Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Legion: Secret Origin #1 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

This all takes place in the 31st century before the creation of the Legion. (Not the 30th century? It says the 31st century on page 1.) The United Planets is exploring the galaxy trying to reunite with old allies and make new friends, but when one of their expeditionary forces arrives on Anotrom, they find that someone's just wrecked the joint and killed everybody. They call in the Coluans, who bring in Brainiac 5, who goes to investigate. He meets Tinya Wazzo from Bgtzl there and she warns him that there's some kind of trouble brewing for the United Planets.

Meanwhile, the UP security directorate, I think that's who they are, a three-person council consisting of a Coluan, a Naltorian, and an Earth human who's been around the block a few times, are monitoring R.J. Brande as some guys try to assassinate him but are prevented by three superpowered teenagers. The Naltorian instantly knows something important is going on with this bunch and they make sure that the Science Police doesn't interfere with them or with whatever Brande wants to do with them. Whatever he wants to do, it involves recruiting a girl from Cargg, however she got there.

Review:

Go back and read this issue again and see for yourself. There's only one speech bubble this issue attributed to a Legionnaire, and it's the only one you need: Imra saying, "They're trying to kill that man!" I wish Legion history would settle on a definitive wording for that outburst; I always remember it as, "Those men--they're trying to kill Mr. Brande!" But whatever. However she says it, it's the key point in the creation of the Legion, just as unexpectedly crucial as "We'll go out through the kitchen" was for another group. I like that it was highlighted this way. (Note: Brainy and Tinya also speak, but they're not Legionnaires yet.)

Anisa, the Naltorian in the security directorate, says about the three Legionnaires that "these three are not a chance... they are a certainty..." Which is great. Why couldn't the Time Trapper have been listening in on this conversation? Because this is exactly why he can't beat the Legion: history is only elastic up to a certain point, and the existence of the Legion is beyond that point.

I have some wild speculation here on that experimental cruiser poking around in that wormhole. Just maybe the crew of this cruiser is going to consist of Jo Nah, Thom Kallor, and Gim Allon. After all, they're all early-to-join Legionnaires who got their powers in weird space accidents, and this could be Levitz's way of streamlining their origin stories. Just pouring that out onto the porch to see if the cat licks it up.

Last week I complained about the first issue of the Star Trek/LSH crossover. I said (among other things) that it wasn't a complete story. (For a miniseries, I suppose it's okay if your single issues aren't, strictly speaking, stories on their own. Although I think it's better if they are, as much as possible.) Well, this isn't a complete story, but I like it better. I have several reasons for this.
1. It's a buck cheaper.
2. I didn't have to pry the pages apart.
3. It's got 26 more panels in it, which works out to about five pages or so.
4. With no disrespect at all intended to the Moys, Chris Batista is better.
5. Free flight ring.
6. (The big reason) It does just about as much setup as did ST/LSH #1, but in addition to that it gives us some of what we want.

What we wanted out of this series was to see the Legion created. And we did see it. There they are! (But now there's more to it than that.) What we wanted out of ST/LSH was to see the crew of the Enterprise meet the Legion. They didn't. Depending on how the timeline works, they may not next issue either. See the difference?

In this series, so far, the main character seems to be this old guy Myecroft on the security directorate. He's trying to make sure everything goes smoothly for the UP, however he has to do it. Myecroft is faced with the problem that R.J. Brande seems to be doing something unorthodox with this bunch of teenagers who saved him. He decides to let it play out for a while. But then at the end of the issue he's faced with the fact that they're entirely out of his control and he has no idea what they're up to. That's the beginning of a story, all right, but it's not a whole story.

If we insist on having a complete story in this issue, that story is the initial creation of the Legion and the induction of its first new member. On the one hand, that's something that feels important to us, so it gives us that sense of closure we want in our single issue. On the other, it's not really the A plot of the comic book. Overall it's effective.

