Thursday, September 22, 2011

Legion of Super-Heroes #1 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

The Legion has a squad (Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl, Chameleon Boy, Dragonwing, Chemical Kid) on planet Panoptes, which is apparently a planet where the United Planets keeps an eye on the Dominion. But something weird is going on there. Turns out the place is sending signals to the Dominators, and there's some kind of renegade Daxamite involved.

Review:

I've been reading about how this issue isn't really new-reader-friendly, and I don't know about that. I mean, I'm pretty far from a new reader, but I don't get a sense of being thrown into the middle of a confusing story here. The comic is about the start of a new mission for some Legionnaires; there's some setup, some action, and ends with a cliffhanger. We see all the characters, and get to know some of them. Sure, some things are mentioned but not explained, but nothing we can't handle not knowing. Maybe not the best new-reader issue, but workable.

On the one hand it's a thoroughly acceptable setup issue for a new Legion mission, and there's all kinds of character stuff too, not just with relation to the mission and other Legion business, but also to the many losses the team has recently suffered. All stuff that should be in there, and well done too... but I would like more out of my Legion comics, and I'm not sure what more. Come on: in LSHv6, Levitz made the final storyline partly an exploration of the theme of wisdom, and was that enough for me? No, I made fun of it. So I guess there's no pleasing me.

Levitz returns to one of his favourite touches here: the Legion is overworked and understaffed. Really though things aren't that bad; they've got a membership of 22 or 23 (see below), and it's been way lower than that under Levitz. In fact, it's seldom been higher! Okay, so the new kids are still green. Surely that's offset by the decades of experience the rest of the team has. One thing I'll say, though: the Legion will live to regret inducting Comet Queen. She's not the stupidest Legionnaire ever--that would be Ferro--but she is the biggest screwup. It will not end well.

(Which is not to say that I'm against her membership!)

I was glad to see Colossal Boy recognizing how ineffective a Legionnaire he had been recently. As long as it was something Levitz had been doing on purpose, and not just out of disregard for the character. Remember how Levitz works, though: just because he's not a Legionnaire anymore doesn't mean he's not a character in the book. We have not seen the last of Gim.

Have we ever seen Paul Levitz make use of the Dominators before? I don't remember it. They're good villains but they don't stand up to overuse. I hope he's got an interesting take on them.

So! Strong issue, as a first issue should be. I liked it better than Legion Lost, I think, but I'm looking forward to both. Plus, next month: four Legion comics!

Notes:
- woman in purple robes in panel 1 of page 7
- so Harmonia Li's a "natural elemental", is she? Whassat?
- I like how Glorith's using the Legion emblem as a cloak clasp
- where was Quislet this issue? I mean, I know we don't have to see everyone in every issue, but I thought there was an effort made to get everyone onscreen for this one

Art: 89 panels/20 pages = 4.5 panels/page. One two-page spread of two panels.

Is it a fairly recent development to have the page divided into a top-to-bottom stack of short wide panels? I seem to be seeing a lot of pages like that these days.

Art by Portela. We already knew he could do good work with the Legion, and this is more of it. It's a busy-looking issue, too, with lots of detail in the background. Let's keep an eye on how long he can keep that up. I can't pick a standout panel or page; it all looks similarly good. If he keeps that up it's going to make these parts of the reviews pretty hard to write. "Art by Portela. Good again."

Membership Notes:

Well, the six Legionnaires from Legion Lost aren't on the team anymore. Nor is Colossal Boy, who's quit to join the United Planets starfleet. To replace them, we have... well, Glorith, Comet Queen, Chemical Kid, and Dragonwing for sure, and maybe Harmonia Li; it's not clear. I'll put the first four on the Legion Roster page and hold off on Harmonia for now. (Not tonight. Soon.) Here's a question, though: is this Glorith the same character as in the Silver Age and 5YL? Or is she a new character with the same name? I ask because I've got a column for "created by", and I'd like to know whether to credit her to Levitz/Jimenez or to Siegel/Forte.

I was hoping for XS but no such luck.

For those who may be reading the Legion for the first time, here's the current roster of the team, as best I can tell: Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Chemical Kid, Comet Queen, Cosmic Boy, Dragonwing, Dream Girl, Element Lad, Glorith, possibly Harmonia, Invisible Kid, Lightning Lad, Lightning Lass, Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Polar Boy, Quislet, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, Shrinking Violet, Star Boy, Sun Boy, Ultra Boy (22 or 23). (Note that Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl seem to be on a leave of absence, or extended vacation, at the moment.)

