Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Legion of Super-Heroes #1 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

Earthgov's agreement with the United Planets and the Legion has some conditions: the Time Institute moves off of Earth to Titan; the Legion gets to stay on Earth; Earth-Man becomes a Legionnaire (with a specially rigged flight ring to keep him in line) to appease the xenophobic sector of Earth's population. Meanwhile, Saturn Girl and her kids are vacationing on Titan.

All of this goes spectacularly wrong; some scientists at the Time Institute perform the same experiment that Krona did and manage to reproduce his results to the extent that Titan is destroyed; the Legion manages to evacuate some of the population, including Saturn Girl, but in the middle of the chaos someone kidnaps her kids. So she steals a time bubble to try to get them back. The experiment also wakes up some kind of entity on Oa who starts going around handing out Green Lantern rings, and the first one goes to Earth-Man.


Well, that feels better.

Seems like forever since we've had a real Legion comic. More than 20 years, according to some, but by my count it's more like 15 months, so either I'm not paying enough attention or they're not.

Not only that, it's a pretty good Legion comic. Let's start with the art: Yildiray Cinar seems to be a keeper. In particular I like his faces: Saturn Girl on page 4 and Brainiac 5 on page 14, for instance. One of the things you have to do when you're the Legion artist is draw future stuff well, and Cinar's 31st century looks fine, but I'm not sure he's really put his mark on it the way, say, Giffen or Coipel did. Still early, though. Panel Count: 4.8 panels/page, over 39 pages. 3 single-panel pages.

One thing I liked was how Paul Levitz took a single factor from Geoff Johns's... well, I can't call it a run... from Geoff Johns's interregnum, the political situation on Earth, and spun several subplots out of it that interacted with each other in interesting ways. There's craft in there; that doesn't happen randomly.

Levitz doesn't seem constrained by his own earlier portrayals of the Legionnaires. His Brainiac 5 was never this cranky, for one thing. I like it that the stories he's starting off seem calculated not to appeal to some barometer of awesomeness, but to make things challenging and awkward for the Legion. Earth-Man as an unwilling and unwelcome Legionnaire--that's a Legion story I've never read before. (I guess Gates was kind of comparable, but it's really not at all the same thing.) I've been waiting for Legion stories I've never read before!

I mean, I don't like Earth-Man. After the Action Comics story, I never wanted to see him again. I don't like his powers, I don't like his attitude, and I don't think he deserves to be a Legionnaire. But I'm looking forward to the rest of this story. Such a simple trick--what's the worst thing that can happen to the Legion, and how can it be made even worse?

I hope the destruction of Titan is explored in ways beyond its effect on Saturn Girl. The attention to detail in this one issue seems to be of such a high level that it'd be a shame for an important event like that to be treated like a throwaway.

Hands, hands... I've got a giant blogpost about hands that's been brewing up in me for years now, and this issue may provide more material for it. There's a hand on the cover: Earth-Man's hand. In the DC Universe, the hand is also the symbol of the birth of the universe, and this of course plays an important role in this issue. I don't know. Both hands are dangerous, especially if Earth-Man has a flight ring and a Green Lantern ring, and that's without taking his powers into account. Is that the limit of the comparison? I could run through the issue and find lots of other depictions of hands gesturing meaningfully in this or that way, but there's really no reason to build any kind of analysis on that. The only panel that makes me pause a little is the Polar Boy one: he's missing a hand, famously, but we can't see that. Probably not significant...

Normally this is where I'd warn everyone about the dangers of reading too much into a first issue, about how it's easy to do a first issue or a first arc, and it's what comes after that that gives you an idea of the quality of comic book you're reading. I don't know if that's necessary this time, though. First, it didn't really seem like a first issue; it seemed like a middle issue that didn't happen to have any storylines that we were already in the midst of. Second, Levitz's style is to play the long game in which his titles don't break down easily into distinct arcs; his Legion will simmer for a long time before he lets it boil over. It can get frustrating, because you want closure and he won't give it to you, but if you look past that you'll see that a lot of interesting stuff is happening.

- Chief Cusimano. Did we already know that? I forget. Anyway, good for her.
- Bouncing Boy and Duplicate Damsel are still instructors at the Academy; it's nice to have that established.
- Polar Boy is not alone.
- What's with the third eyes on the Coluans?
- Nice circularity, with the apparent meaning of the title and the real meaning of the title.
- Prediction: next issue, something important will happen involving a Legionnaire who didn't appear in this issue, something that has nothing to do with anything that happened ithis issue.

