Brian Bendis’ Fourboot Legion of Super-Heroes was a massive disappointment here at The Revolution. There is no franchise that I love more than my beloved Legion of Super-Heroes. It was heartbreaking to see a writer so ill-suited for the Legion franchise being given the keys to the kingdom. Bendis wasted no time at all by delivering a total clusterfuck of a read. Bendis demonstrated his usual tone-deafness for the Legion’s history. Bendis clearly did little to no research on the Legion. Bendis was obvious in his complete lack of understanding of what makes the Legion so special and the franchise’s core values. You can read our prior reviews for issue 1, issue 2, issue 3, issue 4, and issue 5 of Bendis’ Fourboot Legion.
Bendis made bizarre, unnecessary, and pointless changes to numerous Legionnaires. If the goal was to make the Fourboot Legion of Super-Heroes completely unrecognizable to Legion fans then mission accomplished. The problem was the Fourboot Legion also offered nothing of substance that would attract any new readers at all. That was evident in the awful sales numbers. The Fourboot Legion quickly sunk to the 20,000 unit range and was canceled with issue 12.
I had hoped that DC Comics would have learned their lesson and quickly reverted back to the Paul Levitz Legion of Super-Heroes that Geoff Johns resurrected and that DC Comics spent so much time hyping and promoting. You know, the Legion that literally every single DC Comics reader knows and recognizes. Or, that DC would at least realize that 54-year old Brian Bendis was well past his prime and not the proper writer to helm the Legion of Super-Heroes franchise.
Unfortunately, none of that happened. So, here we are with old man Bendis back for another Legion of Super-Heroes story. Thankfully, this one is just a six-issue limited series. Hopefully, it sells poorly and DC will realize that nobody is interested in the foul gruel that is the Bendis Fourboot Legion. Let’s hit this review for Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1.
Words: Brian Bendis
Art: Scott Godlewski
Colors: Ryan Cody
Story Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 3.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with the Gold Lantern, Kala Lour, talking to his ring about how he is going to bring back the ideals of the Green Lantern Corps. We then see the rest of the Legion of Super-Heroes arriving on the scene. The Gold Lantern narrates the entire scene as the Legionnaires appear on the scene to take down some weird alien threat. (We get some mindless banter that neither gives us character work nor advances or enhances the storyline.)
The Gold Lantern narrates that the Legion is comprised of heroes from different planets and each Legionnaire has their own extra-special abilities. That each Legionnaire sees and feels things differently. (Yup. That is pretty much what all sentient beings do. How unique.) This is what makes them a great team.
The Legionnaires defeat the alien threat. (Even though we actually do not get to see any of the fight itself.) Suddenly, one of Triplicate Girl’s bodies gets transported away from the scene by a mysterious dark force.
We shift to Brainiac 5 and the Legionnaires meeting with the United Planets. Brainy describes the threat of a Great Darkness. (Oh, C’mon. Bendis is not this uncreative that he is going to try and rehash the most iconic Legion story of all time, right?) That there is a darkness that will end all things. These dark tremors are appearing all over the Galactic. Gold Lantern chimes in that they must solve the darkness before it becomes too great. (Jesus. This kindergarten wordplay is the worst.) The UP tells the Legion that they have all of the UP’s resources at their disposal in order to handle this threat.
We cut to the present day with the Justice League standing over some vanquished villains. (Oh, thank god we cut to this scene AFTER the battle! Heaven forbid if we ever actually get some action. Gross.) We got some mindless banter between the Justice Leaguers. Suddenly, the dark portal from the earlier scene appears and tries to suck Wonder Woman away. The portal disappears and the Leaguers see one of Luorno’s bodies on the scene. Luorno is now very old. Luorno says that she knows Jon Kent and then she passes out.
We zip back to New Earth in the 31st century. The remaining two bodies of Triplicate Girl are mourning the loss of their third body. They do not know what to do. Normally, when a body is lost it is due to death from an accident or natural disaster. In this case, their body is simply missing. They do not know if they can even merge at this moment. (We get some really bizarre dialogue of Saturn Girl telling Triplicate Girl that her anger is justified. And more strange dialogue with Triplicate Girl saying she is angry at the Legionnaires for talking to her like they did since they are ignorant of how her abilities work. And Saturn Girl replies that Triplicate Girl is justified in feeling that way, too. It is all so weird and strange.)
Jon Kent then appears on the scene and says that Luorno and some of the Legionnaires need to come with him to the 21st century.
We then cut to the Hall of Justice in the 21st century. Jon Kent has brought with him Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Phantom Girl, Blok, Monster Boy, Element Lad, White Witch, Karate Kid, Bouncing Boy, Timber Wolf, Ultra Boy, Dawnstar, and Triplicate Girl. The two bodies of Luorno see their third body with the Justice Leaguers and they all hug each other. They comment how the one body is now an old lady.
