Friday, October 6, 2017

New 52 Legion of Super-Heroes #4

The Legion of Super-Bloggers continues its 'now and then' reviews of the New 52 Legion with my standard comments about the issue now as well as my actual review of the book from when it came out.

I have talked at length about how much I love the Legion. I like having a Legion book to read. And I am so loyal to the property that I think I tend to gloss over problems with a Legion book, seeing only the positive. 

In looking at this review of Legion of Super-Heroes #4, it is clear that I want to love this book. But even way back then, I could see that something wasn't quite right with this. This story ends rather quickly and with a few leaps in logic that would defy even longstanding Legion readers to figure out. I don't think it is very good.

Not this is all bad. One scene that I love in this book is Element Lad helping Chemical Kid defeat the rogue Daxamite Res-Vir. For one, their powers perfectly complement each other. They should be natural team partners. Second, Jan is an introvert, humble Legionnaire. Kid is brash and cocky. Jan should try to take this kid under his wing.

But the big draw to this book is Francis Portela's art. The art is just gorgeous. I love his Ayla. And that Dream Girl is dreamy. On to the old review.

Legion of Super-Heroes #4 came out last week and had all the elements that make me love the Legion. There was a big galactic threat in the form of a Dominator fleet poised to invade the UP. There were multiple squads of Legionnaires each dealing with a facet of this adventure. And there were vastly different locales throughout the universe in which the Legion has to adapt. These all are parts of the scope of the Legion that makes it such a special comic for me. And Paul Levitz has always been the best writer for this sort of story. Each Legionnaire seems to have time in the spotlight and each place seems unique and yet no aspect of the story feels short-changed ... usually.

Unfortunately, the pacing of this story seemed off as this arc raced to its finish. Creators must hate someone like me, who is constantly talking about how pace is either too fast or too slow. But here, crucial elements of this story are glossed over or barely discussed as things come to a close. I was hoping for some more satisfactory conclusion to some of the threads here.

And I also wonder about the nature of this comic's relaunch. It basically was untouched by the new DCU, picking up right where the last comic left off. But is this 'new' Legion book accessible to new readers? I don't know. Now for an old-timer like me, I am pretty happy as this has felt like what a Legion book should be. But I doubt people who don't know this universe are able to grasp everything that's happening here.

One thing I do have to say is that I am loving Francis Portela's art on this book. It is sleek and polished and clean, echoing the tone of the book perfectly. 

Now one Legion squad is on the UP outpost planet Panoptes, the linchpin for an apparent Dominator invasion into UP space. These Legionnaires on the ground are dealing with Res-Vir, a Daxamite who is working for the Dominion and has access to a version of Brainy's anti-lead serum.

I really liked this scene as the rookie Chemical Kid is able to stop Res-Vir with some guidance by the more veteran Element Lad. It is this sort of camaraderie that works so well in the Legion. And these two could become an extremely powerful combination for the team. One controls elements. The other controls chemistry. The combos of their powers are limitless.

Luckily, Chemical Kid is able to stop Res-Vir by slowing down some processes and speeding up others. What I also liked here is that Kid is scared here, not the cocky rich kid we saw in the Adventure Comics issues earlier this year.

Another squad is on Daxam trying to figure out what made Res-Vir go rogue. There are two questions to be answered here. How did the Dominators 'cure' Res-Vir of his weakness to lead? And how did they convince him to leave the planet when Daxamites are quarantined to their planet and don't want to leave.

Despite the Science Police thinking this is a dead end, Shrinking Violet has this squad press on, leading them to Res-Vir's training site, a micronuclear plant which also has access to Kryptonite. Now long time readers like me know that Kryptonite is a crucial ingredient to Brainy's anti-lead serum so this is something of a revelation. But that isn't explained at all. Will new readers know why access to Kryptonite means anything? Shouldn't this have been expounded on? And even if he has Kryptonite, how can Res-Vir synthesize the serum? And how would the Dominator pick him out, talk to him, convince him to join the cause? None of these plot elements are discussed further. And I think they should have been.

I am a big Lightning Lass fan and this is a lovely version of her by Portela. What I like is that Portela uses different body types for different characters; they all aren't cookie cutter similar. Ayla here looks slim and fit.