Membership Notes:

It is implied that Earth-Man joins the Legion this issue. I'm not going to put him on the roster page yet; we'll see how it plays out.

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Blogger Keith said...

This comic was great, especially for a Saturn Girl fan such as myself. I'm a newer Legion fan: read from Waid/ Kitson's run through Johns' stuff, and started anew with the Showcases. Glad the Legion is getting another go.

11:29 PM  
Blogger snell said...

Ahhh, comfort food.

As you say, it's early, but it is so reassuring to see the franchise in firm, confident hands.

Levitz had a nearly impossible task--jump back into a 20+ year dormant continuity, which itself was leapt several years forward and mucked about by lesser hands. So far, so good.

12:01 AM  
Blogger snell said...

I should also note that I think Levitz has set up a really interesting conundrum for the xenophobic Earth-Man--work with a (potentially) much more alien-filled organization, away from Earth fairly often, but usually working solo; or stay closer to his beloved Earth and work in closer proximity with the aliens he hates. Take the Green Lantern ring, and have a super-weapon independent of his powers; or decline it, get potentially greater cumulative powers from his teammates, but always be dependent upon them.

It's a fun dilemma, deeper than it appears on first glance, and i have no idea which way the story is going to go. As you said, craft.

12:16 AM  
Blogger Ben Rawluk said...

I went into this fully skeptical, suspecting I'd end up hating it, but I really enjoyed it. You're right: it feels like a Legion comic, it has that wonderful so-many-plots-happens-as-we-jump-scenes quality that I missed about Levitz (and Giffen) during their runs.

And, yes, I hate Earth-Man, but as a person rather than a character. Levitz has done a good job of establishing (1) political power games that have often been a hallmark of Legion drama and (2) a storyline I wasn't expecting (two-fold). I wasn't expecting Earth-Man's Legionnaire status, and I wasn't expecting who would be chosen as a Green Lantern.

It's fun! Which is the most important.

1:21 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

The eye on the Coluans heads looks an awful lot like the OMAC Brother Eye symbol.

Also: you'd think that people at the Time Institute would know what happens when you try to look back at the beginning of time.

Also also: Dr. Aven is Imra's mentor on Titan, just as he was in the post-Zero Hour reboot.

1:34 AM  
Blogger Ben Rawluk said...

The Coluans are sporting an Eye of Horus and presumably refers to the third eye of higher intellect. I'm pretty sure some of them had it in Lo3W.

The Time Institute has a history of poor choices. I miss Chronarch.

2:05 AM  
Anonymous Paul Newell said...

- Chief Cusimano. Did we already

She was made Chief of Mars in V3. I think that's as far as she got.

- What's with the third eyes on the Coluans?

It was a look that was established in the Action Comics story...Can't remember if it had any significance.

5:51 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Hey, lots of action here; that's what I like to see.

Keith: Hope you enjoy the ride. In some ways I envy you: think of all the great Legion stuff you haven't read for the first time yet!

snell: I don't see any reason he can't do both. If Earthgov wants to placate the xenophobes that much, they're not going to let the no-GLs-on-Earth rule get in the way.

And I wouldn't call Levitz's task impossible. The way to deal with problems like that is to ignore them and just do good work.

Ben: To me, the main thing a writer has to do to make a comic feel like a Legion comic is to make it about the Legion. This is one thing Geoff Johns didn't do. And I'm sure that that was a conscious decision! Johns was in introduce-new-readers mode. But I've had more than enough of that now.

I was wondering about Circadia Senius myself. I guess Levitz just didn't want to kill him.

Michael: Well, they know now. And, yeah, I thought I recognized Aven.

Paul: Mars, that's right. Thanks. I wonder if maybe the third eye has to do with Despero.

Or, to reach a little deeper into obscure DC continuity, Tuatara.

9:32 AM  
Blogger snell said...

I don't see any reason he can't do both.

Well, the cover did say "CHOOSE!", and the next issue blurb did say "Next: Earth-Man's Choice." So the implication would seem to be one or the other. But you're right, there's no reasaon he couldn't do both.

And I did say "nearly" impossible. :-)

11:15 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

One way or another I think he's going to stick with the Legion; it'd be too easy to get rid of him by making him Sodam Yat's problem, so that won't happen.

11:23 AM  
Blogger RavenScholar said...

I need to buy this book. NOW.
It sounds awesome.

