DC Comics Bendis Legion of Super-Heroes

Long-time followers of the Comic Book Revolution will know that I am just about the biggest Legion of Super-Heroes fan you will ever come across. I have every comic book ever published that the Legion has ever appeared in no matter how small that appearance may have been. I absolutely adore the Legion of Super-Heroes franchise in a way, unlike any other comic book property. The Legion of Super-Heroes has an incredible pedigree. The Legion first appeared in Adventure Comics #247 published in April 1958. The Legion of Super-Heroes is the first teen team in DC history.

Unfortunately, the Legion of Super-Heroes is also easily the franchise that DC has done the worst job handling over the decades. For some reason, DC just cannot get their act together when handling the Legion of Super-Heroes. You can check the Legion of Super-Heroes chronology that I created as well as the detailed overview of the different versions of the Legion of Super-Heroes that DC has given us over the decades.

DC first horridly crippled the Legion of Super-Heroes when they retconned Superboy from the Legion during the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths. This threw a monkey wrench into the Legion’s history and made their continuity a mess. This was a move that was the beginning of the end for the original Legion.

The Legion of Super-Heroes also holds the dubious record of being the only franchise to be completely rebooted. Twice. Yup. The Todd and Mary Bierbaum and Keith Giffen Legion (TMK Legion) was so bad that DC had to completely kill the Legion and restart from scratch. Funny anecdote, I saw Paul Levitz speak at Chicago Comic Con years ago. Levitz described reading the TMK Legion in one sitting as the “most painful experience he has ever had outside of a hospital.” Ouch.

Unfortunately, years later, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning repeated the same mistakes as Giffen and the Bierbaums and ruined the Legion so much that DC had to completely kill the Legion and restart from scratch. Again. Sadly, Mark Waid did not do much better with the “Threeboot” Legion. That Legion eventually got the Legion of Super-Heroes canceled by DC Comics. The result is that the Legion of Super-Heroes’ continuity is a complete and total mess. The Legion’s continuity is incredibly complicated and definitely not new reader friendly at all.

At this point, Geoff Johns then reintroduced the Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths Legion after the conclusion of Infinite Crisis during the Lightning Saga in the pages of Justice League of America and Justice Society of America. DC ended up canceling the Legion of Super-Heroes in October 2013 with Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 7 #23.

It has been nearly six years without a Legion of Super-Heroes title. However, we all knew that DC was eventually going to publish a Legion of Super-Heroes title once they felt that the time was right. DC has been teasing the return of the Legion of Super-Heroes all over the place over the past year. Geoff Johns has given us Saturn Girl in DC Universe: Rebirth #1 and in the pages of Doomsday Clock. We have seen Tellus in the background in Justice League #10. We have also seen Sun Boy in the background of Green Lantern #4.

The question was not if DC was going to publish a new Legion of Super-Heroes title, but rather a question of when. The other question was who would DC hire to write a new Legion of Super-Heroes title. Well, we have gotten an answer to both of those questions. The new Legion of Super-Heroes title will roll out in October 2019. Exactly six years after the last Legion of Super-Heroes title was canceled. The creative team will be Brian Bendis handling the story and Ryan Sook handling the artwork.

There is a ton to unpack here. DC’s decision to hire Bendis to write the new Legion of Super-Heroes title is certainly disappointing for several reasons. First, Bendis’ talents are in writing street-level characters. Bendis shines when writing characters like Daredevil or Spider-Man. Bendis excels at realistic street-level stories and crime stories. Science Fiction is absolutely not a genre anyone has ever confused with Bendis’ wheelhouse. Unfortunately, the Legion of Super-Heroes is as SciFi as you can get. The Legion of Super-Heroes requires a writer to embrace the SciFi genre and to deliver wildly imaginative stories.

Second, Bendis’ talents are suited for writing titles starring one main character with several supporting characters. Bendis struggles mightily when trying to write a title with a team of more than four or five characters. At no point in his writing career has Bendis ever displayed the ability to handle a large roster of characters. Sadly, the Legion of Super-Heroes boasts the largest roster of any superhero team in the history of comics. The Legion’s roster is usually around the 35-member number.

