Recently I had the pleasure of grabbing a burger and a brew with a few fellow comic fans who patronize the same comic shop as I. We talked about a myriad of things, from Batman to "Secret Wars," and the state of the industry and the price of comics. The conversation changed dynamically once we started talking about the Legion. One of the guys at the table - I believe the elder statesman in attendance - is a serious Legion fan. Come hell or high water, good creators or bad, he'll get his Legion fix. The rest of us pale in comparison. Heck, some of us (me included) haven't read more than a dozen or so Legion comics. Another member of our party found the words many of us were looking for, "This isn't my Legion. I'm a guest here."
No matter how much DC tries to make this license new-fan-(note I didn't limit it to reader!)-friendly, there will be a segment of fandom that just doesn't feel invited to the convention. The history is too deep, the cast of characters too wide, or the back-story too muddled. Whatever the case, the argument is strong, true, and at the same time, false. Levitz knows this version of the Legion needs to succeed. He's banking his professional career on it. Sort of. He's all-in writing this book and "Adventure Comics," hoping to give readers an entry point into the world of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
It succeeds in parts, but flops in other areas. Limiting himself to nine Legionnaires in this issue's lead story, Levitz uses Phantom Girl as our guide through the everyday - or at least current day - happenings of the Legion. It's a soap opera/space opera of a story with love, lust, intrigue, and adventure, but it's not exceptionally memorable. Earth-Man's got some issues with aliens and he might be getting past it, but he's still a jackass. Really, there's not much more to the story than that. The issue is filled with character moments from that orbit around this piece.
The lead story's art by Portela is fabulous. His characters have a more animated quality to them than the characters depicted in the backup and it is juxtaposed with a modern master such as Jimenez that truly allows Portela to shine. His work is clean and crisp, similar in style to Jesus Saiz, filling the page and the panel in a manner that appears effortless and sparkling. I am unfamiliar with his work prior to landing on "Legion of Super-Heroes," but Portela is a name I'll be keeping an eye out for.
The backup tale features extraordinary art by Phil Jimenez, whose artistic brilliance has become a constant that is to be expected in comics nowadays. The story in the backup focuses on the Legion Academy, especially the intermingling between seasoned members of the team and newer characters. It also sets up the latest buzz among DC comics fans: the poll to select the next leader of the Legion.
This book, with the lead story, backup story and voting public service announcement seems more like an anthology to me than an issue in the series of monthly releases featuring the Legion. Sure, there are plots that are left dangling, but they're not cliffhangers. The stories are just floating out there waiting to be picked up at another point. To that end, the character tags are always a plus, especially when the hero count nears a score.