The Legion of Super-Heroes look good, and a definitive writer has returned. They're in the midst of facing their most antipodal foes, a legion of villains as evil as they are good. Subplots have returned, with story arcs underway alongside the framing battle, interesting ones involving Starman, Mon-El, Dawnstar, XS, Shadow Lass and the team's most controversial new member, the racist and murderous Earth-Man.
So why isn't this more fun? I'm buying (and will continue to buy) both this book and Adventure Comics, which has wisely decided to focus on the Legion Academy, with only those trademark Levitzian subplots tying it to the main Legion book book, but so far some essential, elusive spark has been missing.
I know this revival was designed by Geoff Johns to capture all that was best about the original Legionnaires while updating them for current readers with themes of dystopia, racism and violence. Levitz couldn't have asked for a better preparation for his own brand of storytelling, a kind fate that didn't befall Jim Shooter, who had to cope with an ersatz version of the team strangely bereft of its usual continuity in his most recent abortive run.
I even know why we can't have lots of touchy-feely moments right now, as we're seeing a team in dire straits and under siege. Levitz is great at building on the darkness Johns instilled into his version; he's clearly writing a team of seasoned, experienced warriors who are confident in their abilities and their track records and capable of making harsh battlefield decisions. It's just that his stories were also once characterized by a fair amount of soap opera, and it's that softer side of the team we haven't had much time for lately. It's rather telling when your most charismatic and fun-loving character is Quislet, a faceless energy alien who possesses inanimate matter.
He and other Legionnaires are dealing with the super-villains' decimation of Braniac 5's world, Colu. Quislet, Polar Boy and Shadow Lass face Sun-Killer (naturally enough), and interestingly Tasmia leaves it up to Brek to counter their powerful but rash foe's abilities. Instead she takes him down with a direct physical attack. Her warrior nature (she competed to inherit her powers of darkness) explains her ill-considered affair with Earth-Man as well; strength attracting strength, and over-riding morality.
Earth-Man may be reviled, and the hardest fit with the Legion of yore -- though they've accepted killers into their ranks before, there were almost always mitigating circumstances that trumped the technicalities of causing deaths; not so with Earth-Man's history of racist violence -- but he's been a memorable catalyst to story thus far.
This issue he gets the best sequence, as Hunter (a Kraven type) steals a moment alone with him by casually knocking out Timber Wolf (a Wolverine type) with a boomerang to make him a tempting offer from the other side. Cinar captures Hunter's safari-killer vibe, all animal pelts and flowing red hair, while leaving us doubtful as to what Earth-Man's decision will be.
Elsewhere, however, it's clear that Cinar's approach to the characters is still evolving, so they don't always look consistent from issue to issue. He's yet another example of a new artist learning the ropes on the Legion, and while we've uncovered some stellar talent that way in years past, I for one would be happy to see an experienced talent like Chris Batista return to the fold.
There's a lot of potential here, but hopefully the consistently grim tone will be offset by a little light before too long. The Legion shouldn't just be an army: but also a family.
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