Sunday, February 06, 2011

Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #1 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About: A new Emerald Empress has taken over Orando, and happens to capture Lightning Lass and Shrinking Violet. There is fighting, and partway through, Sun Boy, Sensor Girl, and Gates show up to help. Eventually they defeat the Empress.

Review: Why exactly was I supposed to like this comic?

Was it because of the Emerald Empress? I've seen Emerald Empresses before, and there was nothing particularly interesting about this one. Was it because of Orando? Orando's boring. Was it because of the art? See below.

I did like that it was a self-contained story. I did like Vi's exploration of the Eye; that was probably the strongest part of the Annual. I like the limited cast of characters. I like the efforts made to make the comic book new-reader-friendly.

The new Emerald Empress is not a compelling figure. We spend the whole comic getting to know her, and then at the end she isn't the Empress anymore. Her origin is on the trite side; another sexually victimized woman stumbles across a power source that's too much for her. It's been done before, and I wouldn't mind if it wasn't done again. Like with Cera Kesh, for instance, except I liked Cera better than this. Well, the Eye's still out there; I hope it picks someone more on-the-ball next time. Like, maybe, Harmonia Li? Although I like her well enough without needing her to be the new Empress.

We're reminded, of course, of the Legion of Super-Villains' attempt to take over Orando and have it for their own. In that story, Ayla switched from being Light Lass back to being Lightning Lass; it was kind of a new chapter in her life. I was looking for something similar here, except it didn't happen.

- eye don't like the conceit of the Empress using the word "eye" as a first-person-singular pronoun
- I wonder if that was Oli Queen showing people around Weisinger Plaza
- still no definitive word on Vi and Ayla's relationship
- I guess this Annual takes place before the blue space baby put Dawnstar into the coma
- has Levitz decided that Gates just doesn't take part in fights? I'm going to have to check my reboot issues to see how much he mixes it up in them...

Art: 178 panels/39 pages = 4.6 panels/page. 4 single-panel pages. (Not counting all the stuff at the back.)

You may have heard that Keith Giffen did the art on this comic book. I was quite looking forward to it. Then I actually read it. I don't want to be too harsh: when he's not drawing people, Giffen does a fine job in this comic. And sometimes when he is. But the way some of the characters are rendered...

I don't want to be a jerk about this. So what if Ayla and Vi look brawnier than I'm used to? Really, it's sensible that a superheroine would have a powerful build like that, and they aren't teenagers anymore. And as long as they're well-portrayed and superheroic, so what if they aren't attractive? Prettiness isn't a necessary ingredient here; if Giffen wants to draw a superheroine with a face like a pumpkin, he's got the right to do it, and I just have to get used to it.

But still. There's some weird stuff going on with Giffen's anatomy here. Limbs are bent in odd places, heads and shoulders and necks are stuck on any which way, and women's breasts start too high up on their chests. For instance, look at Ayla on page 12, panel 2. I didn't like looking at a lot of the characters in this story sometimes. (Giffen's Gates, in particular, is not one of my favourites.) If Giffen becomes the regular artist again, which has been discussed, I hope he doesn't keep drawing Legionnaires the way he does here.

Is it because of the eye injury and the big rush? Is it the inkers? Is Giffen trying stuff? I hope it's Giffen trying stuff, because that means he can stop.

Membership Notes: Sensor Girl seems to be taking a leave of absence as of this comic book. Looks like Paul Levitz is trying to trim the roster back a bit. (My guess for the next one to go? Element Lad.) Maybe he has some new characters in mind; that'd be good.

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Blogger Ben Rawluk said...

You don't think it was definitive about Vi and Ayla? They were constantly referring to each other by very specifically-romantic pet names and seemed very physical with each other, particularly at the end.

Otherwise, it was sort of blah. Levitz seems unsure of how to write Gates, and Giffen overdosed on Kirby--a look that doesn't suit the Legion so much.

1:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

giffen's cubist style is here to stay, i guess. vi and ayla look like they've bee ingesting human growth hormone. i just want to see normal bodies in comics. why do the guys look like walking steroids and the girls all have huge tits. so juvenile. is there really a chance giffen is going to be regular artist? i miss kitson, calero (the BEST), coipel, immonan, pearson.

2:50 AM  
Blogger Martin Gray said...

Like Ben, I'm surprised you feel there's any doubt about Vi and Ayla's friendship, Matthew. Only pre-Crisis Lana Lang calls people 'love' willy-nilly.

I also had qualms about the faces, body types and some poses, but that's Giffen, always trying stuff. He doesn't stand still (I don't believe this style will stick).

As for Giffen and Levitz together, I felt the old chemistry was back.

