Friday, January 29, 2016

Threeboot: Legion of Super-Heroes #2

Recap: The 30th century is a place of complete calm and peace. But that means that imagination and passion have been replaced by sterile security. Standing out from such a bland landscape are the brightly colored, proactive, and young Legion of Super-Heroes. The main team numbers around 20, all with powers and codenames, but the movement numbers in the millions across the planets. If you are young and want progressive change, count yourself part of the team. With this political power rivaling their super-heroics, the Legion is disliked by the authorities, including the United Planets, the Science Police, and planetary leaders all. To this the team recites a mantra ... 'eat it Grandpa'.

Writer Mark Waid and artist Barry Kitson had quite a task ahead of them. They were charged with rebooting the Legion of Super-Heroes and getting the team's fandom to accept ... nay ... embrace the changes. The Legion fandom, as a whole, is characterized as being tremendously proud of their knowledge of the team's history. Fans want to harken back as much as look forward. And destroying the foundation was surely a calculated risk. How are you new enough to be approachable while still honoring the past.

It couldn't have been easy.

But I think Waid took the right risks and the right steps to try to both respect the past while moving forward.

For one, he drops the readers into a world where the Legion not only exists but is already 20 strong and living in a high-tech headquarters. We aren't rehashing flights with RJ Brande here. The team is estabilished enough, and familiar enough, that old readers could dive in and smooth out rough continuity points later.

For another, he paced himself nicely in the beginning. It could have been tempting to be exposition heavy, meticulously introducing us to all the Legionnaires, reviewing their origins, and establishing a sense of history. Instead, he bolts out of the gate with a big arc, having us meet the team along the way.

But he also focuses in now and then. In what I think is the biggest creative risk, he devotes Legion of Super-Heroes #2 to Dream Girl and her world. We haven't even met all the members! A character specific issue might be usually slotted in seventh issues, after we as readers are familiar enough with the cast to do a deep dive on one. Waid challenges us. This story about Nura and Naltor does impact the main arc significantly. We do learn about other Legionnaires (especially Brainiac 5) but mostly in how they react to Dreamy. It is fascinating and daring second issue. And if there is one thing I like it is creators being daring with the Legion. Read any of my 5YL reviews.

The book starts with the Legion stopping an assassination attempt on members of the United Planets council. A small mission team of Karate Kid, Element Lad, and Dream Girl break into the proceedings. There they discover that the translator of an ambassador is actually emitting sort of poison. There is a skirmish.

Surprisingly, it is Dream Girl who does the physical dirty work here, jumping her way through moves she already knew were going to happen to get to this killer.

And so we learn that Dream Girl not only has significant long term precognition, dreams like the prior incarnations, but also has some immediate sense of foreknowledge making her an almost unbeatable foe in hand to hand combat.

But there is also something about her which is sort of ... I don't know ... ditsy? We see here in a sort of prophetic fugue state in the middle of the fight. And she talks about having a hard time discerning present from future given her constant flow in info.

We met Cosmic Boy last issue.

In this issue we learn more about Brainy. He seems just as driven and detail oriented as his predecessor. Knowing the character from prior forms, I could get a sense of madness in him. Especially when he becomes angry because Dream Girl predicted the assassination attempt. He had also discovered the plot as well, but only through careful analysis of data. Brainy is clearly frustrated by her. His calling her madness only emphasized my feeling that he is veering close to insanity.

I talked about Dreamy's personality in this issue. This scene of her tanning herself (and then leaving right before Colossal Boy crashes through this wall) feels familiar for a character we know in the past prided herself on her looks.

And Kitson certainly draws her beautifully.

This contemplation about Dream Girl is interrupted when news breaks of unrest on Naltor. Anyone under 18 has been unable to sleep for 9 days. The whole younger generation is being robbed of their prophetic dreams and are going mad.

Dream Girl leads a team of Karate Kid, Shady, and Brainy to her planet. She is something of a celebrity here and she demands answers from the high seers. How could they simply stand by and do nothing while Naltor's youth is suffering.

Remember, this is a Legion book which is focused on the idea of youth being an element of progress. After last issue's dust-up on Lallor, I was already suspicious of this older generation.

It is clear that Brainy has something to prove to himself and Dreamy about knowledge vs. prophecy.

He slips his flight ring on a suffering teen who immediately falls asleep. The ring cut the teen off from all outside signals and input, specifically the 'Public Service' network, a system which allows the older generation keep tabs on the young. Again, this is all done in the name of 'security' but it sure feels like a trampling of freedom.

