Thursday, October 20, 2011

Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #1 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

Six of the crew of the USS Enterprise and six Legionnaires, separately, while traveling, end up on a 23rd-century alternate Earth where it's all totalitarian and stuff. Actually it doesn't look like the two groups have gone back to exactly the same time and place; the Legion could be a little later in the timeline than the Star Trek group. The two groups don't meet up.

There's also something going on on prehistoric Earth, and, uh, really it's not clear how the timeline of this Earth fits together; there's stuff with the Talokians and the Durlans and the Dominators and I don't know what all.

Review:

I had been really looking forward to this series; I figured Chris Roberson was practically born to be a Legion writer, and I really wanted to see what he could do with the characters.

Sure enough, Roberson demonstrated in his first issue that he's quite adept at writing Legionnaires, and, if I'm any judge, of Star Trek characters. If a wrong note was struck, I didn't hear it. And it's clear that Roberson has some kind of idea for this story that could very well be an interesting one. I am still looking forward to this series.

And I hope it starts soon!

Because this is all setup. It's good setup; it looks like something intricate is going on here, which is fine; always nice when a writer is really thinking about this stuff. And I have no idea how it all fits together. But... well, I guess it depends on what I'm supposed to care about.

If I'm supposed to care about the plot, then this was an eventful issue; we've got some kind of an alternate-earth deal where history has gone wrong in some way that's not obvious to us, and it looks like there could have been some tampering involved somehow. And who's the "something powerful" that Saturn Girl detected, and who's the guy with the glowing eye, and so on.

But I don't, in the strictest sense of the word, care about the plot. I'm interested in the plot, and I know the difference between a good plot and a bad plot, and I certainly want there to be a plot, but it's not what brings me to the comic book. The plot is like the bread in a sandwich: you have to have it, and the bread is what makes the sandwich a sandwich, and there's a difference between good and bad bread... but rarely is the bread the thing that separates a good sandwich from a bad sandwich.

What I do care about is the characters and how they are expressed. (I'm making this up as I go along, but it sounds right.) What do they do in the story that tells us more about them, or that gets at the core of what the character is all about? How do they interact with each other? And so on. In this series, in particular, I was looking forward to seeing the Star Trek characters interact with the Legion characters. See, the two franchises represent the same kind of thing: optimistic-future space-adventure. But they do so in different ways, and the contrast between the two is one of the only reasons why anyone would even want such a series to exist. And another is, because some of these characters are so beloved and distinct that we're almost rubbing our hands together at the thought of them meeting. C'mon: Spock and Brainy! Kirk and Shady! Bones and Brainy! Spock and Saturn Girl!

We didn't get any of any of that.

Anyway. I'm looking forward to the next issue. It pretty much has to be better than this. Doesn't it? I mean, this wasn't bad. But it's all appetizer, and it's making me feel like an idiot for buying comics at all. Ha ha, psych! The main event doesn't start until #2! Maybe! Thanks for your money! It's a well-done comic about the Legion and it's making me want to quit comics.

God damn it all.

Notes:
- my copy of this comic had a real problem with pages sticking together; not impressed
- the Dramatis Personae page has Saturn Girl listed with Winath as her home planet. Which isn't wrong, really, but it may not be what people need to know about her...
- my Trek-fu is not strong enough to know whether characters like "Commander Starr" and "Captain Tomorrow" are established characters or what. Can't be Tommy Tomorrow, can it?
- I wonder if we're ever going to find out about what mission the Legionnaires were on that they're coming home from

Art: 78 panels/22 pages = 3.5 panels/page. Three single-panel pages, one case of three panels spread over two pages, one case of eight panels spread over two pages, one twelve-panel page.

Art is provided by Jeffrey and Philip Moy, who are of course well-known for their work on the reboot Legion. I don't want to make it sound like the two are joined at the hip or anything; my recollection is that Jeffrey Moy was the regular penciller and Philip Moy also got a bit of work here and there; please let me know if that's not accurate. Anyway, the art in this issue avoids being heavily stylized in the way that the reboot Legion was, which I believe is a wise choice. I can't pick out any panels or pages that particularly impress me, but one thing I do like is the way they give the characters a lot of room within the panels; see page 13, panel 2, for an example of what I mean.

Notice that there were only 78 panels in this issue. Typically a 20-page Legion comic has more than 80. And a typical 20-page Legion comic is also a buck cheaper.

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17 Comments:

Blogger Jim Purcell said...

It would be completely awesome if it was Tommy Tomorrow. Can Space Cabbie be far behind?

3:46 AM  
Anonymous stile86 said...

I'd say that it is almost certain that he is this universe's version of Tommy Tomorrow. As for Commander Starr this must be Rick Starr, Space Ranger, a DC hero from the 22nd Century, who in this universe is leading a whole battalion of Space Rangers.

It was interesting to see the overlaps in this universe. Star Trek style ships (with others that some say are Klingonish but could be inspired by the old 70's Legion cruiser to my mind) attacking Durla, with a Mallor from Talok assisting. Then when the mob attack the Legion they lump Durlans in with the Dominion (from STar Trek) as bad guys. Oh and I mustn't forget a First Officer with green Coluan skin and Vulcan ears. What would you get if those two races crossbred???

I agree that it was all setup, but I have to admit I want to read the next issue to see what happens - and is the Legion in a different time zone which could be earlier or later than the Empire, or just a different location?