Was it Giffen and Barry kitson who started off the 'eye this' and 'eye that' business, back in L.E.G.I.O.N. I'm not a fan, but it does tell us who's in charge.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

With regards to Vi and Ayla: It felt to me like Levitz was retaining plausible deniability. What I want is for the Legion to feature at least one gay couple for whom there's no way to interpret it that they're not a couple.

I think there is a chance that Giffen will return to the Legion in a regular capacity, somehow. We'll see. What I think about Giffen is pretty much the same thing I think about Levitz: I like their stuff, I think they did great things for the Legion, and I'll look forward to any Legion comic that they're involved with... but I already have a pretty good idea of what their Legion comics are like, and now I'd like to see what someone else can do with the Legion. I want to read a comic by the next Paul Levitz and the next Keith Giffen.

I haven't read all that much L.E.G.I.O.N., so I couldn't say about the Eye. But I remember the "eye eye sir" stuff from the reboot Legion. Do I have that right?

One thing it didn't occur to me to mention is that there seems to be developing, across Legion lore, a special connection between Shrinking Violet and the Emerald Eye. In this comic, she descended into the Eye's microscopic world; in the reboot, she became the Eye's puppet; in the animated series, she hid out on the Eye to ambush the Fatal Five.

8:43 AM  
Blogger Martin Gray said...

The fact that Emerald Vi has been done previously is the reason I don't want to see it again. Any idea as to what the green thing on her chest is at the end of the story? Something from the exploding eye? A metallic flower from the floor of the eye world?

I thuink you're right and that the pronouny eye was a feature of the Archie Legion too.

8:54 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

No, I don't want to see it again either, but I could get behind some kind of deal where Violet and the Eye were each other's bitter arch-enemies, or something. If Sun Boy can have Dr. Regulus, Vi can have the Emerald Eye.

As for the green thing, I'd have to go back and look at the comic book again.

9:06 AM  
Anonymous AJay said...

I like Orando and I don't understand why it isn't the 31st century "Magic Kingdom". Maybe the B&B's don't have plumbing.
I've heard a lot of complaints about the art but to me it looks like a very loving tribute to the King. Yes, some of the anatomy was over the top, perhaps meant to further express the Kirbyesque energy of the story. Page 18 floored me, but I didn't think that the dropped-line green backgrounds worked to the effect they were supposed to have.
I am a total Levitz-Giffin fan.
As for Ayla and Salu let me say that I've noticed that most of the female legionaires are born with their powers and they are pretty passive powers at that, so Lightning Lass really stands out to me, but the legionaires that I really love are the ones with the small gifts and I think that Shrinking Violet is becoming a real force to be reckoned with. I hope what happens is she gains a sense of the eye of Ekron without becoming the next Empress.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I've noticed that most of the female legionaires are born with their powers and they are pretty passive powers at that, so Lightning Lass really stands out to me

That's what I think too. And it's hard to get away from, as long as DC's got this notion that the Legion must resemble its Silver Age form as much as possible. I mean, I'm a huge fan of Saturn Girl and Phantom Girl, but the Legion could use more Kid Quantum IIs and Laurel Gands. And Monstresses! Why not? Thunder! Kinetix!

11:55 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

I've only seen the online preview pages on CBR so far, but the one thing that jumped out to me immediately about the visuals was the way the inks made Giffen's art look. NOT a good fit.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well, check the whole thing out for yourself; I think some sections of the book look different from others.

12:04 PM  
Anonymous AJay said...

I was never a big fan of Kinetix, Monstress or Thunder, but I loved Jazmin. I thought they should have just gone ahead and called her Quantum Queen though. She was a handy legionnaire to have on your side. Her powers were so cool.

2:31 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I never really saw Kid Quantum and Quantum Queen as the same character. They didn't have the same powers, as I recall. I miss Jazmin; developing her as a character was one of the best things DnA did.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Giffen has many influences.Here, he's channeling Kirby,but it's late period Kirby,which few would call his prime work.Part of Kirby's trouble then was the eye problems he was suffering from. Now Giffen has had his own vision problems recently,and his latest art resembles Kirby's when he was similarly afflicted...and Giffen was straining his eyes on a story featuring the Emerald Eye. Interesting,and bad,coincidence.
This story,we've seen before.Eye bonds with nasty gal,check.Why can't the Eye bond with someone nice? (Silly question,I know.Even when Eye bonded with Vi,it all went bad.)Eye gets smashed,check. There's even hints of a possible link between Eye and Vi,again.You can almost hear the Eye thinking,"If this is all the Legion can come up with,Eye'll just go away until they come up with something else." But Eye and Prof. Li? No.If she refused a Green Lantern ring,why would she accept the Eye?
No notice taken of the backup features?Informative without being stuffy.Sure to keep the canonistas agitated,but it shows the rest of us where things now stand.