Why would the Naltorians torture their young this way.

From a real world viewpoint, is security worth it if it robs us of experience?

The Naltorian government isn't going to let the Legion walk in and start a revolution or undermine their plans. They send the Precommandos in to remove the Legion. In a nicely rendered 4 page fight, we see these two Naltorians defeat Karate Kid and Shadow Lass in hand to hand combat. They are doing to the Legion just what Dreamy did to the assassin before.

But then Nura joins in.

She starts out by showing that she knows stuff already. She knows their fighting style (Klukor!!). She knows what will happen next week.

She also is rather coy in her approach. She isn't in a battle ready pose at all, instead she is almost in a super-model pose.

This is my favorite page of the book. She reminds these soldiers that she is the best precog there is. They can't hope to out predict her. She will bring her powers to bare, always looking further ahead than they can. She has them focusing entirely on her and what she might do ... even telling them to not ogle her ...

But this is the perfect page to showcase the way words and art complement each other in comics. We start out with a far shot of Dreamy. But as she speaks the words, telling the troopers to concentrate on her, we get a head shot of just her. No background. A circle enveloping her face. We are now listening to her, concentrating just on her.

And then she says to just look at her eyes ... and the next panel is just her eyes. Suddenly we are a character in the book! We are the trooper being almost mesmerized by Dreamy.

Which is, of course, so distracting that Karate Kid and Shady can knock them out from behind on the next page.


Dreamy realizes that the only reason to keep the young from seeing is the future is to hide them from it.

She asks Shady to knock her out and in that deep sleep she sees a horrific vision.

A war is coming. The Naltorian youths are the first to be slaughtered. There is a man in the center, unknown to her, who is the cause.

Big moments deserve big art. Kitson kills it here. This is a nightmare.

Left to his own devices, Brainy has learned that it is a signal sent to the youth via the network that is interfering. The elders thought only to spare the young the horror of knowing they were heading to war to die. They feel thisis an act of mercy.

And yet don't the young deserve to know it? And maybe they can change things?
Isn't this understanding of life better than being shielded by it in the name of 'safety'?

In this current world of helicopter pilots, trigger warnings, and one-sided news shows, this story resonated a bit. What is right?

The book ends with a conversation/confrontation between Brainy and Dreamy. He simply can't believe that these dreams show an immutable future. He has to believe that someone of the now three million Naltorians aware of this fate, will be able to change things.

Dreamy ends the conversation with a bit of surprising twist. Brainy will learn all about her powers when they marry. Is it a joke? Who knows. But it certainly shut Brainy up. Perfect.

So this issue did what a second issue should do, introducing us to more of the cast and setting up the story. This war tearing apart the galaxy is going to happen. But by concentrating on Dream Girl, I thought this was a different enough sort of second issue to grab me.

Waid does walk that tight rope, giving me versions of these characters that are familiar enough to be run with but different enough to be innovative. This focus on Dream Girl showed me that as well.

Kitson sparkles throughout. I love his work and his use of inset panels, closeups and splashes, all worked perfectly.


  1. The ditziness you comment on for Dream Girl... she wasn't the only character to get that treatment. Both Phantom Girl and (later) Supergirl get it too. It's tempting to say that that's just a habit of Waid with his female characters, but in this case it can be explained by the wide range of sensory data that these characters are taking in that nobody else is: Dreamy is perceiving the future as well as the present; Phantom Girl is perceiving Bgtzl as well as Earth; Supergirl is perceiving things all the way up and down the electromagnetic spectrum, at various distances and magnifications, and all the way up and down the auditory range as well, plus more stuff that would probably never occur to us. No wonder they're distracted.

  2. I wasn't as wild about this iteration as some of the others. I do like what they did with some of the characters, and the depth, but I found the whole "Eat it, Grandpa" offputting. And they tend to lose something in every reboot.

    This one just didn't connect with me. It's hard to care about characters that may die when they will just be rebooted for the umpteenth in another 5 years.

  3. I was so upset over the loss of the Reboot Legion that it took me a while to warm up to this series. There are still some things that I could do without, but I ABSOLUTELY LOVE Waid's approach to Dream Girl. As you say, he's honoring her past as an excellent fighter (trained by Karate Kid, no less) but pushing her in new directions by having her use her precognitive powers in combat. And yet, it still feels authentic to the character that we have known and loved for decades. BRILLIANT!!!