Friday, February 2, 2018

New 52 Legion of Super-Heroes #19

Hoo boy.

We are approaching the end of the New 52 title and Legion of Super-Heroes #19 continues the funeral dirge of this series and these characters. All the problems I have been having since Keith Giffen rejoined the book - the odd characterization, the senseless killings, the grimy art - are all magnified here. The writing should have been on the wall that this was coming to an end.

My opening comments on the old review hold true. I don't know if DC gave the creative team the ultimatum to shake things up to save the series but it feels like it. And I wonder if Levitz and Giffen thought the easiest way to do that would be to sink into the grim, gross comics of the time. We have on screen deaths, off screen deaths, and on screen loss of limb. It all feels so 'Forever Evil'. It all screams New 52. And I don't mean that as a compliment. Add to that Phantom Girl acting like a coward and Emerald Empress acting like the Joker and you can understand why long time Legion fans were scratching their heads. It might say Legion on this gatefold 'WTF' cover, but that's not what it read like.

The art is a mix of Scott Kolins at his Kirby-est and Jeff Johnson. It is an odd mix of Kolins' rough look and smoother looking pages by Johnson. 

It still amazes me that this book was the last formal look we had at the Legion.
Legion of Super-Heroes #19 came out this week, another chapter in the Fatal Five storyline, another episode filled with death and devastation.  While I certainly applaud the breakneck pace of this arc, especially given the doldrums it was in earlier, I hope that writer Paul Levitz doesn't fall into the lazy trap of thinking that more death in a comic means more 'relevance'. Or even worse, that more death equals more publicity and more sales.

And, as I said, there is more death in this issue as well as some gruesome maimings. It is hard to believe that Levitz or even DC wants to pare the Legion roster down this much but who knows, I suppose.

Paul Levitz is the writer here but Keith Giffen gets a sort of co-plotter credit. I can recall the Giffen announcement followed quickly by the announcement he was leaving. Was he one of those creators who left because of editorial control? I wonder if he wanted more death or less.

The art is done by Scott Kolins and his crude and rough pencils fits the content of this story. The universe is unraveling as technology erodes around people. I don't know if Francis Portela's clean lines would evoke the sort of griminess of the situation as well as Kolins' art does.

We have seen three of the Fatal Five before this issue. Now we finally get to see number four, the Emerald Empress. She is on Weber's World, terrorizing the diplomats and generally causing mass destruction.

But this doesn't feel like the Emerald Empress I am used to. The old Emerald Empress was cold, distant, regal in that 'I am simply better than you' sort of way. Sure, she killed and destroyed before but it always felt as if she couldn't care less about it. Her victims were like insects to be squashed. That was the royal air she gave off.

This one is much more unhinged, much more drunk with blood lust. She seems eager to kill, to get her hands dirty, and is enjoying this work. There isn't any of that aloof regal feeling in her at all in this issue.

And she looks different too, moving away from the more staid and stately Empress I have seen. Clearly Kolins is channeling Jack Kirby here. She looks like a cross between Morgan LeFay and Mad Harriet. But her busting out all over, her speech, and her ludicrously huge hair gives her a much different feel.

It has been a while since I have seen the Empress. Did the original die? Is this a new Empress anyways?

The gatefold cover promised a battle between the Empress and Mon-El and we sure do get one. This is extreme power against extreme power. And the melee doesn't let the reader down. It is massive and brutish.

Again, I think the Empress does seem to relish this confrontation more than I would expect her to in prior incarnations or stories.

Meanwhile on the Promethean Giant world, Tharok continues to have the giant try to crush the Legion team on the surface. In another death stroke, it appears that Polar Boy and Invisible Kid are crushed by the giant's fingers.

After seeing her teammates die, Phantom Girl prays for the release of death.  This also seems like a departure from her typical personality. Yes I know this is a stressful time and she has witnessed the death of three of her friends. But one of the reasons I think she won the election is that she has been portrayed as a very level-headed Legionnaire, a sort of no-nonsense seasonsed veteran.

I hope she has not died. That might be too painful.

This issue at least gives me the best idea of what Tharok has become since this story opened. He seems to be some sort of disembodied technological spirit which can possess machines. Now how that works on a Promethean Giant, I have no idea.

Here we learn he needs to concentrate to maintain that control. Somehow I think that is a bit of foreshadowing. Somehow he must lose control and the Giant retaliates.

