When I first learned that Jim Shooter was taking over the writing chores on Legion of Super-Heroes, I was as near to ecstatic as I’m capable of getting. The Legion of Super-Heroes has been a favorite of mine since I was six years old (when Shooter was the fourteen-year-old wonder kid who was writing their adventures in . . . well, Adventure Comics, where else?).
Over the years, my favorite Legion stories have been those written by Shooter, Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen, Tom and Mary Bierbaum, and Mark Waid (during his first stint). After its first three years, I had not enjoyed this current iteration of the Legion as much as I had hoped I would. However, I was sure Shooter would return the team to its former glory.
Initially, Shooter’s third tenure with the team looked promising. However, now that we’re eleven issues into it, I’m no longer hopeful that this series can be saved. In fact, I just learned while writing this review that the rumors that have been circulating on the Internet for several weeks are correct--the series will conclude after four more issues when it reaches the 50th issue marker.
Back in May of this year, an unsubstantiated rumor was that Jim Shooter failed to make an appearance at the Bristol Comics Convention in the U.K. because he had resigned from Legion of Super-Heroes due to his original plans for the series having been “trampled on” by what Geoff Johns had planned for Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds. I have no idea if Shooter did actually leave the series back then or not. If he did, the follow-up rumor was that he was talked into coming back to finish out the string.
I also don’t know if the story Shooter has been telling in these last few issues is substantially altered from what he originally had in mind due to what Johns is doing in Legion of Three Worlds. What I do know, though, is that the series has been lacking energy for a few issues now--or maybe my own reading of the last few issues have been affected by the rumors about the impending demise of the series.
The plot still has plenty of dynamic potential--and some of that dynamism still comes out. After all, “foreign invaders from outside the galaxy” are attacking in “cosmic” ways. That’s a very energetic concept.
For instance, in the previous issue, the invaders inexplicably transported a Saturn-sized planet into the Sol System. Its presence destabilized the orbits of all of Sol’s planets, which would have destroyed Earth and all of the human colonies in the solar system had Brainiac Five not found a means to overcome its effect.
Brainiac Five’s solution (also in the previous issue) was based on plausible-sounding pseudo-science as he manipulated the powers of Star Boy and Light Lass to affect the quantum fields (or something like that). All I really ask of these types of stories is that the pseudo-science in them sound plausible, and Shooter’s work on this series has mostly achieved that requirement.
There’s also the dynamic potential of the four-sided soap opera of Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Ultra Boy, and the female president of the United Planets. It, too, has the potential of plenty of intrigue that should be energizing this series--but it’s not.
I can’t point to anything specific in Shooter’s dialog or scripts that is not capitalizing on the potential of the plots--other than it just seems as if he’s writing to finish out a story without expanding on an initial outline for what he had planned. Additionally, Francis Manapul’s work has been competent-but-flat.
Even though Shooter had Brainiac Five, Star Boy, and Light Lass all statically seated in chairs (and hooked up to machinery) as they worked to manipulate the gravitational forces in the solar system to create stability, the images didn’t need to be non-dynamic. However, Manapul brought nothing to that static use of powers beyond a flat depiction of the event.
Energy drains from whatever is near death--though their may be a final spark of life just before the fatal moment. Thus, I’ll finish out this dying series to its end with the hope that it is able to flash out in a blaze of memorable and energetic storytelling glory rather than fade away slowly, which is what it seems to be doing.
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