Monday, November 11, 2019

LSH (v8) #1

Legion of Super-Heroes #1 (January 2020)
title: "The Legion of Super-Heroes!"
writer: Brian Michael Bendis
penciller: Ryan Sook
inker: Ryan Sook and Wade Von Grawbadger
colorist: Jordie Bellaire
letterer: Dave Sharpe
associate editor: Brittany Holzherr
editor: Brian Cunningham
covers: Ryan Sook (main); Ryan Sook and Jim Cheung & Romulo Fajardo, Jr (variants)

reviewers: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage, with Jason "Anachronistic Kid" Knol and Siskoid

Mission Monitor Board: 
There is no "let's introduce ourselves" scene so we'll mention only the members who are clearly identifiable, or who identify themselves: Superboy, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Brainiac 5; Karate Kid, Ultra Boy, Wildfire, Star Boy (who doesn't introduce himself, but who is called out by name by Karate Kid); in the last "group shot", I count 31 members.

Mordru, the Horraz, time-travel overwhelmingness, badly plotted stories

On Planet Gotham, in the Bludhaven Sewer System
Ultra Boy is tracking a ship from the Horraz fleet onto Planet Gotham, where he manages to re-capture a mystical artifact that "the Horraz trash" had somehow acquired. As Mordru steps forward to claim the artifact, Ultra Boy is joined by Karate Kid, Wildfire, and Star Boy as they battle to stop him from a) killing them and b) reclaiming the artifact. Ultra Boy is going to fly the artifact out of Mordru's reach, but when his friends are in trouble, he flies back and stops Mordru instead. They then open the artifact's case, which had been damaged, to reveal an item from the 21st Century. 
Why is the Legionnaire all in shadows... and wearing a cape?!?
On (in?) Metropolis, Saturn Girl is trying to welcome Superboy (Jonathan Kent) to the Legion and to the future. He is so overwhelmed that he is not making it easy. Rose (from the Legion: Millennium two-parter) appears, but is ignored. Instead, Superboy flies over the city, where he learns that all of Metropolis is the Legion's headquarters, but they are located on New Earth. He learns that the original (?) Earth was almost destroyed; what exists now is a marvel of United Planets engineering. 
Ultra Boy's team returns with the 21st-Century artifact, which Superboy recognizes. Unfortunately, when they teleported from Gotham Planet they accidentally left the teleportal open, and now a Horraz armada has appeared in Legion headquarters to reclaim the artifact. 

On the UP homeworld, the UP President is not happy to learn that Superboy has joined the Legion. 

Russell's comments: 
This issue left me with a very strong sense of disappointment. I have been a fan of the Legion of Super-Heroes for years (obviously!) and have often heard that non-Legion fans are "put off" by the setting, and the large cast of characters, and the huge amount of investment fans have to have in the series to really "get" it. I never really agreed with that, until today.

This issue left me confused, frustrated, and not at all entertained.

There has to be a very thin line between establishing the future as "normal" while also explaining pertinent facts that the Legionnaires may know, but we as readers may not. For example, Earth has gone through some sort of Great Disaster and now is a hodge-podge of city-states orbiting around a great mass. Okay, sure. But Gotham City is its own planet now? A throw-away explanatory line would have been appreciated. The most frustrating thing for me is that Bendis seems to recognize what he is doing, but doesn't actually solve his self-made problem. He has Superboy ASK about Gotham as a place, but then no one answers his question. Scenes like that lead to my sense of frustration.

Then there are the creative choices that I just don't understand. For the fourth time by my count we get a scene of Superboy meeting the entire Legion of Super-Heroes... but we STILL haven't gotten any introductions!! This is just annoying, when we are paying for two-page spreads of the Legion and don't know who all of them are!
My question exactly, Superboy! 
I'll take this opportunity to go on record to say that I am NOT a fan of several of the Legionnaire designs. Karate Kid in particular, as he is clearly wearing a (stereo)typical Chinese queue hair style. Please someone tell DC that "karate" is Japanese, not Chinese. If Val is now Chinese, shouldn't he be called Kung Fu Kid? Of course, the Dawnstar character also appears to be wearing stereotypical Native American stylings, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised. And while I don't mind changing the racial types of any of the Legionnaires, I am NOT a fan of Lightning Lad's two eye colors. Sheesh.
WHO has "the face of madness" and WTH does that even mean? 
Another frustration is that there is NO continuity between this issue and the recent Legion: Millennium two-parter. Rose shows up in four panels, the main three reprinted below.
This is it! Superboy and the others totally ignore her. Tell me, please, why the hell did I spend $18 plus US dollars on the Millennium, Superman, and Supergirl "cross-over" issues when they have NOTHING to do with this story? Not really building up good-will here, DC. And maybe it's just me, but THIS scene is NOT the same as the scene shown in L:M. For one thing, Ultra Boy and his team are not present in this version of Rose meeting the Legion. So we already have inconsistencies between stories, written and drawn BY THE SAME PEOPLE. Doesn't bode well for us continuity geeks.
Why such dark shadows when they're fighting a being of light!? 
My last complaint has to do with the overall issue. The coloring and inking on the Gotham Planet sequence is so dark that it's hard to tell the difference between Ultra Boy and Star Boy. And if Mordru is a being of light, why are things so dark? Lastly, on the "UP Homeworld" (surely that isn't the planet's name?) page I have NO idea what I'm reading. Is the planet a Washington Monument type pillar sitting in... cosmic fire? Does the UP President's final word balloon fall off, or what?
"...Everything we've been---" WHAT!?! 

