Sunday, January 29, 2012

Legion: Secret Origin #4 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

Not much really. More of the same; ships out of the wormhole, Legion continues to grow, attacks on Brande. Looks like the Legion is going to use the carrot of time travel to recruit Brainiac 5. Also, big surprise, the Legion's going to be called in to help out at the wormhole.


In a way I don't believe what I'm reading here. Paul Levitz has a technique for writing where every time he revisits a storyline he advances it in some way. But if that's what he's doing in this comic book, I'm missing it. I mean, it clearly is going somewhere, but slowly, which suggests to me that this whole thing could be done in fewer issues. How many assassination attempts on Brande do we need?

Part of the problem is that the various elements of the story--the security directorate, Brande and the Legion, the wormhole--all get introduced early, and now we're just watching them all shift into position. Plus there's too much attention paid to the stuff we already know about, like the various Legionnaires joining. I prefer the approach in the first issue or two, where the Legion was mostly in the background. Plus the idea of this series was supposed to be that we're getting all the behind-the-scenes stuff that nobody ever knew about the formation of the Legion, but there really isn't much of that. I mean, sure, we can see the security directorate discussing the Legion, but it isn't of any consequence.

I don't know. I like this series, but man, it's moving slowly. One thing, though: it's going to make an excellent jumping-on point for new readers. Once it's complete and collected in TPB form, you know.

It is possible, as with Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes, that there's really something interesting coming up and this has all been setup, and the thing will be great once we get to the end of it. That's fine for guys like me who are going to get the whole thing regardless, and it's fine for the tradereaders, but it makes for a lousy serial experience. If you have a hook, you don't wait for the second-last issue to put bait on it.

There have been too many decent Legion comics recently. And not enough really good ones.

Art: 86 panels/20 pages = 4.3 panels/page. 2 splash pages.

Chris Batista does give his characters the long smooth horsy faces, doesn't he? Reminds me a little of Lee Moder only without the big hair. I mean, I don't have a problem with it or anything; it's just that's his style.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason why nothing seems to be happening is very simple--it's because nothing is happening.
You're in denial.You need to face facts--Levitz just isn't cutting it anymore.

2:27 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I can respond to that point in two ways, both of which I see as equally valid.

1. It's not that I'm in denial; it's that I'm trying to be as optimistic as I reasonably can. I'd love to have a young, hungry, experimental writer on the Legion titles, someone who really wants to push the antelope. I don't have that. I've got the Proven Veteran Paul Levitz on two titles here, a cascade of ex-Marvel Proven Veterans over here, and in the corner, Chris Roberson playing with his action figures. But if I go all-negative all the time this blog isn't going to be any fun for any of us, least of all me.

2. You can post your comment anonymously; I don't mind that. Not everyone wants to sign in to Blogger when they post here. It's fine. And I don't mind if the conversation gets a little bit animated, within reason.

But I do think it's a bit much to anonymously accuse me of being in denial. It's just a hair over the line.

5:20 PM  
Blogger karl said...

Im wiht you over the long faces...what really annoyed me about the reboot in the 90s were the LSH's faces being drawn so long by Moder, not to mention their bodies, really off-putting. The same things happening here.
As for the tale itself...I could really do without this security directorate or whatever theyre supposed to be, interfering/discussing whats going on, esp as we know they dont appear in future LSH stories. Their constant commenting gets on my nerves, and the one named Mycroft just puts me in mind of Sherlock Holmes!
And the LSH costumes? Im a traditionalist and wish this [rebooted?] origin showed the original costumes as John Forte drew them, not these 'segmented' costumes with their different bits. I mean, I cant believe Cos would give up the cos [!] hes wearing now to go on to wear his pink costume, and so on.
On the plus side, Phantom girl is simply exquisite at all times and I found Brainy's use of his force-field to keep alien passers-by at bay quite amusing, and I liked his The Big Bang Theory-like first meeting with Circadius Senior, comparing quantum theory. Nice also to see Gim Allon's dad getting some screentime for a change instead of his mom too.
Bit Id wish they would show the LSH in their original costumes!!!!!!!! I cant help but feel the new uniforms in this new origin is a reboot much like the recent Star Trek movie reboot.

