Friday, October 20, 2017

New 52 Legion of Super-Heroes #6

Legion of Super-Heroes #6 from the New 52 release focused on Dragonwing, one of the newer Legionnaires and perhaps some fresh blood that DC was hoping would lure in new readers.

As I say in this review, it is a double-edged sword. Yes, if the new Legionnaires are going to be a big part of this book, we need to learn about them. If I am going to care about Dragonwing as much as I do Vi, I need to know her. So focusing on her is a good thing. 

That said, we know next to nothing about her. So to jump into a family plot and the gang wars of her home seemed rushed. I feel like if this was the 80s, Levitz would have this as a C-plot for a while. We'd get a page here and there, hinting at this stuff, giving us backstory, before immersing us in it. Instead, we are thrown in. I don't know enough about Dragonwing's history to understand this implications of this plot. As a result, this story made me shrug a bit.

The second plot, a look at the Dominator culture and their turning of Res-Vir, was more interesting mostly because it built on the Legion history. We know about the Dominion. This peek behind the curtain was more appealing.

And yet, this opening shows just the issue Levitz was dealing with. The new story didn't grab me. The old stuff did. But I am (or should be) an aging out fan. It should be the new stuff that lures me and others in. Unfortunately, my guess is Levitz wasn't afforded the time to slowly reveal these plots like in 'the old days'. It is the day of 'immediate gratification', of monthly sales reports, and limited resources. You can't build a Dragonwing subplot over a year anymore. Comics don't last that long anymore.

On to the book and the older review.

The 'renumbered but not rebooted' Legion of Super-Heroes, as a whole, has been a mixed bag for me. It has been somewhat a comfortable comic for a longtime Legion reader for me. I know these characters and all their history; I know what is going on and I am able to fill in some of the gaps in the story in my mind. But it hasn't been exciting. And it hasn't been spectacular. This isn't a new 52 that a new reader could easily pick up.

Legion of Super-Heroes #6 slips into that comfort zone again, although writer Paul Levitz begins to put out some feelers for upcoming stories. I think that Levitz often has a long term plan in mind for the Legion, and sometimes a single page scene is there to not only catch up on some characters but to plant a seed for later. At least, I hope so. Parts of this issue also makes me think that some of the unexplained matters from the first Dominator arc, things that I wanted to see explained in LSH#4 before the arc ended, will be eventually explained.

But those future threads are just the filler of this issue. The main story in this issue is about Dragonwing and I was glad to see it. We learned a lot about Chemical Kid and Comet Queen's personalities in their time in Adventure Comics, but 'Wing always seemed to be in the background. The problem is that since we know so little about her, some of the events in this issue don't have the same impact that they might if we had more of a backstory.

One consistent thing about the Legion book has been Francis Portela's great art. I was glad to see him back on art duty here.

The issue starts with a team of Legionnaires on a mission in China, dealing with an environmental crisis and a power station off line. While Sun Boy deals with some of the heat fallout, Element Lad helps Chemical Kid kickstart the station.

I do like how Element Lad seems to be taking Kid under his wing. As I said before, their abilities complement each other very well making them a wildly powerful duo if working together. But I think it would be more interesting to read if Kid was the same brash loudmouth he was in the Adventure Comics, a good foil to the reserved Jan. However, in the last few issues, Kid seems to be suffering from an inferiority complex and shyness, the complete opposite of his earlier characterization. Too bad.

On Earth, Dream Girl fends off some amorous advances by Star Boy. With Mon-El and Brainy away on Pantopes, she has work to do.

This is one of those subtle seeds I think Levitz is planting. Remember, Levitz always had Dream Girl be smarter and more mentally strong than she lets on to be. He had her as one of the four most powerful minds in the Legion way back in the Universo Project. So my guess is she is going to uncover/discover something of import here.

Back in China, Dragonwing goes home to see her sister Bao only to discover the apartment empty and a Red Dragon sigil floating in the air.

So this is one of those things that I think fell a little short. I know almost nothing about Dragonwing. I don't know anything about her sister. Without that background, I don't know how to respond. It clearly upsets Dragonwing. But is she surprised? Disappointed? Did she have a good relationship with her sister? A bad one?

What this comic needed was a six panel flashback from 'Wing giving us broad strokes about her early life, her sister, the state of where she lived. Given her return to her home, some introspection wouldn't be awkward and is much needed. We don't see exposition like that too often anymore. Too bad.

