Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Justice League Vs. the Legion of Super-Heroes #3 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

While the rift is threatening the 21st and 31st centuries, Batman remembers that a Justice League villain named Epoch warned the League about Gold Lantern, telling them to destroy "it" if they ever found it. The rift subsides, but some Legionnaires and JLAers are scattered in time:

  • Brainiac 5, Naomi, and Mon-El in Kamandi's future
  • Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, and Cosmic Boy in the Batman Beyond future
  • Aquaman and Ultra Boy in prehistory
  • Gold Lantern in some kind of Metropolis with airships and, still, the rift
  • everybody else in the 31st century dealing with the Science Police; Chameleon Boy has just called his mom for help


Now that's something a little more like it. First, and most important, breaking up the crowd and focusing on smaller groups give the individual characters a chance to shine. That's something Legion comics have needed ever since Brian Michael Bendis took over as writer.

Second, almost as important, is Ultra Boy's insistence that there's someone behind this giant rift. That's the kind of thing you don't put in a comic book unless you plan to make it pay off. Usually. Whether it's true or not, at least we're thinking about it, and it's creating tension. Some malefactor weaponizing a rift is a lot more interesting than a naturally occurring rift.

Third, the choice of some of the temporal destinations for our heroes suggests that this might all tie in to Rose's adventures in LSH: Millennium. And that's something that needs some followup. Is Rose around? Some of the JLAers almost certainly know her; I'd like to see that encounter. Don't take your eyes off Rose, true believers; in some ways she's the secret protagonist of the fourboot.

Okay, well, this series might be picking up a bit. We might get a few chucks in before it's over. I don't have a lot of hope that the whole thing is going to turn out to be worth it, but there may be some points of interest raised.

Art: 95 panels/23 pages = 4.1 panels/page. 1 splash page, 2 double-page spreads, 1 case of 2 panels spread over 2 pages.

Thing I don't really care for in this comic book is the muted colour palette. Nothing ever gets really bright.

Godlewski continues to hold up his end of the bargain. This issue is a little light on the panel count (with an extra page!) but then, 7 of them are used up by only 5 panels put together. Look at... try the last panel on page 18; that's one that jumped out at me. But they're all good. I also particularly like the way he renders Computo.

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Sunday, March 13, 2022

Justice League Vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #2 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

Everyone who disappeared last issue just went to the 31st century. We get some of Gold Lantern's backstory and some interacting between the Legion of Super-Heroes and the Justice League. Then there's a rift.


Called it!

I'd like to propose a new Legionnaire. His name would be Rift Lad, and his power would be to seal rifts. He'd never be short of work. (Yes, his power would be adaptable enough to seal zoo cages.)

It does seem like there was an effort made this issue to really let us get to know some of these characters. I appreciate it. After all this time, too many of them are ciphers, or hidden behind Brian Michael Bendis's signature bantery dialogue voice, or a combination of the two. But it seems unbalanced to pay attention to some characters when there are so many other characters around.

The plot was advanced by exactly one step this issue: our heroes are now fighting a rift mostly from the 31st century. And I know we also got some good art and some character stuff. But, ideally, in a comic book, you'd get art and character stuff and action and plot. Is it too much to ask? Bendis is not a beginner here. We had a whole year off of this title and two months since last issue.

I don't know where the Legion would be without Bendis. Waiting for Geoff Johns to get off the dime? It's not clear to me. Certainly it seems like it's entirely Bendis's franchise now. If he left it, would DC find another writer, or just cancel it? But... when the fourboot started, it had some very promising ingredients. Years later, it's still just ingredients. I'll stick with it, but the recipe is not currently working.

Art: 101 panels/22 pages = 4.6 panels/page; 1 splash page, 1 case of 5 panels spread over 2 pages.

That's more than twice as many panels as last issue! Interesting. Godlewski's the artist again, and his style is still fitting very well into Ryan Sook's 31st century. Check out page 10, panel 1; how many artists have had the chance to take a swing at a panel like that? I liked it. Scott Godlewski is holding up his end of the bargain.

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Sunday, January 16, 2022

Justice League Vs. the Legion of Super-Heroes #1 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About

The Legion fights a space monster, successfully, and then a weird darkness thing happens which causes one of Triplicate Girl's selves to disappear. They later tell the United Planets that it's a manifestation of something Brainiac 5 is calling the "Great Darkness". Superboy puts them in touch with the Justice League, in the 21st century, who are also dealing with something similar. The Legion travels back in time to meet with them, and another weird darkness thing happens that causes everyone except Gold Lantern to disappear. 


