Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Legion of Super-Heroes #1 Review

Looking for a Jon

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Ryan Sook, Wade Von Grawbadger, Jordie Bellaire and Dave Sharpe
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: November 6, 2019

It's finally time for Brian Michael Bendis to give us his version of the Legion of Super-Heroes and with that, I am giving it to Rocky of Comic Boom! fame.  Check out his Youtube Channel here and enjoy his review...

My first comic book addiction was Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes. I have never overcome it. The Legion of Superheroes (LOSH) has had more than a few iterations since first debuting in 1958. The adventures of future teenagers with superpowers drawing inspiration from the legendary stories of Superman and saving the (then) 30th century from the forces of The Fatal Five, Mordru, Time Trapper and even a resurrected Darkseid entertained comic readers for more than one generation. Further iterations of the Legionnaires followed in 1994,  2004 and 2007 which added further layers to an already varied continuity until master writer Geoff Johns weaved a story connecting (at that time) all three iterations of the Legionnaires in Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds in 2009. 

The team had a New 52 series in 2011 that ultimately went nowhere until the DC Rebirth one-shot (2016) where founding Legionnaire member, Saturn Girl wound up incarcerated in Arkham Asylum until finally disappearing from existence in Doomsday Clock #11 (October 2019). Indeed, the modern-day shelf life of a LOSH series is about as short as Hawkgirl’s temper and as long as Lex Luthor’s hair.  

Well fear not Legionnaire lovers, Brian Michael Bendis has arrived! And don’t let his bald head scare you because his year-long Rogol Zaar storyline was a massive misdirection toward the formation of the United Planets with a surprise appearance by a new Legion of Superheroes!  That Superman storyline ended with Saturn Girl inviting Superboy to join the Legionnaires in the 31st Century. Jon Kent accepted the invite which leads us to this opening issue.  How is it?  Let’s take a tour!

First off, let me make clear that I enjoyed this issue and I recommend it; especially to new readers with little knowledge of the Legionnaires. You do not need to know anything about LOSH history to get a handle on the 31st century. Bendis has made very clear in interviews that he wants to ‘wow’ readers and push the envelope toward re-imagining this comic book franchise.  He acknowledges that impressing a modern-day science fiction audience is much more difficult than it likely was in 1958. To accomplish this, Bendis has scripted both obvious and subtle details that under Ryan Sook’s artistic talents bring the 31st century to life.

Sook impresses the reader with extraordinary visuals of the larger environments of Planet Gotham, the Sewers of Bludhaven, the United Planets homeworld, and Metropolis; the entire City of which represents Legionnaire headquarters. Interspersed amongst new and rebuilt planetary landscapes are imaginative redesigns of various alien races from Legionnaire lore. Each individual member of the Legionnaires (be they Terran, Durlan, Daxamite, Coluan or Braalian, etc.) uniquely stands out contributing to an impressive collage of teammates when illustrated together. 

The issue opens in the Sewers of Bludhaven with former Rimbor resident Ultra Boy chasing down the demon gangster Mordru, whose attempted theft of an ancient artifact is thwarted with further help from Karate Kid, Wildfire and Starman. The artifact in question symbolizes not only a direct link to a certain 21st-century hero that talks to fish, but also the final necessary ingredient to a newly constructed Earth.   Apparently, despite wondrous achievements in 31st-century technology, the most basic element of all is in short supply. Let’s face it; a new Earth without water is about as pointless as Luthor and Bendis fighting over a comb. 

The various atrocities that the Earth endured that led to its necessary reconstruction were touched upon briefly by Bendis in the two-issue Millennium series. Suffice to say, the Earth was destroyed and the only thing that survived was, apparently a LOT of smiling super-powered teenagers and a schizophrenic immortal named Rose. A fun narrative device is actually integrated into the story in the form of what is referred to (in-story) as Frichtman tags; which are holographic markers that appear behind every citizen. They accomplish two things; Breaking the fourth wall, they reveal to readers who the various characters are; and within the story, they (apparently) help reduce stress for citizens of the United Planets and somehow (according to Imra Ardeen, a.k.a. Saturn Girl) keep people “on the same level intellectually”. Exactly how the Frichtman tags do this is not made clear. 

    What is very clear however is that every character with the exception of Mordru expresses himself/herself in what 21st-century comic readers refer to as “Bendis-speak”. Some critics might be tempted to suggest that Bendis employs the Frichtman tag as a way to justify poor dialogue and uniform verbiage between every Legionnaire.  On the other hand, supporters of Bendis’ narrations can extol his brilliance for providing a novel explanation for repetitive speech patterns in the 31st century.  Regardless, the final verdict will be rendered by a 21st-century readership.    

Overall, I enjoyed this issue.  Despite issues with dialogue, I found myself captivated by this new 31st century and looking forward to the creation of a new Earth.  If I could play script doctor I would have Bendis take a cue from Hickman’s House/Powers of X series and have extra pages added to elaborate further on other aspects and secrets of the 31st century.

Bits and Pieces:

Bendis is literally and figuratively building a new world in this series and I found myself smiling along with the Legionnaires by the time I finished reading this premier issue.  My Frichtman tag says “Comic Boom!” and I approve this comic with a solid...


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