Monday, August 14, 2006

Score: the First Twenty Issues

Okay, we've had 20 issues of (Supergirl and the) Legion of Super-Heroes. What's good and what's bad?

GOOD: Barry Kitson's art is extremely handsome. The Legionnaires and the 31st century look great.

BAD: Kitson can't always make it to class, and his replacements have only occasionally approached his level of quality.

GOOD: Never before have I seen the Legion this well characterized. There are no ciphers on the team. I never thought anybody could make me care about Triplicate Girl or Princess Projectra, but I like them in this version.

BAD: Pace is a little slow. The ending of the Lemnos story dragged out too long, and since Supergirl showed up it hasn't been clear if we're in the middle of a big storyline or not, and if so, just what that story is about. And we're all getting a bit impatient about Dream Girl.

GOOD: Supergirl. Could have been just a stunt, but she's been likeable without being overwhelming to the comic book.

BAD: Very few decent villains. Elysion was nasty and quite menacing, and Lemnos was a good idea that worked out almost as well as it looked like it was going to. The robots aren't interesting, though, and we didn't see enough of the rest of Terror Firma to get any real sense of them.

GOOD: The generation gap. I may be alone in this, but I like the generation gap. I think it makes all kinds of sense and that it's an excellent setting for a futuristic superhero comic. And I think it fits in well with the ideals of the Legion.

BAD: Terror Firma was handled badly from the beginning. Other than Elysion, I couldn't tell you the first thing about any one of them, and they were supposed to be the big threat for, what, about eight issues? And then at the end, they get to walk away? With Sun Boy? Pfui.

GOOD: The character selection. Using what's basically a classic lineup of Legionnaires like this is a good way of not only grounding the book in Legion history, but also of respectfully allowing that history to continue... not uninterrupted, but at least in some kind of recognizable fashion.

BAD: The character selection. There were, after all, some worthwhile Legionnaires created after 1970. I'm sure we could all name some. Is there any good reason why none of them are in this comic book? Not even one, just to give us some hope that there might be more someday? I don't think I'm asking too much here.

GOOD: The costumes. Some of them look good, and the others look real good.

BAD: The costumes. Why exactly is it that the male Legionnaires are all bundled up in long sleeves and turtlenecks while several of the female Legionnaires have their belly buttons hanging out? It seems odd. Not that any of the female Legionnaires are approaching immodesty, but still.

EVALUATION: The basics are all here. Waid and Kitson have built a powerful machine. Now let's take it out on the highway!

WHAT I'D LIKE TO SEE OVER THE NEXT TWENTY ISSUES: How about an origin of the Legion? Maybe in an annual drawn by George Perez? I'd like to see more issues drawn by Barry Kitson. I insist on seeing the Dream-Girl-resurrection plotline concluded smartly (in both senses of the word 'smartly'). I'd like a bit of turnover in the membership, not because I particularly want to get rid of any of these characters, but because I want to see some new ones--new new ones and old new ones. Nothing drastic; just the same level of change the Legion has always had. I'd like to see if Dream Boy is at all worthwhile. Let's see, twenty issues should take us into 2008, which is the Legion's golden anniversary year. I'd like to see something cool done to commemorate that. I'd like less setup and more action: let’s pick up the pace! Everybody’s been introduced! I'd like fewer (none, actually) of the kind of time-killing backup stories we got in #10, #11 and #12 to stretch two issues out to three. I’d like to see the letter column feature again, but not too often! Once or twice is enough. And, for the sake of answering the doubters as much as for its own sake, I guess I’d like to see a one- two- or three-part story that leaves everyone convinced that, yes, this comic really is the Legion, it feels like the Legion, it acts like the Legion, it’s worthy of the Legion.

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Blogger H said...

Last week I sat down and finally read the entirety of the current series with plans to post a lengthy overview on the Comic Treadmill this week.

Did you steal my notes?

I think that you covered every point I wanted to make and you and I agree on every good and bad issue.

Heck, all I need to do now is write a quick paragraph and link to your entry. Thanks!

11:46 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

My pleasure. Actually, no it isn't, because I had been looking forward to reading what you had to say about it on the Treadmill. Sure you don't have anything else to say?

9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting reading this column now,5 years later...
The mention of Dream Boy jumped out at me.Forgot about him.Did he do anything while he was here?The threeboot Legion could be called the Dream Boy Legion instead.He embodied the Waid/Kitson era: Someone potentially interesting appears and is immediately shunted off-panel,to barely be seen again.That's the threeboot in a nutshell.Don't envy you when you try to write an entry for him in the Legion roster section.
Feeling a twinge of nostalgia for the threeboot brought me to these old columns,but re-reading them brought back how frustrating that time was.A sure cure for nostalgia is to remember how things actually were instead of how you remember them to be.

1:37 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

The Dream Boy thing is a problem. I've wondered what I was going to do about him.

And I certainly haven't forgotten how frustrating the threeboot was, but at least there it was obvious, or obvious to some of us anyway, that this stuff could be really good if Waid just cranked it up a bit. The retroboot? Not sure how much more Levitz could be getting out of it than he is.

9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cranking it up was what both the threeboot and the retroboot needed.
I don't think Levitz is burnt out on the Legion,and he's not afraid to shake things up,but he's off his game.Between the shrunken page count,and the upcoming relaunch, it's no mystery why.The sad fact is that this past year of Legion titles is looking like they were no more than place-holders for the group.
So what do we call this new edition of the Legion? I'd call it "Retroboot Reloaded".

4:20 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well, I don't know if we even need to make a distinction. Are there going to be any continuity changes between LSHv6 and LSHv7? I haven't heard that there will be.

I think one problem with Levitz is that he was overtaken by events. His second run on the Legion was a legitimately groundbreaking one for comics in general and the Legion in particular. He did things with the characters that hadn't been done before.

But that was then. Since his last issue on LSHv3 in 1989, the Legion has gone through radical changes several times, far more radical than anything Levitz ever did. Plus, some of the comics where these things happened were extremely good.

Compared with all that, Levitz's bag of tricks doesn't knock us over. He's going to have to find a new way to impress us, and I don't think he's quite found the range yet.

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even without continuity changes,DC will have some label that says New&Improved! to the public.It's de rigueur with a relaunch,like having a #1 on the cover with an appropriate blurb accompanying it, such as...
"A Bold New Direction!"
"A Brave New Era Begins!"
"Not Your Father's Legion!"
"New & Improved!"
You know the drill.

11:50 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

That argument is one that has some merit: if two "runs" of a comic book are obviously distinct from each other, then that argues against them being the "same", even if there are no continuity changes. (It's one of the reasons, not the only reason, that I say the retroboot is not the same as the original Legion.)

However, if there haven't been any continuity changes, then there haven't, and that's all there is to be said about that. And there's no point in giving more ammunition to the guys who are always saying, "The Legion's too confusing because they reboot it every five minutes!"

9:18 AM  

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