One of the things I've learned in my decade-and-change of writing this blog is that first issues, first stories, are easier than subsequent stories. Setting stuff up is easier than keeping it rolling. Introducing things is always entertaining; using stuff that has been introduced has to be made entertaining. 

For this reason I've been waiting for Brian Michael Bendis's fourboot to get to the point where it's left the introductory stage behind and is just telling Legion stories. But the old fox is too wily for me: through use of the two Millennium issues, the v8 issues, Future State, and now JLvLSH, he keeps pushing that into the future. 

So what can I say about it? It's a decent introduction to whatever we're doing here. Large likeable cast, vague menace, interesting details about Triplicate Girl, more teasing about Gold Lantern.

Do we think the Great Darkness is Darkseid again? I kinda do and I kinda don't. Honestly, the way it's being presented here, it seems like it's going to be some kind of rift. Wouldn't that be great? I only read this comic book for the rifts. 

What I'd actually like to do is wait until the damn thing is over and then review it all at once. But I'm not going to do that. I know this is a short review. But there really ain't a lot of moving parts to this comic, sports fans. 

Art: 50 panels/22 pages = 2.3 panels/page. 2 splash pages, 5 double-page spreads, 1 case of multiple panels being spread over two pages. 

Our artist this time is Scott Godlewski. Godlewski isn't Ryan Sook, but he seems adept at working in Sook's 31st century. For the artistic strengths and weaknesses of this issue, check out pages 6-7. It's pretty. But it's also a double splash page. One of five. Five! There are only fifty panels in this whole issue. That is not a lot!

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Wednesday, December 22, 2021

If I Cannot Bring You Comfort

 It is the Christmas season, for those who observe, which signals the end of the year as measured by the Gregorian calendar, and as such it is time for us to take stock of our time which is ending, and our time which is about to begin. We can start with the Legion of Super-Heroes (remember the Legion? It's a blog about the Legion) and then move on to other matters.

We already knew that 2022 would see the Legion appear in... a miniseries? an arc?... called Justice League vs the Legion of Super-Heroes, which will, apparently, be about both Gold Lantern and the Great Darkness. I'm not super nuts about the only Legion series being a limited run like this, but it's more than we've got now, and, at least, it's part of Brian Michael Bendis's vision for the team.

Speaking of Bendis, in his newsletter (click here for the whole thing) he announced that he's working on developing an animated Legion of Super-Heroes series for HBO Max. The series will be aimed at grownups and will feature his fourboot Legion. Some points:

- this is, of course, very positive news

- the odds that this TV show actually gets made are not great. Not because of any failing of Bendis's or the Legion's or HBO Max's. Just basically because most TV shows don't make it to air

- the previous LSH TV show, the two-season cartoon on Fox Kids, was a respectable success, and its influence on its young viewers will someday be of tangible benefit to the Legion of Super-Heroes franchise; this TV show, if it makes it, could do similarly

- the process of taking comic-book stories and turning them into TV is likely to accentuate Bendis's strengths as a Legion writer and mitigate his weaknesses

- I've long been of the opinion that any successful translation of the Legion to TV must be animated, not live-action, so I think they've made the right decision here

My big takeaway from both of these impending Legion stories is that the LSH does have a future, and I'm aware that that sounds like a joke but in this case it isn't, and that I hope we can all be around to see it.

And while we're all on that... I hope you can all be vaccinated up to your maximum available amount of protection, and can keep yourselves safe from the coronavirus in all the other ways. Ironically--which is the word we use when we don't want to say "ridiculously"--the coronavirus is the least, and most tractable, of the major problems facing the world in general and us in particular. It's no coincidence that all of these problems--I'll list "climate change" and "fascism" as the big two, but there are more--are exacerbated by being denied, promoted, defended, and/or sponsored by a loose but cooperative network of groups and entities whose interest is not in the future but in making the present as bad as possible.

I hope, in 2022, that we (I am definitely including myself in this hope) can do all we can to be part of the solutions and not part of the problems, and that we're wise enough to choose the right ways to do that.

