Friday, November 9, 2018

Retroboot Legion of Super-Heroes #14

How can you be a critic when you are biased? 
How can you write objective looks at something when you are clearly subjective?
Or is the very nature of reviews subjective?

As I look back at these Retroboot Legion issues, I feel like I am so desperate to get a good Legion book that I am willing to give mediocre Legion books good grades. I love the Legion. I'll always try to see the best in the material. 

But this Retroboot book isn't very good. And when it came out I gave it a B/B+ grade. 

I think the biggest thing for me is the inconsistent characterization. We are over a year of this book seeing Harmonia Li being all serene wisdom. So seeing her enraged and aggressive seems way off. Had it been building, I might think differently. But suddenly acting different seems off.

And overall this plot of a maniacal Saturn Queen looking to destroy the 'World of Wisdom', a place we never heard of before? It just isn't clicking this reread.

But what did I think then?

Legion of Super-Heroes #14 came out last week, continuing the LSH vs. LSV storyline. It has been something of a frustrating read because it has felt like the last couple of issues have been treading water a bit. This story is larger than just villains fighting heroes, as Saturn Queen is working for the enigmatic 'blue flame entity', trying to bring chaos to the universe. In some ways, that 'ancient power trying to alter the universe' aspect of the story has me comparing this arc to The Great Darkness Saga, an unfair comparison to be sure. But here we are.

This issue at least moves the arc forward as we finally get to the World of Wisdom the Legion of Super-Villains are trying to destroy. But other mysteries remain mysteries, with little information revealed to help us clue in to the bigger picture. There are only two issues left to wrap this up before the reboot (non-reboot for LSH). Can we get all the story we need to have this end satisfactorily?

Paul Levitz does have a good feel for these characters as the dialogue by the Legionnaires feels natural and shows the depth and individuality of the heroes. Fernando Dagnino penciled the issue. Dagnino was a pinch hitter through many of the super-titles during the New Krypton arcs, filling in on Supergirl a couple of times. I have to say his art looked crisper in this issue than it has in the past.

One of the mysteries lingering out there is 'who is Harmonia Li'? She has been at the epicenter of this arc since the very beginning. And the last couple of issues she has wanted to reveal who she is and how she is involved, only to be rebuffed by Brainiac 5. Prior to that, she has been an unassuming, almost shy time scientist.

Things take an unexpected turn here when she drains Star Boy of his multi-dimensional energies (and as a result Thom's madness). But when Dream Girl decides to step in to help and comfort Thom, the 'shy unassuming' Li disappears and instead we get an almost arrogant and clearly powerful figure. Blasting Dream Girl away with some sort of wind powers, she talks of lifetimes spent bringing wisdom to the universe. She is of the World of Wisdom, and she wants it saved.

So that change in personality seemed odd. And now I keep trying to figure out who she is. I am stuck on this Gemworld idea. But maybe she is Lady Chian from Arion? Hmm ...

One small mystery I think I have solved is the identity of Immortus, the inertron robot. Last month in my review I wondered if there really wasn't a mystery ... if Immortus was General Immortus. Here, as he rips apart Wildfire, he states he is an earthman.

And here, when he is defeated by the Titan refugees on Colu, we learn he is a human brain housed in a robot. I bet he is General Immortus, the obvious answer.

Now one of the more interesting parts of this arc for me has been Saturn Queen's growing insanity. Tainted by the blue flame, she has really gone off the deep end becoming absolutely sadistic. She has always been villainous, but not so bloodthirsty.

Here, after being told by the blue flame entity that Hunter's powers would only lead them to the World of Wisdom if there was a sacrifice, the Queen kills Akka.

I like the crazed smile on her face as she stabs her loyal assassin. We have seen her cripple minds, rub blood on as lip gloss, and pick human bits of herself without batting an eyelash. She is delightfully loony. And the sacrifice works. Hunter knows where to lead them.

And we see more of the Blue Flame Entity. He cannot join Saturn Queen's group initially because he needs to deal with presumably Harmonia Li. I suppose that my initial guess that this is Dark Opal from the Amethyst series is still in play. But maybe this could be Garn Daanuth from Arion??

Meanwhile, the green energy construct Mon-El has gathered Li, Dream Girl, and Star Boy in hopes of gathering the Legion troops to fight this menace.

Li remains her more haughty self here, complaining of how the Oan energy burns her. Hmmm ... clearly another clue. Who would be hurt by contact with green energy?

More importantly, Dreamy has a vision of a funeral on Shanghalla, hinted to be Thom's. We know a death happens in Legion #16. Could it be Star Boy's?

Hunter leads the Super-villains to the world of wisdom. One of the inhabitants calls it Utopia. It certainly seems magical in appearance, with crystal buildings built around trees and a rainbow in the background. The citizens are somehow immortal, some recognized as supposedly dead for 3500 years. I don't know if I have heard of this world before. And that was something of a letdown for me. I kept hoping that I would know what the world of wisdom was. A mystery isn't fun if you don't have the answer on a list of possibilities.

This world is also peaceful. They seem incapable of doing anything as Lightning Lord and Sun Killer begin leveling the city around them. 

The actual Mon-El runs into Dawnstar. Remember, she has been tracking the blue flame entity into deep space. She has traced him to a dimensional barrier she can't pierce. Dyogene, the emerald alien that has been advising Mon-El about his Green Lantern duties, thinks Mon-El should focus on defending Oa and let the World of Wisdom fall. I don't know if I have embraced this idea of Mon-El as a Green Lantern. And I know I have little feelings for Dyogene who seems more like a plot device than a character.

Suddenly, the green construct Mon-El arrives with Dream Girl, Star Boy, and Li in tow. And Li demands that they head to the World of Wisdom to defend it.

So I think this was a fine issue with some good dialogue and some movement in the plot. Some more hints have peppered the book ... but I still feel a bit clueless. And it isn't like there was any major revelation here. We have two more issues to get to the ending here. I just hope that the ending isn't necessarily rushed. We have to get to the bottom of who these entities are, what their plans are, who Harmonia Li is. We need to have the villains and heroes finally square off and fight. Can all that be squished into 40 pages? As always, a great ending will make me feel a bit better about these middle issues which have dragged a bit. But if the ending feels rushed, I will wonder if the pages of  these middle chapters were well spent.

Overall grade: B/B+

I think every one of my guesses turns out to be wrong. I think my trying to shove Arion and Amethyst and Doom Patrol stuff into this book is me trying to bolster the material with other material I love. 

I don't think I ever liked the idea of the sentient green Mon-El construct. 

Hard to believe, but this book is just two months away from being canceled and restarted in the New 52. No new direction. Just new numbering. But this arc closes before then. Given where we are,  Levitz probably has to sprint to the ending. 

This issue is average. New grade is C. 

What did you think?


  1. It felt like a placeholder, with a few little moments.