Legion of Super-Heroes #2
Jon Kent (a.k.a. Superboy) hasn't been in the 31st century for more than five minutes, when he finds himself hip-deep in shenanigans! The terrorist Horroz are on the attack, trying desperately to get their hands on Aquaman's trident and the untold power it possesses!
Superboy uses the trident and unintentionally ends the skirmish with a quickness...
Meanwhile, Rose Forrest (half of Rose & Thorn fame) begins acting in her role as sorta-official Legion liaison to the United Planets by holding a meeting with New Earth's president. She isn't a fan of the Legion, and even less of time travel...
It’s very possible this comic should have actually been titled Brian Michael Bendis presents the Legion of Super-Heroes, because it reads a heck of a lot more like a stereotypical Bendis comic than any sort of Legion comic fans will be familiar with. In a way, that’s a backhanded compliment – Bendis, as a writer, as a unique style that he sticks to (or at least very, very seldom strays from) and then applies that style to whatever book he’s writing, regardless as to whether or not it’s tonally appropriate. It becomes more apparent in team comics, where he feels the unceasing need to fill as much space as humanly possible with indistinguishable word balloons bloated with chatty, unimportant exposition. He did it in Avengers, he did it in Guardians of the Galaxy, and now, he’s doing it in Legion of Super-Heroes. With the Legion’s – well, legion of characters, though, he now has perhaps the ne plus ultra of palettes from which to have a thousand talking heads yip-yapping all at once.
Which means, in a nutshell, Legion of Super-Heroes may be the most Bendis-y Bendis comic ever produced.
Some vaguely-defined stuff happens: there’s a band of mercenary-terrorists in the employ of stalwart Legion foe Mordru running around spouting stereotypical bad guy dialogue; there’s Aquaman’s trident, which evidently over the centuries has accrued some sort of archetypal super-power; there’s some political intrigue involving the New Earth president followed by an out-of-nowhere focus on Ultra Boy’s father (which is so poorly explained I had to read the scene a second time to make sure I hadn’t missed a reason as to why we were talking about him all of a sudden), whom the team apparently has to go visit over a nominally-explained matter of diplomacy. None of these plot aspects are particularly well-defined; they’re all sort of just background noise while the kids in the Legion walk around in a huge wadge of limbs yapping inanely and indistinguishably. Instead of feeling like any of these plot points are moving forward, though, they sort of just languish there, gaining no real forward momentum. By the time readers get to the end of the comic, a guest-star is set up for next issue because… reasons. Whatever the case, the last thing this book needs is another voice in the room taking up all the oxygen.
The thing is, all of this could have worked so much better if Bendis had maintained the Jon’s perspective from issue one. There, the scope and excess and general strangeness of the 31st century was viewed through Jon’s perspective. All the Chatty Kathys made sense in that context because, in his state of mind, all their voices were background noise anyway as he struggled to adapt to the strange, alien future. But here, Jon’s perspective is mostly squandered, and instead we’re left wondering just why we should care about any of this.
The writing’s shortcomings are made up for immensely by Ryan Sook’s fantastic art. This man can draw. Bendis isn’t shy about giving him time to shine, either: there are multiple two-page spreads and double-splash pages throughout, and while the sheer number of these may feel a little bit like the book is padded out (because it is), there’s no denying the sheer visual impact of the imagery. Jordie Bellaire, whose coloring praises are so often sung it’s become almost an afterthought to discuss her massive talent at this point, is shining even for her. There isn’t a single panel that doesn’t pop right off the page, begging to be pondered and perused and studied. The future looks every bit as bright as it should.
In the final analysis, Legion of Super-Heroes #2 is a gorgeous, visually sumptuous book with some of the most eye-popping art on the racks today. But that can't disguise the fact that there are some serious fundamental issues beneath that shiny hood. Bendis needs to choose whether or not this is a Legion book or a Legion book told from Superboy's perspective. Trying to have it both ways, and filling the chasm between the two perspectives with vapid filler dialogue, is going to sink what should be a major book and reduce it to being "just another Bendis comic."
Legion of Super-Heroes #2: Talking Heads
Writing - 4/104/10
Storyline - 5/105/10
Art - 10/1010/10
Color - 10/1010/10
Cover Art - 9/109/10
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