Sunday, August 28, 2016

Review: Legends of Tomorrow #6.3

What Happened That You Have to Know About: I haven't been following along with this comic, so there's a lot I don't really know about. Sugar and Spike, now grown up to, I dunno, their early 20s maybe, and working as some kind of investigators, are moving into a house in Atlanta with a whole bunch of superheroic artifacts. A trio of Legionnaires shows up, looking for one particular framistat that they need to save the future. Then another one does, and another one... meanwhile, Sugar locates the thing they all need, just as Starfinger and his men arrive on the same mission. Sugar gives the thing to Starfinger so that all the Legion delegations will beat him up and then do whatever it is they had to do in the first place, without her having to deal with them anymore.

Review: I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this, as it's not really a Legion story. It's a Sugar & Spike story, and, inconveniently, it's the last part of a longer Sugar & Spike story that I haven't been reading. I don't know what to tell you about how good of a Sugar & Spike story it is, as I've never actually read one before (whether they're babies or grownups), but I found it a pleasant read.

From an LSH point of view, it's a trifle. What it really reminded me of is the Wein/Giffen story from DC Legacies #6, from... man, has it been six years since then already? Holy smoke... from 2010. The one where young Clark is besieged by Legionnaires from different time-periods who all want his help with this or that, but he isn't Superman yet so he doesn't know what they're talking about. This Sugar & Spike story, of course, is also a Giffen project.

Both stories have in common the notion that the Legion is too confusing to deal with and the only way a sensible human can cope with them is to disengage entirely. I question DC's wisdom in pushing that message. Could be just Giffen exercising his sense of humour, of course; I don't doubt that his personal view of the Legion has a lot more to it than that. But still.

Anyway, it's a funny story, with some funny dialogue, and plenty of the kind of easter eggs that Legion fans have come to accept as a substitute for good Legion comics. If you've been missing the boys and girls, here they are, pretty much like you remember them. (Cover price $7.99, though! Hope you like Firestorm, Metamorpho, and the Metal Men.) Wake me when DC wants to stop faffing around.

Art: The art is provided by Bilquis Evely. Sometimes it's a little detail-light or off-model, but in general it's attractive, suggestive of actual people and places, and she doesn't skimp on the backgrounds. I'd be okay with seeing more stuff from her.

Membership Notes: One difference between this comic and DC Legacies 6.1 is that that comic had different versions of the Legion and this one only had the original/retroboot Legion from various times in their history. Read whatever you like into that.

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Blogger Axel said...

Thanks. Think I will skip. I've become very disenchanted with any Legion comics written by Keith Giffen. Keith is no doubt responsible for some of my favorite comics - including the 80s era Justice League and others - but I've become concerned that Keith hates the Legion. He seems to want to destroy or deconstruct it whenever get gets his hands on it now. I just don't enjoy his approach to the characters now.

11:21 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I think he's just a reckless storyteller when he's working on something he's very familiar with. He'll do any damn thing. And it doesn't always work. Ever read his Ambush Bug stuff? One might legitimately not want that kind of approach in a Legion writer, but there have certainly been times when the Legion could use a bit of recklessness.

11:38 PM  
Blogger Axel said...

Perhaps you're right, but I also get a strong sense that he hates the Legion, and rather enjoys seeing it broken apart and destroying it

11:47 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I'd be very surprised if such was the case; I think it's all done out of love.

6:53 AM  
Blogger Axel said...

Then why does he consistently keep wanting to turn the Legion into something it's not. Why does he have this desire to see characters killed, upend the premise of the series, drastically change the tone, or change the series into something fundamentally different to what it was before he joined. Personally, given that Giffen's last contribution was a story in which several characters were killed in an off-hand manner and in which Sunboy's corpse was "eaten" by alien creatures, I'm not interested in reading any more Legion comics where Keith is involved. He's done great things in comics. I loved his Ambush Bug. His days on the Legion before his first departure. His Justice League. His Legion of Substitute Heroes. His several other series. But he should not be allowed to touch the Legion again. Ever.

12:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Because, as said, he's reckless with his toys. I'm not trying to change your mind; I'm just giving you my interpretation of what's happening: this is how Giffen treats the things he likes. Me, I think it's great. Not always, but more often than not. A lot of people disagree, and that's cool.

Another thought, though: the way you show favour, as a creator, to the characters you like is not to put them in a glass cabinet with climate control and UV-free lighting. You show favour to them by blasting them into the mud and hammering on them as hard as you can so that they can show what was so great about them in the first place.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Axel said...

Then we have a very different definition of what makes good stories and what "good creators" should do. Frankly, I think it's awfully depressing to read stories about characters who are just dragged through the ringer by writers. In more instances than not, that kind of torture fiction isn't entertaining and often leads to a level of creative escalation that ends up in absurdity. You can only reveal Daredevil's identify so many times before it becomes a running joke and impossible to roll-back or a distracting plot point at least. Devin Grayson's incredibly depressing take on Dick Grayson occasionally made for some interesting drama, but eventually took the charCter so far away from what the audience liked about him that she could effectively have been writing about someone else. And killing characters you don't like is the most obvious sign of laziness. Killing Karate Kid because you think his "power" is dumb or Sunboy because you want to "shake things up" and show the audience "anything can happen" isn't daring - it's the worst kind of laziness. It's bad writing actually. If I were an editor at DC, my injunction to my writing talent would be that they're forbidden from killing any characters until they have created an original character of equivalence T popularity and endurance.

