Or – “The Further Adventures Of People Who Look Vaguely Like Characters We Used To Love In The 80’s!”

After a so-so launch, the second and third issues of the latest volume of Legion of Super-Heroes left me on the fence regarding whether or not Volume 5 is a success for me.  There have been missteps (far too much focus on Earth-Man, a reliance upon things we’ve seen before) and there have been some workable concepts as well…  It’s kind of been a crapshoot, in all senses of the word, thus far.

This issue finally tips the balance for me, and it does it with a single sentence.

Legion of Super-Heroes #4
Written by PAUL LEVITZ
1:10 Variant cover by JIM LEE and SCOTT WILLIAMS
Colors by Hi-Fi
Published by DC Comics

Previously, on Legion of Super-Heroes:  In the 31st Century, being a superhero seems to be a lifelong goal for hundreds of teens across the galaxy.  In the wake of a crippling series of unpleasantnesses (a battle with a newly rejuvenated and embiggened Legion of Super-Villains, a conspiracy to undermine the LSH and get them kicked off Planet Earth, and a secret mission in the past that separated the team at critical moments) the LSH is finally rebuilding itself.  This, of course, is the cue for more tragedy, as the children of Garth and Imra Ranzz have been taken by person or persons unknown, the entire moon of Titan has been destroyed in a horrible conflagration, and the team has been forced to take a sociopath into their number in order to continue functioning on Earth.  (Why not just relocate to Mars or something?  Because change is bad.)  Half the team was run through a metaphorical meat grinder by Saturn Queen of the LSV, while Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad and Lightning Lass head off to play cavalry and save their young’ns…

Again With The Great Darkness?

The cover of this issue promises “The Great Darkness RETURNS!,” a statement to which my first response is “Are you THREATENING ME?”  (For full effect, read this line in the full-on Great Cornholio voice.)  This is NOT the sentence which enraged me, by the way.  As we open, the Ranzz Family Revenge Squad has arrived on planet Avalon, not seen since before the original Great Darkness years and years ago.  Combining telepathy and wonder-twin-zappy-kablammicus powers, Lightning Lad, Lightning Lass and Saturn Girl cut a swath through what they discover to be a cult of Darkseid worshippers, who have captured the Ranzz children for nefarious purposes.  Speaking of nefarious, rejected Legionnaire Absorbency Boy meets with some of his old xenophobic acquaintances, who want him to help them kill the Titanian refugees arriving on Earth’s shores.  At the same time, Cosmic Boy gathers an emergency caucus of Legionnaires to address a couple of factors:  First, the reasons why the team’s tracker wasn’t sent along on the tracking mission to find the Ranzz babies (the United Planets ordered her on another mission.)  Secondly, Legion leader elections are due, something that seems wildly out-of-place in the middle of a crisis situation, especially given that team members immediately begin questioning their faith in Cosmic Boy’s current leadership.  It’s old-school Silver Age Legion of Super-Bitches turf here, as Sun Boy pokes at his commander for no real reason other than to remind us that Sun Boy is the team’s dick.

Hey, We Should Totally Have An Election!

Cosmic Boy announces that the team’s members will be voting for the new boss, not counting Blok and the White Witch, who didn’t respond to the team’s summons.  That’s not the part where they lose me, either.  I had given up on Blok being a part of this Legion back during the Adventure Comics backups, where it became clear that they were being shuffled offstage, ostensibly to make room for XS and Gates.  No, the point where I lost my cool was the end of Rokk’s speech:  “And let me remind you all that only ACTIVE Legionnaires can vote, leaving us 26 electors since Matter-Eater Lad resigned yesterday to go back to Bismoll.” 



