Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes #2 Review

I'm going to put a sentence here just because I want to try something.

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

The Legion confronts Element Lad and Saturn Girl discovers that he and the Trommites weren't responsible for the devastation of the galaxy. Really it was the Titanians who were using Saturn Girl as a puppet to manipulate the rest of the Legion, and through them the Trommites and everyone else, for xenophobic purposes. The Legion responds by locking Titan away in its own little pocket where they can't interact with anyone else, and promise to carry on from their and be the Legion again.

Review:

What we got here is a fairly old-school two-parter. Big scary threat, resolved in two issues. I've read Justice League stories from the '70s and '80s like this. And it's... it's fine, is what it is, although we could have said the same thing Back Then that I'm saying now: the villain seems too powerful to defeat that quickly. But it's fine! It really is fine.

So, in a vacuum, here's what we got. Two-part series showing what might happen to the Legion in a hundred days minus, I dunno, a dozen or whatever. Some new looks for the characters, some possible fault lines along which the group may splinter. A reaffirmation of the team's purpose. And a quick fight and resolution. That, in a vacuum, is fine.

The problem is with what comes next. But never mind that; that's not this issue's fault.

No, the main problem with this is the same problem we've been having: we still don't know much about these characters. Probably this wasn't the time for them to go into that, but... well, some time must be the time. I believe it was the boys at the Legion of Substitute Podcasters who floated the idea that Bendis is giving us core Legionnaires and, what shall we call them, wallpaper Legionnaires. We get to know the core Legionnaires but the others are just there because we need them to make the Legion a big group. And, well, that's possible. I would be okay with such an approach. But I don't really feel like I know the "core" Legionnaires (Superboy, Saturn Girl, Brainiac 5, Ultra Boy... Wildfire? Lightning Lad?) that well. Not fourteen, fifteen issues worth. And I don't know the other Legionnaires at all, some of 'em!

Here's another thought. There's a thing that you get in superhero stories these days... often, the threats or villains in the stories will be internal. The hero or heroes will do something that releases danger, or provokes it or facilitates it in some way. And then the hero or heroes have to triumph over it. But if they hadn't done anything in the first place, or hadn't been around, nothing bad would have happened. So it's not really an advertisement for superheroes. LSH: Future State is one such story. I prefer it when the villains are external. I know it's supposed to be Teh Profound when the heroes end up fighting themselves or whatever, and there's a place for that kind of thing occasionally, but in general I prefer when the threat is external and you get a conflict between two sides that have little to do with each other and therefore their interaction is something we haven't seen before.

You know?

Anyway, I don't mind it every now and then. As long as they don't keep going back to that well.

Legion comics mess with Titan a lot. I think the reveal in this issue might be an echo of the first Legion of Super-Villains story where Saturn Queen was evil, like most Titanians, because she was a way from the beneficial influence of the planet Saturn. But then it's also kind of like Orando getting sent away to its own dimension in the supervillain war at the start of the Baxter run.

So we've got a couple of months off now, because Bendis wants to take time to plan and get some issues in the can before reassuming the monthly schedule. I appreciate that. I can wait. I hope the title returns better than ever.

Notes:
- pipe the mustache on Jon Kent
- Blok look like the Rhino to anyone else on that last page?
- there's one panel where Brainiac 5's name is spelled "Braniac". It's one of my pet peeves. Guy's got nothing to do with cereal!
- had to go back and figure out just where Cosmic Boy was during the fight with Element Lad. There? Not there?

Art: 96 panels/22 pages = 4.4 panels/page. 3 splash pages, 1 double-page spread, 3 multiple-panel spreads.

Riley Rossmo again, and it still looks good if very off-model for Legion comics. Uh... I have to say I haven't really gotten used to the Future-State look of the Legionnaires. There are a lot that, not only don't I recognize them, I haven't even tried to recognize them. Because I don't know if it matters. If we're only here for two issues, and Bendis isn't making it obvious who they are, well... why put in the effort? Anyway, I'm glad I got to see Rossmo's take on the Legion. Not sure what I think about this being what the team looks like going forward, if that's what happens. I especially like the panel layouts; very inventive.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

Damned if I know.

Well, okay, I can do a bit better than that. We're some time in the future of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The Legion has been broken up for a while, because of something Element Lad did (with the Legion only having existed for 100 days?). Apparently he was concerned that the universe was being destroyed by its own elements, so he did something catastrophic to fix it, and is now on the run. The Legionnaires are all scattered and divided by these new circumstances. And, of course, Ultra Boy is trying to put the team back together, and his handful of Legionnaires confronts Element Lad.

It's not clear how much any of this is going to matter. Writer Brian Michael Bendis is talking like, hey, maybe we'll just stay in this future!

