Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Legion of Super-Heroes #23 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

A lot of goodbye stuff. Ceremony at Shanghalla; Brainiac 5 trying to put the United Planets back together; Legionnaires doing salvage work; Shadow Lass taking Mon-El home to recover from his wounds. Then GiGi Cusimano announces that the Science Police are disbanding the Legion. And everybody leaves. The epilogues give us some strong hints that this was just one possible future for the Legion, one where Steppenwolf caused Superman's death, and that there are likely worlds out there where things turned out differently for the Legion.

Art: 74 panels/20 pages = 3.7 panels/page. 2 splash pages, 1 double-page spread of 4 panels.

We get our first look at Kevin Maguire's take on the Legion, and it's mostly very good. Sometimes a little off-model; his Shadow Lass, for instance, is clearly well-done, but doesn't seem a lot like Shady. The big splash pages are probably his best work in the issue, which is just as well, if we have to have splash pages.

Membership Notes:

Star Boy is confirmed dead along with Sun Boy, and Shadow Lass and Mon-El remove themselves from the Legion... but the Legion is disbanded after that anyway.


Nothing spectactular about this issue; you couldn't even say that a lot of loose ends were wrapped up. Really it was just Paul Levitz bringing the title in for a smooth landing.

It wasn't a satisfying ending, because how could it be? There's nothing here to be satisfied about, unless you count Levitz himself, who can justly look back on his Legion years with pride. No, it was a quiet, affectionate, dignified goodbye. It closed the door firmly, and just as firmly did not lock it.

Is there any point in exploring the specific features of the issue? I don't see one. Not a lot jumped out at me anyway.

So now we sit back and wonder what's next. What do we want to be next. Clearly there won't be another Legion comic anytime soon. Which is not a good thing, but it may actually be better than if there was another Legion comic soon.

After all, do we even want the Legion brought back while DC's being run by the present cadre of meanspirited bloodstirrers? I don't. Who knows the kind of disaster they could make of it. "These guys could fuck up a beach party." (1) And it's not like they're learning anything; look at their insistence on having hatemonger Orson Scott Card write Superman. Look at how they told Paul Pope that they didn't make comics for kids. Look at their reengineering of JL3000 without Maguire but with extra grimness and grit. But they won't last forever. Nobody does. "Sooner or later, they all... stop lasting." (2) And, if DC exists in basically its current form long enough, someone will revitalize the Legion. But that's a big if.

I don't know what's going to happen. The comic-book world is changing. What happens if, two years from now, Disney decides it's not worth their time to participate in this little boutique industry? Will comic shops be able to survive just on DC and smaller companies and games and toys and stuff? What if DC follows Marvel's lead?

Not that comic books and superheroes are going to go away. There's a demand for both, and a lot of people who are really interested in meeting that demand. And, for DC at least, Superman and Batman and the Justice League will certainly live on, one way or another. Digital stuff? Animated features? Annual graphic novels? Who knows. But DC has so many secondary, tertiary, and quaternary characters that there's no way to give them all attention without a regular flow of monthly comic books. The Legion could very well fall off the table. Working in their favour is the Superman connection: Superman ain't going anyplace, after all, so there's always a possibility of tying in to the Legion.

But it'll be a long time before we know anything. Meanwhile, consider first that it's an unsatisfactory situation to be dependent on a heartless corporation for anything that you care about. We'll help ourselves enormously by being willing to go without.

Now consider second that everything we read, everything that touches us enough that we take it in, changes us. Probably everyone reading this has loves superhero comics, Legion comics, to the point where we aren't the same people we would be if we'd never read them. So let's start walking the walk, if we aren't already. "You'd just quit? No... we can never equal the super-heroes, but we can use our abilities to help people!" (2) Volunteer for something. Donate to something. Give blood! They won't let me give blood anymore, but if someone reading this can do so with me in mind, I'd be pleased and honoured. Sure, it's a shame that we can't read our goddamn comic books any more, but maybe there's some other way of keeping the Legion's spirit alive, and let's see DC try to cancel that. You say that the Legion is dead? "My dear, dear, Andrea, that is entirely a matter of opinion." (4)

I'll let Raymond McDaniel have the last word.

"...In the last exploit of the Espionage Squad,
all the useless heroes will die
except Chameleon Boy, his neural net
polyform and plasticene, eternal.
But yes, Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet,
Invisible Kid. A lost city looms
behind the wrecked and ruined dunes.
Forty thousand colors, eighty thousand ages.
The world is not like this at all."


(1) Hawk.
(2) Joey.
(3) Brek.
(4) Ellegon.
(5) "The Persistence of Espionage", Raymond McDaniel, Special Powers and Abilities, Coffee House Press, 2013.

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Anonymous Scott said...

I think Levitz was retconning this as the New 52 Earth 2 Legion (where Steppenwolf killed Superman, talk of other legions, etc). I think he was trying to clear the deck for a (maybe?) inevitable reboot back to scratch. Too bad DC and the fans didn't give Mark Waid support - the threeboot was maybe the freshest the legion had been in 20 years.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Oh, is that where the Steppenwolf thing happened? Okay, sure, maybe.