3:25 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I had no problem with the backup features. They were aimed more at new readers, though, and mostly spoke for themselves, so I couldn't come up with anything to say about them.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Martin Gray said...

I never liked Thunder, she was just another flying strong girl. Monstress, though, I just adored - a female Hulk who actually looked like a female Hulk. And Kinetix was so cute, her explorer civvies made me think of her as a 30th century teenage Lana Lang

Kid Quantum, I still can't remember what she could do.

5:14 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

She created quantum bubbles of, usually, slow-time.

8:02 PM  
Blogger Martin Gray said...

Thanks Matthew. And to think I never missed an appearance ...

8:05 PM  
Blogger Martin Gray said...

Thanks Matthew. And to think I never missed an appearance ...

8:05 PM  
Blogger Murray said...

I was pretty happy with the story and art. I appreciate what you're saying when you want to see the next Levitz and Giffen... fair enough. I want to see that, too. But at the moment, DC seems to have one vision... one voice, and it's not really a voice that I think I want to see on the Legion, so I'm *more* than happy to have an old voice tell stories right now. Besides, who's to say that Levitz and Giffen can't surprise us and tell tales that are still great, but don't end up sounding like their Greatest Hits
With regards to the Emerald Eye and Violet, I suspect that Levitz is throwing us a curve ball here... setting us up to expect one thing (a retread of a tale already told) when in reality he's got something else planned. Presumably, Gates, having already lived through one Emerald Vi might be able to clue this Vi in on the dangers. Also, this Vi isn't nearly the sucky pants that reboot Vi was, and so, is much less likely to succumb to the Eye.
The "eye" talk was definitely around in the reboot, but I *think* it was also around during the L.E.G.I.O.N. stories. i'll have to check. Those stories are due for a dusting off anyway.
I also appreciate what you're saying about Vi/Ayla asa a couple. While it was pretty clear to me that they are in love, I'd love to see it just put out there. Again, it could be that this is where Levitz is going and he just wants to bridge where they were when last he wrote them with where he plans to take them.
With regards to Giffen's art... I liked it. There were definite panels where the posture of the characters was off... or at least wonky. And he's certainly interpreting the characters in a more meaty muscular way than he has in the past (I wonder what his Mysa might look like now). Except for Gates. The poor bug looked anorexic. And furry. Not a pretty look for the bug. But... still, I liked it. I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to Giffen's work. Pretty or not, it always catches (and hold) my attention.

9:16 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

who's to say that Levitz and Giffen can't surprise us and tell tales that are still great, but don't end up sounding like their Greatest Hits

That's what I'm hoping for, of course. And from what I've seen of Levitz's first dozen or so issues, there's no reason why they can't.

I went back and looked at the end of the comic to see that green thing on Violet, and once I did, I remembered seeing it when I first read it. My first instinct was that it was some kind of medical disc that was treating her for injuries received during the fight, and that the little green crescent around her eye in the last panel was just an indication that she was winking. And I may be right about that. But still, you don't use the colour green casually in any story involving the Empress, so it could quite easily be more than that.

9:37 PM  
Anonymous eddie blake said...

yeah, garryn bek had the eye this and eye that thing going on back in L.E.G.I.O.N.

i dunno, i liked thunder, i thought having a marvel in the 31st century was a very nice touch...

3:56 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I wanted to like Thunder. But they didn't give us a lot to go on.

4:04 PM  
Blogger Martin Gray said...

Thanks Eddie.

Whenever I think of Thunder, I think of obscure Charlton character Thunderbunny. Actually, a Captain Carrot funny animal Legionnaire could be fun ...

7:16 PM  
Blogger Martin Gray said...

Oh, and thanks to you too, Murray re LEGION and eye-speak - sorry, I'm reading the comments out of order, darn Gmail!

Thanks for the speculation on the great think on Violet, Matthew. I expect we'll see soon ...

7:29 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I think we've already got a funny-animal Legionnaire and his name's Quislet.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Ben Rawluk said...

Thunder's look, and her schtick of being basically a reverse-Superboy (from even further into the future) was great, but was ultimately really mis-used by the writers, and part of that was her boys being too easily duplicated by other Legionnaires. I think if she'd been introduced earlier in the reboot would have been easier.

11:03 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well, I hope someone takes another swipe at her sometime so we can see her done right.

8:49 AM  
Blogger Brainy Pirate said...

I also thought the green thing on Vi's eye was a clear indicator that she will be the eye's new host.