Review:

Not much story this issue: heroes assemble and go see Element Lad. That's basically it. The comic book is filled out by a lot of revelation, instead. Revelation of what happened, of what some Legionnaires look like these days, of what happened to everybody. It's all been introductory. Which means that next issue is going to have the entire story part of the story.

Assuming that Future State is done in two issues! Bendis has been hinting he might stick with it.

And I'm not sure what I think about that. I'm of two minds. On the one hand, I think it's a dumb idea. On the other hand, we know so little about this team, does it really matter?

I'd rather there was a third mind for me to be of.

There are elements of this setup that resemble the start of the Five Years Later era of the Legion, in the late '80s/early '90s. There are also elements that resemble the start of the The Legion series, in the early 2000s. Those are two of the very best runs of Legion comics ever created... but you know what else they had in common? The 5YL era came after thirty years of Legion storytelling during which we came to know the characters closely. The The Legion comic came after five years of very consistent twice-a-month storytelling during which we came to know the characters closely.

This particular reset occurs after twelve issues of dedicatedly superficial comics.

I mean, this kind of story can carry considerable weight, but the weight consists of everything that came before. But in this case, nothing has come before! We know a few of these Legionnaires a little, and some of them literally not at all.

I know: Future State is a line-wide initiative, and Bendis had no choice but to have the Legion participate in it. That's fine. I can wait it out.

But if he wants to jump permanently to this future-future... I don't know what he's thinking. I hope he decides against it.

You know what this comic book needs? It needs a couple of years of two-issue stories featuring small teams of Legionnaires handling interesting problems. It needs to let us spend time getting to know them. We can't do it fast! I hope Bendis understands that. He's supposed to be a pro. But, well... let's just say that we haven't yet cashed in the benefits of that professionalism.

So we'll see what happens after next issue. I'm hoping for the best, but I don't really like where things are going.

Notes:
- much Interlac this issue
- what the flip was Shadow Lass blasting Ultra Boy with?
- what's a lightsong?
- the Legion get referred to as royalty a lot in this issue. I wonder what the deal is with that

Art: 130 panels/22 pages = 5.9 panels/page. (Deep breath) 1 double-paged spread, 5 double-paged arrangements of multiple panels (9, 7, 10, 10, and 11 panels). Single pages of 10, 13, and 11 panels!

The art comes to us from Riley Rossmo, and, I dunno, man. Not that it isn't good! It's very good. But it's a, I don't know, I don't know. I don't know what word to use for Rossmo's style. Not "cartoony", because that's the word I apply to someone like Mike Wieringo, and this isn't like that. Heavily detailed, slouchy, caricatured proportions... It's good, and I appreciate how the high panel count makes me pay attention, but I'm not sure that the style suits the Legion.

Not all styles do! The great Steve Lightle, whom we lost recently, was a wonderful artist with a style that I always felt was too pretty and delicate for the Legion. I *might* think the same thing about Rossmo.

But then, I'm the one who keeps saying that I like it when people try something new. And this art style is new for the Legion. So I'll give it a chance. Maybe this is the start of something big!

Membership Notes:

For the most part there's nothing to note here, because there *is* no Legion, formally speaking, in this issue. But check out page 8/9: I don't know if we should know who everybody is (check out Shrinking Violet with the animated-series look!) but that's Kid Quantum there, isn't it? Also, why is Superboy there? Would he really stick around for all this?

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Saturday, January 23, 2021

 What Happened That You Have to Know About:

Well, it's a big fight against Rogol Zaar and Mordru and the Horraz, and the Legion wins. Dr. Fate and Mon-El come back.

Review:

I think we're supposed to understand this issue to be the end of our current storylines. Which is welcome. But I don't really feel like the menace of the various villains was developed particularly extensively. Really I'm not sure what it is we've been doing for twelve issues: what was all that time spent doing? I'd say that this series has been less than the sum of its parts except I'm not really sure what the parts were.

Saturn Girl tells us that Rogol Zaar was responsible for the destruction of Krypton, which prompted Jon Kent to create the United Planets, which created the Legion, which provoked Rogol Zaar to try to destroy New Krypton or whatever he was going for. According to Saturn Girl, it's a "circle". I don't see it like that. I see it as one troublemaker who won't go away. (Timely!)

Really it's an insulting and insidious idea: for this to be a circle, you have to give Rogol Zaar's desire to kill and destroy the same legitimacy as everyone else's desire to survive, prosper, and associate. So let's not do that.

At the end of the first twelve issues I have to say I'm disappointed in how this series has gone. I still like the roster and the costumes and concepts and the setting. There are a lot of good ingredients here. But it's like we skipped from the beginning of the story to the end without doing the middle.