Third, Bendis has never displayed strong plotting and world-building skills. Bendis is no Geoff Johns, Jonathan Hickman, or Grant Morrison. Bendis has never demonstrated the ability to craft multiple detailed plot lines or perform impressive world-building stories. Unfortunately, the Legion of Super-Heroes requires that the writer be able to intelligently and logically plot multiple detailed plot lines at the same time. Also, delivering a new Legion of Super-Heroes title is going to require lots and lots of world-building.

Fourth, Bendis has never shown the ability to understand continuity, perform quality research, and understand the history of a franchise. Bendis usually simply ignores prior continuity and established character traits and simply writes whatever he wants to write. Unfortunately, the Legion of Super-Heroes has an incredibly long and detailed history. The Legion has countless characters. And these characters all have well-established character traits. It is vitally important that any Legion writer has an excellent command of the Legion’s history and the vast number of characters. This is not something that Bendis has ever shown an interest in doing in the past.

Fifth, Bendis is 52 years old. I would have loved to have seen DC hire a writer in their late 20s to early 30s to write the Legion of Super-Heroes. The Legion is a teen superhero group. It would benefit the title to be written by a younger writer who is more in touch with teenagers and remembers what it is like to be a teen. Getting a man in his fifties to write a group of teen heroes does little to excite me. A new Legion of Super-Heroes title would have benefited from some younger and fresher blood at the writer position. Yes, hiring a younger writer may be more of a risk. But, that is what DC pays their editorial staff to do. If Dan Didio and Jim Lee are as talented editors as they claim to be then they should be able to target the proper young and up-and-coming writer to handle the Legion.

For the reasons above, my initial reaction is that Bendis might have been the single worst choice to helm a new Legion of Super-Hero title. Having said that, the fact remains that this is the direction that DC has decided to take with the Legion of Super-Heroes franchise. So, continuing to eviscerate DC’s poor decision to hire Bendis to write the Legion is pointless. It would be funny and very easy to do, but pointless nonetheless. It would also pour water on an otherwise happy occasion: the triumphant return of the Legion of Super-Heroes. While I think Bendis is the worst choice of writers for this franchise, I am going to root like crazy for Bendis to be fantastic. I want to be excited about a new Legion of Super-Heroes title. It has been six long years. I want to be happy that DC is finally giving us a new Legion of Super-Heroes title. So, let’s all hope that Bendis completely surprises me and delivers a wonderful Legion of Super-Heroes.

With all of that out of the way, let’s take a look at the specifics concerning the return of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The Legion of Super-Heroes is going to make their return in Superman #14 which is coming out on August 14, 2019. The Legion’s return will continue in Superman #15 which is coming out on September 11, 2019. The solicitation for Superman #15 states:

At last, it’s the return of the Legion of Super-Heroes! The greatest super heroes of the 32nd century have traveled back in time not just to meet the heroes who inspired them, but to make an offer…but to which hero? And why will that choice tear Superman’s life apart?

There are two interesting nuggets in this solicitation. The first is that the solicitation states that Bendis’ Legion is from the 32nd century. A fan asked Bendis on Twitter if this was a type. Bendis replied, “Nope.” So, either DC editorial or Bendis have decided to move the Legion of Super-Heroes from the 31st century to the 32nd century.

This may seem like a small change to the overwhelming majority of readers. But, to diehard and longtime Legion fans, this is a big change. The Legion of Super-Heroes has always been set in the 31st century. This seems like the kind of pointless change that Bendis is known for. However, in the grand scheme of things, moving the Legion from the 31st Century to the 32nd Century is irrelevant. And, it actually might make sense if DC wants to keep the Legion a full 1,000 years in the future. After all, it was 1958 when the Legion was introduced as being from the 31st century. Moving the Legion to the 32nd century keeps the 1,000-year number in play for DC.

The second interest nugget from the solicitation is that the Legion is coming to make an offer to an unspecified hero. It is further said that the choice of that unspecified hero could tear Superman’s life apart. This certainly would imply that the Legion is traveling to the past to offer Jon Kent a spot on the team.

