Kicking subtlety to the curb, “Legion of Super-Heroes” #23 opens with a funeral to send off the thirty-first century heroes. Paul Levitz and Kevin Maguire plant the moping faces of Polar Boy and Invisible Kid on that first splash page and fill the remainder of the issue with nowhere near enough smiles to suit the emotional stylings of Maguire.
Clean, smooth, effortlessly detailed artwork from Maguire really sells this book and, truly, is the only reason to buy “Legion of Super-Heroes” #23, if you’re not a Legion devotee or OCD patient needlessly spending cash just to ensure your comic collection has no holes. If this series had relied upon artwork from Maguire for more than the final issue, it certainly would have enticed me to pick up more issues of “Legion of Super-Heroes” than I did. I’m not saying my lack of consistently buying one issue doomed the series, but I’m certain I’m not the only one to appreciate the flabbergasted, surprised, shocked, hurt, angry, frustrated, worried and annoyed emotions that Maguire brought to the dozen-plus Legionnaires in this issue, all of which are nicely colored by Javier Mena. Adding to the lack of subtlety, Maguire does visually close out “Legion of Super-Heroes” #23 with the three moons over Winath making a little smiley face to send everyone on their way.
I’m quite sure that for everything Paul Levitz has done for the Legion of Super-Heroes as a brand, this issue will not be the one thing most fans remember him for. Invisible Kid’s dialog makes the monologue demands of Silver Age villains seem tame and controlled. Many of the other Legionnaires follow suit, making the story less than readable. However, it was Maguire’s character expressions and body language that drove the story. That story, appropriately enough, was about the end of an historical team, not with a bang, but a hushed whimper, like the sound a dying jellyfish would make if it were smothered under a pillow. I can appreciate how difficult this may have been for Levitz and I applaud him for tying in the founders, but I cannot help but think there must have been a better way to send off this team and, perhaps, do so in more of a memorable fashion.
Thank goodness Kevin Maguire was around for the art. He was able to provide the characters with passion, elegance, grace and emotion that were missing from stilted, burdensome dialog. “Legion of Super-Heroes” #23 might be the last issue of this volume, but there will undoubtedly be another one some day. Hopefully when that one launches, it’s able to usher in more humanity and joy to what is becoming an increasingly joyless future in the DC Universe. I just hope DC realizes that Kevin Maguire is just as good drawing laughter, guffaws, shouts of joy and smiles when they look for an artist to bring some levity.