Thursday, May 24, 2007

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #30 Review

This review is a day later than I thought it was going to be because the Victoria Day holiday delayed comic-book shipping by a day in these parts. I hate it when that happens.

What Happened That You Have To Know About:

The Legion, having established control of the Dominators' planet, is now trying to decide what to do with them. They know, through Sun Boy, that the Dominion is going to evolve and keep coming at Earth no matter what else happens. So Brainy has built a device to detonate at the centre of the planet which will take care of the Dominion once and for all. There's a lot of debate about the morality of this, and about just who is going to put the thing in place and set it off. Eventually Cosmic Boy orders Mon-El to do it, since Mon-El is powerful enough to make it to the centre of the world and since Mon-El's dying of lead poisoning anyway. Mon-El does so, destroying the Dominators' planet, and the next scene is his memorial service. After that there's a lot of discussion about just what happened, and it turns out that the device was really a Phantom Zone projector, not a bomb. Mon-El and the Dominion are both safe in the Phantom Zone, and they'll stay there until Brainy finds a permanent cure for Mon-El, and hell freezes over, respectively. Cos and Brainy and a few others conspired to do it this way so that the Wanderers don't know just what happened; if they knew they'd try to get all proprietary over Mon-El and vengeful against the Dominion.

The Legion is also helping to rebuild Earth, and to hold their leadership election. Theena has been tabulating votes and is just about to announce a winner, as the issue ends. The Wanderers relationship with the Legion seems pretty cordial at the moment; they've been pardoned by Earthgov and it's not clear what they're going to do next. Dream Boy revealed Dream Girl's existence to the rest of the Legion, but we don't get any of the fallout from that yet. Sun Boy and his crew are also around; not clear whether he's back on the team or what's going on. Oh, and Brainy has come up with a way to switch off the techno-virus.

Meanwhile, Cosmic Boy is also wondering what to do next: one of the reasons why he set up the Dominion/Phantom Zone thing the way he did was so that he'd seem like a callous genocidal killer, and therefore lose the election. According to Phantom Girl, anyway. Maybe he'll take some time off. But then! He's approached by three teenaged superheroes from a thousand years in the future, the Knights Tempus, who want him to come with them and join their club, because of how much he's been an inspiration to them...


First I'd like to extend a big round of applause to myself for successfully predicting that Phantom Girl was looking for the Phantom Zone projector under Legion HQ.

Also, in my review of last issue, I said, "Maybe there will be a point where the Legion has the chance to deliver a killing blow to Dominator society, the kind of thing that would send them irrevocably on the path TCT wanted for them. And Mekt will want to do it. But the Legion will settle for, say, cancelling the tech virus and reinstating the nonaggression treaty." Which turned out to be not entirely correct, but I was in the ballpark.

Plus I'd like to take credit for independently coming up with the idea for the Knights Tempus, but I'm dashed if I can remember just where I typed up the notion. Some comment someplace. So I'll let that slide. (Specifically, what I thought of was a group of superheroes from the 41st century who come back to recruit a Legionnaire. Don't recall if I was thinking of Cosmic Boy or not.)

Okay, so. Now that you all understand my greatness.

We bid farewell to Mark Waid and Barry Kitson this issue. A lot of people will miss Kitson, and I'm one of them; his art has been beautiful from start to finish, and while I'm optimistic about this guy Calero, I'd hate to see this title turned over to a Sharpe or a DeKraker for any length of time. Waid, on the other hand... in public comments after his exit from S&LSH was announced, he said he thought the internet would be rejoicing at his departure. And maybe a lot of people will. Not me, though. I think Waid did a lot of really solid work here, and he's leaving the Legion in great shape for the next writer, whoever that turns out to be. (Long-term, I mean. I'll call Tony Bedard 'the next writer' when DC extends him past six issues. Nothing against Bedard, whose work I'm looking forward to reading.) I've read some pretty nasty and dismissive comments about this version of the Legion by random internet flapjaws, but I think history will treat it kindly.

Don't get me wrong. This has been by no means a perfect comic book, and issue #30 shows off one of its flaws very prominently: no fights! I don't want to oversimplify superhero comics here, but I think that the fighting is an important aspect of them. And I'm not talking about mindless violence, either; the best superhero comics will contain not only exciting action, but will use that action as a means of revealing character and values and symbolism and all kinds of other things. And I know that Waid is comfortable working with all that stuff, because it's all been here in the comic book. But it's never been all put together. How many times have there been in this whole series in which the Legion has a) meaningfully b) fought a villain c) whose name we know and d) whose motivations we can identify? Cham versus Jeyra Entinn, that's one. Light Lass, Cham and Brainy catching Lemnos on Colu, and Sun Boy punching out Lemnos several issues later. Brainy, Atom Girl and Invisible Kid taking down Elysion. Four examples. After 30 issues, I should have been able to come up with approximately 30 examples.