This is a twist on the Legion’s first appearance where they travel to the past to offer Superboy (Clark Kent) a spot on the team. This time, it appears that the Superboy who will get offered a spot on the Legion’s roster is Jon Kent.

In an interview with Newsarama, Bendis stated:

I don’t want to spoil what the relationship is to the Superman family, but it is a version of the classic relationship. They have come here for a reason, and that reason is because of something that happened in the Superman family.

This quote definitely gives more credence to the possibility that the Legion is trying to recruit Jon to join their team in Superman #15. If this is indeed the direction that Bendis takes with his version of the Legion then I have no problems with this approach. This is a nice update of the Legion’s first appearance back in 1958. This tweak to the Legion’s first appearance works well with the modern DCU while still honoring the tradition of the original 1958 appearance of the Legion.

After the Legion’s introduction in the pages of Superman, DC will publish Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #1 which is slated to come out on September 18, 2019. Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium will be a two-issue title. Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #2 will come out in October 2019.

Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #1 will be 40 pages and come with an expensive $5.00 cover price. Of course. Publishers never miss a chance to milk their customer base for every single penny these days. Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium will be written by Brian Bendis and feature several artists. Ryan Sook will handle the art duties of the story involving the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium will lead directly into the new ongoing Legion of Super-Heroes title written by Brian Bendis and drawn by Ryan Sook.

There are so many questions about Bendis’ Legion. Does Bendis have much of a command of the Legion’s history? What type of Legion will Bendis give the reader? Will Bendis give readers a Legion consistent with its core values and established history or will Bendis go off the rails like the TMK Legion or the DnA Legion did?

In trying to figure out what Bendis has planned for the Legion of Super-Heroes it would be useful to look at some of his quotes from various interviews he has given about the upcoming Legion of Super-Heroes title.

In the same interview with Newsarama, Bendis stated:

The Legion of Super-Heroes is the biggest project I’ve ever done in my life.

This quote leaped out to me. This seems like the most honest and genuine thing that Bendis says in any of his interviews about the Legion. There is no doubt that the Legion of Super-Heroes is the biggest project that Bendis has ever handled in his career. I appreciate that Bendis fully realizes and acknowledges this obvious challenge. This gives me hope that Bendis might actually be trying to evolve and grow as a writer in order to handle this herculean challenge.

Bendis said talked about his new version of the Legion of Super-Heroes:

Since its Silver Age origin, the Legion of Super-Heroes has been the cornerstone of the future DC Universe. Over time, a wealth of future characters and stories have emerged since the Legion’s beginnings and connecting these threads to an updated version of the Legion is a story Ryan and I can’t wait to tell.

This quote has Bendis getting across the narrative that he acknowledges the long and storied history of the Legion and that it is a premier franchise in the DCU. These are all good things to say that long-time Legion fans will want to hear. In that quote, Bendis then pivots from the past to the future by stressing that his Legion will be an “updated” version of the Legion. The word choice is important here. By saying “updated version” that implies that Bendis’ Legion may be another reboot. Those words certainly imply that Bendis is planning on giving readers a different version of the Legion than what Geoff Johns and Jim Shooter gave readers from Infinite Crisis up to now.

I am concerned about what Bendis feels needs to be “updated” in a franchise that is set 1,000 years in the future. For certain, I hope that Bendis is not going to give us 2019 politics and commentary in a title set 1,000 years in the future. We shall see. I also hope that “updated” does not mean that it runs counter to the Legion’s established core principles and traits.

In the same interview with Newsarama, Bendis stated:

I know Legion has shown up in Supergirl, and in other places — I know, but I’m talking about the gigantic Legion in the 31st Century, the dozens of members, all from a different planet, all with a different power, all coming together to celebrate an Age of Heroes that they desperately want.

We actually get to leave where we are and go 1,000 years into the future. I can’t think of anything more inviting right now, in the world we live in. I would love to travel 1,000 years into the future to see a hopeful Age of Heroes. That sounds exciting.

I think about it every day as I’m writing it. And that’s what I’m promising.

