Comic Book Review: Legion of Super Heroes #37

The Revolution has been anxiously waiting for Legion of Super Heroes #37. This is a huge issue for the Legion. The new creative team of the legendary Jim Shooter and hot young artist Francis Manapul take control of the Legion with this issue. I’m very curious to see how Shooter is able to perform on his second tour of duty on the Legion of Super Heroes. I remain cautiously optimistic that this old school/new school combination can finally breathe some life into this eternally moribund title. Let’s go ahead and do this review for Legion of Super Heroes #37.

Creative Team
Writer: Jim Shooter
Artist: Francis Manapul

Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Karate Kid brawling with a large alien warrior. Triplicate Girl is knocked unconscious. Karate Kid kicks ass on the alien warrior. Phantom Girl teleports onto the scene and comments that the alien creatures wiped out an outpost in the Oort Cloud two days ago. Phantom Girl can’t believe that Garth would only send Karate Kid and Triplicate Girl.

Karate Kid spits that only Triplicate Girl was sent and that he tagged along on his own. Karate Kid comments that their fearless leader screwed up and that this mission required major firepower like Ultra Boy. Phantom Girl then helps Karate Kid, hobbled by his broken arm, to collect the unconscious bodies of Triplicate Girl and go back through the transmatter portal back to Legion headquarters.

We shift back to Legion HQ where Garth is overwhelmed by his duties as Legion leader. Garth is buys dealing with the contractors who are rebuilding the Legion’s HQ. Garth is also dealing with various dignitaries from the UP as well. Light Lass appears on the scene to make fun of her brother struggling as Legion leader.

We cut to Cryogeyser City on Triton. Saturn Girl, Invisible Kid, Timber Wolf and Star Boy are on the scene to investigate an alert that this ski resort was about to be attacked.

We slide back to Legion HQ where an overwhelmed Lightning Lad is still dealing with the various phone calls from UP officials. Karate Kid walks into the room with his arm in a cast and breaks in half Lightning Lad’s robot assistant who was helping Garth with all his phone calls and orders to be processed. Karate Kid tells Lightning Lad to pay attention to who he is sending on what mission. Karate Kid then passes out from his injuries.

Garth contacts Phantom Girl in her room and asks her to come get Karate Kid and take him back to the infirmary. We then see Lightning Lad and Light Lass staring at the massive Legion duty roster to see who Garth sent where. Garth realizes that he screwed up in which Legionnaires he sent out to deal with the various missions. Garth is particularly pissed that he sent Ultra Boy on a rat patrol mission and Invisible Kid to Triton where an attack is supposed to take place.

We shift back to Triton where Invisible Kid sees a red haired girl who has the ability to generate heat. She is much better than the rest of the kids who are snowboarding. The red haired girl gets jumped by the other kids since they are jealous of her abilities. Invisible Kid turns invisible and kicks ass on the other kids and saves the red haired girl. Invisible Kid is in love with the red haired girl.

Suddenly, the alien attack force busts onto the scene. The Legionnaires immediately engage them in combat. Timber Wolf kicks some serious ass. We cut back to Legion HQ where Garth tells Ayla and Phantom Girl that there is no way they can get there in time to help Saturn Girl’s team on Titon. That the UP Underchecker is not approving the Legion to spend more money for more unbudgeted transmatter trips. Garth figures he can contact Princess Projectra and see if she can use her diplomatic powers to persuade the UP Underchecker to approve more transmatter trips for the Legion.

We see Princess Projectra meeting with the U.P’s Secretary of Diplomacy. Princess Projectra is informed that since her planet Orando no longer exists that Projectra no longer holds any recognized position of significance. That she has no official standing. However, that she has arranged for Projectra to attain provisional habitant status on Earth or any other UP world she would like.

Projectra is pissed off and demands to see the President of the UP. The UP guards step in Projectra’s way to prevent her from heading to the President’s office. Projectra uses her powers to create an illusion that a giant dragon is attacking the guards. The guards crumple to the ground in fear. Projectra in all her haughty royal attitude storms off.