And now we're going to jump ahead in time to see some canonical details of the future! Just in case there was more stuff we wanted to skip over.

I dunno... I like to have more to say about these comics in these reviews. But I have a hard time finding a lot to say about this issue.

Art: 85 panels/22 pages = 3.9 panels/page. 2 splash pages, 2 double-paged spreads.

Bit of a different look from Sook this time; check out his faces for Jon on page 2. Really the issue looks a little rushed, is what I *want* to say, but looking over the art closely makes me wonder why I want to say it. It isn't less detailed or less competent. I think it might be suggested to me by the panel arrangements. So that's interesting.

Also, a colouring note: check out Triplicate Girl on page 15. That's pretty cool. People who know: does this make optical sense? Does blue+cyan+magenta = black? Anyway I like it a lot.

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Sunday, January 03, 2021

Here You Go

I used to have Legion-of-Super-Heroes-related links on the sidebar here. Maybe I'll put 'em back someday.

If I do, I'll include Legion of Super-Heroes: The Complete Guides, which has the mission of being a complete guide to all Legion-related publications and memorabilia. It's pretty complete. You can, if that's of use to you, go check it out.

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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Legion of Super-Heroes #11 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About: The Legionnaires on their various missions all are dealing with some kind of escalation: the group on Krypton get taken out by some kind of blind dragon in conjunction with Rogol Zaar. On Xanthu, Doctor Fate gets... destroyed? On Rimbor, Ultra Boy accepts leadership of the planet. On Earth, the remaining Legionnaires are called into action and head out to Krypton, where they are immediately defeated. A group on Daxam runs into Mordru, who attacks, steals Cosmic Boy, turns Rose to Thorn, and teleports Blok into deep space. Superboy arrives on Krypton and confronts Rogol Zaar.

Review: This series is still being spread too thin. There are... five different groups? And they all do get some advancement, and there's some consolidation of the storylines. But the point of sending smaller groups out on missions is so that you can temporarily limit the number of characters involved and focus on individual characters more, and to give them longer turns in the spotlight. That didn't really happen here.

Still, it is an improvement over the whole Legion staying in one big group the entire time, which is what we had before. One might expect Bendis to have more proficiency with superhero-team comics, but... is there another group that's really like the Legion, with their dozens and dozens of characters? I don't think writing the Avengers prepares you for it. (Although... it's not like Paul Levitz (who clearly did have not just proficiency but mastery) kept his technique a secret.)

I'm glad to see that we're picking up on a couple of threads from LSH: Millennium, namely Superman's cape and Rose herself. Let's not take our eye off the ball here: I'm convinced that whatever Rose's deal is is the key to understanding everything Bendis is trying to do in this series.

So here's a question. How many stories are we dealing with here? It isn't just one. I think the main event is Superboy vs. Rogol Zaar, but the other stuff isn't related. It's just other stuff the Legion is also dealing with. This is not a problem; it's actually the kind of thing Levitz would do all the time. But I wonder how many of these other threads are going to get folded into the Krypton one. "None," I think, is an appropriate answer.

I have no idea what to expect from next issue. Bring it on! Should be a good read! Of some kind!

Notes:

- so what the flip is the deal with Karate Kid's word balloon on page 3?

- look at Mon-El's page-one monologue. Bottom of the first column of word balloons, top of the second. The word "more" appears 4 times in 22 words. To me this is a failure of editing

- couple of times at the end of the issue where Brainiac 5 changes his mind very quickly in a short time. Uncharacteristic. Editing again?

- losing interest in Rimborian politics. And I didn't have much to begin with

- I think the practice of naming stuff in comics after comics creators has reached the point of cliche and they should stop doing it

- notice Invisible Kid on page 20?

Art: 82 panels/23 pages = 3.6 panels/page. 1 splash page, 7 double-paged spreads of 1 or more panels.

You know what I'm curious about? I'm curious about what Dream Girl is supposed to look like. Is she sandy or golden or luminous or cloudy or starry or what? She's basically all one colour and that would make it easy for artists and colourists to take shortcuts and make her look simple and uninteresting (not that simple = uninteresting!), and so far Sook and the others have managed to avoid that (see pages 12-13 of this issue). I remember she looked particularly good in her introduction in the Trial issue artfest (although I can't think of who the artist is off the top of my head). But I still don't feel like I understand what effect the artists are trying to elicit in her portrayals.

Membership Notes: We get some names for our mysterious Legionnaires! There's X-Ray Girl, Entropy Kid, and Radius Lad. I get this from a reddit thread here; technically this is all apocrypha but I'm going with it.

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