Thursday, August 27, 2020

Legion of Super-Heroes #8

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

The Legionnaires fight the Rimborians, and win, but the United Planets puts political pressure on them to stand trial anyway. 

Review: I can't say a ton happened in this issue, but what did happen was chewier than it usually is in this series. I think the exercise of splitting the story among 21 art teams forced Bendis to write something interesting for every page--more or less--which is not generally my experience of this title. Also, forcing our attention on individual Legionnaires in turn is valuable. We get some nice little details about a lot of them! 

This issue is, like next issue will be, a gimmick. I enjoy gimmicks, but I try to remember that that's what they are. Again, this could be an actually good series if it ever gets going. (Usually, when you say that about a series, it never gets going. It stays mediocre. But usually it's boring-mediocre, not interesting-mediocre like this one.) 

I still want more details on Krav the General Nah's personal cadre, or whoever they are. There's no way to pack that into this issue, of course. We did get a couple of glimpses of them doing interesting things. I hope they get better developed than Terror Firma. 

Speaking of which, if there were still any doubts that the threeboot Legion had a big influence on Bendis and this series, it's time to banish them. We've got the "Micro Lad" take on Colossal Boy, and we've got Princess Projectra's director's cut of a name, and, really, her personality, a bit. I'm in favour of this, but I would also like to see the reboot Legion reflected in this team in some way. 

This "Trial" storyline... if we're just looking at it as a framing device to spotlight all the Legionnaires and guest artists, it's fine. But superheroes-on-trial storylines can be tricky. I propose that for a trial to work as a premise in a superhero story, you need several prerequisites: 

1) You need to be able to have some kind of interesting discussion over whether the heroes are actually guilty or not 

2) The court needs to be impartial enough, and the case unclear enough, that there's some suspense about how the court will rule 

3) The court must have authority to enforce their verdict, and it must be of such a nature that the reader respects it 

In this case I think we have 1). The role of the Legion in the United Planets and what their jurisdiction is compared to that of the individual planets is not sufficiently defined yet, and this might be an interesting way of exploring that. I don't think we have 2), though; does anybody really think the Legion will get a fair shake in a Rimborian court? And we don't have 3), either, because who cares what the Rimborians say about the Legion? You don't and I don't. So I don't see the trial as really a thing. 

And now I'm ready for something new to be added to what's going on in this story. 

Art: 98 panels/22 pages = 4.5 panels/page (2 splash pages, 1 double-page spread) 

I was worried that this issue would be like a portfolio: 22 individual splash pages. Didn't happen, though; the panel count is actually higher than normal. I guess it's not so strenuous when you only have one page to do all month. Anyway, the guest-artist-extravaganza gimmick basically worked, I think. I liked some artists' takes better than others. Dan Hipp's Blok page was charming, but I wasn't really smelling what Jeff Lemire was cooking, for instance. Favourite panel: panel 3 on Dustin Nguyen's Dream Girl page (p3). 

Membership Notes

We can confirm Ferro Lad as a member, and it turns out Lightning Lass is who we thought Light Lass was all along, I think, but I'm not going to pick up this particular ball until it stops rolling. We discover more details, too, which I'll put on the roster page; presumably there will be more of this next issue.

Labels: ,


Blogger Lucas Schimmel said...

A few thoughts.
The issue was not what I expecting. We were told in the solicits and descriptions the issue would focus on the legionnaires, something we are sorely lacking as the writer seems to have some difficulty giving everyone their own unique personality. Sadly, although we got more from this issue than normal, we barely see anything of note from most legionnaires.
Also, I commented how last issue said the next issues were called an "event". I still don't know what it means, it has no crossover or larger-than-life feel to it.

Despite spending some time with Element Lad, Blok, Wildfire and Colossal Boy, maybe even learning a bit of their backstory, I just wasn't able to get a feel of their personalities. Element Lad retconned story also made me puzzled: his people genocide was now caused by the Horraz, the villains who tried to steal the Trident in the first arc. Retroactively, I would've expected him to shine and do more to take them down in the last arc.

Then, we had a few legionnaires I got a little bit of their personality, namely Dream Girl and Princess Projecta. Dream Girl seemed to be one of those people who are always overexcited and wanting physical contact. Princess Projecta, who turns out to be her 2000s version, also seems very overeager to join the Legion, although there are hints of an ego.

Finally, we have the legionnaires with the most well-established personality: Mon-El, Cosmic Boy and Chameleon Boy.

First, Chameleon Boy. He seems to be very unassertive, trying to defend the Legion to his mother but easily falling under her influence. Same thing when he's around other legionnaires. He also seems to be firmly under his mother's influence, I don't know if that in particular will ever come back.

