Legion of Super-Heroes #1
Jon Kent, the one and only SUPERBOY, has formally accepted membership to the 31st century’s own LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES! What does it mean for the son of Superman? Can he adapt to the strange world of the future? What’s become of Metropolis, or for that matter, Earth? And who or what are the maniacal Horraz, and what tie do they have to a classic Legion villain – or an artifact from the modern-day age of heroes?!
Like it or not, sports fans, Brian Michael Bendis’ Legion of Super-Heroes is here – and although not quite a home run, it’s a solid – and solidly fun – return. More than anything else, readers’ enjoyment of this issue will probably be determined by whether or not they enjoy the writer’s particular style and rat-a-tat-tat, quippy dialogue.
Bendis’ strength and weakness as a writer has long been his dialogue. Early on, it was unique, different – Mamet-esque in its construction, or perhaps an homage to Aaron Sorkin. The problem is, Bendis doesn’t seem to be able to pivot away from it as necessary, and often feels the need to give every character a voice – whether they have anything meaningful to say or not. The result is dialogue that feels hollow and interchangeable, a problem that compounds when he writes a team book. The determination as to what makes a solid Bendis book often hinges on whether or not he gets out of his own way in this regard, and gives his characters room to breathe and be themselves versus cramming as much dialogue in as humanly possible. (Side note: I often feel sorry for his letterers, who have to find creative ways to weave the word balloons around the art and still make it readable.)
So how does Bendis fit on the ultimate team book? The Legion of Super-Heroes’ hallmark has long been its hyper-inflated membership (for perspective, in the past they’ve found themselves in a state close to panic when their numbers dip below twenty). What, then, does the master of banter do with that? Simple: he focuses on a Superboy and a few other key characters, then keeps everyone else in the background providing foley dialogue. In effect this move directs the reader to be cognizant of the entire crowd, without deviating too much from Jon’s perspective as the POV character.
The problem is, the plot doesn’t give the author much to work with other than setting the stage for this new(est) Legion’s world. Jon is understandably overwhelmed, and his vantage point is also the reader’s – but it doesn’t afford any opportunity to get to know any of the Legionnaires on a personal level. Instead, Bendis opts for an en masse approach, and for what it’s worth, it works. The Legion moves and acts not unlike a group of starstruck fanboys in Superboy’s presence, creating a group identity that, for all their power, they are in fact kids and just as susceptible to geeking out as anyone else. At the end of the day, their collective joy becomes the reader’s as Jon takes in his brave new world.
The plot, though, is unfortunately fairly thin. Strip away Superboy’s introduction to the 31st century, the actual plot is pretty weak. It involves a theft, an ancient artifact, a gang of villains trying to recover it – and the all-too-brief reintroduction of a classic Legion foe, redesigned in such a way that old-school fans would never recognize him. To use that villain to bolster a theme – it’s very probable this Legion wasn’t designed with older fans in mind. There’s some fan service-y bits in that regard, but otherwise, everything old is new again.
Fortunately, the art more than picks up the slack of any plot or dialogue deficiencies. Ryan Sook (smoothly inked by Wade von Grawbadger and colored by the always-awesome Jordie Bellaire) absolutely crushes it here. No line is wasted. Everything has a smooth, sleek and unified look as if to say The future is NOW. The redesigns of the Legion are too cool for words, wringing new 2019 love for some dated designs. Heck, even Chameleon Boy – ever the poster boy for Atomic Age kitschy aliens – looks new and bold. The double-page spreads are poster-worthy at every turn, and the shot of New Earth from space is frankly breathtaking. Even the grumpiest anti-Bendis fan would have to be dead inside not to love this comic for the art alone.
Although the characterization falls short (but predictably in Bendis’ comfort zone) and the plot is pretty thin, it’s hard not to fall in love with Jon Kent’s first trip to the 31st century. The art alone is worth the trip, but there’s nothing at all present to bar a return trip for future issues.
Legion of Super-Heroes #1: Welcome to the 31st Century!
- Writing - 7/107/10
- Storyline - 5/105/10
- Art - 9/109/10
- Color - 9/109/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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