I also like this scene where the Persuader says he will follow Tharok ... for a while. The Fatal Five were never a real team, just criminals thrust together from time to time.

Back in space, Mon-El gets the worst of the fight, all while Brainy and his team of Legionnaires stays huddled in their disabled cruiser. This is a gruesome end for Mon-El, battered and literally fighting for life and limb. I don't necessarily remember the Eye wielding this much raw power.

Who knows if he will survive? If he does, he won't be the first Legionnaire sporting a robot arm.

If he does die, the death toll is starting to mount. Maybe we should start a death pool raffle?

The other Legionnaires decide to risk flying out of the cruiser to engage ... just a bit too late for Mon-El.

Amazingly, Element Lad puts a quick end to the fight, encasing her in two layers of inertron. Why didn't he think to do that earlier?

Lastly, it does reinforce my belief that Element Lad just might be the most powerful Legionnaire of them all.

The fourth member of the Fatal Five to appear is Validus, deployed on and tromping about the Sorcerors' World. There shouldn't be the chaos here that we have seen elsewhere. I doubt they are using quark tech here. But I don't know if that matters given that we are talking about Validus.

If we had a death pool raffle, I would put all my chips on poor Blok, living on the planet as Black Witch's consort.

But where ... in all this ... is Mano?

Boy this is a fast moving story. The death numbers keep climbing. But I worry that this might be overkill, no pun intended. I don't need less Legionnaires to make this book better. I need the right interplay and the right stories. I mean ... how many more will die in this arc.

And I suppose I have to wonder if Levitz will make the next leap in 'relevance' and have a Legionnaire kill.

But Phantom Girl and the Empress seem not quite themselves in this issue.

Overall grade: B

How could I give this a B?
Was I just happy to see any Legion?
Or was I upgrading because I was still hoping Levitz and Giffen would pull a rabbit out of their hats.

Regardless, this probably deserves a C.
What did you all think?


  1. I was already done with the title by this point, but that Emerald Empress redesign doesn't seem to understand how boobs work. Like you said, not every villain works by being loud & hammy.

    I really hope if DC does another Legion soon it won't be like this run. This one feels like a kid breaking his toys cuz he's bored with them.

  2. Geez, this is horrible. Be careful what you wish for, asking for classic creators to come back.


  3. The cover is an eyesore. Mon-El being beaten by the Shrieking Empress was a travesty, but it did put a stamp on the eye's massive power levels. And it's just as annoying now as it was then- that is not my Tinya!

    Side note: I've always loved Validus as a villain, and his reveal as the child of Garth & Imra was inspired (me way back when: "ahhhhh, mental + lightning. I get it."), but I always thought it would have been cooler if he had remained a unique creature from the far reaches of the galaxy, and not some Chris Claremontian-ish time-travelling child of present-day heroes.

  4. C? This is a D. Like you pointed out, the rest of the team could have backed up Mon-El. Ayla, Jan, Hadru who could have done more. Even Shady had a victory once against the Empress, so working together they may could have defeated her. It would have been nice for Hadru to have had a small victory against the Empress, considering he has been plagued by doubts the entire series. But that would actually require good writing. Also, Paul Levitz trope #42 is displayed here: show how tough your bad guy is by having them take out Mon-El.

    And I consider the Promethean Giant to be the 5th for the purpose of this story.

  5. Thanks for all the comments.

    Interesting thought about the Promethean Giant being the 5th member of the Fatal 5!

    The breaking your toys because you're bored with them is a great analogy!

  6. What is the status of this version of the team, within the overall spectrum of reboots and “retroboots”? And how does it relate to the original continuity, which ended with Zero Hour? Thanks.

    1. So when Geoff Johns started writing the team for Lightning Strikes, etc, he was using the Vol 3 Legion as if Crisis never happened. This means that Vol 4/5YL never happened. Paul Levitz did not want to see the latter part of Vol 3 removed from continuity so some of the events still happened, like Magnetic Kid dying but presumably, Lu didn't lose her 2nd body to the Time Trapper. So it was a bit of a convoluted mess.

    2. Thanks for the info! So who exactly is the Phantom Girl who remains back in our era, in the present day DC Universe?

    3. Linnya Wazzo, an ancestor to Tinya.