There’s something about the basic “academy comic” concept that seems to grab readers. “New Mutants” is probably the most popular of the various series over the years, and right now Marvel’s having some success with their own “Avengers Academy” comic. So the idea of “Adventure Comics” starting a “Legion Academy” feature is a smart one. The idea dates back to the original “Legion of Super-Heroes” title, after all, but it lets Paul Levitz and Phil Jimenez take the 31st century setting and use a mixture of old and new characters.
And so, true to form, Levitz hits the ground running. A few cadet characters (Comet Queen, Power Boy, Lamprey) will be familiar to long-time readers, but there are just as many new ones. He’s not afraid to create some new people who have familiar names and powers (Chemical Kid, Glorith), but there are just as many created completely from scratch. Once they’re all together, of course, enter a bit of chaos. Introduction-via-training-session is a bit cliche, but it’s still a good way to see now only what abilities each character has but also how they work (or don’t work) with one another. Levitz gives each of our main characters a shot, and by the time the dust settles you’re starting to get a grasp on each of them.
One thing I liked was the fact that Levitz is letting us see the characters not only through the eyes of the stuents, but also the instructors. Night Girl and Duplicate Girl have their own take on characters like Chemical Kid and Dragonwing, ones that are not shared with the fellow students. I appreciate that it’s not a simple, “This is the troublemaker student” situation, but instead the internal rankings and external rankings don’t always match up.
Levitz also has already added a lot of back story to his characters. Not only do we have the mystery of Glorith, for instance, but we’re getting hints about why Comet Queen is back at the botton rung of the cadets (since she was an Academy student with Power Boy and Lamprey back in the day), as well as some choice lines regarding Chemical Kid and Gravity Kid. Introducing a whole new cast of characters can be tricky, but so far the majority of them have good enough hooks to keep me interested. (And fortunately the one character that doesn’t have a good hook yet — Variable Lad — has a potentially interesting enough power that I want to see more of him to figure out his limits.)
The big attraction here, though, is the art from Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning. I love that Jimenez isn’t afraid of elaborate outfits and small details (anyone who read his “Tempest” mini-series will know that), so we have what looks to be a beautiful patterned silk robe for Dragonwing, or little side ribbings along Chemical Kid’s tunic. Under Jimenez’s pencil, the future is a crowded, cluttered, highly-technological world, something that’s needed for Levitz’s script to help show the culture shock Glorith goes through after leaving the Sorcerer’s World. My only complaint is that colorist Hi-Fi goes a little too technological at times; the cover is a prime example of this, with the characters looking more like they’re flying through a virtual reality simulation than a city; a lot of the details are getting washed out in the bright colors. Jimenez brings so much to his art already that it feels like the colors could get dialed down a notch or two.
As an introduction to “Legion Academy,” “Adventure Comics” #523 is a solid first issue. And of course, the teaser for next month’s issue promises more excitement to come. But for now, this is fun stuff.