Jason’s comments: 
I’ve got a lot of mixed emotions and there’s a lot to unpack here, so stay with me. Right off the bat, great cover. Ryan Sook does some of my favorite covers (the Seven Soldiers of Victory hardcovers are beautiful) and this one doesn’t disappoint. Fun flight poses, fits in a ton of members, the Legion logo is prominent. Adventure awaits!

And then I felt lost and confused. First page, cool insect-style flying ship and then, as Russell pointed out, why is Ultra Boy wearing a cape? The ship crashes at the bottom of page 1, then at the top of page 2 it… flew up and crashed again? The art takes lots of chances throughout the issue, but I feel like they don’t all work. The ship finally crashes to the ground and Ultra Boy is shot, and the first real dialogue we have is so, uh, uncomfortable?

“Uh, um, “Hero.” Ages of heroes stuff… uh, everyone step back!”

So he has to announce himself as a hero? And it seems he’s not a member of the Legion yet, because he’s not wearing a Legion flight ring at any point, and when he arrives in Metropolis he has to announce “I live here! (I’m uh, Ultra Boy.)” But the Legionnaires who arrive to fight Mordru, who is referred to as a “demon gangster” in the most awful moment of the book, refer to Ultra Boy by his name, Jo Nah. It’s all very fuzzy.

I like the idea of Aquaman’s trident being such a powerful mystic relic that it can “save a planet,” meaning it will likely help reform the 31st century Earth. On that note, the entire city of New Metropolis is the home of the Legion? Really? The clubhouse is iconic, and one of the most joyful things about the Legion. The bizarre spires and angular juts of the city’s monochrome architecture are so cold and haphazard, it’s the antithesis of the clubhouse. Even Jon Kent seems more fascinated than excited. That double-page spread, which should've been beautiful and full of joy and wonder, was cold and bleak. It really took the wind out of my sails. What should've been Dorothy walking out into a technicolor dream, Charlie entering the Chocolate Factory, instead ended up being Neo waking up in the real world.

The Frichtman Tags were a really great X-Men trope to help introduce new readers to the already-full Legion of Super-Heroes, yet we don’t really get those introductions. There are plenty of heroes that never have their tags shown, and many pages and panels are overflowing with word balloons where everyone tries to speak and no one really says anything, leaving the reader without a sense of anyone’s personality, either. But near the end of the issue we see that there's a Yellow Lantern Legionnaire and that gets me super geeked!
When we see the Legionnaires showing Jon the structure of New Earth’, with salvage space-islands of land connected to… I’m not sure what, the scene had gone from Jon and Saturn Girl flying to the entire group crowded together to look out -from where?- onto New Earth. Between the two 2-page spreads I lost all sense of where the group was. Are they looking out from the top of New Metropolis? If so, why do all the other land masses face towards it? Again, the art doesn’t make sense.
And yes, Rose from the Millennium lead-in books is ignored and none of this ties in to anything they’ve been building up with the Legion. Brian Michael Bendis is behind all of this, so we have expectations of continuity that went unfulfilled. There are 24 pages of Legion goodness in this issue, and half of those storytelling pages are double-page spreads. The full vision of what New Earth truly is and the Legion surrounded spreads make sense and really capture the scope of things, but the rest don’t serve the story. What story, you ask? We’re not really sure, but Jon Kent is in the Legion future, Aquaman's trident is an ancient relic that's been recovered, New Earth is made up of space islands, the Legion of Super-Heroes headquarters is an entire city, Mordru appears to be a powerful street magician like some future Criss Angel, and it seems that— TO BE CONTINUED…

