Thursday, October 20, 2011

Legion of Super-Heroes #2 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

A Daxamite called Renegade shows up and roughs up the Legion team on Panoptes, capturing everyone but Phantom Girl, who summons help. Renegade or Res-Vir, is trying to use the anti-lead serum to free Daxam from United Planets "oppression". Help arrives in the person of Mon-El, who frees the other Legionnaires but all of a sudden there's a fleet of spaceships overhead.

Meanwhile, Legionnaires are doing stuff at HQ and on Shanghalla but it's mostly not important. Except maybe that Brainy has an idea about Glorith being able to solve their time-travel problems. That's probably a good idea, right?


So Levitz is turning his attention to what we must admit is a plot hole that's been in existence for most of Legion history: why don't more Daxamites take the anti-lead serum and come out and be with the people? For a while it was suggested that it was because they were all quiet and shy. In the reboot, it was because they were xenophobic. In the threeboot, it was because the Tromites had killed them all off (although LSHv5 #1 suggests otherwise). Now Levitz is giving us the idea that it's because the UP has withheld the magic potion so that the Daxamites don't come out and kill everybody like they almost did during Great Darkness (which doesn't answer the question of why they didn't get the serum before that).

Which is understandable on the UP's part. Then again, the Daxamites always seemed like decent sorts to me; would they really be such a problem? Even Renegade doesn't seem like that bad of a guy. And that means this storyline has some potential, because ideally you'd like your villains to have some kind of a personality and a motivation and a sympathetic aspect, and we've got all of those here. Plus it means that Mon-El has some interesting decisions to make.

Then again we can't just have a universe full of powered-up Daxamites. It's not workable. So whatever the status quo is after this storyline, it's not going to involve Daxamites all over the place.

What the flip is the matter with Polar Boy, hitting on Comet Queen? Dude, you don't want any part of her, and you should know that. Not like you can't do better, either (see LSHv6 #1). He's lucky she wasn't into it. Are there no other single female Legionnaires? Let's see: Dragonwing and Glorith; too young and new. Dream Girl, Lightning Lass, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Shrinking Violet, already attached. That leaves Shadow Lass and Harmonia. I don't think Shady has much time for Polar Boy, and anyway Earth-Man's body isn't even cold yet, so that lets her out. And Harmonia, well... I have to say that I just don't see it. So Brek is going to have to look outside the Legion's active roster. My suggestion? Night Girl. Think about it. Is there another human in the universe with a better idea of what a worthwhile guy Polar Boy is than Night Girl? In any case, anything, including celibacy, is preferable to getting mixed up with Comet Queen. I do think I see what Polar Boy had in mind, though, now that I think about it. Geoff Johns gave us a new, swashbuckling, neck-or-nothing attitude for both Polar Boy and the Subs, and Comet Queen has displayed similar audacity, so I guess they have that in common. But I still can't support it.

And let me just say a word here about my girl Tinya Wazzo. The part where she escapes from Renegade and hides inside Panoptes waiting for help to show up? See, she's a member of the Espionage Squad, but espionage is not what her power is primarily good for. Yes, she can hide; yes, she can pull off cool combat moves (like we saw in the cartoon). But the real advantage of her powers is invulnerability. Really she's got pretty much Ultra Boy's power of invulnerability: if she's got a split-second to prepare, she can be untouchable by any physical attack. It's a very good superpower. Now, unlike Ultra Boy, she's got the limitation that she can't really do anything else while she's invulnerable, which is why she's just sorta hanging out until Mon-El arrives, but sometimes it's useful just to have someone who's around and paying attention.

When I write these things, the way it sometimes works is that I pose a question, and by the time I finish typing I've come up with the answer, and then I have to type that. Like right now, I was about to ask, if Phantom Girl is so invulnerable, why's it so important that she hide from Renegade? What's he going to do to her? But, obviously, he can threaten one of the other Legionnaires until she surrenders herself; she's a free agent only so long as he can't deliver that threat. So that's okay.

- I very much like the broken-chain logo on Renegade's temple. Free your mind!
- "Res-Vir". Relative of Ol-Vir, one must assume?
- still nothing new on Harmonia's membership status
- someone asked Levitz recently if Quislet was still a member post-Flashpoint, and he answered, "That's a good question!" Which implies that there's some kind of interesting answer to it, which is really all I want to know

Art: 84 panels/20 pages = 4.2 panels/page. Three single-page panels.

