Comic Book Review: Action Comics #859

I was impressed with the debut issue of this new story arc involving the Pre-Crisis Legion of Super Heroes. I hope that Johns is able to resist using this story arc as an opportunity to “blow shit up” like Didio has commanded over on Countdown with respect to the Multiverse. I would hate for the Pre-Crisis Legion to be brought back just for Johns to have a plethora of characters to kill off. Let’s hope that Johns can keep this story arc rolling in a positive fashion. Let’s go ahead and do this review for Action Comics #859.

Creative Team
Writers: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Gary Frank
Inks: Jon Sibal

Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with the three original Legionnaires, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl busting into the Batcave. The Batcave is in ruins. The Legionnaires are looking for proof that the planet Krypton existed. That Batman kept a Kryptonite ring to safeguard himself against Superman. Lightning Lad talks about how the Legion has been marked as criminals. Saturn Girl comments that the entire universe is at stake. That if they fail, then the universe will go to war all in the name of Superman.

Suddenly, the Justice League busts into the cave. The Justice League of Earth consists of Earth-Man (the leader), Tusker, Spider-Girl, Golden Boy, Storm Boy and Radiation Boy. Earth-Man says that the three Legionnaires are aliens and that they are under arrest. The Legionnaires brawl with the Justice League of Earth. Eventually, the Justice League defeats Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl.

We cut to Dawnstar tending to Superman’s wound to his hand. Colossal Boy mentions how Earth has seceded from the United Planets and has outlawed all aliens from Earth. That Colossal Boy’s wife, Yera, and the rest of the Legionnaires are all missing. Superman then demands to know what happened to his legacy in the future. Wildfire comments that Superman isn’t going to like what they are about to tell him.

We shift over to the Human Cultural Center which is the headquarters of the Justice League of Earth. We see a classroom of human students of all different races listening to the teacher talk about how Superman was given his powers from Mother Earth to become humanity’s protector against extraterrestrial threats. That the darkest age of the legend of Superman were the Legion Years. This is when a boy from Braal, a boy from Ranzz and a girl from Titan formed the Legion and came to Earth and reminded everyone of the legend of Superman, but claimed that Superman came from Krypton.

That Earth then opened their hearts and welcomed other aliens from throughout the universe and allowed them to form the Legion of Super Heroes in Metropolis. In doing so they allowed an alien invasion under their very noses. That the Legion rejected many applicants over the years. The one common theme of all the rejected applicants to the Legion was that they were all human.

One of the rejected applicants, Absorbency Boy, discovered the truth about Superman during an archeological dig in the arctic. There he found an ancient crystal tablet that documented the true story of Superman. That Superman was not an alien and that Superman made it his life’s work to defend Earth from aliens and to bring peace to all humans. Absorbency Boy became Earth-Man and started spreading the true gospel of Superman. Then Earth-Man formed the Justice League of Earth.

Right on cue, the Justice League members walk by the classroom with the three original Legionnaires captured in stasis tubes. Earth-Man has the stasis tubes placed in a room with other Legionnaires who are also stored in stasis tubes. Earth-Man then absorbs the powers from Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl.

Suddenly, Earth-Man is notified that Wildfire, Dawnstar and Colossal Boy broke into the Legion headquarters and that someone dressed like Superman was with them and that they found remains of a time sphere. Earth-Man is visibly upset and says he will be right there.

We cut to Superman, Wildfire, Dawnstar and Colossal Boy standing outside of Alien Holding Camp 6736 that looks like the original headquarters of the Legion of Super Heroes. Dawnstar says that Brainiac 5’s trail leads them to this camp. And that Dawnstar also senses other Legionnaires inside Camp 6736. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Action Comics #859 was a rather average read. I didn’t dislike it, but I can’t say that I particularly enjoyed this issue. It is possible that part of my lack of enjoyment of this issue is my own fault. I had extremely high expectations of this story arc since it dealt with my favorite incarnation of the Legion of Super Heroes: the Pre-Crisis Era Legion. And usually when you have high expectations you are simply setting yourself up for disappointment.