Also, sadly, it looks like I still will not be able to get any comics in a timely manner.

3:15 PM  
Blogger RavenScholar said...

And dang, no one has posted any of this on Scans_Daily yet.
I hope this is fixed soon.

(Word verification: unhinti. No, I want people to take this hint.)

3:19 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

It is good. Not fantastically!awesome, but very good. If Levitz can keep going at this pace we won't have any problems at all.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Ben Rawluk said...

Is it weird that I'm hoping for something that veers away from the Laurel Gand post-White Triangle redemption angle? Because I could skip the "Earth-Man's heart grows twelve sizes" jag that could potentially happen.

I've decided that while I really like the pencils, Faucher is still not an inker I particularly enjoy; he doesn't given the pencils enough solid weight. It makes me miss Giffen and his incredibly solid, detailed 30th Century landscapes.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Ben Rawluk said...

Also, I'm thinking Gigi's the chief of the Science Police places the cut-off around the time of the Magic Wars from the Baxter run, remixed with retroboot removal of the Pocket Universe.

7:24 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Hey, if Geoff Johns could come up with an ending I wasn't expecting to FC:L3W, Paul Levitz can certainly do the same for this Earth-Man story.

7:44 PM  
Blogger Murray said...

I agree about the inking. Cinar's pencils that I've seen online are beautiful... but the published work in the comic isn't quite as whoo whoo! I certainly like it... but I wouldn't mind seeing a different inker give it a try.
Well-written review, Matthew. I agree with you... I like that Levitz isn't just starting where he left off. He's done his homework and is taking the Legion forward from where Johns and everyone else left them.
I thought we got some great insight into Imra's thinking... and stuff that we haven't seen from Levitz before. It would have been easy to fall back on her previous characterization, but I like the look that he gave us into her relationship with Garth and Rokk... that she's got all these emotions just yearning to come out, but due to the world she's been raised on is unable to release them.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Murray said...

- Prediction: next issue, something important will happen involving a Legionnaire who didn't appear in this issue, something that has nothing to do with anything that happened ithis issue.

That would be a very Levitzy thing to do. So who didn't appear this issue...
Shadow Lass (sacriledge! She should be in every issue! I kid! But I am totally hoping that when we do get to see her that this is one Legionnaire that *is* similar to the Levitz characterization. No more cranky tribal warrior woman, please!
all the rest of the 21st century Legionnaires
Chameleon Girl... did we see Violet?
Night Girl
Lightning Lad (but he was mentioned)
Dream Girl... Tyroc... (or are they still missing? I"m curious to see what Levitz comes up with for those two)
Am I forgetting anyone? He packed a lot of folks into that first issue!

7:22 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Yeah, I'm wondering what the deal is with Dream Girl. Did they just forget about her, or what?

(I think Tyroc is already scheduled to show up in the next few issues.)

7:40 PM  
Anonymous mark said...

No TimberWolf or Wildfire either.

8:42 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Take it easy, guys; it's a big team. You're not going to get everyone in every issue. It has ever been thus.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Murray said...

Take it easy, guys; it's a big team. You're not going to get everyone in every issue. It has ever been thus.

Oh I wasn't complaining. :)

Just running through one of the endless Legion lists that we all keep floating around in our head. Or maybe it's just me.

I love how Levitz gives us a snapshot of where any given member of the team might be over the course of 3 or 4 issues. They don't even need to do much when they appear. Levitz was so good at just giving them a line or two of dialogue that gave you a glimpse into their character. It used to be that we'd get a walk-on that was meaningless... just another face in the crowd. Levitz makes those "face in the crowd" shots mean something.

And yeah... I think they all kinda forgot about Dream Girl when Johns moved from Superboy to Flash.

9:15 PM  
Anonymous mark said...

Just adding to Murray's list derived from the prediction that next issue will feature a Legion member not shown in this issue.

Not worried about it.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

About Levitz's style of long game-playing,it's to be hoped he curbs that this time around.Long simmering storylines were fun when comics were less than half the price they are now,but at today's prices I'm less inclined to be led around by the nose.Let's tighten up the storyarcs,Paul.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Murray said...

Long simmering storylines were fun when comics were less than half the price they are now,but at today's prices I'm less inclined to be led around by the nose.Let's tighten up the storyarcs,Paul.

I gotta disagree! Give me the long simmering plots over the zippity zip stories of today. As much as I enjoyed Blackest Night, the mini-series felt like everything happened in a day and a half even though it took nine months to come out. I'd much rather get a meaty read every month with lots and lots going on every issue.