Contrast that to the more voluptuous Dream Girl as she talks to Brainiac 5. Nura has always been drawn in a zaftig manner, so I don't mind her drawn this way. But I am glad that Ayla looks different than Dreamy who looks different than Comet Queen.

Now Dream Girl has always been a big flirt and she sort of is here with Querl. There was a Dreamy/Brainy romance in the Waid version of the team. Is that carrying over? Or is she still faithful to Star Boy?

But Brainy is having no part of this talk about magic in the 31st century. He is too busy studying Glorith's force fields.

And then he has a breakthrough. She shunts the attacks thrown at her through time! Not exactly a shock for me. All along I knew that 'Glorith' had to be somehow linked to the Glorith of old. But will she be the Purple hooded woman like we all think?

With Res-Vir stopped, the Legion on Panoptes can focus their energies on stopping the Dominator fleet.

Incredibly, this small squad basically wipes out the ships of the fleet easily. Maybe too easily? The ships don't seem to get off a shot. And none of these Legionnaires outside of Mon-El are invulnerable. There was no element of threat here, and so no real concern on my part for the characters.

Yes, the Legion are a powerful team. But if a fleet of starships can't scratch even one of them, what conflict can't they overcome?

Mon-El seems to have a personal gripe in this as the Dominators have included a Daxamite in their schemes. He rips open the command ship and orders the Dominator fleet to return to their space.

He also says, pretty off the cuff, that their anti-lead serum would eventually poison Res-Vir and so shouldn't be used again. How did he learn that? Is it true? And isn't that a very neat way to end that plot thread. Again, a bit more background info about that line would have been appreciated.

And isn't a bit too convenient to simply let the Dominator fleet return home after they tried to invade? Won't the UP declare war? Or want to be part of these negotiations? Again, this felt a bit too easy.

The issue ends with Shady and Mon-El talking. She thinks he is finally acting like the 'old' Mon-El. And I agree. I am glad the Green Lantern Mon-El storyline is over. And maybe this will lead to a reconciliation between these two. I do love how Portela has Shady's hair as a mass of tendrils until it slowly smudges out to more of a cloud of shadows. Very slick.

So this was a good skeleton of a story - a big threat in the opening arc, multiple Legion squads, and stellar art. But the 'meat' on that skeleton, the small details of the plots, seemed to be glossed over a bit as we rushed to the finale. Pieces of this Dominator plot which I would want discussed in depth were wrapped up without much explanation. And so that detracted a bit from this overall.

Overall grade: B

It's funny. I think I would probably give this issue a B-, not that big a drop. But in actuality, the story gets a C- with Portela's art lifting it a whole grade. Seriously, I clearly recognized how great his art was back then. But now, in retrospect, I think I should have given it even more love.

And so the first arc of this 'new' Legion comes to a close. How many more issues will I think Glorith is Pandora?? I guess we'll have to see.


  1. I'm actually not a big fan of Portela's art, though maybe it's more the coloring/shading here: people kind of look plasticky to me. And that sequence of three Dream Girl panels... eh... one with a really high-cut crotch, which I never like in superhero outfits, one that's just an ass shot, one that cuts off her head. I feel like you can be sexy and even cheesecakey without doing this.

    1. And Shady has her skimpiest outfit yet. Ayla's outfit is only slightly better than Nura's.

  2. Hey Steve, how about Lightning Lass' orange panties. On first glance, it just looks wrong, so wrong. I know it's a callback to her classic costume, but...just no.

  3. I recently read this run in it's entirety. Shady is basically ignored except to be a supporting character for Mon-El. I felt like Paul didn't challenge himself at all. While Chemical Kid and Jan worked as a plot, I have to wonder exactly what CK learned in the Academy.

  4. Thanks everyone for comments!
    I'm fascinated about hearing everyone's New 52 thoughts!

    1. Will your next review be on the 13th? I may go back and reread the next issue if I have time.

  5. This is the first New 52 Legion comic book I've ever read, and, in fact, the first non-80's Legion book I've ever read, so my impressions are going to be a little different. First off, gorgeous art since, well, I've only seen the characters colored in flats. The beauty of the women of the Legion is well-known and Portela does not disappoint. One of my favorite things about the Legion is the way they use their unique power sets to solve problems, win the battle, and this issue has a couple of good moments like that. Solid.

    --Reverse Psychology Boy (Jeremy)