Action Comics #859 is a well paced issue. Johns is moving this story arc along at a pleasant pace. I dig how Johns is letting this story unfold. The pacing is fast enough that the reader doesn’t get bored or worry if the writer has a point to the story. Nor does the pacing seem too rushed where the reader feels that the writer is trying to cram too much into each issue too quickly.

Johns has excellent long range vision and always impresses me with his ability to construct detailed long story arcs. This current story arc is no exception. Johns laid a strong foundation for this story arc with the last issue. Johns does a great job building off his foundation as each question that is answered naturally blossoms a new question to take its place.

Johns makes sure that we get some nice action in this issue. It was cool watching the original three Legionnaires throw down with the Justice League of Earth. Johns hasn’t given us a ton of action on this story arc to this point. I suspect that he probably has plenty of action in store for us with the back half of this story arc.

The Justice League of Earth was a neat spin on the Justice League of America. While none of the characters wow me, they are certainly serviceable villains. I also appreciate that Johns took the time to use some old minor characters to fill out the roster of this team. I dig the fact that Earth-Man is using his abilities to absorb the powers of all the captured alien Legionnaires. This makes him a force to be reckoned with and a proper monster villain.

Frank and Sibal deliver some serviceable artwork, but it is nothing special. As a matter of fact, I found their effort on Action Comics #859 to be much weaker than what I enjoyed over on Squadron Supreme.

The Bad: The dialogue in Action Comics #859 was decidedly average. It certainly was not as good as what Johns usually serves up. It seemed like Johns was simply going through the motions in this issue. The dialogue made this issue a bit of a boring and bland read.

There is also an alarming lack of chemistry between the various Legionnaires as well as between Superman and the Legion. On other titles like Green Lantern, JSA and the Teen Titans, Johns has always displayed strong dialogue and excellent chemistry between the characters. Perhaps Johns simply knows and understands the characters in those titles much better than he does those in the Legion of Super Heroes.

For the most part, I found the Justice League of Earth to be rather one-dimensional and lackluster. Seriously, this JLE might was well be the Nazi League of Earth. They come across as nothing more than Nazi villains in a slightly different package. Even the red Superman arm band looks just like the red armbands of the Nazi SS troops. Sorry, but I just find Nazi villains to be terribly boring and uncreative. And that includes the Justice League of Earth which is clearly just a collection of Nazi themed villains with a slight re-make to better fight the Legion’s time period.

And Earth-Man might as well be named Captain Nazi. Seriously, did Johns have to make the leader of this Neo-Nazi group a blue-eyed rubio? That is so stereotypical and terribly played out. I found Earth-Man to be about as interesting as I do Master Man from Captain America. Seriously, Johns continually shows off a remarkable lack of creativity and originality when it comes to his villains. I just don’t dig very black and white villains who have no depth or texture.

I find the entire warping of Superman’s legend to be unbelievably lame. It is just a stupid plotline. So, one of the human rejects from the Legion goes to great lengths to concoct a bizarre take on Superman’s legend, somehow manages to get the entire Earth to buy into his nonsense just so he can get rid of the super team that wouldn’t let him on the roster? It just doesn’t work for me.

Warping the Superman legend in order to create some bizarre anti-alien sentiment on Earth in order to get rid of the Legion of Super Heroes seems unnecessarily convoluted and goofy. Johns completely fails to get me to buy into this plotline.

And I’m not too sure what kind of commentary Johns is trying to make with this the anti-alien plotline with aliens being arrested and put into internment camps and the Earth pulling out of the U.P. It is sort of a mix of the Patriot Act, post 9/11 international policy, the illegal immigration issue with a dash of Nazi Germany on top. Whatever it is, I find it to be clumsily put together and very awkward.

And I’m just not buying that Earth would turn so anti-alien in the Legion’s future considering how advanced Earth society has always been portrayed in the Legion comic books prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths.

I absolutely hate the new costume designs. They are flat out hideous. These unnecessary costume changes makes this Legion seem less like the Pre-Crisis Legion and more like a combination of the TMK Legion, DnA Legion and Pre-Crisis Legion. This robs much of my interest in this version of the Legion. With the costume changes as well as the drastic changes made to the Pre-Crisis Legion and their universe this might as well not even be the Pre-Crisis Legion at all.

