Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Justice League Vs. the Legion of Super-Heroes #4 Review

 What Happened That You Have to Know About:

The big dark rift in the sky continues to get worse as the Legion of Super-Heroes and the Justice League all try to figure out where and when they are. Eventually Computo figures out how to bring everyone together (in the 21st century) as the rift covers the whole sky. There is a suggestion that the Legion is to blame for the rift because of their reckless time travel.

Review:

It's not like there's nothing of interest here. Gold Lantern meets Alan Scott in the 1930s, and it's kind of cool, for one thing. Batman and Rose get reacquainted, but nothing really comes of it. It's a mildly diverting read. But if anything's important here, we're only going to know it in retrospect. I don't have much to say about this comic book!

I'm glad we're getting Legion comics every so often, but getting these comics is a lot like not getting comics. Man, I hope Bendis does something cool in #5 or #6 that makes me go, "Ahhh... that changes everything! I have to go back and reread the whole run now!" That's likely, right?

Art: 98 panels/22 pages = 4.5 panels/page. 3 splash pages, double-page arrangements of 4 panels, 12 panels, 7 panels, and 8 panels.

I like Godlewski's style. I wonder where DC's been hiding him. He draws a good Bouncing Boy. Also, I like the coloring of the Alan Scott pages; very noir. I wish he had a more interesting story to draw.

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Sunday, July 17, 2022

That's Some Catch, That Catch-52

 Writer Jared Yates Sexton, whom I like, had a Substack post, and accompanying Twitter thread, a while ago about how today's political struggles aren't just about the present but also about our ideas of the past and the future. They are here and here; go read it and then come back here and we'll finish up. And stick around, because I think I've found something profound to say about superheroes in this one!

The thing that struck me about it that made me want to comment on it here, of course, is that it deals with the future. And around here, anything that has to do with the future might have to do with the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Specifically. DC Comics is presenting us with a vision of the future in its (increasingly infrequent) Legion comics. What goes into that, and what comes out of it?

Despite that DC is owned by a Giant Corporation, I don't really think that the portrayal of the future in its comics was developed to serve any kind of corporate agenda. That would require a whole lot more competence and attention to detail than I've seen out of them in recent years. No, I think we can safely place the credit and/or blame on the various LSH writers over the years who've thought up what the future of a superhero world would be like.

And that's what it is: the future of a superhero world. Not the future of our world, because we don't live in a superhero world, and that's something we ought to be thankful for. So when we're thinking of the Legion's 31st century, we should keep that in mind. We don't want our world to be like this. We, regular humans, should have our own ideas for what we want to have happen and be working towards those.

One example. DC has, by now, given us a loose timeline for what kinds of things we ought to expect. There's a Great Disaster coming up, for one thing, and the Legion's generally more pleasant future, with its dozens of teenaged champions, only some time after that.

No matter what we do!

Well, then, there's no point in doing anything! Right? It'll be fine.

So that's one problem.

Another problem, which I don't want to not mention, but has been discussed plenty in other places, is how early Legion stories would give us a future with no Black people in it, and, when they first tried to fix that, made things even worse.

And, last, let's look at what happens in the Legion's future. (The superhero present must resemble the real-life present in at least some ways; the superhero future can look like anything.) Look at the various catastrophes that have befallen the 30th and 31st centuries: we've seen planetsworth of carnage and destruction caused by Mordru, the Time Trapper, Glorith, Computo, Darkseid, Ra's al Ghul... By superpowered individuals, is the point I'm trying to make. The cosmology of the Five Years Later era says it out loud: the fate of reality is a struggle between the Time Trapper (later Glorith) and Mordru, and the Legionnaires can only hope to keep them in stalemate.

I think I'm correct in saying that this kind of situation, in which reality is the battleground of supermen and everyone else are just faceless pawns and nameless victims, is a world of fascism. I'll go further: the basic idea of superheroes itself is fascist. (I'm not the first person to say so.) Superheroes have come a long way since they were first created, but the premise remains the same.

Let's sum up the premise of superheroes this way. Society has problems that it is powerless to solve. These problems are personified in some people who are up to no good and must be stopped. But the people of the society, including their official representatives, are powerless to do anything about it. The only person who is free to act is the superhero: an unusual person who a) has the will to take action against evil despite social convention, and b) has some kind of special abilities lifting their capabilities above the common person. Typically there's one more subtle ability that this unusual superhero person has: they can accurately identify the evil enemy.

That's all very fascist. Go ahead and compare that to the kinds of things that far-right groups claim to think about themselves; it's a good match. (At one time, the stereotypical superhero was a rich white guy; that's not nearly as true anymore. That part has gotten better.)

But here's the thing: if you know me at all, you know that I am not about to condemn the superhero genre. I love it, have for a long time, expect to continue for another long time. So there is a catch. (If we're feeling playful about it, we can call it Catch-52.) I propose

The First Hypothesis of Suprmetrics: A genre is a premise plus a fantasy.

I'll give you a second to take that in.

So, we laid out the premise of the superhero genre a few paragraphs ago. But the superhero fantasy is this: superheroes can be trusted with their power and will never abuse it. And the reason why I love the superhero genre is that the superhero premise is redeemed by the superhero fantasy.

Look, for the superhero genre to be fascist, it would have to not matter whether superheroes were benevolent or malevolent, whether the average person could count on them or not. But it does matter. It's the key to the whole thing. And I don't think this is well enough understood. I saw Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness a while ago. And there were a lot of things about it that bugged me. (Click through to this article I wrote about Saturn Girl if you want to know why in detail.) Basically it comes down to, I prefer the Scarlet Witch as a superhero.

Or take The Boys. I've never watched (or read) The Boys; it doesn't sound like a good time to me. But it sounds to me like--any setup where superheroes all have to work for the government sounds like--the writers don't accept the fantasy of superheroes and are trying to write about just the premise.

I am not arguing that any of this is extendable to the real world. I am certainly not arguing that anyone who seems to be arguing in favour of some part of the fascist premise of superheroes is redeemed by the fantasy of superheroes. It's just the opposite, most likely. I do think that that's how it should work on the screen and on the page... but we should have different standards once we close the cover.

--

I invite comments! I wrote this fast and I may have overlooked something that should not go without saying, or been wrong in some other way.

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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

Review:

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.

Review:

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. 

Review

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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