Friday, August 3, 2018

Retroboot Legion of Super-Heroes #2

I am rather amazed and quite thrilled to be reviewing the Retroboot Legion of Super-Heroes #2 issue. In some ways, there is a sort of cosmic serendipity to my going back to this series now. In my heart, I remembered being overall disappointed by this series. I would be much more likely to revisit the classic Levitz/Giffen books or the 5YL books than reading this run again. It was this blog assignment that led me here.

I don't want to make this a political blog but suffice it to say that America is pretty tense right now. Whether it is race or gender or sexuality or citizenship, the whole nation seems to be resting on a powder keg and the fuse has been lit.

And here, in the Legion, the main storyline revolves around immigration and culture wars. Some of the lines uttered by the mob here in the gleaming future sound remarkably familiar. And Earth Man, a fascist xenophobe, is both a villain the Legion is watching over but also a hero to those who agree with his opinions. It is eerie how much I see America today in this future world.

Writer Paul Levitz really ratchets things up here. Earth Man's regime has ended. The team has been re-instated. But things are hardly stable. As a team they are trying to figure out how to insert themselves into things again. And a more super-threat in the form of Saturn Queen is lurking on the edges.

The art is mostly done by Yildiray Cinar who continues to bring a very solid house style to the proceedings. Future Legion artist Francis Portela does a couple of pages in the middle, bringing his sleek style to one scene. I loved Portela's work.

On to the book!

Remember that last issue, the Saturn moon of Titan exploded when the Time Institute looked back at the beginning of time. Yes, the 'cosmic hand clutching stars' will always lead to ruin.

A team of Legionnaires are sent to the wreckage of the world to help. The shattered pieces of the moon need to be removed from space ship traveling lanes. The mass needs to be gathered to protect gravitational fields.

I do like the peek into the personalities of the team members. Brainiac 5 is almost perturbed he needs to be there to guide the efforts of the stronger members. Ultra Boy seems a little too curt with Brainy. But it does show just how aloof Brainy is, how detached he must feel to his teammates.

One of the other rescue Legionnaires is Tyroc.

I like how Tyroc is more concerned with helping the displaced citizens of Titan than he is in asteroid wrangling. As someone who felt segregated on his dimensional island and has experience with racial prejudice, I like how he is focused on protecting the Saturnians.

Even more interesting is this new notion that Durlans seem to be worshiping R.J. Brande. The Durlans have always been isolated so this is a good hook.

Imra Ardeen isn't the only native of Titan who left the planet to use their native abilities as super-powers.

Here Saturn Queen, a much more diabolical and sadistic telepath has returned to see if it is true her homeworld is destroyed. And she immediately thinks the Legion must have some role to play. (And why shouldn't she? How many times have Brainy himself almost destroyed things!)

What I do like is the Queen's internal dialogue, a sort of delicious lack of respect for weaker minds, described as toys for her to play with.

Meanwhile, Earth Man is an angry member of the Legion, forced to be on the team. And no Legionnaire wants him there either. Earth Man wonders if the Legion will simply send him on a suicide mission to rid themselves of him.

But Earth Man has an ace up his sleeve ... or is that a ring on his finger. The Legion isn't aware that he has been given a Green Lantern ring. And while he doesn't know exactly how to work the ring, he does will it to disable all the dampeners Brainy built into his personal flight ring.

In theory, Earth Man could run amok now, freed of all restraints. So I find it interesting he decides to play along.

As I said, there is a lot of current times seen in this comic from years ago.

Displaced Titan people, seeking refuge, try to land on Earth. A section of the planet begins to protest this injection of a new culture, people coming in to take jobs and wealth as well as forcing their beliefs and culture on Earth.

The space ports are about to boil over. The Legion needs to head there and keep things calm.

But even Cos knows that sending a Durlan into an alien-hating mob is a mistake, throwing gas onto a smoldering fire.

So in some ways, Cos is trying to both combat and appease this group of protesters. Hmmm ....

While this ground level unrest is percolating on Earth, a bigger and more super-powered threat emerges in space. Saturn Queen easily imposes her will on Ultra Boy telling him to attack his colleagues.

With speed and ease, Jo perforates Wildfire's suit and knocks out Tyroc.

If you are looking for a near perfect weapon, Ultra Boy fits the bill. And this also leans into his history of being the 'dumb jock' of the team. He is enslaved in one panel, showing that perhaps he is weak in mind.

There are subplots as well.

The Ranzz twins have been plucked from reality. Saturn Girl has stolen a Time Bubble to go back in time and try to find them. And Garth Ranzz is found by sister Ayla and is informed about his children going missing.

Lightning Lad is angry that he has spent so much time trying to find an until-now unheard of twin of Lightning Lord Mekt. Had he been on Titan, maybe the boys would be safe.

I do like the subtle prejudice we hear from the nurses. Just being a singlet is so peculiar to them that nothing else matters. These ideas of prejudice are going to be a big part of this run.

Meanwhile, the spaceport protest is shut down but not before violence does indeed erupt. Phantom Girl is knocked out by thrown rocks. Earth Man absorbs Colossal Boy's powers and embiggens, screaming at the people to head home. Finally, Shadow Lass arrives and cloaks everyone, stopping the violence and dispersing the crowd.

In the aftermath, Shady and Tinya are in the medical ward. In a move that foreshadows one of the ickier plots, Shady sounds almost impressed with Earth Man. Phantom Girl is shocked. She doesn't trust him. She shouldn't.

The enraged and controlled Ultra Boy arrives at the Legion HQ to try and batter as many of his teammates as possible.  He wades in effectively until Phantom Girl's appearance snaps him out of his fugue. I guess love does conquer all.

Perhaps it is because it has been years since I read a good Legion book. Perhaps it is because it resonates with currents events. Perhaps it is because I don't remember exactly where this ends up. But the bottom line is that I liked this issue a lot. This felt like classic Legion and I have been craving that.

Maybe this run is better than I remember?

Overall grade: B+


  1. Gave this one a read. Looking back, I feel that the GL thing for Earth Man came too quickly. But there are a lot of talky pages in this one. My biggest problem seems to be how poorly Levitz treats Tinya. She has always seemed to be one of his favorite characters as much as she has appeared in stories but he writes her like an idiot. It's weird how she and Jacques are flying above everyone and yet she is the one who gets knocked out with rocks, not Jacques. Her powers allow her to avoid these types of attacks but she immediately goes solid. And we seen nothing about Jacques being injured.

    Also, not a fan that we don't see them actually handle the crowd, we are told about it. Talky pages in place of action pages. Also, the whole Tinya stopping Jo thing was bad. She didn't stop him, he stopped himself. So it makes her really ineffective as a character as just being a girlfriend-of. It's like Levitz knows where he wants to end up in a plot but how he gets there is not always satisfying. His eyes were glowing which presumably means his Flash vision was active and he would be vulnerable to physical attack. The sight of Tinya may have given him pause but she needed to act on it and take him down.

  2. And one more thing. Cinar misses drawing flight rings in VERY obvious panels.