I’m just sick of DC constantly blowing up the Legion. And I’m sick of every version of the Legion descending into a dystopian future. What was so cool about the Pre-Crisis Legion was the general positive and bright feeling that the Legion gave the reader about the future. Sure there were problems, but the overall feeling that the reader got from the Legion is that people learned to get along and work together and actually make great strides in solving many of the societal ills that plague us now.

I hope I am wrong, but I have a bad feeling that Johns is bringing back the Pre-Crisis Legion just so he can “blow some shit up” as Dan Didio would say. If Didio brought back the Multiverse just so DC could engage in a kill-fest and blow up Earths left and right, then it doesn’t seem farfetched that Johns would do the same thing with the Legion in this story arc.

Overall: I guess most of my disappointment over this story arc is due to two reasons. The first is that I simply got way too excited over the thought of seeing my beloved Pre-Crisis Legion once again that my expectations were just way too high. Johns would have had to channel his inner Paul Levitz in order to give me a story arc that would have really satisfied me. Johns would have had to give me Legionnaires in their Pre-Crisis uniforms with a universe that was just as it was right before the Crisis occurred.

Second, this story arc painfully reminds me of the fact that you can never go home again. Ever since the first Crisis ripped apart my beloved Legion and then the fan fiction writers of the TMK Legion went ahead and finished the job of obliterating my beloved Legion, I have always longed for the return of the Pre-Crisis Legion. When it was released that the Pre-Crisis Legion would be returning over in the JLA/JSA crossover, I thought that my prayers had finally been answered. I was stunned. I really never thought I would see the ultimate version of the Legion ever again.

The fact is that this isn’t the Pre-Crisis Legion. They don’t look the same, they don’t act the same and their universe is totally and completely different. And it was ridiculous of me to ever think that I would get that same feel from Johns’ Legion that I got back from Levitz’s Legion.

I’m not too sure if readers who aren’t big Legion fans are going to really get all that interested in this story arc. Johns requires the reader to have a pretty extensive knowledge of the Legion’s history prior to 1986 in order to fully enjoy the story.

6 Comments

  1. “I just don’t dig very black and white villains”

    He’s not balck and white, just white.

    I do agree though, that the legion was all about hope. It always seemed like for the most part, superman’s expampel lead to a almost utopian future, and the legion was all about spreading that message to the universe.

    Also, Karate Kid was born on earth, as was sunboy. I don’t know if thats been rebooted, but it was like that in the old stories.

    Also, a lot of the rejects were’nt from earth, Polar boy infectious lass and night girl just off the top of my head

  2. Even though the Legion I got hooked on was the post-Zero Hour version I had pretty high expectations for this as well and this issue was certainly a disappointment. I still actually really like Gary Frank’s art but like you said the villains felt kind of generic and the school scene completely took me out of the story. It just seemed like a very clumsy way to handle the exposition. With four more issues of this storyline to go I really hope Johns has some tricks up his sleeve to spice things up.

  3. Are we even sure that this Legion and the JLA/JSA Legion are the same? I am getting the vibe that this may be another offshoot somehow.Unlees it has been directly stated somehwere in this arc, there are some contradictory points between these guys and the lightning saga bunch. Just wondering….

  4. Well, Absorbancy Boy did have blond hair (with mutton chops) when he made his only appearance.

    But do you really think that it’s as straightforward as what you said? Remember your Legion history. Who else had other people do his dirty work for him, forcing the Legion underground and off Earth, and creating internment camps? Re-read the issue as if Universo were pulling the strings.

  5. Well, I am pretty sure that this Legion is from the Kingdom Come Earth.(Starman , The Bat Sentry)Maybe Superman’s memories are still of an entirely different Legion where everything is sorta okay.
    You know what , I don’t really care…take all of the Legion versions assign them an earth and give any Legion writer the option to play with any team,just put the earth with an number on the cover. I like several versions and there should be room for them on the 52 earths.This is really starting to bug me. I always feel like i have been left out when continuity is restored. So we missed 20 years of adbentures of the original Legion? How you gonna fix that?

  6. Plenty of aliens were rejected from the Legion and plenty of Earthlings got into the Legion.

    Well, as I’ve said before, never let the facts get in the way of a good argument. Certainly a lot of writers nowadays seem to live by that mantra.

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