Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A Tale of Two Legions

Join us as two of the Legion of Super-Bloggers rant about what makes a good comic-book in general and a good Legion comic in particular.

We look at two very recent examples of TWO new Legion of Super-Heroes stories.

One is of course, LSH (volume 8) #5, which had been released during the same week that retail stores were ordered closed. The other was From Beyond The Unknown #1 (direct market version).

Although both series are called "Legion of Super-Heroes," it is no Sophie's Choice to tell you which one we would save in a fire.

Bilingual Boy: In an example of cosmic coincidence due to the Coronavirus, last week I picked up TWO new Legion of Super-Heroes stories!

One was, of course, LSH (volume 8) #5, which had been released during the same week that retail stores were ordered closed in my state. So I had not picked it up. The other was From Beyond The Unknown #1 (direct market version). I had seen/heard that this book was released to Wal-Mart back in March but I was not able to find it then. (LSB's Nostalgic Kid did a review of it here.) When I saw it at my comic shop last week, I snapped it up.

I am not a "fan" of the comic book industry, in that I don't read trade articles and don't understand what are the top sellers or otherwise "hot" in the market place. I know what I like, and as I approach Walter Matthau level of grumpiness in my own Silver Age, I know that I don't like the current Legion book.
Don't get me wrong. I have no trouble with Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy being non-Caucasian. What I do have a problem with is corporate DC's business decision to tell the current Legion stories (?) the way that they are. Shall we compare these two stories?

In FBTU #1 we have an eight page story that 1. has a beginning, a middle, and an ending; 2. NAMES the characters so that if you are a first-time reader you know who the Legionnaires are; 3. gives each character motivation so the reader understands what is going on; and 4. links the art and the story together so that neither is over-shadowed by the either.

In LSH #5 we have a twenty-two page story that 1. has no beginning, and clearly no ending; 2. does not name all the characters; 3. or even try to make it clear to the reader who everyone is and why they act the way they do (see Invisible Kid vs Shadow Lass as exhibit A); and 4. uses its art as, dare I say it, a coat-hanger to hold the feeble story together.

So I have to ask DC, who is the targeted audience for the new Legion of Super-Heroes book? Clearly, it is not fans of a certain age (like me). Are there Brian Michael Bendis fans out there who are snapping up this book? Maybe.

I just have to think that if DC took one of their oldest concepts more seriously, and told actual stories about them instead of loose The Future Is Awesome junk stuff that we have gotten so far, it would go a long way to making more Legion fans happier.

Sarcasm Kid: You guys know where I stand. I told you all years ago I didn't want another continuity reboot and exactly why I was afraid of one. I especially didn't want Bendis, or even worse, Tom King, to handle the Legion. How could you ever trust the same man who wrote Avengers Disassembled, House of M, Avengers Vs X-Men, and Civil War II with the Legion? I wouldn't trust him with the Inferior 5, let alone the Legionnaires. Who cares if he created Miles Morales and Riri Williams, that doesn't wipe away the hand he had in destroying the X-Men for nearly 15 years.

That said, I tried to come at this with an open mind. I've done my best to hold back and not go on tangents everywhere I could complaining about this Legion because it's not the Legion I grew up with. I didn't want to ruin everyone's good time.

I don't know what you would call this, if it shows I'm reaching my 30s and I'm no longer part of the current generation or whatever. But I, I can't say I like this. I gave it a try, really, but I'm not enjoying Bendis' Legion. I don't even care about having the issues in the collection.

I dislike this comic not because it's not MY Legion, okay, I came from a period when all three of the Legions got to exist alongside each other. I dislike this series because it's not interesting or well written. There was a glimmer of quirkiness I liked in the Superman issues, but Bendis ran that into the ground when he tried too hard to make the dialog nothing BUT quirkiness. It's like every word balloon is Bendis' attempt to create a new Legion meme, or it's like watching an episode of a Friends reboot except you don't want to kill whoever is the new Ross. And none of it really says anything about the Legionnaires the dialog comes from.

It's been three appearances in Superman, the Millennium two-parter, and five issues and nothing's happened worth talking about in a positive way. God I hate the Millennium issues because they had nothing to do with the Legion and it was a waste of Nicola Scott's artwork.

You'd think I'd be a fan of every Legionnaire being in every issue. You'd think. I loved Kingdom Come because of all the minor and background characters and it got me into researching obscure characters. But the difference between that and the Legion is the Kingdom Come background characters were actually doing stuff, while the Legionnaires barely do anything.

Yeah, I was mad Lightning Lad and Light Lass weren't redheads anymore, and I mean RED and not that shade of brown with red mixed in. I didn't care if they weren't white anymore. Like, Bendis gave Triplicate Girl pink/yellow/blue hair for God's sake. Yet Bendis just HAD to find a way to make Garth and Ayla being Black gross, like when they changed Wally West into that little racist stereotype needing the all knowing Barry Allen to teach him how to behave. I do not like the idea that Ayla, as the more outspoken and emotional Black woman speaking out against police brutality and injustice, had her offensive lightning abilities swapped for the more tamer anti-gravity abilities at some point. I do not like the implications behind this decision, I don't like what it says about Ayla's role as a Black woman, and if Bendis was gonna do this he should've left the Ranzz twins as white.

This further demonstrates aging up Jon Kent and robbing us of his development was a mistake if they were going to stick him in a book like this. You know what would've been great for young readers? Seeing preteen Jon getting to spend time with the younger heroes of the 31st Century while hanging out with all his aunts and uncles in the Legion. We could've had the Legionnaires acting like dorks trying to prove which of them is THE cool aunt or cool uncle. I would've KILLED for that after being starved of such content from the Titans-related titles.

I don't like the idea that people are trying to defend this saying it's for a new generation of younger readers, because younger readers deserve better than this. If they wanted to get younger readers interested in the Legion, they should've gotten one of the writers working on the DC Young Adult line to handle the Legion's return. The YA books like Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass and The Oracle Code have been far superior to DC's ongoing titles. I could see the universe of this Legion working as a YA graphic novel under a different writer, but as of now, these characters don't have anything going for them except interesting designs by Ryan Sook.

Agree? Disagree?


  1. I'd agree that the first five books of the new Legion were sort of like a rudderless trip down the chocolate river in Willie Wonka's chocolate factory. Maybe all of these stories will tie together into a coherent whole in time for a graphic novel to be released, but taken as they have been given so far, there's just no real sense of anything getting resolved. A lot of things have been introduced that don't seem particularly relevant to each other, one issue to the next. I'm trying to enjoy it though, simply because I have been a fan of the Legion for very many decades.

    I just hope it gets better.

    I enjoyed the eight page story. Even if you knew nothing about the Legion, you could enjoy it, as the whole story was there to enjoy, even though it was short. It left me wanting to read more.

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