Friday, March 9, 2018

The New 52 Legion of Super-Heroes: A Eulogy

Hey all, it's Anj.

I have been manning Fridays for a while here on the blog, reviewing Legion books and reliving my fandom one issue at a time.

But sometimes it is a hard job.

Last week I finished my retrospective view of the New 52 Legion of Super-Heroes. And I can say, it wasn't easy. So allow me a brief post to sort of put together some overall thoughts about this volume. I would love to hear everyone's thoughts about it.

I had issues with the New 52 as a whole. I was not excited for a company wide reboot. I especially didn't like the fact that it was mostly company wide with Batman and ancillary books like the Legion basically unscathed. And I didn't like the darkening of the universe as a whole. This was not a fun or inspirational or uplifting universe at all.

As for the Legion? Well, as a New 52 book which was following its older continuity, it is neither fish nor fowl. Is it a new team? No. Is it a good jumping on point for new readers interested in sampling the New 52? Not really. Is it the Legion that old school fans wanted? I don't think so.

The whole run seemed to struggle with trying to find itself. Was it a darker Legion in a more dystopian future? Was it a new younger team with its rookie recruits leading the way? Was it a classic Legion? Was it trying to be all of those things, ultimately being none of them?

And looking at the book as a whole, did the pace of the run make sense? Were their 'fill-in' issues that seemed oddly placed? Were there arcs that made sense? It seemed to stop and start over the two years. And that sputtering hurt it as well.

On to some moments ...

For me, as I reread these issues, I was surprised how much of the earlier issues were essentially 'new to me'. I had read them. I had reviewed them on my Supergirl site. But I had completely forgotten them.

I think the reason why was because the ending run was so toxic that it spoiled the rest of the run. I had basically one strong memory of the run. That memory was the horrible treatment of Phantom Girl. She is ineffective as a reader. She cries hysterically. She loses her focuses. And ultimately she runs away to her home, abandoning her friends.

Tinya deserved better. We deserved better.

That shabby use of Phantom Girl was the rot that tainted the whole thing.

If there was any highlight of the book, it is the absolute lush art by Francis Portela.

Even when the story was letting me down, Portela's art was able to elevate things.

It is polished, gorgeous. And he uses body language and expression incredibly well.

If there is a dollar box with these issues, look for the Portela ones and buy them. The art is worth the buck.

As I said, one of the interesting things about the book was the addition of the 'new' Legionnaires. Dragon Wing, Chemical King, Glorith, Comet Queen, and Harmonia Li were new characters. You would think that five new members would inject some life into the book. (Think of how the book seemed to crackle when Sensor Girl, Quislet, Tellus, and Polar Boy joined.)

But it seemed like Levitz didn't know exactly how to use them to their maximum. Glorith was a cipher. Her name alone made me intrigued ... but she never shined. Chemical King went from brash, conceited Academy student to almost scared, nervous Legionnaire. If we had more exploration of that character change it could have been fascinating. But it was only shown and never explored.

And Dragon Wing got a whole storyline of her own early on, heading home to fight gangs led by her sister. But since I didn't know her background at all, this felt rushed. In the old days, maybe Levitz would have let this plot percolate a bit before putting her into the spotlight.

But it is the ending of the book that really is the stuff that stuck in my mind. And that stench of the New 52 was at its strongest there. There were meaningless deaths. RIP Sun Boy and Star Boy. There was gruesome violence and heroes losing limbs (a penchant of the New 52). Sorry Mon-El. And that curve ball that this was the Earth 2 Legion didn't help. It somehow cheapened everything.

Should I be surprised that no Legion book has been on the shelf since this? Here we are ... five years later.

So ... sigh ... what did you think?


  1. Thanks for your review. I only read part of this run - I was excited that Giffen was coming back to do the art which lasted one issue and as for the treatment of Tinya! My absolute favourite DC character is Phantom Girl - always has been and always will be and this wasn't Phantom Girl. I was so excited that she was going to be Legion leader for the first time and it was totally ruined and only lasted less than an issue basically. I can only assume if it hadn't been cancelled that there was a plan for her that might of redeemed her...I was looking forward to her being in the new Terrifics but its turns out its not even her (even though the giant in it kind of reminded me of the last appearance of Tinya).

  2. This run was single-handedly responsible for killing the Legion for years. How sad.

    Let us hope DC figures a good Legioin pitch soon.

    Anj, what'll your next project be? Maybe a "Legion of 3 Worlds" review?

  3. I like your point about the new recruits not having the same impact as when Polar Boy, Tellus, Sensor Girl, Quislet (ugh), and (you forgot) Magnetic Kid joined.

    Polar Boy was a lifelong dream fulfilled (for both Brek and me, as he has always been a favorite). Sensor Girl was a fantastic mystery. Tellus and (love him or hate him) Quislet were a much-needed infusion of non-humanoids. And Pol was a legacy.

    With the New 52 new recruits we got Comet Queen, a space case (no pun intended) that no one knew what to do with. Glorith, a meek li'l spellcaster, whose name meant something to longtime readers, but which never went anywhere. Dragon Wing, who added a bit of culture from another region of earth, but whose power set I didn't care for. Harmonia Lee, an odd long-lived woman with my least favorite kind of powers, the ill-defined 'elemental'. And Chemical Kid, a legacy, who went through the most development and growth by far. perhaps you can see some bias in my descriptions, but that is how the two groups were received by me, a reader from way back (ERG-1's first appearance).

    And I've already made my feelings clear in other comments sections about the various deaths and the massacre of Phantom Girl.

    Thanks for all of the hard work, Anj. Your weekly re-reviews have been a highlight of my Fridays!

    1. Yep, I hated Harmonia's powers too. It would have made sense if she could manipulate the Chinese elements instead of being what seemed to be a weather manipulator like Storm.

  4. Fabian confirmed for me on twitter that he had his pick of characters when creating the Legion Lost series. I heard that he editorally mandated to put new characters in the main book, I wonder if that was before or after he plotted out the Academy feature in Adventure. Given the turns we saw in this series, I'm inclined to believe it was after.

    In retrospect, Paul did not give enough focus on the newbies to make them that likable. Shady and Jacques were nearly non-existent for the series. Focusing a story with Chuck, Lu and two new characters was a mistake; and it went on far too long. Paul was always best when he had Keith to help with plot, but the last story arc felt like Giffen and Levitz fighting each other on plot and characters.

  5. Thanks for comments and well wishes.

    Crazy this is over. It was tougher to review than expected.

  6. Are we sure this was the book that killed the Legion for so long? I mean it probably contributed but we also just have editorial not giving a clear direction on how far this reboot universe went (i.e. "The Legion is from Earth-2" nonsense) & Legion Lost's existence hurt the franchise probably a little more.

    1. I agree 100% about "Legion Lost". Many of the most dynamic and/or volatile personalities (Wildfire, Timber Wolf, Dawnstar, Tyroc, and Gates) were ripped from the team, which definitely affected the main book's feel. Plus, any trip to the present time should be both rare and brief, IMHO.