Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1 Review


Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Scott Godlewski
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: January 11, 2022

Arguably, one of the most iconic and beloved stories in the DC Comics echelon of evergreen collections is the Great Darkness Saga of the Legion of Super-heroes. Despite the numerous iterations of the Legion over the last 40 years, the one thing that most collectors can agree on is that the classic Paul Levitz tale where the Legion battled a future resurrected Darkseid represents a high watermark in Legion lore. Given this reality, it is with a high degree of hope and anticipation that any new series that pits the future Legion of Super-heroes against the present-day Justice League as they battle a “Great Darkness” is going to get some attention. 

 Writer Brian Bendis revisits the Legion following an almost year-long hiatus after roughly 12 issues that introduced readers to the future team. The Legion of Super-heroes is headquartered on a newly constructed Earth as they struggle to maintain order in a galaxy poorly governed by disparate members of a millennia-old United Planets, (originally inspired by Jon Kent following the defeat of Rogol Zaar in the pages of Bendis’ much-maligned Superman run that not only eliminated the Super Sons from mainstream continuity but established Superboy (and not Superman), as the inspiration for the heroes of the 31st Century).

Bendis is not very good at scripting large casts of characters as his propensity for superfluous dialogue often takes readers out of the story and drowns out whatever plot point he’s trying to establish. Sadly, this opening issue has all of the hallmarks of what critics occasionally refer to as “Bendisms” potentially hurting what could be an otherwise interesting tale.  Perhaps due to a desire to appeal to new readers, the plot rides the edges of over-simplicity.  During a battle in the future between the Legion (and an unidentified space creature) the three personas of Triplicate Girl ( Luornu Durgo) are all traumatized when one of them is sucked into a dark void and displaced into the present-day DCU. Conveniently, Luorno happens to stumble upon the Justice League where she identifies herself as a member of the LSH, and Jon Kent is called upon to time travel to the future and let his former teammates know of her whereabouts.  Concurrent with these events, Wonder Woman (Diana) manages to avoid being sucked into a similar mysterious black void during a battle against some familiar but irrelevant super-villain team. Fortunately, we have Green Arrow present to inform readers that although we were never shown the battle, it was the best JL performance ever. It’s a pity, I would have loved to have seen artist Scott Godlewski show off more of his talents.  

For reasons that are never explained, instead of having Jon Kent simply deliver the ‘one-third-Durgo’ back to the future, the entire cast of the Legion of Super-heroes decides to visit the Justice League. A massive cocktail party results with talking heads everywhere where multiple characters engage in dialogue that serves no purpose other than furthering the danger of changing the past and violating United Planet protocol against time travel. The most interesting aspects of the issue have to do with the impact that the black void had on Triplicate Girl. The experience prematurely aged the ‘one-third aspect’ of Dormu such that any resultant merging with her other ‘two-thirds’ would result in the ‘whole’ of her being ‘aged-up’ to the average age of all of them. 

 It is impossible to ignore the irony that has received quite a bit of slack for aging-up Jon Kent from a 10 to a 17-year-old (with no character in the DCU appearing to care, including Jon’s own parents), Bendis clearly relishes bringing two of DC’s most iconic super-teams together to prevent the premature aging of Triplicate Girl!  (Maybe the future Legion saw how bad it worked out for Jon Kent and don’t want a repeat performance on one of their own?  Just sayin’.) 

But hey, what about the Great Darkness?  And when will the Justice League and Legion of Super-heroes fight each other? The title implies a battle between the two teams, not a cocktail party with yapping heads highlighted by Naomi telling every Legion character she encounters that she’s “new”. 

Artist Scott Godlewski does a great job with the page layouts and every character is easily identifiable and crisply illustrated. I think that the colors are somewhat bland and muted in parts but it does not detract from the narrative. Accordingly, this opening issue will visually capture the reader’s attention and combined with the fact that it is new reader friendly may result in some positive word of mouth. 

Oh my God, I forgot to mention Gold Lantern. How could I forget him? He’s like the only ring-bearer left in the 31st Century! Legion fans have been curious as to what catastrophic event happened in the future that resulted in the extinction of the Green Lantern Corp and the switch to a new color on the spectrum represented by only one character. Perhaps Bendis will answer some of these questions; along with how exactly the Great Darkness plays a role in this cross-over between arguably DC’s two most iconic teams. I note with an air of sarcasm that the saving grace of the issue is that the super-hero cocktail party ends abruptly with everybody being sucked away as a clueless Gold Lantern stands alone in the Hall of Justice pretending he has an IQ higher than the number ascribed to his favorite color on the periodic table. (It’s 79 in case you’re wondering). 

Bits and Pieces:

The “Great Darkness” that underscores the narrative in this opening issue is the same threat currently being confronted by the Justice League: Incarnate. It will presumably lead into DC’s rumored summer event this year. Here’s hoping that this battle between mainstream Justice League and the Legion of Super-heroes adds to the excitement of that coming event or, at least provide some new information on a Legion that has thus far failed to successfully build an audience as passionate as it was 40 years ago when, in 1982, Paul Levitz crafted a Darkseid centered story that would become the metric upon which almost every Legion of Super-hero story told since is measured.


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