Fine work by Portela as always. I direct your attention to Tinya's little grin on page 16, and the parallel poses of Phantom Girl and Ultra Boy and Dragonwing and Chemical Kid on page 1. No skimping on the backgrounds either. I'm very pleased with Portela's art; he looks like a keeper. But three splash pages? No reason for all those to be splash pages. Especially page 10; it's just Mon-El flying.

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Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #1 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

Six of the crew of the USS Enterprise and six Legionnaires, separately, while traveling, end up on a 23rd-century alternate Earth where it's all totalitarian and stuff. Actually it doesn't look like the two groups have gone back to exactly the same time and place; the Legion could be a little later in the timeline than the Star Trek group. The two groups don't meet up.

There's also something going on on prehistoric Earth, and, uh, really it's not clear how the timeline of this Earth fits together; there's stuff with the Talokians and the Durlans and the Dominators and I don't know what all.


I had been really looking forward to this series; I figured Chris Roberson was practically born to be a Legion writer, and I really wanted to see what he could do with the characters.

Sure enough, Roberson demonstrated in his first issue that he's quite adept at writing Legionnaires, and, if I'm any judge, of Star Trek characters. If a wrong note was struck, I didn't hear it. And it's clear that Roberson has some kind of idea for this story that could very well be an interesting one. I am still looking forward to this series.

And I hope it starts soon!

Because this is all setup. It's good setup; it looks like something intricate is going on here, which is fine; always nice when a writer is really thinking about this stuff. And I have no idea how it all fits together. But... well, I guess it depends on what I'm supposed to care about.

If I'm supposed to care about the plot, then this was an eventful issue; we've got some kind of an alternate-earth deal where history has gone wrong in some way that's not obvious to us, and it looks like there could have been some tampering involved somehow. And who's the "something powerful" that Saturn Girl detected, and who's the guy with the glowing eye, and so on.

But I don't, in the strictest sense of the word, care about the plot. I'm interested in the plot, and I know the difference between a good plot and a bad plot, and I certainly want there to be a plot, but it's not what brings me to the comic book. The plot is like the bread in a sandwich: you have to have it, and the bread is what makes the sandwich a sandwich, and there's a difference between good and bad bread... but rarely is the bread the thing that separates a good sandwich from a bad sandwich.

What I do care about is the characters and how they are expressed. (I'm making this up as I go along, but it sounds right.) What do they do in the story that tells us more about them, or that gets at the core of what the character is all about? How do they interact with each other? And so on. In this series, in particular, I was looking forward to seeing the Star Trek characters interact with the Legion characters. See, the two franchises represent the same kind of thing: optimistic-future space-adventure. But they do so in different ways, and the contrast between the two is one of the only reasons why anyone would even want such a series to exist. And another is, because some of these characters are so beloved and distinct that we're almost rubbing our hands together at the thought of them meeting. C'mon: Spock and Brainy! Kirk and Shady! Bones and Brainy! Spock and Saturn Girl!

We didn't get any of any of that.

Anyway. I'm looking forward to the next issue. It pretty much has to be better than this. Doesn't it? I mean, this wasn't bad. But it's all appetizer, and it's making me feel like an idiot for buying comics at all. Ha ha, psych! The main event doesn't start until #2! Maybe! Thanks for your money! It's a well-done comic about the Legion and it's making me want to quit comics.

God damn it all.

- my copy of this comic had a real problem with pages sticking together; not impressed
- the Dramatis Personae page has Saturn Girl listed with Winath as her home planet. Which isn't wrong, really, but it may not be what people need to know about her...
- my Trek-fu is not strong enough to know whether characters like "Commander Starr" and "Captain Tomorrow" are established characters or what. Can't be Tommy Tomorrow, can it?
- I wonder if we're ever going to find out about what mission the Legionnaires were on that they're coming home from

Art: 78 panels/22 pages = 3.5 panels/page. Three single-panel pages, one case of three panels spread over two pages, one case of eight panels spread over two pages, one twelve-panel page.

Art is provided by Jeffrey and Philip Moy, who are of course well-known for their work on the reboot Legion. I don't want to make it sound like the two are joined at the hip or anything; my recollection is that Jeffrey Moy was the regular penciller and Philip Moy also got a bit of work here and there; please let me know if that's not accurate. Anyway, the art in this issue avoids being heavily stylized in the way that the reboot Legion was, which I believe is a wise choice. I can't pick out any panels or pages that particularly impress me, but one thing I do like is the way they give the characters a lot of room within the panels; see page 13, panel 2, for an example of what I mean.

Notice that there were only 78 panels in this issue. Typically a 20-page Legion comic has more than 80. And a typical 20-page Legion comic is also a buck cheaper.

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