And it's excellent for new readers. This is the jumping-on point Levitz should have given us with LSHv7 #1. Starts off with a brief explanation of the United Planets and its circumstances. Gives us new characters fairly slowly, and not too many in the first issue. Shows us the Legion without expecting us to know too much about what it is... you know, I only just realized now that there wasn't much action in this issue? Hardly any, really, but I didn't miss it. Normally I would miss it.

Pleased with this one.

Notes:
- I trust you all got your flight rings? Who knows when this chance may come again!
- Maybe for the next free-stuff giveaways DC could provide us with transuits and telepathic plugs
- Or if they want to do rings again, how about an Insect Queen ring?
- H-E-R-O dial?
- Notice the Interlac P on Phantom Girl's uniform? But if Bgtzl's not in contact with the United Planets, how do they speak Interlac?
- Also, compare the coloring of Phantom Girl's costume between the cover and the interior art. Which one's right? Interior, I hope
- There's already some speculation on how "Anotrom" is just "Trom" with a new name. I guess we'll see... but those guys on pages 1 and 2 don't look like Element Lad to me
- Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, and Cosmic Boy became the Legion of Super-Heroes offscreen sometime between pages 10 and 19. Maybe page 15? It's not explicit, but that must be what it is

Art: 104 panels/20 pages = 5.2 panels/page. One single-page panel, one page with 10 panels.

Always nice to see Chris Batista drawing the Legion, and he acquits himself well here. The panel layout is a bit weird; I counted each separate point-of-view headshot of one of the security directorate as a panel, which inflates the panel count, but in a way it's just a framing device. On the other hand, it also gives us a look at what's going on with the UP behind the scenes, so really it's more than that. Check out the UP officer's uniform on page 3. Plus Brainy looks very callow and smug in this issue; nice touch. Really they all look young; check out Phantom Girl in panel 4 of page 16.

It took me a while to put together just what was happening with Luornu on page 19. I guess we're supposed to get that she's triplicated and meeting the other three separately, then merging together in panel 9, but it's not obvious.

Thing I want to say about the cover. (It's by Tom Feister.) What kind of style do you call this, anyway? I remember this kind of art showing up during the DnA run a couple of times, and I can't say I'm really a fan of it. Not that it isn't any good; I just don't like it when they do it like that.

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19 Comments:

Blogger Jim Purcell said...

You're going to have to help me out here; what group is "We'll go out through the kitchen" an iconic phrase from?

Also, good review. I liked this issue quite a bit. Seeing the inter-workings of the UP is one of those World Building things I like to see more often. The actual formation of the Legion being made background noise to the A plot was certainly an interesting way to represent it.

12:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My flight ring doesn't work...
The best scene was Brainy freaking out at Tinya.Always fun seeing him caught off guard.
The redesigns Batista gave the classic costumes look great.The Legionnaires in the main book should be wearing these instead of the ones they wear now.The '70s are dead,people.

1:37 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

You're going to have to help me out here; what group is "We'll go out through the kitchen" an iconic phrase from?

Aha!

Can anyone help Jim out?

My flight ring doesn't work...

It's probably just not calibrated to your DNA yet. Any decent medical lab will be able to take care of that for you; just go in and ask them.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Keith said...

I thought this issue was interesting. Kind of a Legion origin told by characters observing them from the outside. The rapid introduction of future Legionnaries reminds me of the Superboy's Legion 100 page thing that came out last week, which I also thought was great.

12:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I hope the introduction of more Legionnaires isn't too rapid. More room to explore what kind of interesting secret stuff was going on if we don't have to cut away to Chuck Taine blowing off work for a page to see Transformers III.

12:24 PM  
Anonymous stile86 said...

"... any decent medical lab..."

That cracked me up. Great response.

I looked up the answer to the kitchen and now know who said it in what literary universe but I'm no wiser to the significance. Someone put me out of my misery before I die of frustation.

11:51 PM  
Anonymous AJay said...

