Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #31 Review

What Happened That You Have To Know About:

Supergirl is the new Legion leader. She offers Legion membership to Terror Firma and the Wanderers, but no word yet on who does and doesn't accept.

Tenzil Kem, Special Prosecutor for the U.P., rigs a meeting with the Legion where he announces that he has to investigate Cosmic Boy to see if he's guilty of war crimes relating to the removal of the Dominion homeworld. Supergirl sends teams of Legionnaires to three places where, according to Brainiac 5 (possibly on advice from Dream Girl), they're most likely to find him: Timber Wolf, Shadow Lass and Atom Girl to Lallor; Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl and Supergirl to the Gobi rain forest; Star Boy, Sun Boy and Lightning Lord to the Ranzz farm on Winath. The Lallor team immediately gets embroiled in some kind of assassination conspiracy, the Earth team is under surveillance by some ominous tall-foreheaded chappie, and the Winath team runs into Tenzil Kem again.

Invisible Kid is having a human arm regrown for himself.


We don't get to see Dennis Calero's work yet; Kevin Sharpe does the art for this issue. I was looking forward to Calero, but Sharpe's effort this issue is, I think, better than his previous LSH issues. I can't help but notice, though, that there are a lot of panels with no background detail whatsoever, which is... not preferable.

On page ten, there's a conversation between Lightning Lad and Lightning Lord in which their word balloons point to the wrong characters. This kind of thing has been happening way too often in this comic book--colouring errors, the weird boldface/extra-space problem that happened in the lettering a while ago, bad information in the roll-call infoboxes... It's unprofessional. And I don't see it happening in any of the other comics I get. Somebody at DC needs to shape up.

Page eleven. Saturn Girl shouts, "What?!" Out loud. Vocally. Has she been taking lessons, or is this another mistake?

Page six. Theena tells Brainy that the election was 'a close vote'. But on page nine we learn that it was actually a landslide for Supergirl. Mistake? (Actually, I think it wasn't a mistake; I think Theena was trying to let Brainy down easy. But, hmm. Brainy. Why doesn't he know the outcome of the election ahead of time? It's exactly the sort of thing he should be able to figure out all by himself. As he himself said in issue #2, "This is what you have me for.")

Tony Bedard delivers us a nice straightforward storyline. It's a perfectly conventional way to kick off an arc of several issues. But... it's called a 'prologue'. I'm a fairly patient reader, but when I open a comic book and I see that it's a prologue, the message I get from that is, "thanks for buying this comic book, but the one you really want is the next one." And there's already been too much of that on this title. Anyway, nothing much wrong with what Bedard does here, but he doesn't really swing with the characterization the way Waid did. There's a rote quality to some of the interactions. I hope Bedard can loosen up with that over the next five (or more) issues.

I was hoping Theena would become the leader, but Supergirl is a sensible choice. I don't mean she's going to be a good leader; as I said in last issue's review, I think she'd be terrible at it. But it's easy to see why so many legionnaires voted for her. Of course, you could make the same case for Theena winning, but I guess Bedard just didn't want to go that way. Anyway, it could be fun with her in charge; a bad leader can make for a good story.

I don't expect the addition of Tenzil Kem to the cast to go over very well. He's kind of a fan favourite in his natural role, which is basically that of a class clown with a silly power that can come in amazingly handy at times. But to have him in the sober and serious role of a lawyer trying to send Cosmic Boy up the river? Does not compute. There may also be a parallel case happening with the assassin on Lallor, whom I suspect on the basis of very little evidence to be Bouncing Boy.

The idea of having the Wanderers and Terror Firma join the Legion is one that I'm not sure about. On the one hand, it opens things up: it makes the Legion bigger than it's ever been, and it brings in a whole bunch of new characters that anything can be done with. I like new Legionnaires and I like things that haven't been tried before, so that's good. On the other hand, Terror Firma and the Wanderers are filled with unscrupulous criminals. It's real nice that they helped out against the Dominion like that, but it doesn't make them Legion material. I'll take Sun Boy back on the roster anytime, and there may be other members of the two teams that also measure up, but if Jeyra Entinn wants a flight ring, as far as I'm concerned she can go and whistle for her dinner.

