Comic Book Review: Legion of Super Heroes #38

The Revolution absolutely loved Shooter and Manapul’s debut issue on Legion of Super Heroes #37. It was fantastic. This old school/new school combination definitely pumped new life into this half-dead franchise. The Legion has been struggling ever since Crisis on Infinite Earths wreaked havoc on their continuity and history. Writers have come and gone and DC has been forced to perform complete and total re-boots on this title several times. Well, after a couple of decades of mismanagement and an apparent lack of concern or knowledge of how to handle the Legion, it appears DC is finally committed to putting some effort into restoring the Legion to its former glory.

I will admit up front that I was suspicious about the decision to bring back an older writer like Shooter who began his first tour of duty on the Legion back in the late 1960’s. Clearly, my fears were unfounded and I’ll give Didio credit for tapping Shooter to handle the revival of the Legion. Shooter brought back that Legion magic and that trademark Legion “feel” that has been missing on this title since the original Crisis. There is no doubt in my mind that I am going to completely enjoy Legion of Super Heroes #38. Let’s hit this review.

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 Saturn Girl, Timber Wolf and Star Boy brawling with the alien invaders. We see that the red-haired alien girl is actually still alive as she regains consciousness. The girl quickly joins the Legionnaires in their battle against the alien invaders. The girl introduces herself to the Legionnaires. Her name is Giselle.

Timber Wolf’s animal sharp senses notice that the alien invaders are changing and adapting to the threat that the Legionnaires present. We see the alien invaders getting larger and their weapons and armor getting bigger.

We cut to Legion Headquarters where Lightning Lad still cannot establish any communication with Saturn Girl. Light Lass and Phantom Girl both point out that if Garth wasn’t so rude to all the U.P. officials that maybe they could have convinced someone to allow them to use a transmatter unit.

Suddenly, Zilya Popoff, the Deputy Chief of Staff for the U.P. President enters the room along with walks in with the new U.P. approved Legion applicants. We shift back to Triton with Saturn Girl, Timber Wolf, Star Boy and Giselle brawling with the newly buffed up alien invaders. Star Boy gets taken out by the alien invaders. Saturn Girl calls out for help from Giselle. Giselle responds that she isn’t helping the Legionnaires. That Giselle hates the locals since they have always hated them and she is only interested in saving herself.

We slide back to Legion HQ where Lightning Lad demands to know how Popoff got into the Legion HQ. Popoff responds that all senior U.P. officials have an all-access pass to the Legion HQ. That it was a rider attached to the building reconstruction inspection document that Lightning Lad personally signed.

Lightning Lad then asks any of the new applicants if they have the ability to teleport. Sadly, none of them possess that ability. Garth then barks for them to leave only to be cut short by Light Lass who urges her brother to let the applicants try and to make it seem official. Garth grudgingly agrees and the tryouts commence.

First up is Fruit Boy who has the ability to cause fruit to ripen. Next is Sludge who has the ability to make any surface slimy, mucky and sticky. Unfortunately, Sludge can’t clean up any mess that he makes. Then we have Virus (the three-boot version of Infectious Lass) who has the ability to make people sick, except she can’t control who gets sick so everyone in her range-radius gets sick.

Next is Spy. His abilities include super-acute sense and a little ESP. Spy can smell everyone in the room and hear their heartbeats. Spy says that his ESP is always drawn to the most intense thoughts around him. Spy says that right now someone is thinking really hard about Light Lass’s… Spy then snaps at Sludge and tells him to show some respect to Light Lass. That she is a Legionnaire.

Next is Sonar who has the ability to hear underwater. And lastly is Voice. Her talent is that anyone that can hear her voice is compelled to do whatever she says. Except that it only works on dull-witted stupid types. Voice says if she told them to raise their left hand that no one would probably do it. We then see that nobody has their left hand up except for Lighting Lad. Light Lass quickly tells Garth to put his left hand down. Voice then hurriedly says that her power also works on those who are under a lot of stress or that are tired.