And I thought her relationship with Ayla was deliberately vague until the last couple of pages--I don't recall offhand what the line was, but something they said seemed clearly "couple"-esque.

And I'm so glad to read Ben's comment about Kirby being a bad fit for the Legion--I so agree. It's as though artists think the Legion began with the Darkseid saga. I'd much rather see Cockrum and Grell used as style-guides for future artists.

9:43 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Kirby's a good fit for Kirby stuff. I don't know if there's a definitive artist who exemplifies the look of the Legion; you could probably argue for a bunch of people. Plastino, Swan, Forte, Cockrum, Grell, Giffen...

9:57 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Martin: No worries. I thought that the "eye" speak started in L.E.G.I.O.N. cut I couldn't remember the details, which you happily supplied. For what it's worth, I liked it when Garryn Bek spoke that way. It highlighted how he was going over the deep end and it hadn't been done before so it was kinda novel. And the fact that these stories were taking place one thousand years before Legion stories meant that I didn't require an explanation for why the Eye no longer spoke through it's hosts.
When the Eye started speaking that way in the reboot stories, I got tired of it pretty quickly. Same old same old of someone else's story point being recycled.

3:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As much as I disliked Giffen's take on Gates, I was quite happy that a reference was made to the "New Wanderers". Hopefully this means that we'll be seeing them again soon. Just another reason Morrison needs to write Multiversity: once the multiverse is on the table for DC, maybe we could actually have a New Wanderers book, with them exploring the multiverse for Crisis survivors. Hey, just a thought.

11:53 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well, I'd buy it...

9:29 PM  
Blogger Jim Drew said...

I mostly disliked the Kirby influences in the art (always have). But I do recognize that his wild costume design sense sometimes really worked. And even though it was just channeled Kirby, I like the new Emerald Empress design work. Especially liked the eye-shaped belt on the cover, which looked like it was looking down on everything, suitable for an *Empress*.

I would love to see Gates making connections to his universe's versions of the characters (heroes and villains both) -- sometimes being wrong, but sometimes being very very right. ("Grife, Brainiac 5! My Legion has been through this. At least check Violet out and make sure she's clean. Trust me, you don't want a squadjin' Emerald Veye on your hands, especially not one as experienced as yours!")

What level of coverage do we need for Vi and Ayla to be explicit? Hey, I know! Given Legion traditions, it's time for a new wedding, don't you think?

The one thing that I had little complaint about with this issue was the dialogue: except for with Gates, the rest of it all felt like good standard Levitz. He knows how to make these characters sound like they should.

3:58 PM  
Anonymous Rob said...

Verrry disappointed in the art. Kept thinking that square-jawed hunks in daytime soaps don't have jaws as chiselled as the jaws that Ayla, Violet and Projectra had. And yeah, Ayla's breasts started just below her neck - not realistic mister Giffen! OK, I get that super guys have big muscles and super girls have big breasts, but they've got to start in the right part of the body, right?

Also thought it was clear enough that Vi and Ayla are a couple. I don't think Levitz needs to spell it out much more. I thought it was a reasonably classy way to signal that they're a couple without having to descend into anything too cliched.

If Giffen takes over artistic duties on the main comic (unless it's just to fill in for one or two issues), I will almost certainly stop buying it as I personally simply... Do. Not. Like. Seeing it.

(Phil Jimenez for the main LSH comic!)

6:20 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Also thought it was clear enough that Vi and Ayla are a couple. I don't think Levitz needs to spell it out much more.

Well, let me put it this way: right now, DC can deny that they're in a romantic relationship, and nobody can prove them wrong. I want it so there's no way they can do that.

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gates certainly did his share of fighting in the reboot,as even a cursory scan will show;witness the time he and Brainy took on the Fatal 5.Levitz shouldn't be afraid to put Gates more into the fray.
If Giffen wants a style to use on the Legion,he should go back to the style he used circa late-Baxter run.He's never bettered that style.

10:16 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I still like his early style from when he and Levitz first teamed up on the Legion. I'm sure I'm not the only one, either. Of course, it wasn't just his style that was impressive; it was the way he took charge of what the 30th century looked like.

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Giffen's early style was great too.Both his early 80s and his late 80s styles are great.If I had to pick one style over the other, I'd pick the late 80s stuff by a whisker.Maybe it's the Al Gordon inks or the glossy paper that wins me over.It's an academic matter--Giffen seems averse to repeating himself artistically.
But he's not averse to appropriating other artist's styles.When he does that,better he appropriates Kirby,even late period Kirby, than Munoz.That style I never liked. It seemed an excuse to black out faces to save drawing time,or to use a half-face panel to portray every emotion under the sun.

7:41 PM  

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