Also, a lot of people may be enthusiastic about seeing a lot of people they think they recognize, like the White Witch and Wildfire and Inferno. Plant Kid, Polar Boy, Nemesis Kid... I know. But all they are right now are combinations of names, costumes, and powers. They aren't characters. I don't insist they be the same characters as in previous versions; I just don't want ciphers. All the Legionnaires who started off this series are fairly well-drawn; some astonishingly so and some on the incomplete side... but none of them are ciphers the way most of Terror Firma and the Wanderers are. I can only think of two characters in those groups who have any depth to them, Mekt and Jeyra, and I don't want either of them in the Legion in the first place. Can any cast of characters stand to absorb so many blank slates all at once? To bring the roster up to, what, around fifty? Oh well; we'll see how it goes, but I hope Bedard knows what he's doing.

I can't imagine a single reason why Cosmic Boy would be at any of the three locations Brainy passed along to Supergirl. (And, of course, we know from last issue that he isn't in any of them.) Only thing I can figure is that Dream Girl saw some trouble coming at these locations and figured that this quest for Cosmic Boy would be a good way to get some Legionnaires on the spot.

I wanted this comic book to be better than this. Bringing Calero aboard for the art might help. Bedard may acquire enough of a rapport with the characters that he can cut loose more than he did here. And this was, after all, only a prologue. This issue wasn't bad. But I'm tired of the Legion being 'not bad'.

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Blogger Adam Silfven said...

I noticed the mistake in the word balloons too, and it is ridiculous. However, you can't hold just the artist to task for it. There is also a letterer, a colorist, an inker and an editor that all looked at it and didn't figure it out.

Also the appearances of past Legionnaires in the background is infuriating, maybe more than if they tried to actually do anything with them. At least if they really screwed up the characterization, we could pawn it off on their "vision". As artistic fodder only though, it just pisses me off that they would willing waste the opportunity to use someone as cool as Wildfire.

I hope this series gets better soon, or I hope they restart it (again) with the Lightning Saga Legion.

7:18 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Oh, I didn't intend to blame the word balloon thing on Sharpe. Compared to Sharpe's other Legion issues, this was a pretty strong performance. I'm sure there's a person (the letterer?) whose job it is to get the words and word balloons in the right place, and I'm quite willing to let that person take some heat, but I think the buck has to stop at the editor's desk.

I hope this series gets better soon, or I hope they restart it (again) with the Lightning Saga Legion.

Well, I don't consider the 2x+unboot Legion to be any better characterized, yet, than Terror Firma or the Wanderers. So I'm not nuts about the notion of turning the title over to them, not until I see what they're made of.

9:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Completely agree with the review although I'm definitely harsher than you.

I thought the whole thing was wretched. It was like I was reading the first 2 pages (2 pages!!!) of a legion story from the 1960s and that kind of turned me off.

Also did not like the 'new' Tenzil Kem...and as much as I ADORE the White Witch...this chick is no White Witch!

I actually like Bedard's work so am hoping this was a fluke...but I don't see myself reading this book for that much longer if this sub-par storytelling trend continues. (And this would be first time since I started reading legion over 10 years ago that I would not be reading that says something)

1:50 PM  
Blogger Luke said...

Matthew E,

Hey, good morning. I decided to pick up "Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes" #31 on a whim last week because the cover looked very appealing in a "jumping on point" sort of way. And I found the story to be a little confusing but otherwise a decent primer.

I've never followed the LOSH at all, but I enjoyed their guest shots on "Superman: The Animated Series," and "Justice League Unlimited," and I think their new show is pretty neat. It was a little hard to figure out who some of the unnamed characters were, but that's a given on any team book nowadays, I guess. And of course I don't know who some of these threats are, but judging from your review, maybe they are new?

In any event I enjoyed this comic a bit. It was a good jump on point and set up a new storyline, which seems pretty interesting. Hopefully the next issue will feature some action -- I'm hoping Lightning Lad gets to throw down something fierce, as he is my favorite Legionairre.

Thanks for listening and the great blog. Keep it up, man.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

zeb: I wouldn't drop the book based on anything Bedard does no matter how bad it is (and from everything I've heard about the guy, I don't expect it to be bad). He's only going to be around for six issues, after all. Now, if he gets confirmed for a longer run, that might be a different story.

luke: Thanks. The threats might be new, but then again they might be new takes on old characters. Right now, you know as much as I do about it. And I agree that this issue was a good jumping-on point, but recently the problem with this title has been something that you summed up in a phrase in your comment: "Hopefully the next issue will feature some action." I've been saying that for about a year or so now. And it would be so easy for them to do! It doesn't require a shift in continuity or anything. Just go out there and do something cool! But we'll see.

9:11 AM  

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