Adventure Comics #523
Writer: Paul Levitz
Pencils/Cover artist: Phil Jimenez
Inks: Andy Lanning
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 U.S.
I absolutely love the fact that DC has turned its revived Adventure Comics title into a Legion of Super-Heroes vehicle again. While I wasn’t around when the Legion first graced the title’s pages in the 1960s, I did read a lot of reprints of those stories in various DC digests in the 1980s — many of them the Adventure digests, in fact. Longtime Legion writer Paul Levitz didn’t really draw me in with his efforts on this book last year, but again, I liked that he focused on the Silver Age incarnations of the Legion characters. This new direction — featuring the students at the “Legion Academy” — is a nice fresh start; I’m guessing DC hoped the combination of a new Legion-related feature and the arrival of a popular artist on the book would drive up sales. Unfortunately, the cast of new characters to which the audience is introduced isn’t all that enjoyable, and while the meticulous detail that Phil Jimenez brings to his work is usually quite impressive, here, it overwhelms the eye.
Night Girl, Duo Damsel, Bouncing Boy and other Legionnaires prepare to train a new batch of recruits for the new Legion Academy, and this collection of super-powered youths boasts a diverse array of impressive abilities. What they lack, however, is discipline. The naive young sorceress Glorith is dragged by her more self-indulgent classmates for a night on the town, and a couple of these new academy recruits are more than willing to bend the rules in the name of a good time. Upon discovery of the students’ late night out, the faculty decides to teach them a lesson.
Visually, there’s not enough focus on the characters in these pages. For a couple of them (notably Chemical Kid and Dragonwing), it’s difficult to discern their full designs, Jimenez’s focus seems to be on the sci-fi backdrops in which the characters find themselves. The Sorcerers’ World looks lovely, sure, and the complexity of the Montawk marketplace is rendered in minute detail. But in an issue in which I’m being introduced to most of the characters for the first time, I need to know who they are more than where. Furthermore, other than the wide-eyed, innocent Glorith, all of the female characters sport an angular look that makes them seem a bit sinister. They all look like villains, even Night Girl and Duo Damsel.
I continue to appreciate the identifying captions, an approach that’s been in place for DC’s Legion comics for some time now. They’re not too obtrusive, and it succinctly identify who the many characters are and what they can do. The font, however, used to convey Glorith’s magical correspondence with her unseen friend boasts too technological a look. It fails to convey any sense of mysticism, or of the emotions driving the character to “write” in the first place.
Though this story is set a millennium in the future, it really reads like history — namely, the 1980s. The Legion of Super-Heroes was at its zenith of popularity in that decade, and much of the credit goes to Levitz’s plotting and characterization. But as I read this book, I felt like I was reading one of those ’80s comics — not one like those comics, but actually one of those comics. Comet Queen, Lamprey and Power Boy are still here, and Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy are still trainers. Many of the costumes scream the ’80s. I don’t mind if Levitz continues the stories he told back then, but I didn’t get any sense of forward movement with this issue.
So, there was this comic book, see? About these young super-hero types that some older super-heroes need to take in hand and guide down the right path. Think you’re reading Avengers Academy? Nope, surprise! It’s Adventure Comics featuring the Legion Academy. The similarities are definitely there. It wouldn’t be an issue for anyone who hasn’t read that Marvel title, but for readers of both, this premise doesn’t seem to offer much that Avengers Academy hasn’t for several months already.
Nevertheless, I have a soft spot for the Legion, so this book has that going for it. But even with that nostalgic connection, I wasn’t drawn in here. The reason: most of these young Legionnaires-to-be aren’t all that likeable. Chemical Kid and Dragonwing act almost like villains, and their entitled attitudes just don’t make for fun reading. And while Glorith seems like a pure soul, she’s so naive and uninformed about the world that she’s entered, it seems incredibly irresponsible for the adults who guide her to have sent her off without some kind of education. 4/10
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