Light Lass thanks all the applicants for their tryouts and tells them that the Legionnaires will confer and then let them know. Lightning Lad then yells “NO!” and just erupts. Lightning crackles all around the room. Garth yells for everyone to get out now.

Popoff and the applicants quickly run from the scene. Ayla snaps at her brother telling him that Popoff is one of the most powerful politicians in the entire U.P. That if they had just buttered him up and accepted his applicants that maybe they could have then gotten him to unfreeze their transmatter account. Ayla storms off yelling that now they still have no way to get to Triton and are now going to have a problem with the President’s Office.

Lightning Lad then gets a call from the President’s Chief of Staff who informs Garth of a meeting tomorrow to discuss ways to mitigate the diplomatic damage Lightning Lad has just done. Lighting Lad stands there by himself. Suddenly, another applicant appears in the room. His name is M’rissey (Manchester, so much to answer for) and that his power is that he is a genius at applied operational calculus. Garth storms off saying that he doesn’t have time for this.

We zip back to Triton where a badly bloodied and beaten Star Boy wakes up. He takes out a couple of alien invaders that are about to get Saturn Girl. Saturn Girl and Star Boy are outnumbered. Timber Wolf is down. Saturn Girl takes over the minds of the unconscious Science Police in the battlefield and commandeers their motor control centers and has them blast away the remaining alien invaders. The fight is over and now the Science Police re-enforcements arrive on the scene.

We cut back to Legion HQ where Light Lass informs her brother that they have just learned that the fight is over on Triton. That the Science Police have found three unnamed Legionnaires badly injured and no word on the fourth Legionnaire.

We hop back to Triton where the Science Police medical team is treating Star Boy and Saturn Girl’s wounds. Timber Wolf snarls at the member of the medical team that tries to treat him. Timber Wolf says that his injuries are just a scratch. Star Boy searches for Invisible Kid and finds him trapped under some rubble. Star Boy frees Invisible Kid and they fly back to the Saturn Girl and Timber Wolf.

We see Saturn Girl approaching Giselle and telling her that the Legion would welcome Giselle if she wanted to try out for Legion training. Giselle rebuffs Saturn Girl’s offer and states that she was only trying to save herself during the battle. That the Legion is just a bunch of U.P. lackeys and that the U.P. sucks.

We cut to Lightning Lad, Light Lass and Phantom Girl in the main control room. Phantom Girl informs Lightning Lad that a message just came in from Saturn Girl. That all four Legionnaires are okay. Garth is thrilled with this good news. Garth says that he can finally sleep tonight for the first time in three days.

Light Lass and Phantom Girl then leave to go to bed and urge Garth to stop being Lightning Lad and get some sleep. Garth answers that he is just going to check on a few things and then will go to sleep. P.G. and Light Lass leave. We see Garth standing in front of the Monitor Board. Garth then slumps over and begins crying. Light Lass peers from around the corner and comments how her poor dear brother is in so far over his head. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Legion of Super Heroes #38 was a fantastic read. Shooter serves up another strongly plotted and paced issue. The story moves along at a pleasant flow shifting between the faster action scenes and the slower paced scenes at the Legion HQ. As we race toward the end of the issue, Shooter employs faster scene cuts to ramp up the tension in the reader. We also get treated to a pleasant mix of drama and action. Shooter shows obviously knows that a good comic book requires both elements.

Shooter continues to impress me with his incredible character work and strong dialogue. It is obvious that Shooter simply has an exception feel for the personalities of the various Legionnaires. I have not seen a writer since Levitz left the Legion that has handled the various personalities of the Legionnaires as deftly as Shooter has in his first two issues. Shooter’s dialogue has a pleasant flow to it and makes even dialogue heavy scenes entertaining.

Shooter has also generated fantastic chemistry between the various Legionnaires. This is what has been missing on this title for decades. Shooter’s chemistry is what gives this comic book its trademark Legion “feel” that has been missing for so long. It is so tough to put this “feeling” into words, but I know it when I see it. And the way the Legionnaires interact and conduct themselves is perfect.