I'm curious about when Kal-El and if Kara Zor-El enter the picture. Will Jo Nah go to Smallville High for his initiation? Probably not. What about Mystery Lad? I guess the big issue is time travel. I'm looking forward to Action nos.4+5 when Grant Morrison gets to play with the introduction of the Legion to Superman.
I'm losing track of what universe is what, but having a good time with this.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

stile: Okay, okay. Here's the idea.

"We'll go out through the kitchen," was said by Tanis Half-Elven, leader of the Heroes of the Lance, in the first Dragonlance novel.

When he said it, he and his five friends had just reunited after they had all been away on unsuccessful quests, and they're there in their favourite inn wondering what they're going to do next, and worrying about how the world situation is deterioriating, what with goblin and draconian soldiers throwing their weight around. Then trouble breaks out: some of these soldiers trying to apprehend two strangers in the corner. Tanis and his friends save the strangers, and Tanis issues his famous line, which taken literally is just a tactic for avoiding reinforcements. But that's the moment at which the eight of them become a team and gain a mission, and of course they go on to save the world. As such it's directly analogous to, "Those men! They're going to kill Mr. Brande!"

AJay: The approach I recommend is to not think about it too much and assume it all makes sense.

9:41 AM  
Anonymous stile86 said...

Thanks Michael for the kitchen explanation. I can see how it fits.

The question of Kal-el and Kara got me running through in my mind all the various meetings between the Superman family and the Legion - and realising that most of them are now null and void. All the meetings with the reboot legion and the threeboot legion don't matter since they are not the retroboot legion, and with the New 52 all of those versions of the Superman family are in the dustbin anyway. The New 52 also means that we can't assume that the Lightning saga took place nor Superman's involvement with Earthman. There must have been something similar at least with Earthman but it can't have involved Superman in exactly the same way since that Superman no longer exists. So that just leaves us with the original legion and since they are not identical to the retroboot legion anyway, the writers can do whatever they want. Maybe they did meet up, maybe they didn't. Either way I agree with both your comments - I can't wait to see what they do this time and I'll try to relax and enjoy it and not think about it too much. (Oops, too late!)

4:21 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

It amuses me when people call me Michael.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Dylan said...

I'm a little sad to see that they decided to ditch Garth's first costume with the cape. Because if any of the Legion (who are not -El's of some stripe) would wear a cape, it'd be him. Falling under the "because it's cool" category when asked about it.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Exactly the kind of detail I'm not going to quibble about.

2:16 PM  
Anonymous stile86 said...

It amuses me when people call me Michael.

Oops! Soory Matthew. Glad you were amused rather than annoyed.

3:45 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I once had a temp job where, in the course of one morning, I was addressed as William, Harry, and Frank.

9:08 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

Tying Jo and Thom's origins together was done in the reboot. Adding Gim's into the same mix starts to get top heavy (and then you'd just have to add Staq in as well, no?).

Kal and Kara were seen in the retroboot Legion already, at Garth's funeral in the Adventure backups. But that certainly could be back gone again. Or not; some presence of young Kryptonians is almost a given for the Legion. Damn, is the Time Trapper pulling at threads again so soon? (Reference to Zero Hour.)

2:16 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Tying Jo and Thom's origins together was done in the reboot.

Was it really? I don't remember that; huh.

some presence of young Kryptonians is almost a given for the Legion

Yeah; we just don't know exactly how yet.

2:44 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Jo and Thom got swallowed by the same space whale. It was in Legends of the Legion. Here's the details on issue #1, Jo's origin:

http://soundskinky.com/Legion/Frunt/1998Q1/Legends-of-the-Legion-1.html

It gave at least a vague reasoning for why Thom had Kryptonian-style powers which later faded.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

See, now, I've read that, and not too long ago, and I still don't remember it. That's weird. Maybe I'll look it up again tonight. Thanks.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Todd Nauck artwork. Frankly, the nadir of the reboot as "Archie Legion". I recall the Spark and Umbra issues being more interesting, artistically.

4:49 PM  

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