Adventure Comics #517 Review
What Happened That You Have to Know About:
It's a story of the Legion's early days, when it was just the three founders trying to figure out how to be the first costumed crimefighters in centuries. They do some training, and they get involved in a Science Police effort to stop Zaryan's robot raiders from stealing a bunch of tech. They have mixed success at this, and in the aftermath of one battle, Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy get drunk and sleep together. Saturn Girl regrets this the next morning, and wipes out Cosmic Boy's memory of the event.
Now that's more like it!
For one thing, there's some real superhero content in this issue, and it's good stuff: the Legionnaires are admirable and heroic, but clearly in over their heads; the villains aren't unreasonably scaled; there's some characterization that we haven't seen before but we know we should have.
I don't mean Saturn Girl mourning over the dead SP, saying in a story featuring Zaryan that she never wanted anyone to die in her place again. That's... well, Levitz might as well throw it in there, but any payoff he gets out of it in future issues is a pretty cheap-and-easy one.
No, what I meant was Saturn Girl's determination to not just be the girl. You have to understand why that's great.
See, we've seen the inexperienced-rookie-Legionnaire thing before, briefly, in the early days of the reboot. And that was fine. But the reboot Legionnaires were '90s characters, the whole point of them was that they were '90s characters. The Legionnaires in this story, though, were (originally) '50s/early '60s characters, and in the '50s and '60s, there were a lot of characters who were just the girl. The awesome thing about Saturn Girl, though, is that she was never just the girl. Paul Levitz is showing us what that was like then, only now. If the reboot writers had tried this, it wouldn't have worked nearly as well.
It's a wonderful issue for Saturn Girl. I said before that what made Imra such a great character is how she makes mistakes and crosses the line and yet remains herself mostly untarnished, and she does it again here, with the Cosmic Boy mindwipe. It's not at all a defensible thing for her to do, but it is clearly the kind of thing she would do.
Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad are not neglected either. Levitz deftly picks up on Johns's concept of the two of them as Rokk-the-serious-one and Garth-the-talented-screwoff, and also gives us a couple of nice moments with Rokk struggling to use his powers effectively. It's done well, too; we understand that Rokk does know what he's doing, but that using his powers in combat is a whole new thing that he's not used to yet.
I also liked the part on page one, where Imra is commenting on how much more in-shape Garth and Rokk are. Imra obviously takes her physical condition seriously--she's a conscientious SP-candidate, after all--so for them to be so far ahead of her says something about them. And it should be like that! These three founded the freaking Legion of Super-Heroes, after all, first superhero team of the Silver Age out-of-story and first one in a bunch of centuries in-story. They should be exceptional.
The credits page doesn't tell us how the art is broken down between Kevin Sharpe and Marlo Alquiza (is Alquiza the inker? co-penciller?), but it's a little better than it has been in places. Some pages, I look at them and say, oh yeah, that's Sharpe all right, but others I look at and go, I'm not sure who drew that, it seems a little different. Pages 15 and 20, for instance. Panel Count: 91/20 = 4.55, 1 single-panel page.
I still like LSHv6 better than this title, but this issue closed up most of the gap. I prefer the future of the future to the past of the future, for one thing, and a different artist might also help, but if Levitz has more stories like this on the way I really won't have anything to complain about.