6:37 PM  
Blogger Murray said...

I'm liking the new costumes... I dig how they are similar to their original uniforms, but updated and funky. For me, the Legion has always been about changing costumes and new looks for the characters. Even if it's all happening retroactively in this storyline, I'm okay with it. I know that the original costumes are still there in the books on my shelves (and in some cases the original looks are still hanging out in the Hall of Heroes... apparently the Flashpoint effect hasn't hit that part of Legion land yet).
And I'm *loving* Batista's artwork on the series. It's very very much in the Lee Moder style of super thin, super attractive... but I liked that look back during the reboot stories (and in some cases that was the only thing keeping me tuned into the book).

7:26 PM  
Blogger Murray said...

I'd argue the point that Levitz isn't cutting it anymore. This maybe isn't Great Darkness era Levitz. For me it's a little closer to Magic Wars Levitz, but I'm okay with that. Even if "nothing is happening", there is enough happening between the characters that I'm enjoying the ride. Not every issue needs to be plot plot plot (although, I'll grant you, this series seems to be moving a little slower than I'd like). Since it's a mini with a defined beginning/middle/end I'm happy to give it a little leeway. It will be interesting to see how tightly the ending pulls everything together.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

karl and Murray: I'm of two minds about Moder's artwork. On the one hand I wasn't fond of how his Legionnaires were all completely skinny except for their hair, and had the elongated faces in addition. On the other hand, when I think of the style of comic book artwork that was typical for that era, I feel like getting down on my hands and knees and thanking Frith and Inle that we had Moder and the Moys instead.

I couldn't possibly care less about the costume thing. Whatever costumes the artists want to draw is okay by me.

I like the security directorate. I just wish they'd do something.

10:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My apologies for the being-in-denial crack.It was my attempt at levity,but reading it again as cold print,the levity doesn't come across.I stand rebuked.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...


10:49 AM  
Anonymous David Spifforth said...

As a big fan of the 90s reboot era, I cheered to see the use of the 90s uniforms on Cos and Lyle especially. I'm okay with them alternating uniforms. The best way to think of this lies in the explanation Union Jack put forward for switching back and forth between his original costume and the SAS-miliitary one: "It's more to do with which one's clean!"

4:12 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

As good a take on it as any. Plus, hey, with 31st-century clothing technology, why wear the same thing all the time? Making a change is as simple as twisting your flight ring, I'm sure.

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to "Agent of STYLE" on Newarama (or is it CBR) tackling Legionnaire outfits, and ending up insane in a corner trying to put this series into perspective.

I am very much liking the small characterization bits here. The early Legionnaires joined just to join before, but now we have a bit of motivation for most of them, stuff which never came along until much later. (Except Lu. Has she even had a line of dialogue or triplicated more than twice in the series?) We're also seeing some reasoning behind the quick membership build up in the early years.

I am confident that the series would not have been greenlighted without a view into the major conflict point and goals, without DC being cognizant that this was a story worth telling (that is, even Levitz shouldn't be getting a free ride). But we haven't seen enough of that yet to detect where things are heading and we're 2/3 through. I'm guessing it's going to be "Retrieve young Superman and need him to stop the invasion", but I hope there's some tie in of the invasion to later continuity.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Here's a thought for you: in DC's direct-to-DVD features, we haven't had any Legion content yet. People have asked for Great Darkness, but let's face it, that'd be pretty ambitious.

But a DVD adaptation of Legion: Secret Origin? Totally doable. Not a ridiculous number of characters. New-viewer friendly. Plus maybe Superman. That could even have been their plan.

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting idea.

I also note that this series will fit in nicely next to a collection of the "look back at the Zaryan days" set of stories from Adventure.

These make for an interesting way of dealing with decades of Legion history. *This* is now the official way it all happened; much like what we saw years ago, but updated -- somethings are different, but mostly just expanded.