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48 Comments:

Anonymous eddie blake said...

levitz wrote the dominators in the universo project storyline as well as that "new" substitute legion annual where rokk put together a team, though i'm sure there are other instances..

12:19 AM  
Anonymous Jim Purcell said...

The way Cham was talking about not having access to a telepath at the moment, almost makes me wonder if something worse may have befallen Irma somewhere between the previous series, Legion Lost, and now.

Also... did you take notice of how Chameleon tells the two rookies to play dumb castaways, because nobody knows who they are. Yet both continue to wear their Legion Logo covered outfits throughout the story. I thought that was a really boneheaded mistake.

4:54 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

eddie: Oh, right. Thanks.

Jim: Honestly I think they're just on vacation.

As for the "disguises"... I wonder if that's on Levitz, Portela, or some combination of them.

Or, I don't know, maybe all the kids wear Legion memorabilia in the 31st century. Like in the threeboot.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a revamp?Doesn't feel like an All-New Era beginning,but business as usual.The Legionnaires don't even have new uniforms.All the talk of old plotlines and loss are working against the idea of a new reader-enticing fresh start.
I think Glorith is meant to be the same character as before.When she speaks of Oaa's death,she wishes she could "turn back that moment..." Pretty blatant telegraphing.
Mon-El's kind words for Earth-Man were surprising,considering he took Mon's woman.Maybe you can be too noble for your own good.
Having been disappointed by the past year's worth of Legion books, I wasn't even going to buy this issue,but I was in the store anyway,and it had Portela art,so I bought.It's interesting,but no more so than last year's LSH #1. So,instead of buying next month's issue,I'll wait and get the fourth one,or the sixth,and if it feels like nothing has happened in the time between issues,that will decide whether or not I will any more of this title.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

No, the whole time they were saying that the Legion would be one of the titles whose continuity would be least affected by Flashpoint. It's not supposed to be a fresh start. I think the only reason they started renumbering it is because they were renumbering all the others.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous AJay said...

Anybody else notice that the symbol for Ayla on the ninth story page is a feather?

9:01 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I didn't notice that! Wow. I wonder if it was a mistake.

9:51 PM  
Blogger karl said...

Enjoyed it.
Loving seeing the Espionage team again...bit extreme putting the newbies like Chem and Glorith nin danger first time out just to sneak them in though.
Mon-El was strangely benevolent towards Earth-Man. God, what a wuss! And he moaned about giving up his GL ring.
Art was crisp and clear, colours were light and dark exactly when they needed to be, everything was perfectly done.
Wish Power Boy was included in the LSH.
Comet Queen...yes, THATS a good idea[!].
Prof Li...an elemental like Crystal of the Inhumans?
Nice show of compassion and comradeship from Brainy and Dreamy. Interesting how Star Boy is now being portrayed.
Love love love having the Dominators back! All their scheming reminds me of the Romulans in Star Trek; in fact the universe of the 31st cen reminds me of the Trek universe now.
All in all an acceptable first issue...I get the feeling the previous run was a dry run for this new start and I like it.
And I predicted it would be Gim whod be leaving!

2:55 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Interesting how Star Boy is now being portrayed.

Now that you mention it, yeah. Is he going to become a Legionnaire again? Full-fledged, like he was before? Or is Levitz easing him out?

Because it occurs to me that this is the value of Paul Levitz. If he changes the Legion's membership radically, he can get away with it where a writer newer to the Legion would get raked over the coals. But who's got more credibility as a steward of the Legion than Paul Levitz? Nobody, that's who. Not Shooter or Waid or Giffen. Now, I don't know if Levitz would want to make huge changes (although I guarantee he would dare if he did want to), but it is one respect in which things could get interesting around here.

7:58 PM  
Anonymous David Spofforth said...

And, seriously, just what is the plan with XS? Even Tyroc got more respect in his early Legion days!!!

10:37 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

...I think Levitz just doesn't know what to do with her. In an interview he said she seemed like a fun character. Or, I don't know, maybe there are possible conflicts with plans for her in Flash comics.

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Mo Walker said...

@Anonymous - I do not blame Levitz for argument about the book "not being new reader friendly". Legion always has that stigma attached to it. The editor could have debunked this notion by including a text page/mock newspaper article, it worked for Animal Man. During the Giffen/Bierbaum era, this trick was used to convey lots of backstory. The same thing should have been included in Legion Lost #1.