What's more, the Legion just isn't the right series for sad, depressing, torturous stories where characters are put through pain and suffering for its sake. That's not what readers go to the Legion to read about. It's primarily an adventure story with a heavy science fiction focus. Yes, along the way, there will be tragedy. Deaths. Breakups and changes in fortune and membership. But in the long arc of a series like the Lefion, those things should be sprinkled out sparsely and counterbalanced by fun, adventure, comraderie, familiar soap opera elements, mystery and optimism.

Anyone who comes on the Legion thinking they will write a series where characters come and go, die every other issue and where the prevailing motifs and themes are suffering and pain for the heck of it is completely missing the point.

Keith Giffen's time on the Legion was great - in 1984. He and fandom, now need to move on from that.

12:24 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

That's all fine, but I think you ignored the second half of my last sentence there.

And I'm okay with Giffen not returning to the Legion. Not that I wouldn't trust him with it, but we've basically seen what he's got to offer, and now it's somebody else's turn. Young blood!

12:34 PM  
Blogger Axel said...

No no. Not ignoring the part about "showing what was great about them in the first place at all." I'm saying I don't think that's how you reveal every character's greatness. Yes, I think for Daredevil, torturing him is a good way to reveal what makes the character special. Batman hasn't been properly tortured in a while but when he was tortured, it made for great reading occasionally. There are other characters who shine when they're on the backfood. Spider-Man. The X-men. But the Legion isn't the place for that. I don't think Superman or Dick Grayson are characters for that. I don't think it works well with Wally West.

So I'm not ignoring your comment. I just disagree with the premise.

12:45 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Oh, I see. No, I mean that they show how great they are by overcoming all that in the end. Not by just having it happen to them.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Axel said...

Understood that agreed with it. Not my point. My point is that it's not the right approach for every character. Or comic property.

8:09 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I think it is. Although it may manifest very differently for different characters, stories, and/or genres.

9:05 PM  
Blogger Madman said...

I agree, Axel. The Legion is, at its heart, a positive-outlook team. Certainly not all stories should have sunny outlooks, but continual "downers" are just as bad as a laugh-filled Batman run.

And the death of Sun Boy is a case in point. It happened off panel, no one seemed to be phased by it, and no consequences came of it. Sorry, but killing off a character with 50 years of history in this manner is ridiculous.

9:49 AM  
Blogger Axel said...

Hear hear! Thanks and we are completely agreed.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Pushing your characters to their limits is compatible with a positive outlook.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Jim Drew said...

Pushing your characters to their limits and dragging them through the mud and such is important and valuable… but only if there are compensating high points. Standard storytelling techniques demand that a character get a send off -- they go out in a blaze of glory and save the day, or the compensate for their past failures, or their loss inspires others. Even when you seemingly violate those methods, you either come back to them in some way eventually. or you get tagged as a problematic storyteller.

Did Sun Boy get that sendoff? Did Star Boy? Did Phantom Girl? Did Karate Kid? (Well, the one killed by Nemesis Kid did, the others Giffen had a hand in, though?) Did 5YG Blok? The answer to all of those is "No, not really." And thus we not only have a problematic storyteller, we have a pattern of "abuse".

Now compare to other Legion deaths? The various ones in Legion Lost? Mentalla? Lightning Lad way back when, and then Proty? It isn't that Giffen tortures and kills characters, it's that he routinely does it ways that don't serve the fans and the continuity. Yes, life is random, but comic book life is scripted.

Part of this is driven by modern publishing needs, where you don't often get the luxury of years of ongoing storylines and layered subplots. Everything has to be an event, and big, and done in six issues. But even that is an excuse, not a reason.

Back to the Sugar & Spike story, though -- all six issues — none of that applies. Giffen does what he actually does best here, poke at the tropes and methods of days gone by with a view through a modern lens. No one dies. Nothing tragic happens. Even though you see the Great Darkness-era characters for only a couple panels, they are treated fine and are appropriate for the story being told. The entire 6 issues of this has been equally light and well done: rainbow Batman costumes, Superman Island, Itty, and so forth, plus a modernization of Sugar & Spike that really works. I wouldn't want a steady diet of this, but as a snack, it was great. (And November will see a collection of the S&S stories — the Legion is only in one, but there are all worth it if you like Silver Age weirdness.)

5:28 PM  
Blogger Axel said...

Thanks Jim. You've expressed quite well the point I was making to Mathew. No objections to pushing characters to their limits. What Giffen has been doing with the Legion is something else altogether, and not for the better.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I understand your argument and I think you have a point.

But I still like Giffen.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Axel said...

Oh, I still like Giffen too! I just don't want him anywhere near the Legion of Superheroes. Not even the back issue bin area of the comic store. As long as he keeps clear of the Legion, I'm good. I'm happy to read his Omega Men; his Ambush Bug; his Justice League; any of the other many characters he's laid his hands on. Just not the LoSH.

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keith Giffen with the Legion has become like Frank Miller with Batman.The pressure to top their previous work has caused them to plunge into self-parody.Both of them should've quit when they were ahead.

12:16 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

That's a possibility.

6:00 AM  
Anonymous AJay said...

Who says Sun Boy is dead? When phases to the ghost world with Polar Boy they meet Lyle Norg, Ferro Lad and Earth Man. No Dirk to be seen.

11:49 AM  

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