Legion of Super-Heroes #1
Writer: Paul Levitz
Artist: Francis Portela
Colors: Javier Mena
Letters: Patrick Brosseau
Cover artist: Karl Kerschl
Editor: Chris Conroy
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
As I noted in my review of Legion Lost #1, I’m a longtime Legion fan, so in theory, I should’ve been an easy sell on this book, but nothing’s ever easy, is it? The Legion has probably undergone more reboots than any other DC property, but I have good news for those lamenting having to start over with these characters yet again. This series isn’t a reboot of the Legion. Instead, it’s a continuation of the previous series, as well as the “Legion Academy” feature from the most recent incarnation of Adventure Comics. Writer Paul Levitz seems to pick up pretty much from where he left off. Of course, for those of us who weren’t reading his Legion stories before the New 52 line-wide relaunch at DC Comics, his script is impenetrable. Not only does the script heavily reference previous stories, it even references a story we haven’t seen: the apparent “loss” of the Legionnaires trapped in the past (as per Legion Lost). To make matters worse, the art is incredibly busy and cluttered. I can’t imagine this series will appeal to anyone except the most die-hard Legion completists.
Chameleon Boy leads a recon team to a “watchworld,” a United Planets outpost dedicated to surveil the Dominion, because the government has lost contact with the facility’s staff. It’s not long before the heroes discover the monitoring station is being adapted to other ends, making for a potential breach of the five-year peace that’s existed between the UP and the malevolent Dominion. Meanwhile, back on Earth at Legion headquarters, Legionnaires lament the loss of comrades (trapped in the past, unbeknownst to them), the loss of a planet, and the loss of stability in the team.
Artist Francis Portela boasts a fairly standard super-hero style, and some of the figures remind me of the kind of anatomy, detail and presence Chris (Booster Gold) Batista brings to comic art. Portela’s biggest problem in this issue is his penchant for overdoing the detail, but in the background and foreground. The art is terribly busy, and my eye never seems to want to focus on the proper point in any given panel. The same holds true for some of the character designs, specifically the newer Legionnaires. Not only is Dragonwing’s look kind of ugly, but it’s overdone. There’s no iconic look that says “super-hero” about her. The same holds true for the new Chemical King. Conversely, Comet Queen boasts a sleek, simple look, but her design is almost three decades old. The design work for the new characters leaves a lot to be desired. Portela also missteps with an aspect of the plot. Dragonwing and Chem King are said to be “undercover” on the watchworld as young lovers because they’re so new, they’re not recognizable as Legionnaires. Is that’s the case, why do both of them sport big Legion symbols, identifying them as members of the team?
Even if the art weren’t overwhelming and needlessly detailed, it would be hard to enjoy it when one compared it to the lovely cover art by Karl Kerschl. There’s a lovely, airy look to the figures on Kerschl’s cover, and the style reinforces the sci-fi/alien elements not to mention the youthful energy of the characters. I would’ve loved to see a Legion book illustrated by Kerschl — or any book in the New 52 lineup, for that matter. The logo on the cover is a bit off, unfortunately. While the letter designs and the metallic, gold color captures a sense of the future (in which this story is set), some of the letters are distorted or misshapen. The “N” at the end of “Legion” is particularly odd, looking a bit like “iv and the “Es” and “Rs” don’t quite look right either.
Something called “Oaa,” a planet I believe, is no more. Mon-El no longer has a Green Lantern ring. Apparently, a recent member who wasn’t liked by most of the team (Earth-Man, I assume) is dead. These elements and more turn up in the script, and I honestly don’t know what Levitz and his characters are talking about. This is by far the least accessible of the New 52 titles thus far. Not only does this not read like a first issue, but it doesn’t even read like a second issue. This reads like a 17th issue. Levitz immerses the readership completely in the vision of the 31st century he’s been working on for past year or two, and he’s apparently given no thought to how a new reader could navigate this world.
Like past Legion stories I’ve loved, this comic book boasts a lot of familiar elements. It’s got a huge cast of colorful characters with a diverse array of powers. I love Legion stories in which plans are hatched to make the most of the different abilities in the team’s arsenal. I also love the notion the Legion’s always training new members, and that element turns up here in the form of recent Legion Academy graduates serving on the team. But this comic book ultimately isn’t like the Legion stories I’ve loved in the past, and not just because it’s inaccessible. It’s also missing a vital component. Levitz’s story is guilty of the biggest sin as far as a Legion story goes: it’s just not fun. 4/10
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