Sunday, May 04, 2008

Legion of Super-Heroes #41 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

Last issue's cliffhanger with Projectra, Timber Wolf and Saturn Girl ends without incident; Saturn Girl defuses the situation without stepping over any lines and Timber Wolf had no sinister intent. There are hints that Projectra is not who she appears to be.

Invisible Kid goes to spy on the autopsy of the alien PPM for Brainy, but the PPM wakes up and iKid, forced to reveal himself by the ensuing fight, is caught by a rival group of U.P.-sponsored young superheroes. The U.P., in response, shuts down the Legion, just as the PPMs are about to invade Rimbor... but then reinstates them and asks them to send a team to Rimbor.

Brainy finds out that the PPMs are incredibly old: they've traveled from across the universe, at sublight speed. No word on whether they're really alive and sentient or not. Meanwhile, M'Rissey is up to something involving a rich and vaguely shady businessman - is he selling the flight ring design to him? Saturn Girl finds out (but we don't) about just why the new U.P. regime is out to get the Legion.

Review:

Aaron Lopresti fills in admirably on the art. ('Lopresti', by the way, is an anagram of quite a few things that sound like they ought to be words, like 'tripoles', 'piloters', 'repistol', 'postlier', 'perilost', 'sortpile' and 'portlies'.) I wouldn't say Repistol is better than Manapul, but he is less stylized, so a lot of people are going to prefer his stuff. Sortpile does occasionally make the Legionnaires look somewhat waiflike, in a manner slightly reminiscent of Jeff Moy. Or maybe it's just me.

Shooter's plot is obviously still in its initial stages. One advantage of the sixteen-issue mega-epic is that it'll get the introduction phase of Shooter's regime over with in one storyline, so that once it's over we'll be able to view everything subsequent as a good indication of what we're really going to get out of this era. I mean, there hasn't been an era of Legion storytelling that didn't start off well. The true test is whether the writer can follow up the initial success. (Which is also something to keep in mind when judging Geoff Johns's efforts.)

Not that I'm uniformly pleased by the opening movements of Shooter's symphony. I like the levels of intrigue he's got going on, and I like some of the science-fictional ideas he's using, and I like some of the characterizations... but I don't like the pace, and I don't like the... I'm not sure what to call it. Let me explain.

We've had a lot of fake naughty words invented, and we had some barf humour with Brainy's new wormhole invention, and we've had an increased (and provocative) emphasis on sex (including a couple of eyebrow-quirking scenes in this issue), and we've had a lot of new characters with funny names, including a new superhero group called 'UPYA' even though it should be 'UPYH'... is 'vulgarity' the word I want? I don't think so; it's got a negative connotation I don't intend. I mean, I'm not saying that nobody should like this stuff. I'm just saying that it is not to my taste. I get the idea that, if Shooter was casting a movie for this version of the Legion, he'd find a role somewhere for Will Ferrell. Millions of people like Will Ferrell. I'm not one of them.

Shooter seems definitely to have taken a different tack on Chameleon's character than Waid did. Cham isn't mirroring people anymore; he's instead settled into a kind of misfit-trickster kind of personality that I'm sure has precedent with shapeshifter characters, but I can't think of who just now.

It's kind of a rule for superhero comics that they all have to have action scenes somewhere in there. Somehow. Whether it's justified or not. The way I judge a fight scene is, can you tell who's where and who's doing what, and why, or is it just a lot of contextless blasting and posing? This issue's example of Invisible Kid taking out the PPM in the operating room, and then being taken down himself, was one of the first kind, and I appreciate it.

This new group, UPYA. They're a bunch of Legion rejects who have been assembled into a team that opposes the Legion. They are approximately the four hundred and twelfth such team in Legion history, and if I never see another one it'll be too soon. New ideas, guys, new ideas.

Back to the two sexual references in this issue. I am of two minds about them. On the one hand, as I said, I don't like the increasingly earthy tone of the book that they're contributing to. On the other hand... Let's do the Saturn Girl/Lightning Lad one first. The consensus interpretation of this scene seems to have been that 'Imra likes it rough', or something like that, but I'm not so sure. Maybe I'm giving Shooter credit for more subtlety than he intended to use, but all I can take from it for sure is that Garth and Imra's relationship is a strong and close enough one that she really trusts him. This shouldn't be news to us, of course, but I wasn't expecting the point to be made in quite that way, and I appreciate anything I don't expect.

Similarly with Cham and the bird. It's consistent with what we know of Cham's biology, and it's not something I ever expected to see in a comic book. It made me a bit uneasy. I wasn't sure I liked it. Which almost certainly means that Shooter's on the right track with it: succeed or fail, there's no complacency about his approach to this comic book; he's not letting the reader get too comfortable. At the risk of jinxing things, I'll say that I had the same attitude about the 'Five Years Later' Legion era, which was and is my favourite run of comics ever.