Siskoid’s comments: 
Bendis made his name in comics by reinventing a universe - Marvel's as Ultimate Marvel - so successful, it's really the template for the super-popular MCU movies. Can he do it again at DC? My cohorts don't see to think so. I'm a bit more excited. Yes, this throws us in the deep end, a little like the first 20 minutes of Moulin Rouge, but while the art definitely be clearer in addition to pretty, I didn't feel particularly confused. 
As a reintroduction, it seems to take from every past version - the original (recruiting Superboy), Levitz (catching snatches of conversation in large get-togethers), 5YL (what the heck is going on?/New Earth), Reboot (brash new redesigns), Legion Lost/The Legion (big science-fiction concepts like planetary engineering/connections to 21st-Century DCU), and Threeboot (having a Legion CITY may owe something to its Legion movement). We're not understanding everything - Bendis was also known for decontracted storytelling - but there's a lot of humor in the dialog (even Brainiac 5 has a sense of humor), big splashy concepts, and certainly an update of what the future might look like. I know we have an idea of what their utopia looks like, but just as the 80s Legion world didn't feel like the rocket age original stories, 35 years later, the future shouldn't look the same.
So what the first issue does is tease and intrigue. No waiting around for Legionnaires to join like we had with the Reboot. They're all there, plus a few new additions (Monster Boy, Gold Lantern and a new Dr. Fate), but what will they be like? What does a Legion city MEAN? What are these wild futurescapes and how will they be exploited? How will this Mordru compare to the classic version? And what's Rose/Thorn's actual role in this? In a very real way, this is an art book, pure spectacle with a lot of jokes to make the reading experience longer than a couple minutes. Look at this world! Look at these characters! They will be in stories soon! Who is set to be your new favorite? It's all potential at this point.

Bits of Legion Business:  
  • Ultra Boy is not wearing the same uniform he was wearing in Legion: Millennium
  • Karate Kid mentions that the Horraz invaded his home planet, meaning that he is not from Earth (as the original version was). 
  • Saturn Girl and Superboy appear to be using a Time Bubble. 
  • Superboy asks about the toilet facilities on Metropolis, which is probably the first time bathrooms have ever been mentioned in a Legion comic book. 
This issue has been not yet been reprinted. Wait six months.

This is the first issue of what we consider the 8th volume of a book called Legion of Super-Heroes. Let's hope it lasts a long, long time.


  1. My Legion has been wiped out of existence.

    This is not my Legion.

  2. I won't claim this is bad because this is different, but this Legion has a kind of Threebot Legion vibe. An attempt to "update" the IP which will lose steam after its creator leaves and after some few years will be abandoned and replaced by another -or older- version.

  3. ‘My’ Legion was wiped out of existence decades ago, that doesn’t mean I can’t like other versions. I’m with Siskoid, I enjoyed this first issue, it had a lot going for it in terms of dynamic art, fun dialogues and hints of things to come.

    I suppose whether non-motivated shadows is annoying depends on whether you’re wanting the art to be naturalistic or are happy for it just to look a little more ‘comic booky’ - looks at all those Silver and Bronze Age comics in which anyone not in the foreground was part of a monochrome crowd - did anyone ask ‘why’?

    In-story, I guess Jo’s cape, which didn’t look as sharp as a regular superhero cape, was part of an outfit to blend in with the Gotham crowd. His classic colours are replaced by greys, as if he’s in stealth mode. Out of story, what Bendis was really trying to do, I think, was give us the impression this was Jon, already out and about and heroing in the 31st century.

  4. This look into the 1st issue did very little to quell my (many) doubts about the 'new look' team. I am going to trade wait, and get a big chunk of story at once, at a reasonable price, to digest all at once. That's all I am willing to invest at this point.

  5. I liked about it what Russell and Jason didn't: that I was left not knowing much of anything about the new setting. It took me back to my earliest days; the first LSH story I remember reading was the one where clones of Ferro Lad and Invisible Kid visit Superboy in 20th century Smallville. That gave precious few hints as to what the LSH was all about, but what hints it did give were fascinating to me, and it gave me great joy to dive in and learn more about the expansive universe that issue only hinted at.

    1. The 30th (and later the 31st) century was almost like a whole additional DC continuity that only occasionally intersected the main line universe.

  6. It's a very strange first issue. We get a look at all the Legionnaires but we don't have names for a lot of them. Some are old characters reimagined, others are brand-new but it would help to have their names next to each of them as they appeared. Maybe this will happen as each new issue comes out, but this was confusing enough for long-time Legion fans. I can't imagine what it would be like for readers who are new to the LoSH. Also, I agree that it seems like a word balloon was left off the final panel. Has anyone asked Bendis about it via Twitter? Seems very strange. Overall I thought it was an ok issue, but not a good FIRST issue, especially for a book that is trying to bring in new Legion fans.

  7. Not a great first issue for first time Legionnaires, I agree. Some character designs I kinda don't like (Why??? Is E-Lad??? Green????). But I enjoy B5's new outfit, and Imra's haircut.

    The Legion has lived through generations of fans, and several complete 360 reboots. Each time there are fans who leave the comic because it isn't their Legion. Which is totally fine, acceptable, understandable, ect. No matter what my opinions on this particular Legion are, I am optimistic that someone will read this, and be as enamored as I was, three years ago, a high school freshman, picking up Legionnaires Volume 1 for the first time.