Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #13 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

It's Superman's first... month? in Metropolis, and he's doing pretty much the same sort of stuff he did in Superman: the Movie: being interviewed by Lois Lane on a rooftop, primarily. He fights fires, settles in at the Daily Planet, and stops Lex Luthor's battlesuit from going berserk. In flashback, we also see a Legion training session and Brainy warning Superman that maybe Luthor's worth keeping an eye on. Then at the end it turns out that Brainiac has been keeping an eye on Superman and is analyzing his capabilities (it was him who messed with the battlesuit, to test Superman).


We needed this.

Since Geoff Johns decided to follow the lead of the cartoon by making the Legion the source of Superman's superhero chops, we've been lacking a comic book in which he first comes to Metropolis and uses what the Legion taught him. Well, J. Torres and Alexander Serra are there for us, and they have provided us with such a comic book.

And it's basically a smashing success. There's any amount of excellent material to use in a story like this, and Torres assembles it into one of the best issues this series has yet had. This is a comic that should be read by Superman fans, not just young Legion fans.

Up until now I've wanted to like Torres's stuff more than I actually have liked it. The first issue was disappointing at the time (although I've since reread it, and there's actually a lot in it to like), and subsequent efforts have been decent but nothing amazing. But he knocked it out of the park with this one.

Serra's art continues fine. I'm looking at the Daily Planet pages, and all the panels have Perry White's office as a detailed setting except for the first one (which is little and might not count) and the ones where Perry is holding Lois's Superman interview. Those ones have a plain blue background. Why? I'm sure there's a reason. Is it that Superman--blue is Superman's colour, of course--is being invoked whenever the Planet (with Perry White as its representative) has Lois's story?

The other thing I like about this issue is the amount of freedom there is in the Johnny DC comics to just go ahead and do stuff. Look what we've got here: the start of the Superman-Lois relationship, the Clark-Lois relationship, the Clark-Perry White relationship, the Lois-Perry White relationship, the Superman-Luthor relationship, and the Superman-Brainiac relationship. Not to mention another episode in the continuing philosophical tangle of idealism, megalomania and envy that has Superman, Luthor, Brainiac, Brainiac 5, and Alexis Luthor (I assume we're eventually going to see her again) in its coils. In one issue! It'd take a mainstream DC comic twelve issues to do all that.

Plus, there's a casual reference to Chloe Sullivan. Correct me if I'm wrong about this, but hasn't DC been waffling on whether to bring Chloe into DC continuity from Smallville for a couple of years now? And they haven't done it yet? But they might? Or not? Something like that. But in this Johnny DC comic, J. Torres just went ahead and did it. Like it was no big deal.

One minor... not quite a complaint really... I would have liked to see a more extensive reference made to the Legion's contributions to Superman's superheroism. This is, after all, a Legion comic. I can see both sides of that, though. For one thing, Torres had a lot of ground to cover. For another, heroism isn't really what Superman had to learn from the Legion; he already had that. He had to learn the moves, the technique. He learned from the Legionnaires' heads; the Legion learned from Superman's heart. And that is covered in the training scene, and the whole Superman-Legion relationship is quite well evoked by the cover. So it's all right. But I would have liked to see the connection made more strongly.

This was a dashed good comic book, and one that deserves more attention than it's probably going to get.

- this time it's 'Shuster Airfield'. Whoever this Shuster guy is, he certainly gets around
- the Daily Planet style guide! When you're married to a professional technical writer, you appreciate these things. How do you think the Planet staffers know how to spell 'Mxyzptlk'?
- take careful note of the shadow effect on Brainy's face as he and Superman discuss Luthor. Comic books! Can't do that in prose
- couple of nice cover-blurb-style quotes for the Legion in this issue: "...a Legion. The bad guys won't stand a chance," and, "I get the feeling we'll be seeing more of each other in the future." That's the plan!

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