So, after three issues of the Adventures of Earth-Man, after the whole Legion of 3 Worlds thing where old-school members returned to action, after a big launching point where they made the Subs cool, where Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel got a new groove, where Tenzil was given a pretty high-profile role in the Superman titles again…  You don’t even give him the courtesy of SHOWING his exit?  That’s ridiculous, and it’s unexcusable.  Whether or not you like a character, you have to treat the members of a team with respect or else you torpedo your whole damn concept, and I am absolutely angry at the bait-and-switch of this incarnation of the team.  The Legionnaires Three fight their way to the kids, Earth-Man rebukes his old pals, while Dream Girl drops off the woman who destroyed Titan on her home planet of Naltor.   (I believe this falls under the header of “They’ll at least see it coming, this time.”)  Saturn Girl kills a man, and Shadow Lass seemingly puts the moves on Earth-Man as we fade to black…

The Final Verdict: Don’t Undermine Your Own Premise

Y’know, I get that not everybody loves Matter-Eater Lad.  I see that there is a ludicrous aspect to his powers that can be hard to write for.  I get that the Silver Age Legion is usually mocked as an example of silly overwrought plotting.  That said, this is a team with THIRTY $&@$ING MEMBERS.  There is no reason why they couldn’t keep Tenzil on-staff and just not use him, or at the very least, show some respect for the mise en scene you’re workin with and SHOW US HIS EXIT.  Add to that Saturn Girl murdering a man to protect her cubs, Brainiac 5’s transition from tetchy genius to sonofabitch, and the overuse of the thin plot device that is Earth-Man and I’m not thrilled with the re-un-rebooted LSH.  Legion of Super-Heroes #4 is a bland and superficial tale, with one plot thread that seems ridiculously familiar, another that seems out of place, and generally distasteful group of one-note characters wandering around, earning 1.5 out of 5 stars overall.  Yildiray Cinar’s art is getting better as we go, and his rendition of the team this month makes the best of an unpleasant situation, but there’s just not much here for me to love. 

 And, dammit, Matter-Eater Lad deserves better.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  So, who ARE the 26 active Legionnaires on the current roster?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. Doctor Sleepless
    August 27, 2010 at 1:01 pm — Reply

    Mon-El kinda looks like playboy-Billionaire Bruce Wayne…I smell paternity case.

    • Damascus
      September 30, 2010 at 4:36 am — Reply

      Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grand Paternity suit.

  2. Greg A
    August 27, 2010 at 1:02 pm — Reply

    Is this an example of “you can’t go home again” for Paul Levitz, as it was during Shooter’s return to Legion (or Chris Claremont’s return to the X-Men)?

    Is this an example of the Legion being in an unworkable status quo?

    Is this a sign that the Legion concept has pretty run its course and should be put aside for awhile?

    You should start a series of retro-reviews of the 5 Year Later Legion run to correspond to the current Legion’s release schedule.

  3. Navarre
    August 27, 2010 at 1:32 pm — Reply

    I don’t think the Legion is a washed-up concept at all. But I agree that nothing about this new series has been right.

    I have loved the Legion since before I knew who the X-Men were. I was so excited to see a new series begin; one I thought would give us familiar faces with new developments in both character and plot.

    I am entirely disappointed.

  4. brainypirate
    August 27, 2010 at 2:07 pm — Reply

    As for the 26 members, Matthew at LegionAbstract has done some homework based on the member-board panel, and he points out that XS does not, in fact, seem to be on the roster — which is odd, given the resolution of LOTW. And Starman seems to AWOL as well, and Night Girl, who seemed very much a part of the team in LOTW.

    I was a little bummed about MELad too, and your point about writing him out offscreen (especially after his Superman guest spot) is good. I can only hope that Levitz intends to use him in another capacity, e.g., Senator Kem — fingers crossed.

  5. August 27, 2010 at 8:06 pm — Reply

    Mon-El kinda looks like playboy-Billionaire Bruce Wayne…I smell paternity case.

    Jim Lee has only three male faces, and that’s #2 – “The Square Jawed Dark One,” seen in his renditions of Mon, Batman, Superman, Colossus, Punisher, Jackson King, and Deathblow.

    There’s also #3 – “The Hipster Doofus/Kid Face,” as seen on Cyclops, Burnout, Gambit, Warblade and recently on a Legion variant as Superboy.

    #1 – “The Big Gork Face” can be seen on Grunge, The Beast, modified a bit for Wolverine, Maul, and Darkseid.

    He has more expressions for female faces, but sadly only two bodies. C’est la vie.

    • brainypirate
      August 27, 2010 at 10:22 pm — Reply

      Still, it’s more pleasant than the original Keith Giffen cover. I never liked Giffen’s art, even before he intentionally made it ugly.