And I think the threeboot was getting decent support from the fans early on. Not spectacular, maybe, but decent... and then here came Dawnstar's freaking arm in the back of JSA.

11:05 PM  
Anonymous Dave Bakas said...

Thanks, Scott- I did not get the Steppenwolf/Superman reference either, since I have stopped following non-Legion related titles!

Luornu and Chuck's epilogue seemed to be the "fanboy homage" version, with talk of alternate universes, etc. Seemed weird, since they were in Legion of Three Worlds and know that at least 2 versions of Lu have no Chuck. Guess the post flashpoint New 52 DCU isn't the same as the DCU of even that storyline, since we couldn't have had Connor come back via Thom's intervention in the 21st century unless that was an Earth 1 LSH. So the 3 worlds used to be Earth 1, Earth Prime and Earth 247; now Earth 1 LSH is Earth 2's?? Then the Lost Legionnaires went back to the wrong Earth's 21st Century?
Instead of explaining loose ends, we've created a big new one!

Guess we are to not care what happens to Mysa and Glorith and Blok- could've mentioned them when they referenced fetching Validus for the Science Police, since I guess you need to do that before Mysa brings the Sorcerer's World back to this universe. When did Orando move back to the Legion's universe? Jeckie must have done that when she and Val 3.0 hooked up? Why is Rokk on Winath without Night Girl? Why would all the Legionnaires so easily agree to being disbanded by the UP Council?

It felt like the storyline was abruptly rewritten to give us an ending. The whole tone was depressing. Felt like a eulogy, not a true issue.

Well, hope we somehow get our Legion back.

Long Live the Legion!

1:09 AM  
Blogger Kent G. Hare said...

"and then here came Dawnstar's freaking arm in the back of JSA" - Sorry, but do you mind explaining this line?

7:37 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Dave: Yeah, that's probably what happened. But listen: don't sweat the details. They're almost certainly not very important. If DC brings back the Legion, they're going to do it however they're going to do it, and the minutiae established in this issue aren't going to get in their way. And if they don't then of course it's irrelevant.

Kent: The first hint we got of the retroboot Legion was on the last page of JSA #1, where they did a page of teasers for what was coming up in the next year. One of the panels hinted at the Lightning Saga, and all we could see in it was Dawnstar's arm.

8:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Legion of Super Heroes was one of the first comics I ever bought way back in the days of Mike Grell as an artist. It's the only comic I have consistently read through the years, so ready this issue was bitter for me. Nothing sweet about it.

9:51 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I had been out of collecting comics for years when my sudden yearning for the Legion pulled me back in. This cancellation is a damn shame is what it is.

10:37 PM  
Anonymous Eurostar said...

I have been an avid reader of Legion in the eighties, and one of the few ones that reallyenjoied Giffen five year later run, at least until the clones were put on the table. And I read the last issue before the reboot with the same sadness I read this one.

But, like osmeone wrote before me, it will be only matter of years, before the Legion will be back, even just to not let the copyrights fall. In any way, it will be maybe a very good new or old legion, but will never be the legion we loved in our youth. Because we are not young anymore.

3:16 AM  
Blogger bobbydrake said...

Artwork great but didn't think much of the story. So much seems to have been thrown away and don't even get me started on Tinya - my favourite DC character by miles and she just vanishes mid-way (and in a cowardly way too)!

5:07 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Eurostar: No, you're right: it won't be the Legion we knew in our youth. Nor should it be! (I feel strongly about this.) What was so great about our youth? To hell with our youth! Let's have some good comics! Of course, Levitz's '80s run was great, but it was great because he did it right. He tried new things, successfully. He understood the characters and the premise of the team, and found new and different ways to express that. But that was then. The Legion comics that haven't been written yet need someone who will do the same kind of thing, but for the 2010s or 2020s as opposed to the 1980s. Because things have changed since then. And the new comics won't be the same as the old comics. They won't seem the same. And anyone who sees that as a reason not to do it deserves to be bulldozed by history. I have no patience at all for people who claim to be Legion fans but are afraid of the future.

bobbydrake: I didn't like what happened with Tinya but I respected it tremendously. A superhero running away? That never happens! I didn't know Levitz had it in him to write that. What great followup there could have been on that story if only the title had continued. This was what was so great about the Five Years Later stories: plot developments that you hated, that drove you crazy, that compelled you to keep reading at all costs.

10:05 AM  
Blogger Meerkatdon said...

> plot developments that you hated, that drove you crazy,
> that compelled you to keep reading at all costs.

Matthew, with all due respect: that compelled YOU to keep reading. Not me. The Five Years Later era was the one time in my life when I stopped reading Legion comics.

I know you're using the "generic you" -- but please don't put words in my mouth.

1:35 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

So noted.

But it was the 5YL era that made me the Legion fan I am today. I had some issues from the Conway/Thomas era; I liked the second Levitz run... but if it wasn't for 5YL you wouldn't be reading this blog now, because it wouldn't even have occurred to me to create it.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Jip said...

I do have to agree with bobbydrake on this one. Having Tinya running away without any explanation (heck, just the TOTAL transformation into something of an airhead), just rubbed me the wrong way.