6:11 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I've read a lot of reviews of these two #1s, all of them saying that they weren't new-reader-friendly. And it's hard for me to put myself in the shoes of someone who's never read the Legion at all before; I haven't been that guy for, I don't know, thirty, thirty-five years. But I know it can't be that bad.

The two comics had one thing (at least) in common: new readers described them as giving them the idea that they were coming in in the middle of a story. But we know that they aren't coming in in the middle of a story! So maybe Levitz and Nicieza just weren't doing a good enough job of holding the readers' hands, that's all.

8:08 PM  
Anonymous Madman2001 said...

I LOVED the art. I have to say that this is the best art of any comic book in recent memory. It's extremely detailed, almost 3D, but with panache, with a WOW factor.

I too hope he can keep it up!!

9:15 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

One thing about the art: the greatest Legion artists are the ones who picked up the 30th/31st century by the scruff of the neck and made it their own. Cockrum did it, Giffen did it, and Kitson did it. Portela's stuff looks great, but he has not (yet?) revolutionized the way the future looks.

9:26 PM  
Anonymous Mo Walker said...

@Matthew E - Like you, I am biased. I have been reading Legion comics for approximately 25 years. I was optimistic and thought the Legion would generate "good press" because DCnU relaunch did not change the current continuity.

I believe if the writers are not "doing a good enough job of holding the readers' hands", the editor(s) should have noticed and tried a course-correction. Maybe someone noticed but the deadlines kept them from making the changes. Hopefully someone will take notice and resolve this problem in future issues.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Unfortunately I think they missed their chance. You only get one #1 issue* and now it's all uphill.

But, you know, it's still true that these are just superhero comics, and if you want to get into them, you pick 'em up and start reading, and you will eventually catch on to what's going on. Will readers do this? Not in the numbers they might have in September 2011.

--
* I managed to type that with a straight face!

11:47 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Now that I think about it, you know what might be the deal with XS? XS might not exist anymore. Look at Barry Allen's new situation. Does Wally West exist, post-Flashpoint? Does Bart? There might not be any XS.

4:30 PM  
Anonymous AJay said...

Am I a little slow or (on 9th page again)is Shrinking Violet black now?

11:31 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I don't have the book with me so I can't check, but I know I looked at her on that one page and I didn't have that reaction.

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First Gates is gone,now XS...is there a reboot-Legionnaire vendetta going on here?

11:54 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I doubt it. Anyway, the final word isn't in on either of those characters.

12:51 PM  
Blogger karl said...

I personally think iits too late for any new readers to come on to the comic; the LSH has a very long run, both in numbers and continuity, for anyone to try picking it up and expecting to follow it. As one whos been reading the LSH since the 70s, I dont need [nor I expect does any other veteran reader] explanations for whos who; really, readers shouldve known these details by now imo. I cant imagine anyone new coming on to this book, tbh.
I echo what others say about XS; not one of my favourites but along with Gates was one of the more bearable things about the Archie Legion. I hope she hasnt been retconned out as a consequence of Flashpoint.
Just as a novel point of putting together who is in this LSH, who would fans like in their LSH 'dream team'? If I could write the book, then my roll call would be as follows;
Cosmic Boy
Lightning Lad
Saturn girl
Brainy
Chameleon Boy
Sun Boy
Collossal Boy
Shrinking Violet
Mon-El
Shadow Lass
Ultra Boy
Phantom Girl
Star Boy
Dream Girl
Karate Kid
Princess Projectra
Wildfire
Dawnstar
Xs
Gates
Chemical King/Kid
Glorith
Dragonmage
Polar Boy
Tellus
Quislet
Superboy [occasional]
Supergirl [occasional]#
Tyroc
Bouncing Boy
Duplicate Girl
Night Girl
Invisible Kid
Element Lad
Lightning Lass
Kid Quantum
Power Boy
Kono
Timber Wolf
White Witch
Blok
Well, thats my choice [bet Ive missed someone out!]. Whats everyone elses list?

2:09 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I personally think iits too late for any new readers to come on to the comic

No, no; not at all. Just because the Legion has this intricate history doesn't mean the comics have to be hard to read. And anyway you could say the same thing about anything. What about James Bond? Look at all the James Bond books and movies there have been over the decades; they keep changing actors and the books aren't the same as the movies and first M is a man and then a woman... how is anyone supposed to keep that straight? It's too late to make any new James Bond fans.

3:01 PM  
Blogger karl said...

