Friday, March 02, 2012

Legion: Secret Origin #5 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

The three founders go back in time to meet Superman... but a mysterious shadow grabs 'em and flings 'em back where they came from! The same shadow takes over Mycroft from the security directorate, who in turn corners R.J. Brande and seems to be about to try to kill him. Meanwhile, most of the Legion goes to help the UP fleet at the wormhole, and do so effectively. Plus Brainiac 5 thinks he's cracked the time-travel problem.


Well, I didn't expect that to happen!

The appearance of the shadow-whatchamacallit, and its actions, are the biggest surprise Levitz has given me since his return to the Legion. I don't know what it is (although I have my suspicions) and I sure didn't think that the famous first meeting with Superman was going to be a false alarm. And all of a sudden I have no idea how this is going to end. (Other than that the Legion will survive and prosper.)

I will say that issue #5 of a 6-issue mini-series is a bit late to provide the first surprise.

It seems like the security directorate's attitude has changed a bit from issue to issue. Unless I missed something. But at the start of the series, they were skeptical about Brande and the Legion, and now they're pessimistic and inclined to take action against them. (Even without the shadow.) I wonder if we were supposed to get that impression earlier.

Reading this so soon after the Legion's appearance in Action, a couple of things strike me. First, time travel. In this miniseries, they're trying to get it to work. In Action, it does work. In Legion Lost, apparently it'll never work again. On the one hand I'm not really sure DC's left hand knows what its right hand is doing. On the other hand I prefer not having to worry about the rules for time travel in the first place.

Second, there's been a focus on the Legion's first meeting with Superman, and while I think Superman should always be an ingredient in any Legion recipe, I don't think the Legion should be defined only in terms of Superman. This issue, with its quick substitution of Ultra Boy for Superman, gives me quite a bit of hope that that's not how Levitz is thinking. (Although, really, given his history, there's no reason to be too worried, short of some kind of editorial override from upstairs.)

One thing I would hope to see in the next issue is for Brande or Cosmic Boy or someone to try to articulate some kind of larger vision for the Legion, some hint that they don't just exist to protect R.J. Brande's life or to blow up spaceships. Levitz tends to save stuff like that for special occasions, more so than other Legion writers that come to mind. But I do think it's worth doing.

Obvious guesses for the identity of the shadow-entity are Mordru and the Time Trapper, of course, and I suppose you could make an argument for Darkseid, although I'd be surprised if it was Darkseid. Might be somebody new, though, somebody the Legion is about to encounter in LSHv7, and Levitz is taking this opportunity to set it up. He does like his setups.

This miniseries has its flaws but overall it's been a pleasant experience, and I expect the final issue to be a good one.

Art: 81 panels/20 pages = 4.1 panels/page. 1 double-page spread. Is it just me, or is Batista's art getting more stylized?

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Blogger Murray said...

I really enjoyed the forward movement of this story, too. I figure that this story takes place slightly before the memories that we saw from Superman in the Action storyline... so... the Legion tried to go back... didn't quite make contact, but sometime between this story and the Action Comics storyline, obviously they find a way to make things work.

My own guesses on the Big Bad lean towards the Time Trapper (especially after the image in the final panel of the books which looks especially cloaky). But I was also wondering if maybe it might be the Anti-Monitor with the use of the shadow creatures. Not sure why he'd show up in a Legion story, but... I guess it's a possibility.

I'd agree that the middle chapters of this story kind of meandered around a little. I probably would have preferred swapping out some of the Security Directorate scenes with meeting some of the Legionnaires or seeing different aspects of the United Planets, while at the same time dropping a hint or two about the presence of the Big Bad, since that seemed to come out of nowhere this issue.

But... the book looks great! And I'm enjoying the ride.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

What else could we have seen in the middle volumes, instead of just more attacks on Brande? Maybe some kind of roadblocks to making the Legion official itself. Some kind of first-real-case scenario.

I could see maybe a security directorate scene where they had to cope with escaped zoo animals, and the only way they could do it was by killing the animals and knocking down buildings and stuff, which gives us the idea that this world needs the Legion to handle problems like that.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Murray said...

Escaped zoon animals? Totally! Some kind of official first case would also have been cool. Cameos by small time crooks that would eventually go on to become bigger crooks would have been cool, too.

5:50 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Yeah, I could see that. Like, uh, hm. This is the problem with the Legion's rogues' gallery! Not a lot of bench strength. Maybe Magpie or somebody.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Arion said...

I have to admit that I haven't been following the current Legion titles, although that hasn't prevented me from rereading my old Waid & Kitson issues, which I'm reviewing on my blog:

Love your blog. Keep up the good work.

12:30 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Thanks very much. And the threeboot stuff is certainly worthy of study. Many would say that the current series is better (if only because it stars the "right" Legion) but it's too conventional to really come to grips with; that wasn't a problem for the threeboot Legion.

8:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I regard the threeboot Legion the same way I regard Star Trek:Enterprise.In both cases,it's the premise that's more interesting than the actual issues/episodes.They both could've been great,but sadly fell short.

11:53 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Mm... I think that underrates it. The premise itself wouldn't have been enough to sell me on it. The Lemnos story was a legitimately good one, and introduced a lot of aspects of the Legion, including quite a few characterizations, that were great beyond what was guaranteed by the premise.

The problem was in the pacing, the villains, and the insistence on long arcs.

12:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think there's anyone the villain could be other than the Time Trapper. Stop Brande, stop Legion, stop time travel, prevent destiny, chess references, using pawns, cloaked figure -- except for the shadow element, every note of the Trapper all the way back to the 60s is there. (I wonder if we'll have an "Iron Curtain of Time" reference, even as a throwaway.)

(I've always held that the real reason for the Iron Curtain of Time was to prevent the Legion from going ahead to next month to see what they would be up against in the next issue.)

I still say the "Legion Lost is destined to die in the 21st century" is nothing more than "We have no time travel tech to get you home, you're stuck here." It's the most ignorable proscription ever.

3:40 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I don't think there's anyone the villain could be other than the Time Trapper.

Hey, it's a free country. I can hope.

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Problems with pacing,villains,and long arcs describes both Enterprise and the threeboot LSH.

Superheroes should be more than just battling bad guys.The "mutant menace" subtext has helped keep the X-Men comics top sellers for years.The rebel Legion was a good enough premise for me.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Oh, I agree that the premise was fine; I just wanted to point out that Waid and Kitson did do a lot of things right in implementing that premise.

11:44 AM  

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