Friday, February 16, 2018

New 52 Legion of Super-Heroes #21

The end is nigh.
The carnage is high!
Tinya said bye.
Tharok's powers are making me say 'how? why?
And I'm tired.

When the best I can do in an old review, and the best I can do in a newer review, is pick out panels as maybe showing character progression and continuity, you know things are rough.

And now I wonder why Giffen came and left so quickly here. And I wonder if DC told Levitz to just go bananas since this continuity, this Legion, was probably not coming back.

But it is bad. So bad I rant in the intro, so bear with me.

We are nearing the end aren't we.

Legion of Super-Heroes #21 came out last week and that means there are only two more issues left in this incarnation of the Legion, which is essentially a glomming on of an old incarnation of Legion. I have to say that after reading this issue now, I can't help but feel some resonance with all I feel about the Man of Steel movie.

The ending is marked by a lot of carnage, a lot of destruction, and a lot of death ... all in some mad dash to 'relevancy in the current comic market' ... all to make the comic 'modern'. If that is what we have come to with the Legion, maybe it is time to move on to Justice League 3000.

Now I am sure that this opening paragraph is going to lead to the usual comments about me as a reader. That I am stuck in the 50s, that I want sticky-sweet stories without conflict, that I want the heroes to be so pure as to be boring.

And frankly I am sick of that.

You know what I want? Good stories.

My favorite Legion era is the years around Great Darkness Saga into the Baxter years. Reread those stories. There isn't gore or carnage or heroes killing people. And they stand up to 3 decades of time.

My second favorite Legion era? The Five Years Later book, a dystopic look at a future bogged down by politics and isolationism. Different milieu for a Legion book to be sure. But the team was still heroic, trying to do what was right in a tougher time.

Heck, I even like big noisy brawls if they are part of the story not the purpose of the story.

I don't know if the last 5 years have brought good Legion stories. And I don't know if this loud Fatal Five story packed with killing and pandemonium leading into the demise of the book is any different. The concept of the Legion has suffered so much recently that Keith Giffen ... whose fame is built on the foundation of the Legion ... said the word Braal in an interview like it was a swear word, like it was the antithesis of a good comic. What a shame.

Paul Levitz seems to be speeding to the finish line, trying to put in some character flourishes that echo prior greatness, that utilize the wonder of the Legion. And Jeff Johnson is on art here, bringing a Scott Kolins feel to the book which feels consistent.

But the Legion is about to go away ... and it feels like it is going away for a while this time. And that depresses me.

With the galaxy crumbling around them, the Legion is surprised to find that their 'quark' technology is suddenly back on line.

One thing I love in this scene is the curious and bemused look on Brainy's face as he tries to figure out why that is happening. It would be hard to be curious and bemused in the middle of an apocalypse but if anyone would be it is Brainy. This is a man who has had questionable sanity in the past. Everything is a problem to be solved. It is that characterization that makes the Legion such a great book.

So why is it back on line? My guess is that Tharok is preoccupied. Controlling a Promethean Giant can't be easy.

Back on Earth, Cham and Ultra Boy battle the Persuader. The city is in rubble around them. Duo Damsel looks dead.

I love the shock on Jo's face when he hears that Phantom Girl is gone, probably for good. This is the love of his life. He had faith in her as Legion Leader. It is completely deflating to hear she is gone.

Again, solid characterization is more important here than the devastation that accompanies it.

Another thing I have enjoyed in this book is the slow change in Chemical Kid's personality. He started out as a snot-nosed entitled jerk who bought his powers and his way into the Legion. Some risky missions later and he suddenly has adopted the Legion way, thinking more of others than himself.

Here he uses his powers on the thrashed Mon-El, trying to control the chemical reactions in Lars' body to save him.

I hated this character when he was first introduced. I have to say watching him grow has been a great side story in this title.

Even more interesting has been Shadow Lass' struggle with her feelings about Mon-El. I love her dedication to him despite shutting him out of her life in the recent past. Why can't these two kids just admit they still love each other???

And I wonder if there is a meta-textual message in Dream Girl's visions. All is dark and funereal! That sounds about right for this book and for Legion fans.