Cosmic Boy seems to have some sort of anxiety, I'm not sure. He was eager to be the leader, but as soon as he saw the votes weren't going his way he flew away. This issue it seems like he was ready to quit the Legion altogether, even though he admits they didn't vote against him, just his leadership. Despite his seemingly anxiety, he doesn't hesitate to go back and help the Legion.

Mon-El. Mon-El is an arse, simple as that. His anti-social behavior is clearly shown in previous issues when he's angry at Jon, for no explained reason, he has a angry outburst in the fight against the villain holding the trident, which luckily ended his way. Apparently, this behavior is know to the rest of the Legion, with Triplicate Girl claiming he's "sensitive". In this issue, he breaks up with his girlfriend on the spot because he said maybe he could be less of an arse.
Also, we learn Mon-El is actually Kryptonian. And a direct descendant of Jon and Clark. Of course there hints that they had some kind of relationship between the two but, it doesn't really make sense? For a start, we have seen Mon-El's nametag before, it said he was from Daxam, not "New Krypton", he was weak to lead, thus an actual Daxamite. Also his name was Lar Gand in the tag. So, we don't know his backstory now. Since he's a Kryptonian now, he should have no issue with lead and thus he was not put in stasis/Phantom Zone to wait for a cure. Was he born in the 31st century? We don't know - he says he's Jon's great, great, great, great, great grandson, although we don't know if that's an accurate or if he's just saying he's a descendant - if it's accurate, he would've been born some time in the late 22nd or early 23rd century, literal hundreds of years before the story is set and we have no clue how or why he was taken to the future.

Lastly, we will have a trial. I have no idea what it will be about, and frankly, I wonder "do I care?";

4:47 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I mean, we knew a lot of this going in. We knew Bendis's reputation as someone who would give us a lot of chirpy dialogue between characters who were poorly differentiated, for instance. We got that. Lots of chatter that doesn't really seem to lead anywhere. I was hoping for snappier storylines than we've been getting. I was also hoping for better-defined characters, but...

I don't know if I want to hide this insight in the comments; I might expand it into a full article. But maybe the inconsistent details we've been getting about the Legionnaires is *on purpose*. Maybe Bendis and Sook are *up to something* with variations among these characters.

I think I've got more of a handle on Wildfire than you say you do... Wildfire is no longer a hothead; he's flamboyant and theatrical, sometimes formally so. He's explicitly concerned with the style of his actions. I think this is the key to reading him.

Cosmic Boy I am interpreting through the lens of the threeboot. This lapse he has during last issue/this issue is comparable to how he quit the Legion for a minute during the Lemnos arc of the threeboot. I think that's the kind of story Bendis is trying to give us.

As for Mon-El, well... I'm as tired of typing it as you are of reading it, but I need to know more about exactly what his problem is with Superboy before I come to any judgment about it. I'm waiting on the details again.

I can't say I care about the trial much either, for reasons mentioned in the review, but I do care about this comic. I'm intrigued by it and I want to keep watching these characters do stuff. I just wish they'd pick up the pace of their adventures a bit. I wish we could focus on the individuals for longer times at once. But I like the setting and I like the energy and I like the sense I get that, whether we are on board or not, Bendis has a vision for the Legion that he's trying to achieve. We haven't had that for a long time. 2007-8, somewhere around there.

6:17 PM  
Anonymous Ian said...

The artistic gimmick wasn't a value-add for me but it wasn't too distracting either. If this issue and the next buy Sook some time to complete a full issue somewhere in the near future it's a welcome tactic to keep the trains running on time. At this point though, I would rate the book as dangerously close to piecemeal work artistically. This is why long, sustained excellent artistic runs are special--because they are hard to do.

I liked that the story was told by Chameleon Boy being interrogated by Brande who is in turn rifling through "audition tapes" for some clues. Hearkens back to a tried and true Legion ritual and gives some vital interactions between these Legionnaires.

Element Lad is another last of his kind. Seems touched by sadness but that's what I sometimes get with Lemire's art as well. Rokk is not prepared in this exchange.

Dream Girl's powers seems like they would be fun from a writer's standpoint. Perhaps that's why she is sometimes sidelined with a debilitated quality. After all, she says of this Legion that their future is "so good" but also "glorious chaos". Will Dream Girl have to answer for those statements at some point?

Projectra is perfectly regal with a snobby ennui to show for it. Her interest seems piqued by cosplaying ancient Earth superheroing?

I don't think Rokk has ever experienced personal setback. Issue #4 showed him as Rokk Krinn, Champion of Braal! He's the 1%. His people love him, his father affirms he's special and a leader. He did the right thing when called to duty but Cosmic Boy has a fragility that comes when everything up to now has been easy for him.

