Friday, May 18, 2018

New 52 Legion Lost #9

Legion Lost #9 is the third part of the 4 part arc called 'The Culling' which wove through the Superboy and Teen Titans books at the time.

We were 3/4 of the way through the first year of The New 52 and the stench was already everywhere. As I have said, at the time I was perplexed by what I was seeing in the DCU. So many books were already being canceled, incredibly altered, or simply awful. It seemed like the foundation of a continuity rewrite was made of sand.

We already knew that DC had a hard time trying to figure out what to do with the Legion in general. Throw them into a New 52 universe which was a disaster and ...well ... you can guess the outcome.

I have to give writer Tom DeFalco some credit for trying to salvage this book. He turns Legion Lost from them being lost in time to being lost in team unity. Everyone has a secret backstory now. The team is lost. Only Wildfire and Dawnstar seem to have nothing to hide. That said, it wipes out the first arc of the story completely. The Hypertaxis arc is swept away, no longer a threat. And I don't know if I need to read a book where secret plots are simply hinted at month after month.

Pete Woods comes back as artist here and continues to shine. I like his work tremendously. I thought Caitlyn and Rose were two of the only redeeming characters in the lousy Superboy book of the time so I was glad to see them again here. 

But The Culling in general isn't a good story. And the Legion deserves better.

The Culling keeps chugging along in Legion Lost #9 which came out this week. I wonder if Legion Lost as a title will survive DC's next culling of the lower selling titles. Selling just north of 15K and in the midst of a thematic overhaul, Legion Lost seems to be the title which could get the most bang out of a multi-title crossover.

I suppose that it makes sense for another 'teen' superhero team to be included in The Culling story. But writer Tom DeFalco goes a step further. This issue continues the recreation of this book's purpose. The 'hypertaxis' plague arc continues to be whittled away and now Harvest and the Culling becomes much more attached to the Legion. Will these plot changes save the book? I don't know. But we have a sighting of something which could neatly close this book off should it be cancelled.

I was never sold on the Hypertaxis plot to begin with so you would think that I would be happy it was going away. And yet, as a reader I would rather have it resolved instead of being swept under the rug. And now to find out that many of these Legionnaires are also burdened by some sort of secret seems off.

As always though, Pete Woods work shines. He really seems to have found his groove with these characters.

Of all the teams and characters in The Culling, the Legion should be the most prepared having trained together and worked together as a team for a while. DeFalco does a decent job showing that Tyroc and the group are prepared for this sort of stuff. Here, we see Tyroc decide that the Titans are trustworthy enough to set up a mindlink through Tellus.

He also has the safety of Harvest's captive teens as his primary goal. He sends Dawnstar, Gates, and Bunker off to grab the survivors and find the exit out. That is very Legion-like, thinking of the innocents more than the battle.

But as I said, DeFalco is erasing the Hypertaxis overreaching plot line and giving the individual Legionnaires their own story. Last month, we learned that Chameleon Girl was on a secret mission when she joined this group.

Here we find out that Harvest is in on the secret. He is aware that Chameleon Girl has a 'true allegiance' to Echo. So that opens up all sorts of cans of worms. How can Harvest know all this stuff from the future? And what is Echo and why is Yera working for them?

The Harvest mystery grows even more. Harvest isn't just interested in the Legion. He claims that he sent for them to come to the past.

So what does that mean? Didn't the Legion send them back in time when Alastor took off? Did Harvest set that up to get them here? And why, even without any in depth explanation, does this inclusion of Harvest into this team's mission seem a bit forced?

One thing that seems clear, Harvest is from the future. How else could he know everything that he knows?

That seems cinched when Gates, while searching for an exit out of the NOWHERE compound stumbles onto a Time Bubble.

Hmmm ... does anyone else see an easy way to bring the Legion Lost group back to the 31st century if/when this title gets cancelled? Of course, we have been told that time travel is near impossible ... the whole Flashpoint wall ... so I hope Harvest getting here, or the Legionnaires getting home gets explained.

The remaining Legionnaires mobilize to fight Harvest. As I said, this is a well trained group. We don't often hear them say things like 'attack formation 428K' but it at least implies that this team has gone through battle training and is ready to be organized in a fight.

We also get a little more of the secrets that DeFalco is bringing to the team. A couple of issues ago, we learned that Tellus had a 'troubling secret'. Here Harvest says outright that the Hypertaxis virus is an empty threat, that it will self-mutate until it loses its own potency. So ... just like that the 'alien plague' story, the foundation of this title (!), is swept away. I assume that people will then revert to their original form as their own body fights a fading virus.

And it is implied that Tellus knew the virus threat was going to be short-lived. Why would he hide that? Maybe he got that info when he telepathically scrubbed Alastor. And maybe he was afraid that learning the virus wasn't a threat would further deflate the hopes of his friends. If they were trapped in the past for no good reason that would be depressing. We'll see ...

Throughout the issue, we see Rose and Caitlyn reuniting and then fighting.

Remember, we have heard Rose say that the (presumed) loss of Caitlyn was emotionally bothering her, that she shouldn't have opened her heart to anyone because it makes you vulnerable. Here, rather than being thrilled to see 'Red' alive, Rose gets angry and attacks. I guess Rose would feel betrayed that Caitlyn would run away and not tell Rose. It again adds some complexity to Rose.

So, what should I think of the 'I tried love once' line. That Rose and Caitlyn were an item? That Rose had feelings for Caitlyn that 'Red' wasn't aware of? That they had a sisterly relationship of familial love? Before we get more information, Rose is knocked out by the Ravager Ridge so the group can continue to try to escape.

I'll miss Rose if she lands solely in the Ravagers book. I don't plan on getting that book.

The book ends on something of a cliffhanger.

With Harvest deflecting the Legion's best attacks, Wildfire decides that he will sacrifice himself to try to save the day. Opening his suit, Wildfire blasts Harvest at point blank range with the full brunt of his anti-energy. But when the dust settles, Harvest stands unharmed holding the empty containment suit.

I am a huge Wildfire fan but I have to admit, he has become the Dragon Ball Z Vegeta of the DCU. He talks a good fight. He has impressive blasts which seem potent. But his best shots never do much and he always loses. Bummer.

I don't know. I like the team of characters here. I love the art. And I loved the narrative style of the Nicieza issues. But right now this book seems like it is in transition ... and it is transitioning while standing on the precipice of low sales. I hope DeFalco is able to right the ship ... but I fear the iceberg of cancellation is too close to be avoided.

Overall grade: B

B seems generous for this issue which seems like DeFalco is trying to reform the premise of the book in the middle of a multi-title arc. I think that all these Legionnaires having secret missions which would maroon them in the past makes each character seem a little selfish. And while I never liked the plague idea, the idea that it would burn itself out seems like a deus ex machina.

Maybe a C?

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