So its too late to make new Bond fans but it isnt for the LSH? Surely with different actors for Bond and a female M the movies have been thru their own version of a reboot.
I should clarify my statement over new readers. If Flashpoint had given us yet another reboot, new readers could be enticed to give it a try. But this LSH [my favourite btw] is a continuation of the past series and the pre 1989 LSH. The Archie and Waid/Kitson versions brought in some new readers as they were short runs and in the main easier to collect; this classic LSH we have now requires readers to know [mostly] everything thats happened in the past and that could be difficult. Many new readers got Legion Lost and couldnt work out who was who and what was going on.
Its curious how DC altered mostly everything with Flashpoint except the LSH; they must have faith in the series. LSH fans themselves have invested a lot of faith in the comic but new readers will have a job trying to get in 'on the ground floor', so to speak. I certainly couldnt try the LSH books today if Id never read them before.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

No, I was being sarcastic about James Bond. It's obviously not too late for new James Bond fans and by extension nor is it for the Legion.

I agree that neither first issue was received as particularly new-reader-friendly; I don't think they were as bad as people have said but I'm sure they could have been better in that respect. But there's nothing complicated about Legion comics; you don't need to know all that history to read them. You don't!

Its curious how DC altered mostly everything with Flashpoint except the LSH; they must have faith in the series.

I suspect it's exactly the opposite: DC thought the Legion couldn't survive another reboot.

I certainly couldnt try the LSH books today if Id never read them before.

You're selling yourself short. Absolutely no reason why you couldn't.

4:11 PM  
Blogger karl said...

Thanks, Matthew. Good points all, and Ive given a much more detailed run-down of what I think are the good points/bad points of the LSH runs over on the CBR forum [ I post as Dessad ]. Its far too detailed to go into here and I wouldnt want to take up space that other posters need to contribute.
I agree totally with you that the LSH possibly couldnt survive another reboot. Neither could I, for that matter[!].

6:23 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Oh, is that you? I've been in that thread, as you probably know; I don't think the Legion needs anything done to it to make it "viable". It just needs to be better, and then with any luck people will notice.

Actually I think the Legion could survive another reboot. Or two, or three. But why would we want to test that?

7:28 PM  
Blogger Brainy Pirate said...

I wish I could remember what it was like being a 10 year old back in 1978 and discovering the Legion in a convenience store comic rack. Was I confused by this massive roster? How did I figure it all out? If I was confused, what kept me coming back? Was it the sexy costumes? (Cosmic Boy's cleavage and Element Lad's symbolic erection!!) Or was it that they were giving us lots of 2-issue stories that I could follow easily?

What do the rest of you remember about how you first "learned" the Legion?

8:41 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I certainly remember not knowing everything about the Legion. Didn't know who all were the members. But it was okay, because I knew what it was I didn't know, and I knew it'd all come in time. Is it so different now?

8:52 PM  
Blogger Brainy Pirate said...

Meanwhile, DC Women Kicking Ass are having a vote-off on the most Kick-
Ass women at DC. I tried to add some Legion refs, but it looks as though there aren't many Legion fans reading that blog. If you see this before the Thursday deadline, go vote! http://dcwomenkickingass.tumblr.com/post/10739904152/tournament

3:45 PM  
Blogger karl said...

musciI must admit 'back in the day' when I first began reading the book, I found it difficult with whos who, but I did pick it all up as I went along, its a kind of osmosis feel, the LSH book.
Do todays readers have that breadth of commitment these days, though?

3:58 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Pirate: Voted.

karl: Well, if they don't, the Legion's in trouble, because one of the whole points of the Legion is that there are dozens of 'em. Maybe the title should be aimed at kids; kids don't mind digging into that stuff. They like it. Why else is Pokemon so popular?

6:52 PM  
Anonymous eddie blake said...

slsh #205 was my first. just thought it was cool for many reasons, not the least of it ultra boy handing kal-el his cape and his ass...

but it also had one complete adventure story broken up into two issues in the backup...

so i was introduced to the 'modern' legion at the same time as being made aware of legion history... the was and the whens, if you will, and it really helped me get my mind around the idea of the legion...

too bad they don't do 100 pages for 60 cents any more...

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too bad they don't do 20 pages for 60 cents any more...

2:49 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

I call this Glorith a new character:
* No connection between their backgrounds
* No design similarity
* The old one has apparently been wiped from continuity, since no one twigs to her name

Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad took an extended leave of absence last issue. Treat them as Reservists.

Harmonia = Crystal of the Inhumans sounds like a good mapping.