8:19 AM  
Anonymous stile86 said...

On second thoughts the Dominion is more likely the Dominators - the Star Trek Dominion is a DS9 opponent from the other side of the galaxy.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I mustn't forget a First Officer with green Coluan skin and Vulcan ears. What would you get if those two races crossbred?

A Colcan.

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Jim Davis said...

See, the two franchises represent the same kind of thing: optimistic-future space-adventure.

Does the Legion really represent this? Certainly it did up through the reboot and maybe up until Abnett and Lanning took over but my impression of the Legion books for over a dozen years or so has been one catastrophe following quickly on the heels of another.

9:33 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Yes. Yes, absolutely it does. I cannot stress this enough. The Legion represents optimistic-future space adventure. It always has and it always should.

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Jim Davis said...

Yes. Yes, absolutely it does. I cannot stress this enough. The Legion represents optimistic-future space adventure. It always has...

Seriously? Always? Even during V4 when the Legion couldn't stop the moon from blowing up, couldn't stop the earth from blowing up, and couldn't stop the universe from blowing up? That was optimistic future space adventure?

...and it always should.

We are in complete agreement here.

11:56 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I grant you that the 5YL era came closest of all the Legion eras to not being optimistic. But the idea was still that the universe should be a good place to live, that the current problems were only temporary, and that the Legion could accomplish this goal. That was the whole point of that run, really.

12:22 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

Despite this issue have a lower panel count than average, maybe, there was still a density of story here that surprised me. When we've been getting 20-page stories from DC for months which *feel* short (like 2 pages were chopped), I was surprised to go back and page count this to find it was only 22 pages; it felt longer than even most 22-pagers used to. Density of story, sufficient dialog, detail packing in the art (especially easy to do in alt universe stories like this; lots of stuff to pick at).

2:42 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well. I didn't get that from it.

2:49 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Note that I'm not saying it didn't feel like all setup, just that it felt like *lots* of setup. It felt like a full issue, one with stuff in it, not something decompressed and padded to get a story to TPB collection length.

If the remaining issues also feel "full" and the story hangs together well, I think this will come across as one of the better comic series around.,

5:13 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I still have high hopes for the series. But there's no justification for a single issue that doesn't even pretend to be a complete story, and I judge that that's what we got.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

I'm not sure I understand the complaint. It's #1 of a 6-issue series. What mini-series issues recently have you received a "complete" story in the first issue? (Okay, Legion: Secret Origin will probably do a better job of that, but it is likely intended as isolated chunks with an uberplot, not as a single story.) This didn't feel "complete" to me, but it also didn't feel like it was treading water, like it was air and junk; too many mini-series do, although especially around #4.

This is written for two groups: those in it for the full series regardless, and those who will pick up the first issue and see if it intrigues them enough. It's not intended for random people wanting done-in-one.

I equate this to a 2-hour movie on television. We've just done the first 20 minutes, to the first commercial break. If you need completion of what's in your hand, wait for the movie to be released on DVD.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well, okay. That's a point.

But the rest of my complaint still stands: this issue was, as Kim Mitchell would put it, a lot of feathers and not much chicken.

9:51 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Although now that I think of it, I do remember other miniseries being better in this respect than was ST/LSH. Maybe not every miniseries.

8:40 AM  
Anonymous arkon said...

"Despite this issue have a lower panel count than average, maybe, there was still a density of story here that surprised me. When we've been getting 20-page stories from DC for months which *feel* short (like 2 pages were chopped), I was surprised to go back and page count this to find it was only 22 pages"

See, I didn't get the above feeling from it. It didn't feel very dense at all to me and by the end of it I was left wanting. I think the price tag didn't do it any favours either.

"Note that I'm not saying it didn't feel like all setup, just that it felt like *lots* of setup. It felt like a full issue, one with stuff in it, not something decompressed and padded to get a story to TPB collection length."

This, however, especially the final quoted line is exactly how it felt to me. Honestly it felt like 5-6 pages of material stretched out for an entire issue. I think I mentioned it elsewhere. Sure you get this kind of thing is prevalent in modern comics but in most cases I'm happy with what I'm paying for.

I'm reminded a bit of the All Star Superman origin page that they did. That's how I picture things happening here. A quick snappy intro of how we find our teams in this new universe. "Mysterious accidents. Teams separated. Strange new universe." I don't think anyone is really interested in how they got there. You don't need to spend so much time setting that up. I'm betting most people are interested in the interaction between the teams though and I think we should have seen some of that in this issue. Maybe have them arrive but separated and meeting up with counterparts from the other team. Then over the course of the issue we see them exploring this strange universe trying to meet up with the rest of their team. Cut to the last page with both groups meeting up. That way we'd get some Star Trek-Legion crossover action with the promise of the whole teams interacting in the next issue.

All that to say: I gotta agree with Matthew. Disappointing first issue but I'm hoping now that that is out of the way we get to what we're reading it for.

7:45 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

"Mysterious accidents. Teams separated. Strange new universe." I don't think anyone is really interested in how they got there. You don't need to spend so much time setting that up. I'm betting most people are interested in the interaction between the teams though and I think we should have seen some of that in this issue.

See, that would have been good. I do think we need some setup, as some Star Trek fans may be not at all familiar with the Legion, and it's even possible that some Legion fans may need the Enterprise explained to them. But I think the mix was off.

9:55 AM  

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