Shooter also serves up some sweet fight scenes. I love seeing Timber Wolf in action. Shooter has certainly impressed upon the reader what a total bad-ass Brin truly is. I liked how Brin was the only Legionnaire refusing medical treatment while dismissing his injuries as just a “scratch.” That is classic Timber Wolf.

I also liked Shooter’s creative use of Star Boy’s powers. Having Thom use his abilities to make the torso of the alien invaders heavier than their legs so that their bodies broke in half was pretty cool. I also loved that Shooter let Saturn Girl provide the finishing blow. And what a creative method as well with her commandeering the unconscious Science Police and having them mow down the invaders. Saturn Girl certainly has style.

I enjoyed the twist that Shooter throws at the reader by having Giselle turn tail and run during the fight leaving our poor Legionnaires on their own. Shooter is doing an excellent job of riffing off of Waid’s “Eat it, Grandpa” Legion youth movement. Ever since the Legion has taken one a close relationship with the U.P. the Legion’s rep across the universe has drastically changed.

No longer is the Legion the rebellious kids club. The Legion is now a part of the system. The Legion is the U.P. And it is interesting to see other young characters that would have loved and adored the Legion during Waid’s run now hate the Legion and view them as U.P. lackeys.

I absolutely adored the Legion tryouts. The Legion tryouts have always been some of my favorite Legion issues. And Shooter doesn’t disappoint in this issue. These Legion tryouts were so reminiscent of the old school Legion tryouts that we used to get prior to the original Crisis. Yet, Shooter doesn’t make the reader feel that he is just repeating the past. The applicants had an enjoyable Silver Age feel to them with their uniquely silly powers but they still had an appropriate modern era feel to their characters.

I’m glad to see Shooter bringing back just a little bit of the cheekiness and camp that the Legion always was known for before writers decided to twist this title into a dark dystopian future. And the Legion tryout in this issue brought some necessary comic relief to an otherwise tense story.

All of the applicants were excellent and I have a hard time picking a favorite one. However, I have to say that Fruit Boy may have been the star of this pool of applicants. Of course, it was also great to see Infectious Lass finally make an appearance in the three-boot. Yeah, Shooter gave her an updated name in Virus. And honestly, I didn’t think that was really necessary.

Sludge’s lusting over Light Lass’ assets during Spy’s tryout was humorous. Shooter continues to give the Legion the appropriate amount of sexual tension that you would expect to find among a large collection of 18-19 year olds clad in tight outfits.

Voice’s tryout was probably the most entertaining one as poor Lightning Lad is the only one with his hand in the air due to Voice’s powers. And Voice nervously stammering away trying to explain how her powers also influence those who are tired as stressed and not just people who are dull witted was perfectly done.

I enjoyed Shooter’s little surprise that all senior UP officials have unfettered access to the Legion HQ. And the fact that it was actually a rider that was a part of the contract that Garth signed in order to get the U.P.’s help to rebuild the Legion HQ was a great twist. The reader really feels bad for Garth as it seems that he just can’t do right. Also, it makes the Legion HQ much different than it was under Waid when it was reserved only for rebellious teen-agers.

I continue to be completely impressed with Shooter’s handling of Garth’s character. This has been the best job any writer has done with Lightning Lad’s character in quite some time. Shooter manages to show the reader various sides to Garth’s personality. We get to see Garth’s hot temper as he continually insults the various U.P officials. We also see Garth’s sensitive side as he continually worries about Saturn Girl and the other Legionnaires that he is unable to rescue.

Shooter shows the reader that Garth is a more direct and impulsive individual rather than a calm and calculating person. Garth is better suited for rushing into fearlessly into battle with a clear objective in mind than he is playing the cerebral role of a politically savvy leader. Shooter certainly treats us to a Lightning Lad that is complex and well fleshed out.

The ending was perfect. Shooter has been showing the stress and pressures that Lightning Lad is under practically 24/7 as Legion leader. The reader gets an excellent sense of the overwhelmed feeling that Garth has been experiencing during these two issues.

