Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

A New 52 Review: Legion Lost #1

Posted by Don MacPherson on September 15th, 2011

Legion Lost #1
“Run From Tomorrow, Part One: Present Tense”
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist/Cover artist: Pete Woods
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Travis Lanham
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I’m a longtime Legion of Super-Heroes fan and have been ever since I first discovered the property in DC reprint digests in the late 1970s or early ’80s. I’ve always found the large cast of characters and their diversity — both in terms of culture, attitude and powers — to be fun and interesting. I’m not a fanatical fan, though — I’m no completist and have passed on big runs of Legion titles, such as adult-Legion Giffen run and the more recent Jim Shooter-penned stint. I’m a discerning Legion fan, and after reading Legion Lost #1, I think it’s safe to say I’ll be sticking with this title for a little while. Nevertheless, I don’t think this was a particularly strong entry in DC’s New 52 line, as it fails in one of the publisher’s stated goals of appealing to a wider audience. Readers familiar with these characters will likely enjoy the book, but Nicieza’s script doesn’t offer as complete an introduction to the characters and the Legion concept as it should. Furthermore, unlike most of the New 52 titles, this one seems strongly linked to previous DC continuity, and the characters might even be aware of the meta-fictional shift in the DC Universe.

A Legion of Super-Heroes team consisting of Tyroc, Wildfire, Dawnstar, Timber Wolf, Tellus, Gates and Chameleon Girl pursues a criminal into the past, making a rough “landing” in the 21st century thanks to a barrier in the time stream. More than a day behind the fugitive, the Legionnaires desperately need to find him before he spreads a plague that will devastate mankind. Unfortunately, technology upon which the heroes have come rely on at “home” in the 31st century isn’t working properly in the 21st century, and some members of the team have fallen ill upon their arrival, apparently due to environmental conditions. Things aren’t going well, and they’re about to get a whole lot worse…

Pete Woods boasts a clean, bright and detailed super-hero genre style that’s quite attractive, and he’s been one of DC’s most reliable talents for several years. He handles these characters well, and he brings the same kind of detail and a slight edge that artist Gary Frank did when he illustrated Geoff Johns’ “Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes” story arc from Action Comics a couple of years ago. I did have a couple of qualms with the art, though. While I loved the visual of the shapeshifting Chameleon Girl “melting” upon her arrival in the past, the incorporation of a tight, leather mini-skirt as part of her super-hero uniform is ludicrous. Furthermore, Alastor, the villain of the story, is incredibly generic in appearance; the demonic design is uninteresting.

Not only is the villain generic in appearance, but he’s generic in concept as well. All we know about him is he hulks own and hates humanity. The name is meaningless, and the character just doesn’t have the weight to serve as a catalyst for a new series or major story arc. I also found Nicieza’s plot pushed the envelope too far in terms of violence. While I don’t think this should reflect the soft, gentler qualities of the original Silver Age Legion stories, too much death detracts from the color and fun of the Legion. Not only do we see two police officers get squished in this first issue, but an entire hospital full of innocents is apparently blown up as well.

While I had a number of problems with the writing, overall, I’m still quite interested to see what comes next. One reason was how Nicieza touches on environmental issues, demonstrating how the present is toxic to some of the heroes from the future. Furthermore, he doesn’t portray the protagonists as clueless. They know exactly what’s wrong and why, but the tech they count on to adapt to the conditions is malfunctioning. Furthermore, taking all that future technology — flight rings, transuits, etc. — out of the equation is a smart move, as it could’ve provided too many far-too-convenient plot devices to resolve conflicts. It forces the characters to adapt to their circumstances, and I look forward to the conflicts and small successes that ought to arise in the story as a result.

I pity the reader who’s new to the Legion and who tries to delve into this comic book (at least without the benefit of Wikipedia or the like). Nicieza’s script doesn’t tell the audience what the Legion is all about. It doesn’t explain why some of the members are so alien in appearance. It doesn’t explain Tyroc’s powers. All we really get to know about these heroes is that Timber Wolf is impulsive, tough and brash. While I didn’t need those introductions, others likely would.

While this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a story about Legionnaires being trapped in the present, the premise is a strong one and hasn’t been overused. Furthermore, I like the lineup Nicieza and DC have opted for here, as it includes some of my favorite Legion characters, such as Wildfire and Gates. I think Nicieza and his editors’ biggest misstep is they’ve really delivered a second issue instead of the first. Beginning the story in the 31st century at the beginning of the mission would’ve made for a more accessible plot and a less frenetic atmosphere in which to set the stage. 6/10

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