I’ve always been intrigued by the Legionnaires. So I thought that this relaunch — a fresh #1 — was the perfect place for me to jump on board and give them a try. That’s the whole point, right?
According to this issue, that is very much not the point. As someone unfamiliar with the Legionnaires, I have no earthly idea what is going on in this comic book.
I counted no less than 16 “main characters” (i.e. a Legionnaire that spoke and was given a “name and information tag”). That is a lot of damn characters for a 20 page comic book. And really, there are another seven characters, plus a whole slew of nameless faceless bad guys in the book. Worse than that, what the Legionnaires are doing is not clearly explained. I know they’re on an investigative mission, but I don’t know why. What are the stakes? Who is involved? Why do we care? Worse, as I continued reading it became clear that the characters were already embroiled in some ongoing clearly not relaunched storyline that isn’t explained but is constantly alluded to. So now I’m lost on characters, and lost on plot. Things are not going well.
There are references made to things that aren’t explained. What’s a Daxamite? And why are we afraid of it? While we’re at it, what is “The dominators’ empire”? How about “lifeslips”? Who was Ooa? Who was Niedrigh? What’s the “time lab” and why do some characters want to be there? I’m not an unreasonable person. I don’t need everything laid out for me in a single comic book. But being at sea and then also not having answers to any of these little questions was just too much.
So what can I address about the comic itself, independent of being a lost reader? Well, the art was lovely. Francis Portela and Javier Mena draw straight up gorgeous superheroes. The characters are beautifully rendered and always consistent, which is both incredibly helpful and critical in a book with so many of them. Portela does great acting work with his characters, and the storytelling was absolutely easy to follow, despite how much was going on. Mena’s coloring work is traditional superhero coloring at its best. Everything is shiny and bright and full of popping primary shades.
The writing by Paul Levitz is crisp and functional. He doesn’t waste a lot of time and narration balloons are thankfully non-existent — a wise choice in a book with so many characters. The characters (and the book) seem smart, which I always appreciate, and I feel Levitz does as much as he possibly can in building character and voice into the dialog in the little time we have with the individual characters. Chameleon Boy, Braniac 5, Phantom Girl, Ultra Boy, Chemical Kid, and Dragonwing come across the most clearly which makes sense since we spend the most time with them, but I had to look up everyone of those names, because I couldn’t remember any of them (except Braniac). One bit of brilliance were the “name and information tags” given to each character that spoke in this issue. They were an absolute life saver here and without them “Legion of Superheroes” would have been even more intractable. Any book that can use a device like this, should. It’s a helpful way of getting the cliff notes for the major players.
In the end this might have been a good, or even a very good random issue of “Legion of Superheroes,” but as a number one issue it’s a mess. I was legitimately excited about the idea of jumping into a whole new super group I’d never tried before. Now was my chance! And I took it, but it was a colossal failure and I won’t be signing up for a second chance.