These quotes give us a good insight into what type of Legion Bendis wants to deliver. Look at the buzzwords that Bendis throws out in that interview. Words like “celebrate” “Age of Heroes” “inviting” “hopeful” and “exciting.” None of those words are said by accident.

At its core, the Legion of Super-Heroes is a bright and positive franchise. The Legion is forward-looking that is both inspirational and hopeful. It appears by the quotes above that Bendis understands these core traits that the Legion has always held dear. These are the same core traits that the TMK Legion and DnA Legion ended up ignoring and, thereby, dooming the franchise to being killed off and fully rebooted both times.

If Bendis sticks to the Legion’s core traits of being positive, bright, and inspirational, then there is a good chance that Bendis’ version of the Legion will enjoy success and broad fan support. The words that Bendis chooses in the quotes above certainly indicate that Bendis does understand the established core traits of the Legion and is prepared to give readers a version of the Legion consistent with those core traits.

This entire quote by Bendis is a clear and impassioned plea to long-time Legion readers like me to give him a chance. Bendis even ends his pitch to long-time Legion fans with a clear promise to deliver an excellent Legion story that is faithful to the franchise’s core traits. I certainly appreciate Bendis’ forthright plea.

However, before we go getting too hopeful, Bendis then gave an interview with Comicbook.com in which Bendis stated:

“Our Legion is going to be a little different than past Legions. I know that sometimes in the past, the Legion have gotten together because things are so peaceful, they can’t stand it. Our Legion is coming together out of what they think is dire necessity. Things are starting to crumble, and they’re crumbling fast, and it really feels like it’s time for a new Age of Heroes for the first time in a millennium. That there’s a genuine sense of threat to all things.”

Now, let’s look closely at some of the words that Bendis chooses in this quote. “Dire” “necessity” “crumble” and “threat.” This quote is far darker than the quote from the Newsarama interview. Here, Bendis indicates that the 32nd century is a dark place where everything is crumbling fast and there is a real sense of threat to everything. That the Legion is formed as a response to this dire situation and a desire for a new Age of Heroes.

This is in stark contrast to the Legion’s origins in the prior versions which is one where the Earth is in a time of incredible success and peace. Where the Legion is formed to serve as a shining beacon of all that is great about the United Planets.

Bendis’ quote gives me pause. I hope that this does not indicate that Bendis is going to follow more of the TMK Legion and DnA Legion approach and ignore the established core traits of the Legion. I have no desire to see the Legion set in some bleak and dystopian future. That has simply never been one of the core traits of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Bendis continued in the same interview by saying:

“It’s funny because there are 34 lead characters. There are a lot of perspectives that the story is going to be handled from. So, so many perspectives that almost no story will be left unturned. Not every character will see things the same way. It’s like every great team: some will be on the same page, some will not. It’s going to be a time of great chaos and struggle in the galaxy, and it’s up to them to get to work and figure it out as they’re going; they’re young.”

Now there are several things to unpack from this quote. Again, look at Bendis’ word choices. “Chaos” and “struggle. Again, Bendis continues to imply that the Legion’s time period is a dark time. This is definitely the opposite of how the Legion’s setting within the United Planets territory is normally portrayed. This quote evokes vibes more in line with the failed TMK Legion and DnA Legion.

Again, the idea of the Legion existing in a dystopian future is a massive failure. That would be so unappealing and contrary to the core traits of the Legion. Yes, there have always been threats and conflicts But, in general, the universe of the Legion has always been one that is more aspirational and positive. That is what made the Legion so unique. Most stories set far in the future paint the future as negative and bleak. The Legion always gave us a future that inspired us that better things were to come.

If Bendis’ Legion is going to succeed then he needs to make sure that the Legion’s universe is more consistent with how it is normally portrayed. Because, if Bendis veers toward the same path as the TMK Legion or the DnA Legion then he is going to fail. We already have a proven track record to show that such a path only leads to failure.

On the plus side, what I do like from that quote is that Bendis seems to understand that the special sauce of the Legion of Super-Heroes is the incredibly diverse personalities and viewpoints of the Legionnaires. What was always so much fun about the Legion was that not all of the Legionnaires always got along. There were cliques. There were differing opinions and viewpoints. There was always conflict between teammates.