Under that idea, what other expansions might we get in the future? I would bet $5 on a Ferro Lad expansion: the four new members, Nemesis Kid's betrayal, the Fatal Five, the Sun-Eater. While Shooter's stuff had more depth than a lot of Legion stuff that preceded it, Levitz could easily put together 6-8 issues building that piece of the world.

Earthwar could be another such, although then he's building out his own stuff and he might not like that. Knitting threads through the Cockrum/Grell stuff could be interesting, too: Wildfire dies and joins, Lyle dies, Tenzil leaves, Tyroc joins, maybe up to Condo's death.

What a Word Verification I get on this post: "panked"!

5:13 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I hope not many. This is the Legion! The future's what's important.

5:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How is the Security folks not something that is happening and changed? It's interesting seeing the tweaks here and there (and I can't find one I dislike) but it's the whole 'what are those three up to' that has me thinking about Origin in the weeks between issues...

6:22 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Because they're not doing anything! They were monitoring the situation in the first issue and they're monitoring it now. I was expecting intrigue.

8:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stepping back to think of it in a different context, the three security council people are acting in the role of a Greek Chorus, providing insight and commentary on the the action. Which is a time-proven, valid storytelling method.

In this case, though, much of the readership (us, anyway) are intimately familiar with the underlying story (with the exception of the new tweaks) and we're not used to having a Greek Chorus, so we are (probably incorrectly) treating these as Characters Of Significance and expecting the story to turn around them. (Doubly so since we don't know of them existing after this story, which in comics implies They All Die.) And as such, we're expecting them to *do* something, when their role is just to frame things. (Except for Mycroft, who has had some interaction with Brande.)

The real story should be percolating underneath them, but we're having a hard time seeing the forest behind their trees.

(Mind you, I'm in no way saying that the technique is working. That we are having issues with it probably marks it as failing. How things are playing to less Legion-aware readers, I have no idea.)

1:45 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well, if that's what it is, they're getting way too much screen time.

2:16 PM  
Blogger karl said...

I agree; I find this security directorate boring and tiresome, all this endless commenting on events and needless worrying over whether the LSH are trouble [ we know they aernt, so it makes their deliberations all the more tiresome ] is taking the focus away from our team.
If I was writing this series, I wouldve substituted The Luck Lords [ who remembers them? ] as 'temporal overseers' of whats happening, rather than this lot.

2:29 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well, except, the Legion needs a relationship with the United Planets, with Earthgov, and with the Science Police. They don't need one with the Luck Lords. Whole different thing.

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How much attention did they get in #4. Only a couple pages, I think. 10% doesn't seem too much for a Greek Chorus (if that's what they are intended as).

Admittedly, they got more in earlier issues. Two pages in each issue wouldn't have made us treat them as prominently; we would have seen them as a bubbling subplot, not expecting a boil over until the end of #5.

I think this (and the Star Trek/LSH mini) would benefit from a re-read when completed or collected, to see if we interpret things differently when viewing the larger picture. (Which raises the whole "writing for the trade" thing, but I find that differently acceptable with mini-series, which don't pretend to have subplot throughlines.)

3:11 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Which makes me feel like a sucker for not waiting for the trade. Here I am, paying extra money for an inferior reading experience. Occupy comic books.

4:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And you're not used to that feeling yet? It's been a decade that I've been buying trades of singles that I already bought specifically to get the best reading experience. And knowing that if I didn't buy the singles, I night not get the trade.

5:54 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Oh, it started a while ago, but it's getting worse.

9:17 PM  
Blogger Dougie said...

I've only ever heard of one Mycroft before: Sherlock's brother. Could that be significant, or am I being too nerdy?

I like the new/old Colossal Boy costume but I wish Levitz would quicken the pace in his stories nowadays.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Really there's only the one Mycroft; all the others--like the computer in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress--were named with him in mind. But I'd be surprised if it implied anything.

4:47 PM  

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