Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Legion of Super-Heroes #5 Review

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Ryan Sook, Scott Godlewski, Wade Von Grawbadger, Jordie Bellaire and Dave Sharpe
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: March 25, 2020

If you are properly isolated in these pandemic times and miss the sublime sound of numerous troglodytes hovering around you uttering nonsense then this comic will make you feel much better. The number of legionnaires that grace each scene contributing nothing of substance toward plot or character growth is a genuine wonder to behold. How is this possible you ask? Let’s find out. 

Superboy’s orientation of the 31st Century was interrupted the last issue by the Legionnaire headquarters being “locked down” by the science police by order of Madame President Brande of the United Planets. Don’t worry; there is no coronavirus in the future wreaking havoc on this series. There is, however, something considerably less microscopic and lethal taking its toll on the narrative; Poor story structure and mishandling of potentially interesting plot points. It is obvious at this 5th issue juncture that the choice of writer, Brian Bendis to start issue one in the middle of a plotline and subsequently proceed to fill in the blanks is not working. We know precious little more now than we did at the end of issue one. 

The Earth requires Aquaman’s Trident to bring back water to Earth. The Legion acquired the Trident, had it stolen, and then by the end of this issue are off to look for it again. Superboy finally finishes the orientation that began last issue. There is only one major problem. It is not really an ‘orientation’. It tells us nothing about the future. Instead, it’s an origin story. The founding of the Legion could simply have been immediately told to Jon Kent in one simple sentence: “Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad saved the life of Madame President Brande and she decided to create a Legion of Superheroes to (1) help protect the universe and (2) for her own political motives as yet unrevealed.” That’s it. That’s what two issues of orientation have revealed. And it’s pretty much the same origin as every incarnation of the Legion.

There is at least one thing interesting about this issue, albeit in all the wrong ways. In her pitch to form the Legion of Super-Heroes, Madame President Brande reveals that her inspiration comes from the present-day Justice League and Teen Titans. The images that the company her reference are those of Grant Morrison’s JLA and Marv Wolfman and George Perez’ Teen Titans. Readers are open to speculate what that may say about DC continuity in the context of this series and possibly get excited about what lies ahead.

Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, and Lightning Lad recruit Brainiac-5 to the team. He reveals that his newly attained 12th level intellect has discovered that the past is still vulnerable to potential destruction despite it having already happened. ‘Time’ is apparently not a straight line but a concept. apparently, the only way to protect the past and the future is to pluck Jon Kent from the 21st century and prepare him for what is to come. What exactly is to come? Brainiac-5 himself does not seem to know. He doesn’t even know what they are specifically supposed to prepare the “one true Superman” for. He states only that “we’ll know when we know”. In other words, DC editorial does not have a clue what is going on and it doesn’t seem to bother them the writer of this series doesn’t either. 

Paradoxically, I admit to being curious as to how the Legionnaire timeline will ultimately interact with the integrity of the 21st-century era. Regardless of my issues with the structure of this narrative and snail-paced plot progression, the art continues to impress me. Even with three different artists in this issue, the clear, crisp character designs and different settings are sharply rendered; holding the eye and combining nicely with Jordie Bellaire’s colors. Ryan Sook, Scott Godlewski, and Wade Von Grawbadger make up an impressive trifecta of visual talent.

Bits and Pieces:

I’m not sure why there continue to be so many delays on this title, but the plot points hinted at in this plodding 31st Century tale suggest that modern-day editorial chaos at DC comics is the true villain that must be defeated. A minor gripe that bothers me more than I care to admit is the reference to Jon Kent as the “One True Superman”. The elevation of Superboy’s importance given his established history of stunted emotional development (i.e. trapped in a volcano for 7 years on Earth 3) does not fit into the mold of “One True Superman” that Bendis is forcing him into.


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