Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Legion of Super-Heroes #1

DC Comics, 20 pages, $ 2.99

Writer: Paul Levitz
Artist: Francis Portela
Colorist: Javier Mena
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Cover artist: Karl Kerschl

I think I’ve mentioned before that the “New 52” launches rather surprised me by being reasonably accessible comics, for the most part. Their other sins aside, it’s evident that the majority of the creators working on these books at least tried not to hit potential readers over the head with impenetrable comics that require a diploma in DC Universe backstory.

Paul Levitz, however, is not one of those creators. I’d say that Legion of Super-Heroes reads like an extended middle finger to the notion of inviting new readers, but that would make the comic sound far more exciting than it is.

As you may be aware, the Legion is a paramilitary, space-faring police organization in the 31st century that consists of superheroes. It’s not the most original premise in the world, and it’s tended to be one of the concepts that the publisher insists on keeping around out of nostalgia more than because anybody is particularly screaming for it. This is the fourth time the book is relaunched in the last 10 years, not counting a bunch of name changes in-between.

So, you’d think, if a new Legion title was to be part of an outreach as massively promoted as DC’s “New 52” initiative, the least you could expect was a sincere effort to introduce people to the concept.

Well, think again. At best, this is a bog-standard affair—run-of-the-mill space opera stuff with superheroes. Francis Portela gets some nice visuals out of the settings and makes them look sturdy. Stylistically and in terms of storytelling, his work looks like a blend of Cockrum, Byrne and Pérez, circa 1979. It’s serviceable, no more, no less.

The same can’t be said about the script, however. Levitz keeps switching scenes and throwing—literally—truckloads of new characters at you every couple of pages. Rather than to stick with a core group and try to, you know, introduce them and their mission to the audience, we move on to the next group, and so on and so forth.

As far as “introductions” are concerned, Levitz relies on little yellow boxes that list the characters’ names, aliases and “homeworlds,” among other bits of useless trivia that are completely irrelevant to the story at hand. All told, 15 of those things are scattered across the book’s 20 pages, and they don’t even cover all of the characters. As a result, nothing in Legion ever gets any traction, and the book ends up not just a mind-numbingly dull and generic experience, but also one that’s emphatically unwelcoming. What, you don’t know what a Daxamite is? Get off my lawn, you mook.

I’m sure there’s a niche audience in the direct market who craves this type of material, so you can’t blame DC for publishing it. You have to wonder what they were thinking by including this in the relaunch, though.

Grade: D

1 comment:

Sean said...

I've never been a Legion fan, though I know the basic premise. This book pretty much gave me a headache. I totally agree, this was a mish-mashed up mess.