I haven't been writing much on Legion Abstract recently. This is partly because there haven't been any Legion comics to write about. Maybe I'll chip in another article or two here or there. Certainly I'll review JLAvLSH when it comes out. I don't believe in permanent goodbyes on the internet, and this isn't even a temporary one, but if you need to see it in print: I'll never close down this blog as long as I'm alive (although it may sometimes be less active than other times). I have, however, started writing a couple of other projects, and I'll tell you more about them if and when they become something.

And I'll end this post with this, which strikes me as also to be appropriate for an end-of-the-year summary.

Over the last couple of years, I've started coming out to my friends and family and other people as agender. This isn't exactly a new thing. No need to share the specific details, but all my life I've had a very distant relationship with masculinity, and recently I've come to understand that it's because masculinity wasn't actually a thing that was for me at all.

Why am I telling you this? You don't really need to know it, and I don't really need you to know it. It doesn't make a difference to my Legion opinions that I'm neither dude nor chick. But I do have a couple of reasons.

First, I've always understood that the value of coming out is in its effect on other people: first, people who haven't come out themselves can see more people they can identify with and become comfortable with the idea that people like them belong in the world, which they do. Second, people hostile to LGBTQ+ people will increasingly get the (accurate) sense that they are outnumbered, and will be more likely to change their opinions or at least shut up about them if they don't change them. Both of which are worthwhile goals.

Plus... I'm white, and male-passing, and in a sense I've not been subject to transphobia my whole life. See, "agender" is a subcategory of "trans" in this sense: I was assigned the gender of "male" at birth, and have now said that that is not my gender. That's trans. It's true that the word "trans" has connotations that don't really resonate with my experience, but that's neither here nor there. So I don't reject the label.

But while I can look back on the considerable amount of bullying that I experienced much earlier in my life and say that, in retrospect, it was partly based on being a precocious agender kid, I didn't know that at the time. They called me "gay" (and other related terms), sure, but as far as I knew, they were just wrong about that. (Also, being gay and being agender are not at all the same thing, but that's a nuance that would have been lost on these kids.) So in my mind, I wasn't being picked on because of something that I was that wasn't hurting them, and therefore I didn't beat myself up for being it, and so was spared one specific kind of damage. In retrospect, they were clearly picking up on something about me, but since I had no idea, there's a level on which it doesn't count.

But there are any number of trans people out there for whom that's not true. They've had to deal with a lot of static while knowing what it was the whole time. So what I'm intending here is to stand with them.

(FAQ: Are you changing your pronouns? Nah; I've had about fifty years of getting used to he/him. But if you want to refer to me as she/her or they/them, that's okay too. I'd a lot rather be called "she" than "Matt".)

There's still a lot I don't know about this topic. There's still a lot I don't understand about myself. I'm no expert. (And a lot of the answers one finds boil down to, "it's different for everybody! You get to decide for yourself!" Great. Thanks. I'm sure that's right. But it's no help.) Having said that, if anyone is coping with something similar and thinks it would help to kick it around with me, please let me know; I'm happy to do what I can.

So my last thought here is, let's all be ourselves in 2022. And let's all get to work. Tired as we all are, there's a lot that needs to be done. The truth is somewhere here.

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Sunday, May 09, 2021


 A quick thought about the "current" Legion of Super-Heroes comic book.

There are things to like about it (the design, the energy, the faithfulness to the core ideas of the Legion) and things not to like about it (the inconsistent character details, the sparse characterization, the pace, the insistence on using the entire team all at once all the time). But, this current hiatus while Brian Michael Bendis and Ryan Sook get their ducks all in a row?

It's not good. It's bad.

Yes, absolutely, you should make sure you know what you're doing before you do it. You should give the artist time to get ahead of the work. You should plan and coordinate and all of those other good things.

But doing this while getting a book onto the rack every month is part of the job. If there's a fill-in artist, or a delay of a week or two, or an inventory issue, well, so be it. Those are known possibilities; we can deal with them. Months of nothing? That's amateur hour. That's clownshoes. It's a failure on the part of Bendis and Sook and it's a failure on the part of DC Comics.

If the resulting comic books turn out to be really good, well, that will partially make up for this. Partially. Because it's perfectly possible to turn out really good comics on a monthly basis. We all know of some. So, *if* they're really good, then, great, congrats to Bendis and Sook for accomplishing something... but they're supposed to be professionals. They're supposed to have some idea what they're doing and not just get into the middle of it and realize they don't.

It's just highly unsatisfactory.