Of course, Garth is a tough guy and certainly has plenty of pride. He is not about to let anyone every think that he can’t handle the duties of being Legion leader. The final scene with Garth breaking down and crying in private was excellent. It allows the reader to connect with Garth and to get to see a side of his character that is rarely seen. Shooter manages to make Garth seem much deeper than we have seen him in a long time.

Francis Manapul serves up plenty more of his fantastic looking artwork. Manapul gives the Legion such a dynamic look. Manapul’s Legion has plenty of youthful energy with just enough sexiness as well. This is certainly one of the best looking versions of the Legion that I have seen in a very long time. Manapul’s art serves to capture the true essence of the Legion while still giving it a fresh modern look.

The Bad: I have no complaints with this issue.

Overall: Legion of Super Heroes #38 was another strong read. I realize that I must sound like a total shill for the Legion of Super Heroes. You will have to forgive me for my exuberance about Shooter and Manapul’s first two issues on this title. The fact is that this is the first time since Paul Levitz left the Legion that I have been this excited and pumped up about the Legion and the direction that it is headed. Shooter is finally giving us a Legion that is loyal and true to its roots while still being modern and new. Shooter certainly is not just giving us a re-hash of the original version of the Legion. Nor is Shooter simply bending the Legion to fit his own personal desires of what he wants to do with the various characters irrespective of their history.

If you dig teen heroes and you like a fine blend of action and drama then I have to recommend Legion of Super Heroes. You get a combination of both strong writing and artwork. And for my taste there is no other super hero group that can match the Legion for its diversity of characters and drama that exists between them. Shooter is certainly making the Legion of Super Heroes new reader friendly so now is a good time to hop aboard this title.

5 Comments

  1. Matt Steele in the Hour of Chaos January 27, 2008 at 6:41 am

    I guess belligerent ghouls run United Planets schools.

    Maybe next month we will see a young Durlan named Marr.

  2. You know, I recently got into Legion comics.

    One of the reasons was that I enjoy visiting your site and I think that you have good taste for comics, so if you like the Legion it must be worth trying. Second, I have seen some of the cartoons of the WB Legion series, and I have liked them.

    So far I have read some of the Comics version of the cartoons, a reprint of the Levitz-Giffen era amd a volume of the archives (Curt Swan/silver age)… I plan to keep in touch with the comics version of the cartoon (Which I like, specially the ones drwan by Eric Serra), get myself some archives volumes of the era drawn by Cockrum, and I’ll probably get this Shooter/Manapul comics when they get in trade…

    I’ll keep reading your reviews of these ;D

    I’d like Shooter to bring back Bouncing Boy, I understand that he did good work on developing him in his past writing of the Legion. Plus, the Legion cartoon has proved that there is no “cool” or “lame” superpowers, just “Cool” or “lame” writing. Chuck is well written in the cartoons and I think he could be well written in the comics, too

  3. Shooter and Manapul are definitely doing good work so far and seem to be quickly finding their groove as this issue was even better than their first one.

    I liked the issue but the tryout scenes felt a little long to me and interrupted the flow of the issue. I am all for a little break in the action but it seemed kind of inappropriate to spend pages on goofy super powers with part of the team fighting for their lives elsewhere. I’m sure Shooter was going for that extreme contrast and each set of scenes worked well on their own but spliced together it was just a little off for me. Still exicted about the new creative team though, I think they will continue to improve. Now where’s Shadow Lass!?!?

    On a different note since favorite Legion eras were brought up, what did you think of Legion Lost? That is what turned me from a Legion fan into a Legion fanatic. The Lightning Lad scene at the end stands out to me as one of his more defining character moments. That’s one of those series I go back to every few years just to remind myself how good it was.

  4. I’ve never read anything related to the Legion of Superheroes (all the weird continuity, too many characters, just generally them being so isolated from the rest of the DCU). The reviews of this have generally been good, so I might pick up the trade when it comes out.

  5. It’s been something like ten years since I’ve enjoyed reading single-issue comics as much as I enjoy Shooter’s Legion.

Comments are closed.