Friday, April 20, 2018

New 52 Legion Lost #5

I guess I was a little bit desperate to like a Legion book because I keep opening my old reviews with how good Legion Lost is. I really liked the book back then it seemed. Meanwhile, the older Anj can't help but see the flaws.

I wonder though, perhaps what I like about this book is the details. I see the trees and I am ignoring the forest. Legion Lost #5 is just that sort of issue. The characterization of Dawnstar and Tellus is solid. I like Dawnstar's reluctance to wade into physical battle. I love how she counts on Wildfire's protection. I love Tellus' strategy and his way of defeating the villain. And, of course, I love Wildfire's personality and action. There is a 'boom' moment in this book. 

And Pete Woods' are continues to sparkle.

But the big plot. The Hypertaxis Virus, the defeat of Alastor, his motivations ... it all is off for me. And just like that it, and writer Fabian Nicieza's run on the book, is over. So things aren't great and they are changing. My gut tells me it is not for the better. Maybe we didn't know how good we had it until it was gone.

But rereading that Wildfire page ... oh so Vegeta ... made me smile once again. I had forgotten about it! BOOM!

It feels funny to be reviewing Legion Lost #5 the day after DC released a list of cancellations a mere 5 months into the DC relaunch. Why funny? Well, I worry that this book won't be given time to find its audience, for word of mouth to seep out that it is a quality book.

So I feel I need to do my part to spread the word that this is a very good book. (Of course, I say this knowing that Tom DeFalco comes on as the new writer in 2 months ... so who knows what it will be like then.) As I have said before, there are two great strengths to this book.

The first is the great characterization that writer Fabien Nicieza is bringing to this cast of Legionnaires. We have had rotating narrators since issue #2, allowing not only some deeper introspection for that character, but also to see how the other characters are perceived by their teammates. Tellus provides the narration in this issue, probably the biggest spotlight on that character since his inception.

The other strength is Pete Woods art. Woods has always been a favorite of mine but he has improved with each issue on the book, maybe as he becomes more comfortable with the characters and their personalities. But he sparkles here.

And while, as I have said before, the overall plot of 'a released mutating virus the Legionnaires have to stop' isn't one I necessarily think is great, the rest of the book is so good that I can look past it. In fact, we have moved forward in the plot enough to keep me happy.

The book picks up right where last issue left off, with the unlikely pair of Tellus and Dawnstar taking on powerhouse brute and Hypertaxis virus index case Alastor.

I do like this initial panel with Dawnstar thinking of the 73 ways in which the two can desperately retreat while Tellus thinks now is the time to stand up to the villain. And, as sometimes is the case, a telepathic attack might be the Achilles' heel for Alastor. It shows tremendous courage on Tellus' part, something I wouldn't necessarily list as a quality I think of in him but one I do think of for Legionnaires.

The '73 ways' reminded me of the famous scene in Dark Knight returns where Batman thinks of 7 ways to disarm the thug chasing him, 3 cripple, 3 disarm with minimal contact, 1 hurts. No where in that list was 'desperately retreat'.

Last issue was Dawnstar's spotlight and we learned how she is constantly bombarded by information from her tracking senses. How that information overflow makes her center herself, steel herself, and not give in to her emotions.

I like how hear Tellus recognizes that in Dawny, discussing how she is 'burdened' by passion. I wonder if living in our 'more savage' times is going to make those passions bubble to the surface.

I also had to include this panel to showcase just how fantastic Woods' draws Dawnstar.

And maybe she does give in to those passions as she is able to at least briefly hold her own against Alastor, dodging, weaving, and striking for a while against the triplicated giant. Her job is simply ... distract Alastor while Tellus tries to worm his way in psionically.

But the sparrow can only avoid the hawk for so long. She starts to take damage.

Tellus has to make a tough decision. He can always lobotomize Alastor to save Dawnstar. But that would be crossing an ethical line. Again, this gives the reader a glimpse inside Tellus. He is powerful, maybe more powerful than I suspected. But he also has that internal core of heroism.

Realizing that he and Dawnstar might be in over their heads, he calls out to the rest of the team. They disable the Black Razors and try to join the fight. Wildfire leaves at top speed. Tyroc follows as fast as he can. And Timber Wolf throws Yera over his shoulder and leaves on foot.

Digging a little deeper, we learn Alastor's origin. His sister was killed while a student on Earth, a victim of xenophobic terrorism. Overwhelmed by grief and pain, Alastor gets to Earth, meets a disgruntled and drunk Psion, and create the Hypertaxis virus.

This overwhelming weight of this pain, this hatred for humanity makes it tough for Tellus to break through.

Now I have to say, I don't necessarily need all my villains to have a sympathetic back story. Sometimes I just want my bad guys to be bad guys. But this does add some dimension to Alastor.

Now I freely admit that Wildfire is my favorite Legionnaire so I might be biased about this book. But I really like the tortured relationship he has with Dawnstar. There is a lot said in a little here as Wildfire comes to her rescue.

Dawnstar knows he will be there to save her 'whether she wants it or not'. So maybe Dawnstar isn't as interested in Wildfire as he is with her. Maybe a simple way to curb her passions is to attach herself to a man who can never be passionate with her. Maybe this relationship is even more dysfunctional than the obvious first pass tells us. It is this depth of character, hinted at but there, that makes me like this book.

And, as a Wildfire fan, I had to share this splash page of some anti-energy glory as Wildfire tries to simply vaporize Alastor. I mean, this is what you live for as a comic fan!

But like any good Dragon Ball Z fan will tell you, it's never that easy. When the smoke clears, Alastor is still standing.

And that leaves Tellus to get back to business. I do like how he ends up breaking through this wall of hate towards humanity by showing Alastor a vision of the future where Alastor is revered as a savior for bringing Hypertaxis to Earth, uniting humanity with the galaxy.

It is very interesting way of shutting Alastor down, bringing him peace and love to break through the hate; making his 'weapon' Hypertaxis into an olive branch. And that complete disconnect of his hopes ... being the hero rather than the villain ... psionically shuts Alastor down.

And to add to the relief of that victory, the Legion is given more good news. Gates is alive, albeit mutated a bit by Hypertaxis. We don't know how he survived, although I guess next issue he gets to play narrator.

But I love that the Legion actually smile here, happy their friend is alive, happy they were victorious, happy they are making headway.

Meanwhile, Timber Wolf continues to plod along to regroup with the team. That is ... until the Martian Manhunter shows up. So it seems that the Legion have finally got the attention of the super-hero community.

So, what can I say? Progression of the virus plot. Nice Tellus' characterization. Some deepening of the Wildfire/Dawnstar relationship. And one huge anti-energy blast splash page! What wasn't to love here.

I hope that Tom DeFalco picks up where Nicieza leaves him. This book doesn't need a 'new direction'. It needs publicity.

Overall grade: B+

This is probably more of a C+ than a B+. The characterization is great. The plot? Meh. At least we have a Wildfire blast!

Will Tom DeFalco right the ship? I doubt it.

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