And even when Paul was telling a long story, he was excellent at making sure that most every issue along the way felt like a satisfying read in and of itself. More of that, please!

2:35 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Anonymous: I disagree, in this sense: I think stories these days are too padded and fluffy. You get stories that any sane human would wrap up in one or two issues, and they're stretched out to six issues for the TPB. I would be shocked if Levitz did this; he's almost guaranteed to give us snappier stories than would a writer half his age.

And Murray is correct about how he (unlike Waid in mid-threeboot) does provide regular doses of closure.

10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's true Levitz kept a tight rein on roving plotlines...most of the time.I'm just hoping he keeps that same tight grip now.
I'm zealous about getting the most for my comic book dollar.Reading the first 6 issues of Ultimate FF,I realized Lee and Kirby covered roughly the same territory in FF #1--a single issue.Even allowing for inflation,that's pathetic.If I had paid money for Ult. FF,I would really have been upset.If I'm going to pay 4 bucks for a floppy pamphlet,I'm entitled to expect full value.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well, that's one of the things I'm trying to (crudely) measure with that panel count statistic. The more panels on a page, roughly, the more story. It's not a polished method, but I have some hope that it'll be more than useless.

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Doc said...

Not had the time to get to my comic shop yet. So very much enjoying the commentary. I haven't bought a Legion comic for over 10 years, so looking forward to what sounds like a great new chapter in the LSH story!

2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to interupt ... You're a DC guy? what a bummer. I have no reference for the DC universe. I'm an iron fist guy.

I am wholeheartedly enjoying Sliced bread #2. Thanks for that.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

You're quite welcome. How'd you find it?


I am more of a DC guy, but I have a healthy respect for Marvel. I was a huge New Mutants fan back in the '80s, and I'm currently enjoying Guardians of the Galaxy in TPB. I tried the first Iron Fist collection, from the recent series, but it didn't do a lot for me.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

Devoured the issue last night. Disappointed that Saturn Girl has lost her lovely locks - but at least she has sensible-sized breasts (as opposed to Dawny's).

I just wonder whether there was a little too much going on for readers who might be newer to LSH.

But, overall, I'm pleased that the book is back. In Levitz we trust.

4:43 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I just wonder whether there was a little too much going on for readers who might be newer to LSH.

There have been complaints that it's not new-reader-friendly enough. I dunno. I kinda get the idea that DC figures that the new readers climbed on for all the other retroboot stuff that's been happening over the last few years, like in Action and FC:L3W and what have you. Obviously it's not true for everyone.

9:16 AM  
Blogger RavenScholar said...

Green Lantern #54 came out recently (saw it on Scans_Daily) and Guess. What.

Sodam Yat is no longer host to Ion.

Only a week, and the new/old Legion's continuity is screwed by DC.
This leaves me terribly unoptomistic.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Enh. Not worth worrying about.

3:58 PM  
Blogger Friday said...

RavenScholar - you're assuming no change in the 1000 years between then and now. Sodam Yat has enough time to regain the ion power, loose it, die, be reborn as a woman, be host to Paralax and then be restored to manhood by Ion. And probably kill all the Guardians singled handedly.

I've always felt that people try to reconcile the modern DCU and the 30th century too much. The time buffer fixes everything for me.

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Avalon Lad said...

As well as the nice touch of using Aven from the reboot Legion, it was also interesting to note that one of the Ranzz twins was named Garridan - a name that was invented during the 5 Years Later run.

8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally got a copy of #1(third #1 in,what--7 years?Mercy)It can best be summed up with the phrase,"something old,something new,something borrowed,something blu--green".The last two points refer,of course,to the Green Lantern tie-in.No surprise DC wants some of that GL action.Earth-Man being chosen as the last ring-slinger shows what happened to the Guardians:senile dementia.This won't end well,but it will end,and hopefully we won't hear anymore about GLs in the 31st century.Keep the links to the rest of the DCU as few as possible;didn't Superboy teach us anything?
As to the new/old parts,that of course refers to the Legion.It doesn't matter if Aven is the reboot Aven anymore than if this Legion is the original one.It's good enough as is.
You were asking about the importance of hands...well,the answer is obvious;you hold a comic book with your hands!What other explaination is necessary?

1:25 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Speaking of which, I forgot to mention the most important hand-related thing about this issue: Dyogene doesn't have any!

8:37 AM  

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