Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Legion of Super-Heroes #4 Review


Let's Get Oriented

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Ryan Sook
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: February 19, 2020

The cover to Legion of Super-Heroes #4 says it all: “The Secret Origin of the Legion revealed!”  Readers who have stuck with this series so far can only hope that Superboy finally attends that orientation on the 31st Century!  Does Superboy finally clue himself in on the future? Do we actually get a team origin in this comic?  Let’s find out.



The opening page introduces us to Luornu Durgo (a.k.a. Triplicate Girl) who strongly implies that the central purpose of this issue is to reveal to Superboy the real reason he was brought to the 31st Century. You can imagine my shock when I got to the end of this floppy and discovered that no such revelation was disclosed. (Insert sarcasm emoji here). Having said this, writer Brian Bendis did finally script an origin tale of the Legion.  As a long time Legion reader, I was relieved that there was no significant deviation from the classic origin of this diverse futuristic team. It is still R.J. Brande who sets about forming the Legion in response to the social and political turmoil in the galaxy. The only slight differences are that R.J. Brand is not merely a trillionaire, but (1) a non-human alien; (2) the President of the United Planets; and (3) instead of Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad saving RJ. Brande’s life as a formative event to the creation of the Legion, the rescue takes place during the founding trio’s first meeting. 




Bendis does a reasonably good job conveying the various quirks, nuances and social issues facing the planets of Titan (homeworld of Saturn Girl), Winath (homeworld of Lightning Lad) and Braal (homeworld of Cosmic boy) **Thanks to Houman for the correction**. In a single issue, the reader will understand the motivations and the background to these three core founding members of the Legion.  What I found particularly intriguing was Saturn Girls backstory. Apparently, she is one of the first to leave the telepathic collective of Titan. Titanians, it turns out, rarely interact directly with the physical world and the ‘collective’ is quite surprised to learn of Imra (Saturn Girl) being invited to join a mentorship on Daxam (sponsored by the United Planets).

Superboy discovers all of this (and more) during his 31st Century orientation in which he is mentally connected to a “category-nine-humanoid-biological” entity called ‘Computo’. Computo manages to facilitate a virtual reality experience for Jon Kent allowing him (and by natural extension, us readers) to peer into the seminal events that lay at the foundation of Legion lore.  Unfortunately, the page count is not long enough for Superboy to complete the orientation. Bendis continues to push events forward extraordinarily quickly in this series.  The reader is usually greeted with extensive dialogue (often superfluous) until finally something of substance is addressed, only to have a potential plot point forcibly sidelined by inconvenient attacks or more irrelevant conversations. At best, it could be seen as frenetic pacing; at worst, disorganized plotting.  Judgments will vary based on the degree in which readers remain patient and console themselves with past familiarity with this team. 




Notwithstanding the chaotic pace of the story, there are hints at future character and plot developments. Garth Ranzz’s (Lightning Lad’s) sister, Ayla refuses the invitation to join the Legion (given her more hardline political stance against the United Planet’s ‘Science Police’) and I suspect that we will see her as a future villain. Meanwhile, Rokk Krinn’s (Cosmic Boy’s) unique magnetic powers are highlighted in their rarity as only one percent of Rimbor’s inhabitants possess the ability.



    
Popular former Batman artist, Mikal Janin joins Ryan Sook in contributing to the stunning visuals in this issue. Sook renders the pages with Jon Kent receiving the ‘computo’ hosted orientation while the first meeting between Rokk, Imra and Garth are penciled by Janin, whose talent at rendering clear, crisp lines gives life to the personal interactions of the characters that could otherwise prove forgettable with a different artist.

The central plotline has not changed. The Legion’s priority is protecting and nurturing New Earth, whether that involves somehow getting ‘water’ to fill its as yet non-existent oceans or protecting it from nefarious forces like the Mordru-led Horraz.  Put bluntly, Bendis has a history of mixed results on his longer narratives.

Bits and Pieces:

There is a great story here but my fear is that its potential will escape Bendis, much like Aquaman’s trident abruptly escapes the possession of the Legion at the end of this issue - (interrupting both Superboy’s orientation and the reader’s welcomed enlightenment on the backstory of this beloved team).  Given how much time was focused on the first three issues on acquiring the trident, having it stolen back by unknown forces off-panel is frustrating, to say the least. Nonetheless, “Long Live the Legion”.  My Frichtman tag says “Comic Boom” and I award this issue a: 


6.5/10
        

3 comments:

Houman said...

Isn't Cosmic Boy from Braal?

Jeremy Daw said...

He'd better be! 😀

Mule said...

LOl, Yes Cosmic Boy is from Braal. It was an error on my part. I am Comic Boom and I go by "Mule" in this response. Lol. Ultra Boy is from Rimbor. My error. Thanks for the catch.