Or – “Hey, I Forgot About This!”

One of the unpleasant side effects of working on the fringes of the comic industry is that, sometimes, you get caught up in solicitations and coming attractions and forget that a particular event hasn’t actually HAPPENED yet.  I’ve been looking forward to the Legion Academy story and the return of Phil Jiminez to the 30th Century for some time now, but was pleasantly surprised when it arrived this week.  It’s one of the most talented artists of our time, plus Bouncing Boy and Duplicate Damsel?  SOLD!

ADVENTURE COMICS #523 – “First Night”
Storytellers: Paul Levitz & Phil Jiminez
Inker: Andy Lanning
Letterer: Swands
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, on Adventure Comics:  The 30th Century has been through a lot of changes in a very short time, with R.J. Brande’s murder, Earthgov turning on the Legion, the war with Tom Welling Prime and the Legion of Super-Villains, and a rebuilding period for the premier super-team of the United Planets.  The Legion has achieved its greatest victory, but there is still much work to be done, and not nearly enough heroes to do it all (especially since Levitz & Co. jettisoned Bouncing Boy, Duplicate Damsel, Night Girl, Matter-Eater Lad, Blok and the White Witch to return to pretty much the same lineup from 1987 plus Absorbancy Boy.  You’d think that a period of crisis would warrant a larger Legion?)  Where will tomorrow’s heroes come from?  The Legion Academy!

Hooray For Phil!

We open on the Sorceror’s World, where Blok, The White Witch and a young lady called Glorith (!!!) await the arrival of a shuttle from Earth.  There is talk of omens and destinies and blah blah blah fishcakes and the young sorceress is unsure of what will happen to her if she leaves her protectors.  The enjoyment that I feel about seeing Blok and Mysa again is doubled when Night Girl steps off the ship to welcome young Glorith, introducing her as one of the Academy teachers.  (YAY!)  Glorith meets her schoolmates (Chemical Kid, Gravity Kid, perennial mainstay Comet Queen, Variable Kid and Dragonwing) and is quickly overwhelmed by life in the big city.  After a night of shopping and fun, the Cadets (I don’t think they’re called that, but Academians is too long and Academites isn’t a word) are awakened by Luornu “Duplicate Girl” Durgo, their de facto drill instructor.  Her husband Bouncing Boy warns her that they’re still just kids, but that argument doesn’t cut any ice with a girl who was murdered twice before she was 25, and anyway, she doesn’t trust the silver-spoon antics of Chemical Kid…  Jiminez’ art is pretty amazing throughout the issue, with subtle sorta redesigns of the known players and a return to basics for Blok and Luornu.  His facial expressions are subtle and wondrous, especially Glorith’s wide-eyed disbelief at the wonders of 30th Century technology and such.

An Excellent Use Of “Old Soldiers…”

We get to see the new kids’ powers in action as Night Girl challenges them to early morning battle exercises, and Chemical Kid quickly overcomes her test, albeit with absolutely no teamwork or strategy at all.  We even get to see the older Academy heroes (Power Boy and Lamprey…  Where’s Nightwind these days?) wondering whether they’ll ever make it to the big leagues.  Given that Power Boy tried out for the LSH back in the Volume Three days, I’m suddenly unsure of the actual amount of time that took place during the missing years (fifteen or more, I believe) of this Legion’s timeline.  Half the rookies break curfew again to go party in the city, but when Chemical Kid’s credit cards bounce, there is a bit of a confrontation, and things seem about to get ugly.  The book is capped off with the preview of Flashpoint that is backing up all of DC’s books this month, and as many question marks as there may be there, at least it’s better than that gawdawful DC Universe Online promo from last month.  I’m loving the fact that Night Girl and Duplicate Girl (wasn’t she called Duplicate Damsel in Legion of 3 Worlds?) get to play the hardcase veterans here, as both women have earned their stripes in the hardest possible ways. 

The Verdict:  I’m A Legion Mark, This Probably Isn’t A Surprise

The new kids are intriguing, the use of Glorith (who was the main villain of the Volume Four Five-Year-Gap series) is interesting and alarming, and every one of the supporting character appearances made me smile.  Blok and Mysa’s absence from the team is more justified in just a few panels here than when they left the main LSH book, and seeing Chuck and Lu discussing the new young heroes reminds me of how old we’ve all gotten together.  Seems like only yesterday they were getting married on Mars, or fighting imaginary yetis on Wondil IX.  Night Girl’s mysterious disappearance from the main team post-Action Comics is finally explained as well, and her six on one battle sequence shows what a fun character she can be.  Levitz & Jiminez hit all the right notes here, and Phil’s art is just beautiful.  His future Metropolis is reminiscent of things we’ve seen before (Coruscant in the Star Wars prequel trilogy for one) without being cribbed, and the range of body language and expression in his art is just wonderful.  He even makes Night Girl’s signature beehive look futuristic and awesome, something I never saw happening.  My only reservations about the story come with Chemical Kid, who reminds me a bit too much of Striker from Avengers Academy, with just a bit too much Nemesis Kid for comfort.  Each page makes use of the team’s rich 50+ year history, and does it in a way that I don’t think will turn off new readers.  Adventure Comics #523 makes me happy on so very many levels (Blok!  Bouncing Boy!  Give me some Matter-Eater Lad, and we’ve got the hat trick!) and earns a damn-near perfect 4.5 out of 5 stars overall…  With this and the annual, I’m happy to see where the LSH is going, and slowly learning where this incarnation of the team has been.  But where IS XS, anyway?

Rating: ★★★★½

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  How much does the size of the roster intimidate you when reading a Legion comic? 

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. February 11, 2011 at 9:21 pm — Reply

    So glad Phil finally got to draw a Legion monthly as he’s wanted to for sooo long.

    Kudos on the great review, Matt.

  2. Some Dude
    February 12, 2011 at 8:19 am — Reply

    Speaking of the Legion who finally won the vote for leader?

    because I was thinking of starting to read the Legion but was waiting for that first Cluster **** of an arc to end, so is this a good jumping on point?

    • markw
      February 12, 2011 at 9:31 am — Reply

      Mon-El won the election.

  3. markw
    February 12, 2011 at 9:40 am — Reply

    I’ve enjoyed the main series so far, for the most part, but this one was probably my favorite issue since Levitz came back to writing the Legion. Hopefully Phil will stick around for a good while.

    Nice that they explained why we haven’t seen Blok and Mysa so far, and it was awesome to see Night Girl again.

  4. brainypirate
    February 14, 2011 at 11:52 am — Reply

    And Mr. Jimenez can keep drawing those shirtless men all he wants! Yumm!!!

    • February 14, 2011 at 12:26 pm — Reply

      You and I will have to agree, brainy!

  5. Damascus
    April 9, 2011 at 12:47 pm — Reply

    I just read this issue, and it’s one of only a few Legion issues I’ve ever read. I’d say you are slightly wrong about not turning off new readers though. I’m not completely turned off, but it’s hard to wrap my brain around everything and everyone in this issue. Giving their code names, their real names, home planet and powerset is great and all but I can’t keep up with everyone. I’m intrigued because I do like large teams and unique powersets, but a large team can get a little intimidating when you don’t know more than one or two members and only vaguely at that, and you read an issue and feel like you might need to go back and read years worth of storylines to know what’s happening.

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