Friday, January 12, 2018

New 52 Legion of Super-Heroes #16

This is the end ...

The New 52 Legion of Super-Heroes #16 is the end of Paul Levitz writing the team. And it had been a very good run, several decades worth of excellent stories. It is a shame that Levitz's lend with the team came with a whimper and not a bang. And I wonder how Levitz would look back at this time. Clearly the run from Great Darkness through the Sensor Girl mystery was about as good a run as any. But then came the later Baxter run and then this retroboot.  I doubt he would hold the New 52 stuff as being his best material.

And in rereading this run, I have seen glimpses of the old excellence. But I don't know if what I like is what new fans are interested in. Take this issue for example. We have a Legion election. We have some interesting character moments, in particular Dreamy and Star Boy. But you have more hints about Glorith being something more than she is (which I think never bears fruit) and we have a clunky Validus scene. Perhaps worst of all, you get the hope of Phantom Girl having won the leader election. I say this is the worst because I know how she is treated moving forward.

Anyways, this was a good Legion issue and the character bits reinforced what I think is Levitz's best strength and therefore is an interesting end of his overall run. Scott Kolins is on art and he has a smoother look here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Legion of Super-Heroes #16 came out last week and I thought it was a very good issue.

I have complained in the past that the main problem of this title has been its inability to build momentum, to have big stories, to get somewhere. While there has been great characterization, a staple of writer Paul Levitz' books, the plots have been troubling. Where it was the Legion of Super-Villains last volume, or the Dominator problem, or rest issues about Chemical King, or the Dragonwing stories, these have all been muddled or forgettable.

So when another 'rest issue' was announced, another issue where we 'checked in' on the Legionnaires, I initially cringed. Wouldn't that just slow things down more?

Instead this issue continued to move some plots forward, while peeking in on some members we haven't seen in a bit, and lastly has a great surprise ending. There is nothing like an old-fashioned Legion leader election to stir the pot a bit. And maybe after the lackluster Super-titles this week, an issue like this was like a warm bath, comfortable.

The art is by Scott Kolins and it is fine here. His rough style actually works quite well on Validus.

The election is the backdrop of the story as we peek in around the Legion HQ, hearing snippets of conversations. It was fun to hear Ultra Boy joke about his being elected once. It was reassuring to hear Chemical Kid stump for Element Lad. I would think that Kid might have run himself earlier this year, thinking he knew it all. So nice little growth there.

But this line stuck out a bit. Now I know that Dream Girl has always been a bit of a vamp. But she has also been fiercely loyal to Star Boy. During the Dominator arc, I thought for sure a Dreamy/Brainy ('Drainy'?) romance was going to happen. So for her to say something like she is 'available', even in the context of being elected, makes me wonder if she is ready to move on from Thom. Again, probably something that only long-time Legion readers (are there any other) might pick up on. Subtle.

And I thought that Brainy was going to end up with Dreamy back in the Dominator arc too. Instead he is seen walking arm in arm with Harmonia Li. I guess I can understand his interest in her. She is a scientist. But there is as much wisdom in her as there is intelligence.

Still I wonder if she is ready for romance with someone so rigid in his assessments. Wisdom means bending sometimes. Here Harmonia looks visibly steamed that Brainy sort of disparages Dragonwing's upbringing.

Meanwhile the Espionage squad continues its research on the Fatal Five. If the Persuader's axe was an illusion, maybe Validus himself is an illusion on Takron-Galtos.

The team of Cham, Vi, and Ayla head there to investigate. And Cham and Vi head into the Inertron cube prison cell that Validus is constantly banging against. Meanwhile Ayla stays outside.

I thought this was a great exchange. For one, the smile on Ayla's when talking about 'her Vi' was sweet. And Gravity Kid, now working on Takron Galtos, wonders why Lightning Lass, one of the most powerful Legionnaires, isn't in the cell too. So, as an Ayla fan, I was glad to see her recognized as in the upper echelon of Legion strength.

But the best thing was her saying that her power would be meaningless in the cell. That raw power isn't always the answer. I wonder if that simple lesson, or Gravity Kid's still ignorance of it, is what kept him off the Legion roster.

Back on Earth, Star Boy sounds like he is a tired man, maybe ready to retire from the Legion.