I mean, I've been looking forward to reading about the Legion giving the Dominion wherefore and whathaveyou for two, three, four issues now. (Just like I was waiting for them to fight the Wanderers!) And it all happened offscreen! Now, what we did get in this issue is good. Very good, even. But what's the point of all the powers and costumes and stuff if we're never going to see them used for what they're there for? This is supposed to be a review of this one issue, not the whole Waid-and-Kitson run, so I won't go on about this too long, but this is one thing Tony Bedard can fix right away: snappier storylines in which heroic and villainous characters with strong identities fight out their differences onscreen, every issue. If Bedard and Calero can do that, using the wonderful characters and setting Waid and Kitson have set up for them, we've got a big winner here.

One of the most intriguing elements of this issue was the Knights Tempus. A team of superheroes from the far, far future, inspired by the Legion? Fun! But I don't trust them. I have no insider knowledge of any kind, so I don't know where this story is going, but think of it this way. Here are these three mysterious future-people. We don't know them from Adam's off ox. But they claim to admire Cosmic Boy. Cosmic Boy, of course, has just (as far as anybody knows) exterminated an entire race of aliens, billions of them, and sacrificed a valuable team member to do so. What if that is what they admire about him? What if Rokk is now stuck a thousand years in the future, with his sad primitive little magnetic powers, with a bunch of sociopathic genocidal human-supremacists? What if he now has to play along with these guys (and somehow stay true to the Legion's ideals at the same time) until he finds a way of getting back to the past? Now there's a storyline for you. And then once he gets back to the 31st century, of course, he now has the mission of making sure that that future never happens, that the Legion can start the galaxy off on a better path than that. But to do that, he'll have to get the team leadership back from the popular-but-short-sighted-and-a-little-too-ruthless Shadow Lass...

That might work. But I hope Theena wins the election; I think she'd make a cool leader.

A few notes:
- There were some minor mistakes in this comic book. Some word balloons were misattributed, and it made it hard to follow the conversations. Nothing we couldn't figure out, but still there's no reason for that. Also, Shadow Lass was miscoloured once. Still from Talok, Nathan Eyring!
- I still think the Mon-El thing happened too fast. Guy gets yanked out of the Phantom Zone after ten centuries, has a giant fight with Supergirl, is cured of a terrible affliction, kidnapped and thrown into a brutal war. All in about half an hour. I think both Rokk and Mekt are being jerks to try to count on his loyalty. Guys, he's not one of you! He's had no time to become one of you!
- Musing on the Legion’s defeat of the Dominion… the Dominion was pretty powerful. They were, like, a giant space empire. So what happens now that they’re gone? How does the galactic balance of power shift? More to the point, what happens to the Legion’s reputation? “Yeah, we’re that Legion. The Dominion went up against us one time... they don’t exist anymore. Did you want something?”
- The roll-call page has the whole Legion featured, with nobody silhouetted. Mon-El is grouped with the Wanderers (some of whom are silhouetted), but the Legion half includes everybody else it could include… well, not Dream Girl… including Dream Boy, Theena and Sun Boy. 22 of them.
- Among the various nice character moments this issue was one for Supergirl. One of the things I’m going to miss about Barry Kitson is the way he draws the part in Supergirl’s hair; something about it just appeals to me. Anyway, there’s been some speculation about Supergirl winning the election for Legion leader, and I guess it’s plausible; there must be a lot of legionnaires who’d vote for her. And she is, after all, Supergirl; I’m sure she’d do a fine job as the leader of a superhero group. But she’d be an unacceptably bad leader for this superhero group, for two reasons: One, she’s actively trying to leave the group and go home, and two, she doesn’t know anything about the 31st century.
- “Three times the passion.” Yikes. Element Lad’s too weedy to keep up with Triplicate Girl.
- “Metropolis macrohearts the Wanderers!” Always thrilling to be present at the birth of new slang.
- “Why is it that half the battles we have start in our own headquarters?” Because, Cos, you’re the guys who are trying to stir up the entire United Planets. What did you think was going to happen?

Membership Notes:

First, I guess it's inescapable now that that's really Dream Girl. I'll go back and fix the roster page to reflect her resurrection. Also, we seem to have confirmation of a sort of Mon-El's Legionnaire status, although he's certainly not an active member now. Sun Boy may be back in the fold, but we'll have to see how that goes. And Cosmic Boy leaves the team this issue; he turned in his flight ring so I guess we have to consider him an inactive member at best. Man, I hope Tony Bedard lets us know the definitive roster...

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

If history does look kindly on the Waid/Kitson run,it will be for what it promised than for what it delivered.Remaking the Legion into a youth movement had so much potential;more potential than Waid was able to handle,apparently.Too soon,the threeboot was treading water,so the new readers the threeboot attracted left,and so the "eat it grampa" Legion went back to being junior G-men of the future.Ah well.In comics,the status always goes back to quo,but I mourn for what could've been.
Still,we have a new Legion title on the stands,and it's a good one-and if it's new threeboot material we want,there's always fan fiction to ease the pain.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

If history does look kindly on the Waid/Kitson run,it will be for what it promised than for what it delivered.

I hope not. I was often disappointed by this title, but overall I'm glad to have had it. It did deliver something.

4:44 PM  

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