Legion of Super-Heroes #4
Superboy's education in the history of the Legion finally begins!
Jon Kent starts with the founding three: Saturn Girl, whose homeworld lives in a telepathically-connected bubble...
...Lightning Lad, who didn't originally want to be a hero at all, and was living in his sister's shadow...
...and Cosmic Boy, sports superstar!
Little do these three kids know their lives are about to change forever, when they meet Earth President R.J. Brande!
There have been many, many Legion of Super-Heroes reboots and retcons over the decades – probably more than any other long-enduring superhero property – and they all retain certain commonalities: R.J. Brande brings Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, and Cosmic Boy together to do super stuff and Be Good. He has loads of money to throw at his new hobby. The Legion grows. Sometimes there’s Matter-Eater Lad. You get the idea.
What’s most striking about writer Brian Michael Bendis’ revision of the Legion’s origin is how much hasn’t changed, especially in light of how much else has been completely revamped in the author’s wake. Though there’s generally an assassination attempt on R.J. Brande in the mix that brings the kids together and inspires his idea to form the “Super-Heroes Club” (to borrow Silver Age parlance). Brande has always been a benevolent billionaire industrialist, too – though in the Year of Our Lord 2020, it’s probably wise that Bendis sidelined the notion of a billionaire savior. It’s an interesting twist to change Brande into the Earth president, and making him into a her, and making her an alien.
Yet so much else remains achingly familiar. Perhaps too much so. Sure, Cosmic Boy is Asian now, but his backstory is pretty much the same. Saturn Girl’s world thrives on its own telepathy. Lightning Lad is probably the most changed, being fray-adjacent while his sister takes up the initial mantle of hero. The surface elements are different, but the inner substance remains largely the same. There’s an interesting shift in having the Legion brought together initially under the auspices of the United Planets, but further explanation is saved for next issue. It’s eyebrow-raising to say the least that Bendis found so little new to say about these characters.
The narrative itself feels haphazard in its presentation. The stories don’t flow particularly well from one to the next. Despite the fact that this issue is a triptych of origins, it feels as though the story beats are jumping all over the place inelegantly, as though Bendis were checking off boxes rather than focusing on his craft. The presentation is so straightforward it comes off as dull. As much as I hate to admit it, I honestly couldn’t wait to get to the end of this issue.
The art, split between regular series artist Ryan Sook and Bat-expatriate Michael Janin, is well-done at least. Both artists have extremely clean lines that complement each other very well, leading to no major hiccups in story flow due to changing pencillers. No, unfortunately, the story itself does that job just fine on itself. After such an uninspired outing, here’s hoping Bendis can right the ship next month.
Despite some cosmetic changes, Brian Michael Bendis' foray into his new spin on the Legion's origin feels more compulsory than inspired. The art is still great, but a mere four issues in, and this title suddenly feels like it's treading water.
Legion of Super-Heroes #4: Three Kids Walk Into a Super-Hero Club…
Writing - 5/105/10
Storyline - 4/104/10
Art - 8/108/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 7/107/10
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