We slide back to Triton where Invisible Kid finds the red haired girl from earlier. She is dead. She got killed during the fight with the aliens. We cut back to Garth finally getting in touch with Projectra. Projectra informs Garth that she cannot help him now that she has been stripped of her status as a Head of State. Garth tells Light Lass and Phantom Girl that the team on Triton is on their own. Garth is then informed that the seven pre-approved candidates are here.

We cut back to Triton and see that Timber Wolf is the last man standing against the army of alien warriors. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Legion of Super Heroes #37 was a great read. Jim Shooter did a better job than I expected. I was expecting to have to allow Shooter several issues to shake off the rust and get used to writing a monthly title as well as getting familiar once again with the various Legionnaires. Well, evidently, an old pro like Shooter doesn’t need time to shake off the rust. Shooter writes Legion of Super Heroes #37 as if he had never left this title.

Shooter serves up an issue that is well paced. The story moves quickly without ever seeming rushed. We get a pleasant mix of action and drama. And that is key to a quality Legion of Super Heroes story. Yeah, there should always be plenty of action in a Legion comic book, but one of the most enjoyable aspects of the Legion of Super Heroes has always been the drama, tension and personal conflicts between the various Legionnaires.

Shooter crafts some solid dialogue. It isn’t anything earth shattering, but it is tightly written and has a good flow. Each of the Legionnaires has their own unique external voice. Shooter flashes his excellent feel for the different personalities of the various Legionnaires. This is the first time since Paul Levitz left the Legion of Super Heroes that the various Legionnaires acted like themselves. For the first time in a long time, I actually recognized the personalities of the various Legionnaires. This also leads to Shooter being able to whip up some quality banter between the various Legionnaires.

I love all the bickering between the various Legionnaires. Light Lass ragging on her brother Lightning Lad. Karate Kid pissed off with Lightning Lad’s carelessness in assigning Legionnaires to various missions. This type of friction is what always made the Legion entertaining. It was always entertaining that there were cliques and that not everyone always got along. Yet, in the end, in the face of danger, these Legionnaires would always band together and trust and support each other.

I always view the Legionnaires as being in that age range from 18-22 years old. And it makes perfect sense for characters in that age group to break into cliques and to cause some friction between each other. I also like the light sexuality that Shooter sprinkles into the story. It isn’t anything overt, but it is just enough to remind the reader that the Legionnaires are in that age group when the hormones rule mightily.

I enjoyed the action scenes in this issue. Shooter does a great job with Karate Kid. Val comes across as a serious no-nonsense ass-kicker. Outnumbered and nursing a broken arm, Karate Kid is still able to take out the bad guys. And Timber Wolf comes across as a total ass-kicker in his fight scene.

Shooter does an excellent job showing the reader that just because a Legionnaire doesn’t have the obvious power level of an Ultra Boy doesn’t mean that they aren’t deadly combatants. And that is huge. While Waid let Supergirl overshadow all the other Legionnaires and make them all seem irrelevant, Shooter shows that each Legionnaire is vitally important and useful.

I feel bad for Garth. He is completely over his head. Shooter does a good job showing just how difficult being Legion leader truly is. And that Cosmic Boy only made it seem easy. It should be interesting to see if Garth grows into his role as Legion leader or if he completely flames out as a total failure.

And it appears that Shooter has some new Legionnaires in store for us with the next issue. The pre-approved candidates must be potential candidates to join the Legion. I dig the little unusual twist of having the UP pre-approve the candidates for Legion membership prior to the Legion members getting to vote on the various candidates. I hold out hope that Wildfire and Dawnstar will finally join the Legion.

I dig that Shooter took a low key approach to his debut issue on the Legion of Super Heroes. Often, writers feel like they need to make a huge statement with their debut issue. Many times writers will blow the title up and rebuild it in their image. Other times, writers simply try and awe the reader with opening their run on the title with the beginning of a huge story arc.