It has been a tough couple of years for Thom, insane in the 21st century, returned as a physically broken man to the future, and then pulled out of rehab to rescue Dreamy, fighting off Dominator hordes. I don't think this moment in the Hall of Heroes is a foreshadow to his death. I think of it more that he is ready to retire before he ends up there. I wonder if that will be the final straw in breaking up this longstanding romance.

As an aside, I liked seeing the 'Legion Lost' members immortalized in statues here. It shows that they aren't forgotten. I still hope they make it back to the future.

And how about a peek at another troubled romance? It looks like Mon-El is ready to rekindle his romance with Shadow Lass.

This scene also showed me that Levitz is great when it comes to characterization. We are less than a year out of Earth Man's death. While it would be very easy to settle back into the status quo of Mon-El and Shady together, it wouldn't make sense. Even Mon-El telling her to move on and trying to get cozy like this seemed a bit oafish ... almost sleazy.

Shady squelches any ideas of a reconciliation. She storms off telling him support for him as Legion Leader will be there, but romance is out of the question.

And while the Fatal Five seems to be in the on-deck circle for the Legion to fight, I think we all know that something Glorith/Time Trapper related has to be slated soon thereafter. Glorith is cornered by Brainy into undergoing more tests and, as expected, things swirl a bit crazily. I think there is a lot brewing under the calm and innocent exterior of Glorith.

Really what I want to see is some Black Witch time now. There is enough happening that the Legion should be asking Mysa some tough questions about Glorith.

I don't exactly understand why Cham uses this strategy. But he takes the form of Validus and that somehow makes the 'real' Validus fade away as an illusion. So it seems the Fatal Five seem to be reformed ... but for who knows how long.

It is interesting that this was not only a visual illusion, but one with sound, and tactile as people felt the tremors of this thing's pounding on the walls. That is more than a simple hologram. Sounds almost Sensor-Girlish.

And is Vi being possessed by the Eye as seen in the early 2011 Legion Annual still in continuity?

As I said, the best thing about this issue was sort of cruising around and reading these small moments.

I thought that this conversation between Cos and Mon-El was great. At the potential end of his time as Leader, Mon-El wonders if he was effective. Looking back at all that has happened, including the current Fatal Five stuff, it hasn't been a peaceful time.

Cos has always been the sort of backbone of the Legion, the sounding board, the voice of experience. So I thought this brief bit, about how things aren't simple any more, that there is a full cemetery of Legionnaires, that they don't always win, but that they have saved lives ... I thought that was poignant. I can imagine that running the Legion has to be extremely stressful.

And then, a nice surprise ending. Phantom Girl has won the election!

I don't think I would put her at the top of my ballot but I think, in retrospect, it makes perfect sense.

She is intelligent. She is a lifer. She seems to have a solid core, rarely getting flustered. And I think she has common sense never getting too high or too low.

I look forward to seeing how she runs the big board.

So what can I say. This issue was exactly the sort of issue that I have complained about in the past. And yet, for one of these 'catch up' issues, it was meatier, had more great character moments, and moved some of the plots ahead, much better than ... let's say ... this Legion rest issue. I do wonder if newer readers might like the smaller moments less than I did.

And Tinya running the show! That should be fun!

Overall grade: B+

I'd probably rate this a B today. The character moments are great. But the plots moving forward didn't gel with me.


  1. The Legion reader election should have never been brought back. It gave us Mon and Brainy the first time and then when we got Tinya as leader, they just ruin her. And nothing is ever explained as to the Persuader or Validus "illusions".

    While it was nice to see the Espionage Squad in action, in retrospect, it just means the pages spent in another issue where Mon-El went to check on Validus an utter waste of pages. Maybe he was just trying to build the subplot and the Espionage squad moment but Mon El is really looking like a fool. Especially when he tell Shady to get over Earth Man. *sigh* this series needed to die, unfortunately.

    If you take the appearance of the Legion in that Justice League of America series as canon, then I think this series is just basically erased from existence or another Earth where the New 52 series happened but diverged at a key event. The Legion Lost series makes it seem like time travel was part of their mission, so the divergent point was the death of the LL team and that they never completed their time travel mission.

  2. FYI, the Legion Lost team is brought back in Justice League United.