I think that XS was to join but then got blocked by the DCU reboot. The backup we got was her write-off. She's now Schroedinger's Legionnaire: until her box is opened (until Levitz needs her and is allowed to use her), she both exists (for Legion continuity) and doesn't (for the Flash continuity). It's another version of the Superboy Hokey-Pokey.

If Levitz really decides he wants her, she becomes just "Jenni Ognatz of Aarok, with speed powers coming from he mother and grandfather". Gates likewise never needs to reference Earth-247.

1:37 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I call this Glorith a new character

Could very well be. I guess time will tell.

Harmonia = Crystal of the Inhumans sounds like a good mapping.

Yeah. I had thought of it (as has karl, above) but it's the kind of comparison that kind of stops right there, isn't it?

She's now Schroedinger's Legionnaire

I like that.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Brainy Pirate said...

I like Schroedinger's Legionnaire too.

Although that should not be confused with Schroeder's Legionnaire, who, I assume, would be Tyroc?

2:31 PM  
Anonymous stile86 said...

As far as Levitz and the Dominators go, they were major players in the Earthwar long ago, although instead of being the master manipulators (that was Giffen's intro with Invasion I think) they were mostly just a big bad alien race Earth had been at war with for a long time, and ended up being manipulated themselves by Mordru.

12:15 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Oh yeah; I had forgotten about the Dominion in Earthwar.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Murray said...

What makes you think Quislet is still a member? I couldn't find any evidence of him in Legion #1. I don't think he was there and I didn't see his mission monitor board symbol. Please prove me wrong. I definitely want Quislet in the Legion.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Why wouldn't Quislet still be a Legionnaire? He isn't with the Lost team, he didn't indicate leaving any time during the v6 run, and his status wasn't addressed as changing in v7 #1.

That leaves two likely options:
* Portela forgot to draw him (or Levtiz forgot to put him in the script). Several Legionnaires showed up as nothing but holo images and thus unless explicitly called out, he could have just been forgotten.
* Quislet was also involved in whatever incident caused the Lost team to be lost, but he apparently didn't end up in the 21st century with them (he's doubly lost). The Lost members weren't explicitly named in v7 #1, so we wouldn't know if Quislet, XS, and Polar Boy's niece were also involved and missing/presumed dead.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I noted that we didn't see Quislet in #1, but until I get some more definitive evidence that he isn't on the team, I'm going to assume that he is. I don't think that that one two-page section of LSH#1 constitutes evidence one way or the other.

4:44 PM  
Blogger karl said...

Polar Boys niece?!?!? Have we missed something? Whos that?

5:13 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

"Polar Boy's niece" is shorthand for "We haven't seen what happened to make them think the Lost team is actually dead. In theory, you can assume than any given Legion cast member not yet seen in v7, including ones we have never seen before but could exit, was also caught in the event and is either known or presumed dead."

Given the number of times in the past that entire teams of Legionnaires have been caught in some event, gone missing, and turned up intact months later -- the first Legion Lost is the only counter-example to that, I think -- there is no reason for the Legionnaires to assuming the Losties are dead and not just Lost. Unless they haven't told us and it was some massive explosion with hundreds or thousands missing and actually dead, with the Losties among those missing. (Dominion terrorists vaporized half of Weber's World, for example.) Without something that affected lots more than 7 Legionnaire and Alastor, they shouldn't be presumed dead. But that's also about the only reason you should assume that not seeing Quislet in #1 means he is gone.

(I think that scene being missing is the biggest flaw in LSH #1, the biggest tag for "not new reader friendly" -- readers don't know why everyone is moping. We needed one page, and then a "6 weeks later..." caption to start off what we got. They could have then put the same one page in LL #1, told from the Losties perception, to tie the two books together better, too.)

5:56 PM  
Blogger karl said...

Jim - thanks.

4:45 PM  
Blogger Kobus L said...

My two cents' worth on being new to the Legion, with its huge universe and involved history(ies). My first issues were back in early 80's - the Ranzz brothers fighting it out on Earth's polymer screen and Wildfire turned human with Jacques Foccart in (what would later turn out to be) a dream demon dimension. I had no clue what was going on, but what I saw was so dynamic that I was intrigued to look for more. The Giffen art was a big part of it, but also the huge cast of interesting-seeming characters and the sense of place and scope Levitz managed to incorporate in the universe. (Encyclopeadia Galactica ...).

Even then the history was quite long, but all those factors that should have been barriers to entry were turned into attractions by the creative team.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

all those factors that should have been barriers to entry were turned into attractions by the creative team.

Do you think this is the case now? It seems to be the perception that it isn't, but I dunno.

8:02 PM  

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