On Panoptes, Brainy and Mon-El clean up the Dominator/Res-Vir mess.

The resolution of the Res-Vir part of the first arc was one of the things that irked me. We didn't know the hows or the whys or the whens. Here, some minor gaps are filled. The Dominator serum which gave Res-Vir his power increased his strength but would have 'burned him out' in a couple of months. As for the other soldiers following Res-Vir, they weren't telepathically controlled by Res-Vir, but were 'imprinted' by the Dominators.

Does this mean that the Dominion has sleeper agents throughout the UP? 'Imprinted' people following their commands?

We know from solicits that the Dominators are the main upcoming villain in the book. Levitz gives us a gruesome look at their culture here. There is a rule in their culture that everyone is 'food'.

Here the leader of the defeated Dominator fleet at Panoptes abases himself and is subsequently killed. It is implied that there is some cannibalism here as the slain Dominator's 'blood will serve'. Brrrr ...

Dragonwing ends up finding her sister Bao who seems to have hooked up with some bad elements in China, joining some sort of gang/political movement called the Red Dragon looking to 'Restore the Middle Kingdom'. But again, I don't know anything about her. Does she have powers. Are those her wings or tech? What is the agenda of this group she joined? Without knowing the relationship between the sisters or the particulars of this Red Dragon, I don't know how to react as a reader.

In one nice surprise, 'Wing's sharpei dog turns out to be Cham in disguise.

And when Bao's gang starts to threaten the Legionnaires, the heroes strike back. Dragonwing punching out her sister should have some resonance but as I am sort of flying blind about their relationship, it doesn't carry the same punch (pun intended). Maybe I need to go back and reread the Legion Academy issues she was in. Am I forgetting stuff?

Anyways, imagine the same above panel but with Ayla punching out Mekt. We know all about them so it would mean more.

Lovely art by Portela regardless, really great stuff.

We end with something of a cliffhanger as the leader of the movement, 'the phoenix fire of China's rebirth' shows up and he has brought numbers.

So again, I feel a bit lost here. I don't know enough about any of these characters to have any empathy for them right now. For all I know, this guy is going to say he runs a soup kitchen for the poor. So, much like last arc, I have more questions than answers and it has impacted how much I could enjoy the book.

Still, it isn't like I hated the book, because there is enough of that 'warm bath' Legion-ness here to keep an old-timer like me content. But I don't want to be content with comics. I want to be blown away.

Overall grade: C+

I guess C+ still sounds right. Portela's art keeps lifting this book at least a half grade.

What did you all think?


  1. Dragonwing struck me as a character with a lot of potential. She has a neat look, unique powers for a hero (I can't think of many good guys with acid breath), a fiesty personality, and having some sort of criminal element in her backstory could make for an interesting plot catalyst. But like you said in your current notes, this whole plot would have been better served being drawn out as a subplot before reaching the foreground. I wonder if the hastier pace was Levitz's choice or a request. I didn't care for this run when it came out, so revisiting it in this manner is helping me see more of its good points but also helping me understand its flaws better.

    The Dominion stuff feels much more gruesome than Levitz seemed willing to go (at least to my memory), but like you said, that at least worked because it was building on something established & giving it a new layer.

  2. Thanks for the comment.

    Like you, these have helped me remember the good points while reliving the flaws with the aid of the passage of time.

  3. I didn't care for Dragonwing from day one, though she grew on me as the series progressed. It was cool to see 31st Century China.

    However, I've never been a fan of acid powers, breath or otherwise. It's the same reason i didn't care for Caress, back in the days of the late Baxter-era Fatal Five.

  4. I’ve just had a look back at my review, I liked it quite a bit. Especially, the dog, a high angle shot of rain, and Dominator plushes!

  5. Irony is the fact that Dragonwing's sister literally has dragon wings. This issue just flies by and it's mostly dialog. Not sure if that is good or bad. Regarding the 'wing story, it's OK. I really don't remember how it ends. I feel like Dragonwing is this really tough chick with a heart of gold. Maybe this would have been an Academy story if they hadn't juggled the teams around.

    My opinion on Chemical Kid is that he wasn't quite ready to be a Legionnaire. Since Paul had to put him into the team, I wonder if he didn't just change things slightly to make a more plausible story, with Jan being his mentor. The art is great but I'm not exactly sure what Dirk was supposed to be doing. Cham really stands out in this series for me. I don't think Yera could ever replace him and his personality.