Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Legion of Super-Heroes #9 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

Brainiac 5 and Chameleon Boy go to Durla to try to get a handle on the assassins from that end. Chameleon Boy gets his costume ripped off and eventually Brainy figures something out and says they have to go back to Earth because of Cham's aunt.

The remaining assassin attacks a United Planets council meeting and Tyroc and Timber Wolf fight him off.

After Chief Cusimano puts pressure on the Legion, Tellus accesses Dawnstar's powers while she's comatose to try to find Zendak, but (unsurprisingly!) is unsuccessful.


That 20 pages really does seem shorter. I wasn't sure it would, but it did this time.

Part of Levitz's method for writing comics is that, every time he checks in on a plot or subplot, it should be advanced in some way. In this issue, it's obvious how part of that is achieved; Brainy figures out that Cham's aunt is involved with the assassins. That's fine. It's not as clear how the Dawny/Zendak line is advanced, or the fight against the assassins themselves. I guess the first one depends on how final GiGi takes Tellus's assessment that Zendak's dead, and the second one depends on just what the Durlan meant when he said, "My purpose here is served anyway."

So Cham's aunt is the mastermind here? Well, that's... easy, I guess. I mean, we haven't seen the character in forever, so we can do without her no problem. So what's the big deal, then? I guess I shouldn't complain; I was a bit worried it was going to be Yera.

The thing of it is this. The Durlans are basically personality-free. They don't have names as far as we know, and there's no telling one from another. Their power of shapeshifting is reasonably interesting but familiar enough that it isn't a big attraction. What they mostly have to sell as villains is their motivation. The isolationist Durlan mindset is strange, on the one hand, and when you combine it with their desire for revenge it makes it a pretty intriguing situation. See, we can identify with the Durlans up to a point (which is Superhero Comics 101, make your villains relatable); we, and the Legionnaires, sympathize with them for wanting revenge for Brande's murder. They're totally wrong in their choice of targets, of course; the Legionnaires already dealt with the guy responsible, and the Durlans could probably have found that out without too much trouble. But we can't just say that they're evil, they're misguided, they're crazy; it's not that easy, and that's why this story isn't boring.

I would have liked to see more of Tellus trying to find his way through Dawny's mind. As it is, we only got hints of what it's like in there, how her powers make her experience of the world different from ours, what difficulty Tellus might have in dealing with it. It could have been a whole issue on its own!

In a way it's stupid for me to review these issues. Because the strength of a Paul Levitz comic book is that you can save it up and go back and reread them all in a row a couple of years later and it'll be really good. If you review them when they first come out, though, one at a time, you get the sneaking suspicion that not a lot is happening. It's not true, but it does seem that way. Levitz sneaks up on you.

One thing I was wondering about was whether there would be any references to the stuff that happened in the Annual that we're supposed to know about by now but don't because it hasn't come out yet. I guess they're canny enough to avoid that one.

Anyway, the Durlan thing is supposed to end next month, and by then I'll have had quite enough of it.

- still Vyrga. Still not Vyraga.
- okay, good: an explanation for Brande's new dialect.
- where was Gates during the fight against the Durlan?
- I imagine Cham's use of the hummingbird form is a callback to his previous visit to Durla, mentioned in this issue. Trying to make a point to the Speaker?
- the Legionnaires sure have been having bad luck with the Cancellite.

Panel Count: 90 panels/20 pages = 4.5 panels/page. One single-panel page. (Cinar/Faucher)

The most noticeable thing about the art in this issue is the different style they switch to while Tellus is in Dawny's mind. It looks neat, like it was done with coloured pencils or something. I also like Cinar's Durla and the shot of Gates teleporting in.

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Blogger Carey said...

One point to make about the Durlan mindset is that it's mirroring the Earthman/Earth separatism plot of the first six issues. As you said, Levitz's work reads best in long chunks, and I get the feeling that once the first twelve issues or so are done, it'll all add up to one big story about the dangers of isolationism and subjugating the wrong people.

I think this is Cinar's best art yet, and feel the line weight and colouring style for the telepathy sequence work better than the far more rigid inking elsewhere.

6:49 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

One point to make about the Durlan mindset is that it's mirroring the Earthman/Earth separatism plot of the first six issues.

My instinct is to say that this isn't a good comparison for such-and-such a reason, except that I don't have the reason. I wonder why I'm resisting it. So I guess you must be right.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous AJay said...

I kinda figured Auntie Ji Daggle would be showing up in this. How Yera Allom fits in should be interesting. I'm sure she's wearing her hair long just to please Gim.
Tyroc is getting cooler and cooler power-wise. I wish he had a more legiony name but I guess Sonic Youth was taken.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I'm sure she's wearing her hair long just to please Gim.

Could be. And why not? If I was a Durlan, I'd let my wife design me from the ground up. For while she was around, anyway; it'd be easy to switch to whatever I wanted for all the other times.

4:00 PM  
Anonymous AJay said...

I guess that makes Yera the second coolest Legionnaire wife, I mean after Duplicate Girl. How do Garth and Imra stay married?

4:43 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I never thought to rank the Legionnaires' wives, but if I did I'd certainly consider ranking these around where I ranked Yera, in addition to Luornu:

Saturn Queen, not nearly as evil as she is now
Saturn Girl, one of DC's best characters
Apparition, one of my favourites
Dream Girl, another
Yvyya Val, who owns a baseball team

I think the only one I didn't mention was Night Girl, who's no slouch either.

8:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The theme of this issue is Failure.
The Durlan fails at his(assumed)
assassination attempt,but the Legion fails to capture the Durlan.Tellus fails in using Dawnstar's mind to track Zendak,who we know to be(probably)dead anyway. Brainiac 5 fails to connect the dots until he and Cham take a rather pointless trip to Durla.(BTW,Brainy's behavior here shows what may be most endearing about him:he's a genius without a lot of common sense.)And,save for the reveal about Cham's aunt,failure to move the plots forward.
For a long time,comic books have modeled themselves after soap operas.Trouble with that is,not a lot happens in a daily soap episode.Glaciers move faster.A writer can get so "sneaky" in his long term goals he can lose sight of the here and now.
I do like the current Legion;it's the best the group has been in years.But I don't think using the soap opera model to pace stories is wise when soap operas themselves are waning in popularity.Fans want a faster pace,more for their money.A simmering plot is enticing for only so long before you say"Either start boiling or get off the pot!"

1:40 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I don't really think it is the soap opera model, exactly; it's the same thing Levitz has always done. The best explanation of it is probably Tim Callahan's chapter of Teenagers from the Future, which is of course highly recommended.

8:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doesn't it creep anyone out that the only Durlan we've ever really seen who has hair in her "natural" form (Yera) JUST HAPPENS to have the same color hair as the girl he had been crushing on for years whom Yera had been impersonating when they met?

I found that really skeevy the first time I saw it, and the skeeviness hasn't really faded any over time...

5:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never mind changing hair color to please your man;Yera can change her whole body.And does:remember that 5YL Annual when a pair of Legionnaires stumbled upon Gim and Yera-as-Luornu spending a little quality time in the pond?
Assuming it was Yera;the whole sequence made it debatable as to whether it was her or the real Luornu with Gim.Adultery in the Legion?One instance where the Legion became a little too adult for my liking.

2:03 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I don't know; is Yera's hair colour the same as Violet's? Maybe at times it has been, but I remember it as kind of a red-brown.

Anyway, Yera's making a concession just walking on two legs; hair colour is a minor detail. Hey: maybe she's using the same hair colour she did when disguised as Violet just to give Gim's visual memory something to key on so he knows it's her deep down.

Of course I remember the scene in that 5YL annual very well; my position is that it was Yera and not Luornu. I don't care to contemplate the alternative.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Ben Rawluk said...

I mostly recall Yera having the bald orange head with itty-bitty antennae in her "default" form back in the old days; I actually remember a scene with her and Gim arguing about whether or not he'd grown tired of having sex with an alien where she keeps warping her shape--which included orange/reddish hair. Any hair on her is an affectation, I assume, and I imagine Durlan appearance is less indicative of their identities than we're maybe implying. Basically, I'm not sure it would be creepy for dupe Vi's hair so much as it would be an easy kink for her to use in their sex lives.

1:00 AM  
Blogger Ben Rawluk said...

Also, regarding that old 5YL annual, meh. I read it as Yera-impersonating-Lu, but on the whole it was pretty chill about the Legionnaires' sex lives. 5YL was when we started to see more relaxed views on sexuality coming to the fore, and there's no reason Legionnaire relationships one thousand years from now have to all be standard monogamous ones across the board.

1:03 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

there's no reason Legionnaire relationships one thousand years from now have to all be standard monogamous ones across the board

No, I agree with that, but in this particular comic/run-of-comics the implication was that their relationships were standard monogamous ones, and so I didn't care for the idea that either Gim or Luornu would be cheating on Yera and Chuck.

I think it'd be the most reasonable thing in the world for a Legion writer to use some different relationship models for the characters, but if Giffen or the Bierbaums or Levitz is going to do that, then they have to do it and not hint around ambiguously. In the current run, I'd say that Vi/Ayla/Brin would be a natural combination, and a particularly interesting one as I don't really see Vi and Brin getting along in their current portrayals. (Threeboot, yes. Retroboot, no.)

8:52 AM  
Anonymous Rob said...

Thought the issue felt a bit slow and yeah, short. When the final shot of Cham Boy being all shocked that it was his aunt came up, I was equally shocked that the story just seemed to have ended.

Maybe the new DC price cut is for more than their stated reason though. I imagine with having to do fewer pages each month, comics will have to use fewer stand-in artists, which means that comics should be less complex to manage and edit.

Anyway, back to my thoughts on the issue. Levitz seems to have created quite a tidy rein-in for Tyroc's powers. All of his powers make sense now.

Liked Cham going all "Brande's my dad and I can turn into a big lizardy thing". But thought the Tellus with Gigi and Dawnstar scenes felt a bit slow - unless (as you say Matthew E) it's a precursor for something else. I hope it is. Otherwise it just felt like pages of dialogue for the sake of dialogue without advancing anything.

Not my favourite issue, but hopefully #10 will tidy things up. Hey, at least we haven't seen Earth Dude around for a few issues!

3:36 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I was about to say, "Hey, you're right!" but then I remembered that we saw him and Colossal Boy get smonched by the third Durlan assassin just last issue.

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Rob said...

Oh yeah, I totally forgot he was fightin' alongside Colossal Boy - but at least the plot didn't centre around him so that was an improvement.

And I did like the art in the Tellus in Dawny's mind scenes. Although I would perhaps have liked more confusion on his part - perhaps to get across how vast her power is, that the scale of what she sees was overwhelming to him.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

"My god, it's full of stars!"

5:31 PM  

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