The Legion of Super-Heroes is officially back with an all new continuity by Brian Michael Bendis, Ryan Sook, Wade Von Grawbadger, Jordie Bellaire, and Dave Sharpe. These heroes of the 31st century are one of my favorite comic teams, and I’ve been excited about this reboot for a while. Aside from some minor issues, I enjoyed the first issue a lot. With the second issue however, some problems take shape. While I don’t think these are signs the book is destined for failure, there are a few concerning things that hopefully won’t become long term trends.
The most significant issue thus far is the book’s decompression. Many of Bendis’ books at DC have suffered from this issue. While I stated in my review for issue #1 that the first issue did not suffer too much from this problem, issue 2 opens on a fight scene that lasts too long. The Legion go up against a new group of villains called the Horraz who are not very interesting or remarkable. They are very new villains, and it’s possible going forward they will be developed into a great opposing force for the Legion, but as of now they just exist. This fight scene lasts for nearly half of the issue and it just feels unsatisfying and empty.
Despite these problems, this fight scene is very well drawn. Sook, Von Grawbadger, and Bellaire deliver a very kinetic double page spread, and once Aquaman’s trident is properly in use things get wild. Though this scene does have another issue that is art related. Bendis has introduced “Frichtman tags” as in universe labels to explain who is who in the Legion of Super-Heroes. This is a great idea, but like the first issue these tags are not at all visible to the reader. Many of them are backwards, obscured, or otherwise illegible. While this does demonstrate that these tags physically exist in the world of the comic, they do not serve their purpose. With the team being introduced fully formed and with 30 plus members, having these tags clearly visible would be a great way to help new readers remember who everyone is.
Despite these issues, the book still has strong successful moments that prove all the ingredients for a great Legion book are there. Bendis is still a great fit for these characters in terms of his skillset. His dialogue style gives a few Legionnaires a great voice. Brainiac-5 in particular has some hilarious lines this issue. He’s dorky and friendly, and I was happy to see my personal favorite Legionnaire done right. Some backstory is given to Ultra Boy in this new continuity that I found very interesting. As he was the very first Legionnaire to appear on panel, it makes sense he’s the first to get some proper depth. His explanation also introduces some very interesting world building for the planet Rimbor. This entire scene in the Legion’s cafeteria (dubbed “Heaven”) feels like great classic Legion content. There’s even a classic Legion split up, where everyone breaks into teams and heads out on a different adventure. Another small, but important addition is the use of a recap page. I’m personally very strongly for recap pages in comics. They’re a great refresher for those reading month to month, and they help new readers hop on. Bendis has used these recap issues for plenty of great gags and teases in other DC books, and I’m very happy to see them here.
Another highlight of the issue is a scene focused around Rose (a.k.a Thorn). She became immortal and lived the thousand years between the main DCU and the 31st century in the two part Millennium special. Bendis has done a great job with her dialogue. Her entire manner of speaking is totally alien to the 31st century and leads to some great moments. She seems to be taking on the role of Legion liaison to the United Planets, a role similar to Shvaughn Erin for those familiar with other Legion continuities. Her position effectively makes her a Legion advisor with a thousand years of experience. She’s seen the DC Universe from so many different perspectives, and I’m deeply excited to see what part she has to play going forward.
Perhaps the biggest piece of information dealt out here is this continuity’s version of R.J. Brande, who share’s Rose’s scene. In previous continuities, Brande was the billionaire financial backer of the Legion, and it was he who first recommended the Legion be formed. In 2019, this set up becomes somewhat problematic. The world’s richest person has organized and completely paid for the creation of an interplanetary super team. Imagine if Jeff Bezos used his fortune to establish a personal peace keeping force that fought crime around the world. Even if he was not personally overseeing their operation, you have a team that exists purely out of hyper-capitalism. Not to mention the kind of conflict of interest that could arise should this team need to oppose their backer. In this issue, it is revealed that this new R.J Brande is not the financial supporter of the Legion, but now both female and opposing them as President of the United Planets. In past continuities, the Legion has often been at odds with the U.P. President. Removing the Legion’s billionaire backer and folding them into the United Planets is a great choice that simplifies much of the bureaucracy around the Legion and how they operate.
Unfortunately, the issue ends on a scene I can’t help but feel apprehensive about. For those of you paying attention to solicits and covers, you know that Damian Wayne will be guest starring in Legion. Damian is my single favorite comic book character, and the idea of him meeting the Legion is great! However, I question bringing him into the book so early. People have not yet had a chance to get attached to Legion members besides Jon, and there are plenty of Legionnaires with little to no dialogue. Several Legionnaires have had great moments so far, but it’s still only a small slice of the cast. To bring in a guest character like Damian with such a large following so soon could take focus away from the Legionnaires at a point where they need it most. It ultimately remains to be seen what Damian’s appearance will actually be like, it may only be a short cameo, yet I’m still a bit nervous for what’s to come.
I’m still enjoying this Legion book, but I know it can be better. The team is putting out some good content, and I am eager to see what’s next. But so many of these problems can be easily fixed. Legion is a giant franchise with so many characters, and it’s definitely something where things take time to get going. The decompression worries me a bit, but my hope is that now that the team is broken into smaller groups, individual characters can get more focus.