Oh whatever will we do with Rose Forrest? There's a JJ Abrams's style "mystery box" if I ever saw one. I'd like for there to be a coherent story behind what's being developed with her but I'm not sure, which leads me to...

Mon-El. Really trying to read this Legion with fresh eyes but it's hard to leave everything you think you know about the character even when it includes the same series. Yes, his fritchman tag said Daxam at one time. In this issue he's listed as from Krypton. Could fritchman tags be manipulated? Likely. Last issue Jon told Mon to turn his on. So there does seem to be some individual control. But why go by an assumed/alternate identity at first as a Daxamite named Lar Gand and then choose the moment you fight Krav to reveal yourself? Even before he outs himself as descendant of Jonathan Kent to his face. Is 1000 years enough time for some twisty-turny story to be behind it all? I believe so. I mean, don't we all think that a descendant of Superman being a present member of the Legion would be made a big deal of? Bendis wants us to wonder, no doubt. I just hope artistic caprice or a missed edit haven't foiled him.

Excellent analysis on the idea of a trial-type scenario. Despite all of these forces arrayed against them, the cover revealed to me that this Legion's biggest enemy is themselves. Thanks for the excellent discussion chaps!

And I still have to read the Threeboot in its entirety. :)

12:42 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I have long thought that it's unrealistic to expect any artist to draw 12 issues of Legion comics per year. The large cast and science-fiction setting make it an unreasonable workload. Whether you compensate for that with scheduled guest artists, or a rotating-artist thing, or something else, I think you do still have to have it as part of your plan.

The threeboot has its flaws but it's worth a look. Up until about issue #30 or so anyway. The little Bedard/Calero arc is good in a lot of ways but is to me fatally flawed by its portrayal of Brainiac Five. And Shooter's run... some of the ingredients were there (including Francis Manapul!) but it was never going to be a good idea. For completists only.

I'm not gonna talk about Mon-El any more in these comments because I think I need to write a whole article about it.

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Ian said...

"I'm not gonna talk about Mon-El any more in these comments because I think I need to write a whole article about it."

Absolutely looking forward to this! I'll only say that I did a reread of this series last night (first full "oner" for me) and it was instructive, to say the least. Highly recommended to anyone, for this series. The Interlac translation alone rewards multiple readings (cause if you're like me, i'm too lazy to have tried to read all of the interlac in this series yet). But I get pleasantly surprised as the concentration of issues consumed seemed to develop quicker recognition of the language. If Rosetta Stone did Interlac. There is an interactive phenomenon that is occurring here that I find interesting tho. I have too many thoughts on this....

Speaking of a reread, I did examine Ryan Sook's output during the initial 7 issues and I found that he did 3 complete issues and a sum of just over another 1 issue. Put short, Ryan Sook illustrated 4/7 issues of this series thus far. Not to mention all standard covers, save one (#4). So, really, hats off to him. I couldn't agree more about expectations for an artist but the specificity of the challenges of the Legion comic are well-noted as well. And Sook's design work and aesthetic are all over this series I believe, like it or dislike it. I like it.

The remaining 3 issues were comprised of 5 other artists.

I was picking up the Shooter/Manapul series when it launched (and I think I left when Manapul did?) The next time I would follow a Legion comic was when Supergirl joined and they retitled that series. I passed on the Waid/Kitson launch (for reasons) and that always seems to me, when I see others mentioning it online, to be where the heart of the Threeboot is at? Only an impression, nothing else.

The Waid/Kitson series will be required reading for me now. Learning languages, required reading? It's a strange distraction to be so bookish with comics this late into my comic reading career but I am enjoying it immensely.

3:05 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well, if you were getting it when they retitled it for Supergirl joining, that's the middle of the Waid/Kitson run, which I found started very strong, then started to lag and meander, and finished with a flourish.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Dylan said...

I wasn't a huge fan of the Threeboot on the whole (too much "Up yours, grandpa" in the early part...) the reining in of that in the Shooter issues is actually way I enjoyed them a lot. But I did really like the idea of Gim as "Micro Lad", so that's one I'm actually glad to see kept.

Ferro Lad gets to be black at last, which is both a nice nod to the past and more commitment to the ethnic diversity of this Legion.

But I agree that it feels like, after eight issues, we're finally starting to get some fairly solid dives into the characterization of some of the members here. I'm hoping the next issue fills in some additional gaps on the brand new characters.

Looking forward to the Mon-El essay!

8:12 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Is he Black, though? I just wonder if we're building too much on some slight evidence.

8:49 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home