Friday, April 1, 2016

Threeboot: Legion of Super-Heroes #11

Recap: It's all out war between Praetor Lemnos with his Terror Firma and the United Planets. The Legion has decided they need to be proactive. The team puts their personal differences behind them to fight for the UP. Cosmic Boy divides the Legion into three away teams to attack key points in the remaining UP. Unfortunately, that leaves Earth relatively unprotected. The head of Terror Firma, Elysion, and suicide bombers bring down the Legion Headquarters. And the team suffers it's first casualty. Dream Girl has died in the carnage.

Legion of Super-Heroes #11 pushes the narrative of this United Planets war forward dramatically. Mark Waid brings us to all the fronts of the war, spending pages in four different locales. It is ambitious, especially when we see the worlds the away teams are sent to. These are new places for us to learn about. We aren't heading to Braal. We are heading to chaotic and cerebral environments. There is a definite sort of Silver Age patina on this issue. Remember when an incredibly wild story with multiple location changes and a lot of exposition would be crammed into a 14 page Silver Age story? Have you ever read those Silver Age Legion stories where planets were inhabited by giant puppets, intelligent animals, etc. That is a little what this felt like. But while Silver Age-y, this had enough modern sensibilities to be appropriate for this age.

As wild as those other worldly scenes are, the Earth pages are the most striking. Brainy is mourning the loss of Dream Girl. It is the most emotional I have seen this version of Querl. And it is the most devastated I have seen Brainy since the post-Crisis Kara death. That is unsettling.

The art is done again by Barry Kitson and Mick Gray. Kitson shines in this issue bringing different page layouts and styles for the different worlds we are visiting. More specific comments when we see the art. But this is solid stuff. It also feels like this is the first time I have seen computer effects brought into comics.

The book opens with a slow pan around the devastation of Earth. And that slow pan ends with this splash page of Dream Girl's body amid the rubble. Here name bubble is now black with the word deceased.

I grew up in a time when a character dying meant something big. And this one felt big given this was a new Legion and Dream Girl was a previously well-established character. Who wasn't shocked when this happened.

And the art says so much. Dream Girl is in the center. Her body draws our eye. But Kitson adds so much by adding the people around her. We see that everyone has grieving body language - a hand over the face, head looking down slightly, a look of disbelief. But there is Brainy standing as stiffly as you can. He isn't sad here or shocked. He seems almost defiant.

I also wanted to include the role call page. We have something like this every issue but up until now it has only been 2-3 Legionnaires. For the first time we get a sense of the size and strength of the team. This is everybody who is out on the missions.

We aren't swollen to a score of Legionnaires. But this is a tough team. This is the new Legion.

On Earth, Elysion is free and using his Terra-like powers to level the city. As Invisible Kid says, Elysion is literally paving the way for Terror Firma. Buildings are being toppled, the city flattened.

The only Legionnaires left on Earth are Brainiac 5 and Invisible Kid. These aren't powerhouses who usually would head into a fight against someone like Elysion. And to make matters worse, Brainiac 5 takes off his force shield belt and puts it around Dreamy. He puts her in the shield, leaving himself vulnerable.

It is clear he isn't thinking with any clarity. He needs to put Dreamy in the bubble. He will resurrect her. He will out-think death. We have seen other Brainy's with mental health issues. Has that carried forward to this Brainy.

Meanwhile the Cos-led team is on Dormir, a land whose populace are best described as ideas rather than bodies. Their landscape is completely technological. The young look like energy balls. The elders look like silhouettes. Here is one of those early computer effects, with sky and clouds filling in the outline of the Dormirian adult.

Because of their tech, Dormir is the communications hub of the UP. If they secede, there will be no fast communication. The Legion initially is there to convince the planet to not seced.

But when temporarily plugged in, Cos realizes that Dormir is also where the 'public service' transmission originates from. Public Service is sort of a GPS for youth in  the UP, allowing adults to follow young people's travels, eavesdrop, etc. It is one the most Orwellian and suffocating elements of this ultra-safe future. And, given the Legion's call for change and progress, it is one of the things the team likes least.

Meanwhile, the Sun Boy lead team heads to Ttrxl.Trtxl is also part of the UP and is a fifth-dimensional world. It supplies the power for all the teleporters in the UP. If it secedes, supply lines and troop movement will be impossible.

Basically, this is like the land of Mxyzptlk. I like how Kitson makes random shaped panels to bring a sense of chaos to the proceedings. I also like that Cham can't get a read of things or form a lasting shape. Even the Legionnaires powers are off.

The team is stopped by Agent Skelter who, as a dimensional officer, is there to arrest them.

Because of the wild nature of this place, the team is having a hard time staying together. One person's left might be someone else right.

Saturn Girl is the most effected. Her telepathy won't work. And she is separated from her teammates. What's worse is she is mute. She hasn't ever actually talked! So she can't call for help. And now it looks like she's alone against Skelter.

I thought this was an interesting wrinkle for the character. It adds some vulnerability to Imra. Her character has been pretty static in the books for a while. So something new to a founder was appreciated.

Back on Dormir, the Legionnaires begin to change form themselves. This place is a land of ideas. So they begin to become ideas themselves, the essence of who they are. Star Boy begins expanding into the cosmis. Element Lad is surrounded by giant molecules.

Now a land of ideas which changes you is definitely a Silver Age concept. I don't know if I easily buy it. But is was interesting to see what each person thought represented them. And we have long heard that the ideal of Transformation is key to people from Trom. So I thought it made sense for Jan to think it was cool.

Luckily, Cosmic Boy seems to have convinced this Dormir ambassador to stay in the UP. If Lemnos debrained Colu, it is only a matter of time before he visits Dormir. The elder agrees.

Latching on the idea that power and progress rests in the hands of the young, Cos allies himself with the energized youth of Dormir to act as a private communications line around the galaxy.

And they will need all the help they can get. Because Ultra Boy's team, which went to Terror Firma's base, is floored to see the size of the army Lemnos' has put together. Even more concerning are the number of teleporter panels they are walking through. This is a war that is going to be fought on many fronts.

Big moments deserve big art. I thought this was a well timed double splash showing the size of the enemy and how outnumbered the team is.

There is a backup story written by Waid with art by Dale Eaglesham.

Earlier in this series we saw how the Legion looks at old comics to learn how the ideal super-hero should act. In the aftermath of the Metropolis disaster and the Legion HQ collapsing, the young Legion acolytes begin helping survivors get to safety and transports. Waid has panels mirror the action on an old comic cover in side by side panels. One youth is running around grabbing the comics rather than helping. He is initially chastised for being a thief but he says he is only trying to save some history.

Another tells him that saving lives is more important. You can't bogged down in the past. You need to keep moving forward. I do wonder if this is some meta-message from Waid to Legion fans. It is time to let go of the prior incarnations. It's time to live in the now.

Overall this was a decent enough issue. The war story is moved forward. We visit some new innovative corners of this new universe. Brainiac 5's character is beginning to show some cracks. Still, it was around this time that I realized that this long-form story was no where near ending. I wondered when we would be done with the Lemnos' arc and move on to more. And wondering when a story is going to end is never a good sign as a reader.

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