Eurostar, I also appreciated the 5YL storyline for having a well-written "Dark and Edgy" Legion Storyline which managed to keep my interest and made me CARE about the characters.

12:58 AM  
Blogger Rob S. said...

Tinya running away bothered me a lot, too. I think we're going to have to wait for a retrospective interview (not in the next weeks, but a few years down to road) before we learn what Levitz was shooting for there, and how many rugs were pulled out from under his plans.

2:11 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Of course it bothered you, rubbed you the wrong way! It made you think! You cared about it! You'll never forget it!

That's what storytelling is supposed to do. I wish there was more.

9:51 AM  
Anonymous AJay McL said...

when Tinya focused her eyes the man standing over her looked strangely familiar. I've pulled you through a time vortex, your disorientation will correct momentarily.
My name is Vril Dox, and this is the late twentieth century...

5:05 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Yes, well. I admit it would be cool, but I don't think they should actually do it.

10:44 PM  
Blogger Jip said...

Well, IF and that's a big IF the Legion comes back, I think a once a year Limited Series would be a better idea. Hopefully, it will give the writers a chance to focus on quality than on deadlines and quantity.

5:35 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I can see the benefits of that. It's what Sergio Aragones is doing with Groo. But it's probably a bit too innovative for DC.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Jip said...

Well, the Vertigo branch of DC has been using this type of concept on some of their titles (Sandman/Endless)for quite some time now. Therefore, the issue is with the current Management wanting to think outside of the box.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Okay. I wouldn't have thought it was really the same thing, but if you say so.

5:35 PM  
Blogger bobbydrake said...

The Tinya situation does look like it was supposed to lead somewhere but obviously cut short due to the cancellation. I guess the only way we will ever find out what it was is if she was brought into the present day DC in another title but i don't think that will be too likely (unless Levitz is writing another title)? To be honest I still miss Phase!

6:07 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

That's possible, but I wonder if Levitz was just trying to clear the decks. Who are some old-time Legionnaires who we can move out, either in favour of some new blood, or to have a smaller team? Sun Boy, Star Boy, Phantom Girl. How will we do it? Different ways.

9:14 AM  
Blogger Rob M said...

Of course I would love for the Legion to be resurrected again as a monthly series, but I think the Legion would work very well in the All-Star format or as a non-continuity digital first title like Adventures of Superman.

6:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was an interesting read---half fond farewell,half fit of pique.The smell of sour grapes seem to cling to the pages. I can imagine Levitz didn't want to leave the Legion in this state when he left.He may not have wanted to leave at all.Too bad,but if had he done a better job the future of the LSH wouldn't be left up in the air.
I'll miss the Legion,but I won't miss this Legion.

1:13 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Rob: I'd take that.

anonymous: Yeah, well... I think any sourness is something we bring to it rather than something Levitz put there. It's really not his style to air the dirty laundry in public.

8:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I blame editorial, why else would Keith Giffen leave Legion after only one issue? I've enjoyed the first and second arcs, and the done in one tales like issue #0 and #15. Also Scott Kolins art in the Fatal Five arc looks rushed and (definitely) not as good when he did interior in #0. I really don't think blame should be on Paul Levitz

9:06 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Blame for what, though? The quality of the comic book? The low sales? The cancellation?

I think there's a whole lot of blame to go around... but apportioning it is a joyless task.

10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suspect one of three things will happen:

1. In 8-10 months, a new Legion book will be launched featuring a notable time gap in the continuity (five years or so), with a mix of established and new Legionnaires. (Probably with the Lost members will be back in the future, ending that thread if not wrapping it up.)

2. They will say "Now it's time to actually give you the New 52 Legion", and it will restart with them as teens..

3. The Legion will get the backup slot in one of the $3.99 books, continuing the current continuity with one and two-character focus stories. Maybe in Action…

And you know, I'm not really kidding here. Any of those three are both viable and sensible.

7:29 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Could be. I'd like it if there was something about it that was more than just "it's time to bring the Legion back"; something that made me believe that the writer actually had some good ideas or was inspired or basically was doing something more than just keeping the trademark active.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having a great idea for the Legion is only half the battle.Waid & Kitson had what I thought was a great idea to revamp the LSH,and look how that turned out.You have to be able to craft a great run of comics from that idea.
It would also help to have an audience that wanted new ideas instead of being content with strip-mining old continuities to fuel anemic storylines.
Maybe it's true;we get the Legion we deserve--or we don't get a Legion at all.

1:16 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Very true.

(Although I think I regard the threeboot a little more highly than you do; it was certainly flawed but there was some very good stuff in there.)

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've read every damn LOSH issue from the very beginning and this ending was horribly depressing. They just randomly killed off major characters (and had one's corpse get eaten) for fuck's sake! I always felt the LOSH mostly stayed about the gimmicks and sewage that brought down many other DC titles, and it's sad to see it be trashed by this awful New 52 gimmick. Thankfully they hinted that this was no longer the continuation of the silver age LOSH started before the New 52, but it's still a pitiful way to end such a great comic institution.

1:56 AM  

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