But apparently there is more death around the corner. Invisible Kid and Polar Boy have been shunted into a 'near death' limbo. The ghosts of dead Legionnaires lead them to a way home but tell them one mistake and they will be back forever.

Foreshadowing? Probably. I can't imagine Jacques making it out alive.

As for the Fatal Five. Well they are more like the Fatal Three. Validus has been marooned in deep space. But Tharok, Persuader, and Emerald Empress are still around and bring the fight to the Legionnaires on Earth. They wipe out most of the cruiser team (and that is saying something since Element Lad and Lightning Lass ... two big guns ... were aboard).

I will say that Tharok's powers are so ill-defined that they are becoming almost comical. He somehow can teleport Emerald Empress out of an inertron cocoon as well as breach Brainy's force field to attack the belt it has sprung from. Will we ever hear how his powers expanded like this? Unlikely.

And where is the fifth member?? Isn't Glorith ready for her big close-up??

In a nice cliffhanger which has a 'book end' feel to it, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl arrive to join the fight. Cosmic Boy was on the cruiser. So it looks like things boil down to the original three Legionnaires wrapping up the fight. Hey, they were there at the beginning ... why not the end. Again, nice characterization, especially for long-time Legion fans who grasp it best.

So overall all this was a brawl filled issue with some nice nuggets of characterization scattered throughout. I suppose that might be an improvement the ennui the book was in before.

But are these characters so toxic that they need to be cast aside and forgotten? I don't think so.

Overall grade: C+

Maybe C- is a better grade?
Two more issues of this ... how will it all end.
We can only assume 'not very well'.


  1. The best part of this issue is Shady's interaction with Chemical Kid. "Save him." It's not a plea or a question. It's a command, spoken by a planetary champion. There is no other option.

  2. Also fond of The Great Darkness Saga and the 5YL era. Miss the Legion so much. Hoping that DC brings them back in some form soon.

  3. This is clearly a F. Persuader beating down both Cham and Jo? There is such a lack of teamwork among the Legionnaires. I've always felt that the Fatal Five characters should be such a threat alone but Jo and Cham should have been to defeat him. These "fights" are making the Legionnaires into scrubs. They stop Jan who could have basically defeated Persuader to focus on the city. Why is Brainy even in the thick of it with no combat powers? All Jan needed to do was distract Persuader so Vi could move in, infiltrate his body, mess shit up, and take him down. I would rather see her "do what had to be done" which would possibly expand on the mean streak we saw from her a few issues ago. And then I'm pissed that basically, the boys were standing while Ayla was knocked out, meanwhile Vi, Harmonia and Dream girl presumably go to save the city. Classic Levitz, devaluing his female characters, unless of course, it's Saturn Girl. It's all poorly written.

  4. What's the Giffen interview you reference in your rant?

  5. Oh shit guys you, you have no idea what this arc was doing to me when it came out. I was so terrified, like, genuine anxiety, about these issues. In the issue that ended with the Valdius cliffhanger, I was freaking out because I thought he'd crashed on Winath. It looked to me that Levitz was going to kill off one of Garth and Imra's kids as some sort of sick in-joke reference to Garridan's past as the original Validus. I mean, you know what DC is like when it comes to kid characters. I even stopped buying the Legion title because this whole story was so fucking mean and cruel.

  6. Knowing the end was nigh, I liked the last page (we can get into how it played out after that next issue). The only thing I would have changed on that last page would be to add a "And we brought company" and have the Legion Lost team with them.

  7. Thanks for comments!
    The Giffen interview was on for JL3000 where he said there was no way you would hear a word like Braal in that book.
    It is a mess ... and almost over.

    1. Thanks! I found it:

      Tbh it doesn't seem that bad a comment-- he just wants people to judge JL3000 as JL3000, and not as a Legion comic-- but I can see how if Giffen/whomever's trampling over what you actually do love about the Legion on a monthly basis in the actual Legion comic, it would rub you the wrong way.

      Also that interview is kind of hilarious in retrospect, because Giffen and DeMatteis keep going on about how integral Kevin Maguire is to their whole way of thinking... and he was fired from JL3000 before the firs issue came out.