Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Legion of Super-Heroes #20 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

On the Promethean Giant, Phantom Girl gives up and goes back to Bgtzl; Invisible Kid used his mysterious teleportation/dimensional travel powers to save he and Polar Boy by going to the Dimension of Dead Legionnaires he visited once before; Tharok gloats but reveals that Phantom Girl was the one he was most worried about.

Among the ruins of Weber's World, the largest group of Legionnaires is trying to figure out what happens next.

On the Sorcerer's World, Ultra Boy, Glorith, Chameleon Boy, Blok, and the Black Witch fight Validus in the planet's core; he's trying to destroy something important. The Witch and Glorith fight him off by removing the Sorcerer's World from the universe, leaving Validus floating helpless in space and Ultra Boy and Cham teleported back to Earth, where they find Legion HQ in ruins and the Persuader having left Triplicate Girl in seriously bad shape.


This is a good issue. All the storylines are advanced in interesting ways, the art is fantastic, and I want to read what happens next. If Paul Levitz had been able to turn in this kind of a performance from the start of this his third run on the Legion, they wouldn't even be considering cancelling it.

One point I want to make about Invisible Kid taking himself and Polar Boy to the Happy Frunting Grounds, or Dimen-Shanghalla, or whatever you want to call it: commenter ampm1789 totally nailed it in the comments to last issue; nice one. It is true that, in original continuity, there weren't really dead Legionnaires there; there was a demon who tricked Jacques into thinking he was Lyle Norg, but wasn't. No matter; Levitz wants to do it differently this time.

I'm not much on this business of the Black Witch calling Cham "man of Durla". She knows him! She would absolutely call him "Chameleon Boy"! As established by Levitz himself! I mean, yes, okay, he's doing it differently this time, but why change that?

Many fans are unhappy about how Phantom Girl is being portrayed in this story. I'm one of them. A Legionnaire surrendering to despair and running away? It isn't pleasant reading. Having said that, though, I don't say that the story is bad for that reason. Anybody remember how Sun Boy was portrayed in the Five Years Later run? Similar kind of thing, but it made for some extremely powerful comic books. That was a run that made me care about it by taking me out of my comfort zone and giving me storylines that I really wanted to turn out differently. And Levitz is doing the same here, and it's working. Plus, of course, Tharok's comment here makes it somewhat likely that she's going to come to the rescue by the end of the story, which of course would be satisfying. Let's see how it plays out before we pronounce judgment; let's see how it rereads.

Let's take note of the fact that the Legion has actually been kind of effective so far. Validus and the Emerald Empress have been taken out of commission, leaving only Tharok and the Persuader (plus whatever Fatal Fifth we haven't learned about yet). (Although the Empress is on the cover of #21, or so says the solicit I could find.) And they're supposed to wrap this up by #22 (leaving #23 for the aftermath). That seems doable.

Remember when LSHv5 was coming to an end? Shooter and Manapul? And then eventually Thyme and Bachs? The last few issues of that series seemed like a death march. So did "End of an Era", actually. And "The Magic Wars" wasn't that hot either. This isn't like that; this is damn good work. (Except for the revolving artists.) This is like "For No Better Reason" or "Widening Rifts". This is going to be a shame to say goodbye to.

Art: 85 panels/20 pages = 4.3 panels/page. 3 splash pages.

Man, it's good to have Portela back on art. The pages look better. Look at them! There's a unity to the panel layout; the whole story seems in good hands in a way that it hasn't since, well, Giffen's issue, but in a different way. And of course the whole thing is very pretty. It's not a pretty story, but at the moment I don't care.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This issue felt like a classic Legion issue from the 1980's. I think Levitz did an excellent job. Portela's art was fantastic. I'm going to miss both of them when this series is over.

I especially like Levitz's use of Invisible Kid's journey way back in Tales LSH #317 to the dream dimension as a subplot. I hope he uses that demon to bring the "dead" legionnaires back to life to defeat the Fatal Five. If so, this will be a nod that the New 52 Legion is in complete continuity with the original Legion run.

With the series ending, I think we may have said our final goodbye to Blok, Gloith and Black Witch. I'm glad Levitz incorporated them into his story.

8:10 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well, Levitz has said himself that this version of the Legion doesn't perfectly match original-Legion continuity, and his approach to the Fatal Five is a perfect example of that.

I think you're right, on one level, about Blok, Glorith, and Mysa, but wrong on another: I don't see these goodbyes as final. How many Legionnaires have we lost so far in this story? Potentially? Sun Boy, Star Boy, Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Duplicate Damsel, Blok, Glorith, Black Witch? That's a huge amount of characters to discard all at once. And when you try to do something that sweeping, it doesn't stick. It's begging to be reversed by another writer a couple of years down the line.

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't mean that Blok, Glorith and Black Witch were eliminated by Levitz as part of some pruning effort. Their farewell is due to the series ending. We may never see them again if another writer doesn't pick them up in their future reboot of the title. I fully believe that had Levitz been able to keep going with the series that all three characters would have been used by him in a major way.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Yes, probably. But you never know what future writers are going to glom onto, and after all, we're not just talking about one future writer.

9:41 AM  
Blogger karl said...

Not sure how Sun Boy was written in the Five Years Later story arc...wasn't he not in most of it, until we learnt hed been 'fused' with Wildfire or something? I cant remember him being in it much/

3:05 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

You should go back and read it. He was definitely in it, early on.

3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah Sunboy was in around the time the clone legion was introduced - quite a tragic story actually and I have never been able to stand Sun Boy!

10:59 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well, he's been quite underutilized since then: wasn't a Legionnaire in the reboot, quit early in the threeboot, only a few appearances in the animated version, and certainly had his low points in the retroboot.

11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really hope Levitz has something planned for Tinya - after waiting 30 years for her to be leader I hope she does something major before the series finishes.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well, I do too. I've been a Phantom Girl fan for a long time, and it'd be very satisfying to give her some kind of big scene.

However, it might be braver of Levitz not to do that. To have a superhero just run away and not come back? I don't remember ever reading a story like that; I'd have immense respect for Levitz (and, I presume, Giffen) if they had the guts to stick to that.

12:15 PM  
Blogger bobbydrake said...

I would agree with you if it wasn't Phantom Girl! By far my favourite DC character so I really want to see some sort of spotlight and I might have got it if not for the cancellation!

6:09 AM  
Blogger bobbydrake said...

The first issue I ever read was the reprint of when Polar Boy/Sensor Girl etc joined - The Legion has always been my favourite DC comic since then and always will be - its really the only one I have read steadily for the last 30 years!

6:11 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Ah, well, I can't make any exceptions for her just because she's a favourite.

I wonder how many people who consider themselves Legion fans have actually stuck with the comic book, as opposed to all those Legion fans who haven't.

7:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a back-handed compliment to this edition of the Legion when the latest issue is praised for just being good.It serves to remind us of all the other issues that weren't good.
How is it "brave" of Levitz to have Phantom Girl go AWOL? Why would I want to read that?

1:57 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

The point is not whether you'd want to read it; the point is whether or not it might make a good story, and it might. And there's a long history of superhero comics writers not telling that story, so Levitz is bucking a big trend by doing so. If that's what's going on.

4:01 PM  

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