      • August 28, 2010 at 2:44 am — Reply

        I’ve got to disagree. My favorite comic memories are his runs in JLI and LoS from the early 90s. That’s even not just him as artist, but all around comics. That’s the thing about art, it’s all very subjective.

  6. Supergirl & the Legion Lass
    August 27, 2010 at 8:51 pm — Reply

    Who is the 26 active members of the Legion currently? Hm… Let me think about it. Well, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy and Lighting Lad of course. Earthman, Brainiac Five, Mon-El, Lighting Lass, Shrinking Violet, Tarok, Shadow Lass, Sun Boy, Dawnstar, Wildfire, XS, Gates, Timber Wolf, Phantom Girl, Ultra-Boy, Dream Girl, Chameleon Boy, Senor Girl, Tellus, Element Lad, Polar Boy, Quislet, Duplicate Girl and Bouncing Boy. I think so, please ignore any spelling mistakes I was doing it all from memory.

    • brainypirate
      August 27, 2010 at 10:21 pm — Reply

      Matthew E parses the member board for us over at http://legionabstract.blogspot.com/2010/08/legion-of-super-heroes-4-review.html — he notes that Chuck & Luornu are out, as are Yera, Lydda, Thom and XS.

    • Adam
      August 27, 2010 at 11:41 pm — Reply

      I really really really hope that “Senor Girl” was not a spelling mistake. He/she sounds like an awesome character :)

    • Damascus
      September 30, 2010 at 4:39 am — Reply

      Hey, you forgot Beak.

  7. August 28, 2010 at 7:19 am — Reply

    Yeah, disappointing. But I’ll keep reading until at least the end of the second arc. So let’s hope issues 6 to 10 or so are much, much better!

  8. August 28, 2010 at 4:08 pm — Reply

    The Legion is NOT washed up, and anyone who thinks so has to answer to me!

    Okay, that was a bit rash. This run has been… eh. I don’t hate it as much as I almost did, but Levitz’s seed-planting of storylines is taking longer to grow than this year’s basil planters (which, for the record, only half-sprouted but were still tasty, so make of that analogy what you will). Too much interesting stuff happens off-screen (Did Jenni quit? Was the Academy reopened? Where the heck did Tyroc & Dreamy come from?) that really shouldn’t, while some of the slow-build foreshadowing is too much (we get it, the scientist lady from Titan is important, please move on). Like your review said, a lot of promising stuff from the end of Lo3W & Superman titles is just being ignored for no real reason. I think the other people are right – while it’s not as horrible as a modern-day Claremont story, Levitz really can’t go home again with the Legion. It’s a bummer.

    That said, I don’t think the Legion as a premise is the problem. If it had to take a break, I don’t think it would hurt, but they’re nowhere near Titans levels of crappiness (there’s still people who enjoy this run to a degree, whereas NO ONE likes Titans anymore). The last time I can really think of the Legion taking a prolonged break was the year between the end of the Baxter run and the start of Five Years Later. Given how great FYL was, maybe we could get even a fraction of that with a break again. But the Legion’s too simple & clean a premise to just die.

    • Greg A
      August 28, 2010 at 9:00 pm — Reply

      While I don’t think Legion is necessarily a washed up concept, this is the third version in the past six years (the reboot ended in 2004, three-boot 2004-2009, retro-reboot 2009-current).

      Granted, while this version of the LSH is fairly stable saleswise, what should DC do with the concept if it doesn’t prove successful this time?

      • Damascus
        September 30, 2010 at 4:50 am — Reply

        Here’s what we do, see, we bring back all the previous Legions at one time and they run storys that are completely independent from one another and they NEVER crossover for any reason and everyone will have their particular favorite Legions back and it’ll take up only like 4-5 books per month. And for those who LOVED a specific Legion and really liked others and maybe even just meh on some others, from what I gather about Legion fans, you’ll all probably buy every book that comes out. Then you get stories that fit into what the previous incarnations were without trying to harken back so much or to be grittier and distance themselves from another story. There are 67 Bat titles every month and a dozen Superman titles and 95 X-titles and 1 Legion title with the occassional backup story here or there. There are literally 2 more Green Hornet series running right now than there are Legion, and that’s pretty much just 2 guys running around. Like the Legion doesn’t have enough characters to focus on different ones and tell different stories with different people in a couple books. I really don’t know much about Legion myself, I don’t think I’ve ever read a single issue, but the premise and the characters (while goofy sounding) do sound cool. I’m disappointed as a potential reader that their current offerings are less than great for a title I’m interested in checking out, I don’t want to buy toilet paper, so once a good line starts somebody let me know.

