't think of who the artist is off the top of my head). But I still don't feel like I understand what effect the artists are trying to elicit in her portrayals.

Membership Notes: We get some names for our mysterious Legionnaires! There's X-Ray Girl, Entropy Kid, and Radius Lad. I get this from a reddit thread here; technically this is all apocrypha but I'm going with it.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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