Shooter takes a different approach. Shooter is respectful of what came before him during Waid’s run on the Legion and tries to make his assuming control of this title a smooth and seamless transition. And despite my lack of enthusiasm over Waid’s three-peat, I am glad that Shooter is eschewing blowing up the Legion and re-creating it once again. That has been done way too many times on this title.

What was so wonderful about Legion of Super Heroes #37 is that it just felt like a Legion comic book. I don’t really know how to describe this to you. This issue just felt right. It is just the general mood, tone and feel of the issue that had that same enjoyable fun quality that the Legion used to have prior to the original Crisis on Infinite Earths.

The TMK Legion read like bad fan fiction. The Post-Zero Hour legion lacked its own identity as it seemed too hard to just give us a modern version of the Adventure Era Legion. The DnA Legion never felt anything even remotely like the Legion. Waid’s Legion also failed to capture that special Legion magic. With Legion of Super Heroes #37, it appears that Shooter just may be able to capture that Legion magic that has been so elusive ever since 1986.

Francis Manapul serves up some fantastic artwork in this issue. I really dig Manapul’s stylized art and think that it is a perfect match for a title like the Legion. The Legion is a title that has too often in the past been saddled with grim, dark, gritty and bleak artwork. And that is not at all my image of the Legion. Manapul brings a sexy, dynamic and vibrant look that the Legion so desperately requires. This is the best looking Legion comic book that I have seen in decades.

I love the costume designs that Manapul gives the various Legionnaires. The costumes remind me of how the Pre-Crisis Legion looked. I dig that Manapul gives Karate Kid a decidedly Ryu-esque look.

The Bad: I have no complaints with this issue.

Overall: Legion of Super Heroes #37 was a solid debut issue for the new creative team in Shooter and Manapul. For the first time in a long time I am actually excited about reading the Legion of Super Heroes. I think that we may in store for a quality run with these two gentlemen at the helm. If you haven’t tried the Legion of Super Heroes before then this would be a good time to hop aboard this train.

7 Comments

  1. I’m confused: How did KK and Triplicate Girl get back to the Legion Era from the present? And how did Triplicate Girl get her other selves (who died) back?

  2. Oh, and for the record, I thought (and still think) that the TMK legion remains the best thing ever done with these characters. Everything else has been just too…kiddie and left me cold and unable to relate to these people.

    The TMK legion was about real people, with real problems, who happened to be superheroes and thus was a more mature, complex, fufilling read.

  3. I’m so looking forward to this book. I haven’t read many Legion books since the Levitz/Giffen stories circa late Seventies. It’s been awhile.

    Not too interested in Legion continuity, but I am very interested in Shooter’s return to the title.

    Your review is encouraging. Thanks.

  4. Hey–I’ve been hearing that there’s been some thought as to slow down the Revolution, and I just want to say that your blog is my first stop for comic book reviews. The in-depth analysis can’t be beat, and usually, they partially determine which comics I buy on any given week. Keep it up as best you can!

  5. Man, I am so going to have to get this. I dropped the title for budgetary concerns, but Shooter seems to be firing on all cylinders!

  6. The TMK Legion was my first and i still love it – I didnt have an attachment to the characters from before, and so wasnt aware thet they were inconsistent. Anything could and did happen and you had great characters like loomis, kono and kent

    As always Rokk – loving the reviews.

  7. Finally got to read #37 last night, and I was very, very happy with it. It really did feel like a true return to form for the Legion, and I didn’t expect that right out of the gate from Shooter. I agree–most everything felt “right”, and I’m having to temper my glee now for fear of seeming like a rabid fanboy…

    I should add that while I did enjoy a lot of what Waid and Kitson brought to the Legion, in hindsight the whole “Eat it, Grandpa” youth movement thing is weak — and my second bone to pick concerns Waid’s apparently pathological aversion to Wildfire, which (I read somewhere and can’t find the quote now, so forgive me) was due to nothing more than the fact that Wildfire’s codename didn’t end in “boy” or “kid”. To which I say, Arrrghh!!

    I’m so looking forward to Shooter’s run. The art was really good, too; and here’s hoping we can all find more to enjoy about this run than we anticipate!

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