  9. Slappy
    August 28, 2010 at 8:23 pm — Reply

    According to the Mission Monitor Board on page 12(?) the active members are:
    on Earth: Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Earthman, Phantom Girl, Quislet, Sensor Girl, Shadow Lass, Shrinking Violet, Sun Boy, Tellus, Timber Wolf & Ultra Boy.
    Mission 1: Dawnstar, Dreamgirl, and Gates
    Mission 2: Lightning Lad, Lightning Lass, and Saturn Girl
    Mission 3: Mon El and Polar Boy
    Mission 4: Element Lad, Invisible Kid (A guess since the symbol is blocked)Tyroc and Wildfire

    • August 29, 2010 at 12:40 am — Reply

      According to the Mission Monitor Board on page 12(?) the active members are:
      on Earth: Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Earthman, Phantom Girl, Quislet, Sensor Girl, Shadow Lass, Shrinking Violet, Sun Boy, Tellus, Timber Wolf & Ultra Boy.
      Mission 1: Dawnstar, Dreamgirl, and Gates
      Mission 2: Lightning Lad, Lightning Lass, and Saturn Girl
      Mission 3: Mon El and Polar Boy
      Mission 4: Element Lad, Invisible Kid (A guess since the symbol is blocked)Tyroc and Wildfire

      And that makes me even more angry… I don’t believe that Levitz has even read L3W or “Superman and the Legion,” given how much of it he’s immediately jettisoned in favor of a straightforward sequel to what he used to do.

  10. MarkW
    August 28, 2010 at 10:33 pm — Reply

    I thought this issue was OK. Enjoyed Ayla bits at least.

    But the series is still in “setup” mode, so I’m going to stick with it until I see how some of the plot lines play out/resolve. I do sense that trying to write a book with 25+ Legionaires WITH a Green Lantern plot shoehorned it AND trying to make it move quick enough to attract new readers isn’t a good recipe for a satisfying Legion book. Especially when even the old school fans aren’t really sure what’s going on with the team.

    And again, why does the fate of the Green Lantern Corps have to be a regular plot point in the series???? Part of the appeal of the Legion was that it wasn’t really tied into the rest of DC universe (except to the DC universe’s past through Superboy). But apparently that’s not good marketing, so we need Legionaires popping up in the present day DCU and a Green Lantern plotline in the main Legion book. I can’t wait until Earthman decides that the 31st century needs a Batman.

  11. Silver Age Lad
    August 29, 2010 at 7:50 am — Reply

    You’re upset because Matter-Eater lad got dismissed in a sentence. Night Girl, Chameleon Girl and XS didn’t even get that (nor did Star Boy/man but he’ll be back no doubt).

    M_E Lad could have been shown leaving to go back to Bismoll after geting permission to return to the legion just for the Brande will mission. Not good but plausible and at least acknowledging the character properly.

    Night Girl broke up with Cosmic boy so a ‘I don’t wnt to hang around here’ scene would have been logical.

    But Yera going and Gim staying? unlikely. Ff culling the numbers was the sole object, better for Dream Girl to go with Starman surely

    • August 30, 2010 at 10:44 am — Reply

      You’re upset because Matter-Eater lad got dismissed in a sentence. Night Girl, Chameleon Girl and XS didn’t even get that (nor did Star Boy/man but he’ll be back no doubt).

      Well, since I don’t consider the mission monitor board to be canonical, so I have no proof that Night Girl, Yera or XS are actually gone. :) Maybe Night Girl recruited them for the SUBS?

  12. brainypirate
    September 13, 2010 at 7:09 pm — Reply

    If you’ve been following Levitz’s Facebook page (he seems to be accepting all friend requests), he’s been getting a lot of flak from Tenzil fans and is giving Tenzil a brief appearance in an upcoming issue….

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