Notes:
- 'Bismillah', for those who don't know, is a real interjection, and not one of Shooter's inventions
- it has been noted elsewhere that, if plumage and colouration are any indication, the bird Cham was flirting with was a male and Cham was in a female form. If that matters to anybody
- do we think maybe Jeckie used her powers to switch identities with Timber Wolf?
- 'worldies'. Yes, I can tell what it means. It sounds stupid
- I like how Shooter resisted the impulse to have Invisible Kid's powers overcome through some quotidian means in the operating room. He should be hard to find!

Membership Notes:

Seems we were jumping the gun a bit with our predictions about Giselle becoming a Legionnaire. She's now Gazelle in this rival-Legion group.

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11 Comments:

Blogger crood said...

If anyone who wants to can call themself a Legionnaire, how can there be rejects?

3:46 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well... you could probably answer this as well as I could. If Fruit Boy and Spy wanted to be small-L legionnaires and hang out in the plaza with the crowd, Lightning Lad and the rest of the boys and girls wouldn't have a problem with that at all. But that's not what the U.P. wanted. They wanted their candidates to get flight rings and seats in the meeting room with the rest of the core team. And the big-L Legionnaires quite naturally weren't going to allow the U.P. to dictate that.

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought Chameleon was just being silly when he was flirting with the bird. I didn't think he actually flew away with it.

I suppose if they must be "typical" teenagers, fine. But do they also have to walk around in nothing but underwear half the time too?

9:20 AM  
Anonymous ben said...

I actually enjoyed the scene with Cham, simply because it pointed out how non-human he actually is, which occasionally seems to be missing from most renditions of the 30th and 31st centuries -- i.e., that there are people around who wouldn't easily fit into the "people" category in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Imra...made me uncomfortable. The psychology of her having such a kink is somewhat interesting, but it felt a little (a) laboured, (b) out of sync with the tone of the comic, and (c) creepy when you think about Jim Shooter starting to write Legion comics in his mid-teens. I think it would have read better if it actually felt like it emerged from the scene naturally, which it didn't really do in my reading of it.

U.P. Young Heroes -- yawn. They've barely had any screen time and now they've become generic rivals in the tradition of Terror Firma or the Wanderers. Although it would be funny if every time the Legion met a smaller group of supers and had conflict with them, then the Legion leader always invited them to join, well, it could maybe be funny. For five minutes.

I keep forgetting that the PPMs are involved in this storyline and gap out trying to remember what the Legion are fretting about all of a sudden -- probably not the best of signs.

Art-wise, I like this guy slightly better than Manapul, sure, but I'd really like to see someone on the book who doesn't read as being Superhero House Style -- I read the trade for the Calero arc and I really enjoyed his work, which surprised me after I hated him over in X-FACTOR.

So far, the Shooter run isn't lighting up my world, =except= for his use of Ayla. I mean, he's really pushed her to the forefront of having some solid characterization and I would love to see his version of her following up Garth as Legion leader...

12:33 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

anon: That's possible too.

ben: The other thing about Cham is that that nonhumanness was an integral part of Waid's take on the character(s)... but I can't see Waid coming up with the parrot scene.

I'm not convinced that Imra does have a 'kink'. For all we know, she and Garth just talk a good game.

I liked Calero too. I hope he gets another kick at the can around here.

There's more to appreciate about the Shooter run so far than just his take on Ayla. I like his use of Invisible Kid, for instance.

7:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People were complaing on the lack of character development in Threeboot Legion. We certainly are getting it now, expect people are now complaining on the hndling.

I must admit, some of this is too much too soon. I think you can over develope a character sometimes.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Some people may have been complaining, but I wasn't; I loved how Waid handled the characters. If anything, Shooter has discarded some of Waid's nuance. Which is perfectly fair, of course; Shooter has to do what he needs to do to get the whole engine working his way.

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm fond of the creative use of language in this book. perhaps that's a holdover from my time in Australia (where there's a nickname for everything).

also, the use of, shall we say, a challenging social vernacular seems fitting for a group of this maturity level and fits with what the comic should be thematically in my mind.

i don't think that helps most readers who are finding Shooter's word choices eye-rollingly staid...but i've an appreciation for it.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Yes, that's fair. And playing with language is a good thing to do in a science-fictional setting, because of course the language is different in the future.

But when the language innovations in question are so predominantly swearwords, it kind of suggests that what you're after isn't so much authentic science fiction as it is cheap humour and fake naughtiness.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

I just got this issue in the mail yesterday, sorry no comic shop around. My thirteen yr old daughter, who grew up with me reading Legion Archives to her, loves the fake 31st century words. As her father, I'm a little nervous about Imra's advances. Gotta admit tho, I like this Legion better then any since Levitz's run. It has brought me back to my favorite comic and comic reading in general for the third time in my life.

3:49 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

One thing I like about this Legion and its world is that there are a lot of storytelling possibilities. You can really do a lot of things with this crew. I wonder what ideas, if any, Geoff Johns has for his revival Legion beyond FC:L3W. I'm not sure where you can go with them at all.

10:21 PM  

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