Basically, the key to writing the Legion is to realize that it is essentially Beverly Hills 90210 in space. You need good drama between the Legionnaires. I have no problem admitting that the Legion has always been the telenovela of the comic book world. If Bendis can deliver the goods on this aspect of the Legion then we should be in for a good time.

Of course, there were a few lines in the interview with Newsarama where old bad Bendis who does not do research and ignores established core traits and values of a franchise shined through. In that interview, Bendis stated:

When the Legion of Super-Heroes were around, they were, like, one of the top-selling books.

Bendis is high. Look, I adore the Legion of Super-Heroes more than anyone possibly could. But, even I have to admit that the Legion of Super-Heroes has never sold well. The Legion always posted average to slightly below-average sales numbers. The fact that Bendis does not know this fact completely betrays this narrative of him being a “huge” Legion fan that he has been pushing in all of these interviews.

Think about how long it’s been since there’s been a Legion of Super-Heroes book. It’s been about nine years.

Wrong again. It will have been exactly six years since we had a Legion of Super-Heroes book once Legion of Super-Heroes #1 comes out in October 2019. The last time we had a Legion of Super-Heroes book was in October 2013. Sorry, six years is not nine years. It is not even close. Again, Bendis has been pushing this image that he is a massive Legion fan and that he has been doing tons of research. If all of that was true then Bendis should know how many years it has been since DC published a Legion of Super-Heroes books. It just is not that hard.

Of course, now we arrive at the most interesting question of all. Is Bendis’ Legion going to be yet another reboot? Will Bendis’ Legion be a totally new Legion or a continuation of a prior version of the Legion?

On Twitter, Bendis was asked if his Legion was a reboot. Bendis replied:

“I’ll offer you this: it is the first appearance of the Legion of superheroes or any of these characters in this iteration of the DC Universe. We are meeting them fresh. Is that a reboot?”

This worries me. Bendis is being way too cute with his reply. Bendis may be many things, but he is not completely obtuse. Bendis knows what is a reboot and what is not a reboot. The fact that Bendis would not honestly and directly answer the question makes me believe that DC is about to give readers yet another rebooted Legion. If Bendis’ Legion is a reboot then that would make Bendis’ Legion the Fourthboot Legion.

I just cannot believe that DC would reboot the Legion for an unprecedented third time and give us a fourth version of the Legion. Geoff Johns has put in so much hard work trying to clean up the Legion’s messy and convoluted continuity from Infinite Crisis to the present day. It would make zero sense to throw away all of John’s work and simply reboot the Legion once again. Johns brilliantly cleaned up the Legion’s continuity in Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds by simply establishing that each version of the Legion was from a different universe in the Multiverse. Johns has then done a nice job reestablishing the Legion’s continuity during his run Justice Society, Justice League, Superman, and Action Comics.

It would make little sense to reboot the Legion again and immediately begin making the Legion’s continuity even more convoluted after Johns tried his best to clean it up. Johns has clearly established the Pre-Crisis Legion as the Legion. This is easily the most popular version of the Legion. It is easily the longest-running version of the Legion. And it is the only version of the Legion that readers who started reading comics in 2007 would know. Any readers who started reading DC comics in the past 12 years only know the Pre-Crisis Legion. It just makes no sense to reboot the Legion and make things needlessly more convoluted. But, that is what DC does with the Legion. The past is rife with examples of DC constantly bungling the handling of the Legion of Super-Heroes franchise. Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

One cool side note is that DC will be producing Legion Flight rings to celebrate the return of the Legion of Super-Heroes. They have done this before. I will be curious if we are getting plastic rings that are giveaways at local comic shops when you purchase the issue or if these will be high-end metal collectible rings. I am guessing it is going to be the former. Either way, I will certainly be getting my grubby paws on one of them.

All in all, I am going to remain hopeful and positive that Bendis delivers the best work of his career with this new Legion of Super-Heroes book. It will be fun to finally read a Legion of Super-Heroes comic. It has been too damn long. Long Live the Legion!

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