We cut to a double-page splash shot of the Legionnaires and Justice Leaguers standing and talking. (Ha! Did you think you would get a sweet double-page splash shot of some action?! No way! Double page splash shots are the best for a crap ton of pointless blathering that does nothing to further the story or flesh out the characters.) Triplicate Girl’s bodies talk about how the one is old and her back is killing her. Brainiac and Flash geek out because they both said the word “Fascinating” when learning about the darkness outbreaks. Flash comments if Brainiac 5 is a Brainiac and if that is a Gold Lantern with the Legion. Dawnstar talks about wanting to touch Wonder Woman’s golden lasso. (All of this is just so mindless.) Rokk, Imra, and Jon talk about how maybe the Great Darkness is happening in the 21st century and the 31st century at the same time. Wildfire wants to punch Black Adam. (Why? They have never met.) Lightning Lass says that the history written about Naomi is from when she is older. Naomi says that Black Lightning’s costume is like Lightning Lass’ costume.
Suddenly, another Great Darkness portal appears and every single Legionnaire and Justice Leaguer gets teleported away from the scene. Only Gold Lantern is left behind. End of issue.
The Good: Sometimes I regret that I instituted the Revolution’s Rule of Positivity when I first started the Comic Book Revolution back in 2006. All right, what is something positive that I can say about Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1? Well, look, no matter how uncreative, dull, and unrecognizable the Bendis Fourboot Legion may be, I still always smile when holding a Legion of Super-Heroes comic book in my hand. It is mainly powered by nostalgia and the memories of actual well-written and entertaining Legion of Super-Heroes stories. I wish so badly that DC Comics would give us more of the Levitz Legion that Geoff Johns so lovingly weaved back into the DCU from 2007 to 2010 that culminated with the Levitz Legion getting their own title again in 2010.
The Legion is one of DC’s oldest and most storied franchises. It deserves so much more. I firmly believe that the Levitz Legion that Johns returned to the DCU has massive potential to be a hit with readers. All it takes is the correct writer. Who would I want? Ideally, someone like Grant Morrison or Jonathan Hickman. But, I know both of those choices are unrealistic. I would certainly take someone like Kyle Higgins after reading his work with the Power Rangers. I would also be excited for someone like Peter Tomasi or Joshua Williamson to be given the keys to the Legion franchise. Or even go outside of the box with a writer like Fred Van Lente. There are numerous choices.
Well, look at me. I am just rambling on about stuff that has nothing to do with Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1. Anyway, like I said holding this comic in my hand reminds me of the untapped potential of the Legion of Super-Heroes franchise.
I also enjoyed seeing Wildfire again and acting like Wildfire. Drake is one of my favorite Legionnaires and he is one of the few Fourboot Legionnaires that I actually recognize. So, seeing my man acting like his trademark pugnacious self was enjoyable.
The Bad: Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1 was a dull beginning to this six-issue mini-series. The biggest problem with this issue is that it lacks content. Bendis offers up enough story content for half an issue and then decompresses it in order to stretch it across the entire issue. To top it off, Bendis then presents this thin story in a fashion as boring as possible.
Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1 begins with a five-page scene of the Gold Lantern narrating the Legion’s encounter with a generic alien threat. It lacks any action at all. It delivers no character work. It gives a rudimentary introduction of the Legion in an unexciting fashion. The same goal could have been accomplished in fewer pages. Or, the same amount of pages could have been used and some interesting action and fight choreography could have been employed to actually entertain the reader.
We then get a four-page scene of Brainiac describing in vague terms the generic threat of the Great Darkness. There is little in the way of actual meat to this plotline of the Great Darkness. This four-page scene consists of a double-page splash shot of a couple of drab-looking planets with some of Brainiac 5’s narration boxes. These two pages were pure filler and served absolutely no purpose other than to eat up some pages to make up for the lack of content in Bendis’ shallow story. The second half of this scene is the double-page splash shot of Brainiac 5 and the Legionnaires in the UP’s Great Hall. Again, a boring wasted double-page splash shot for something that could have been one in one page. This four-page scene had enough content for two pages.
We then get a four-page scene of the Justice Leaguers cleaning up after a battle and having Triplicate Girl appear on the scene. Again, it is mostly filler and only had maybe two pages of actual content. More importantly, we are now eleven pages into Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1 and have gotten zero action and practically no plot development. Exciting!
We get a two-page scene of Jon Kent going to the 31st Century to get Triplicate Girl. This was just a short choppy bridge scene to get our Legionnaires over into the 21st century.
Then we get a seven-page final scene with the Legionnaires at the Hall of Justice. This scene also highlighted the lack of actual content in Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1. We got a two-page splash shot of the Legionnaires arriving outside of the Hall of Justice. Then we got a double-page splash shot of a bunch of talking heads as the Legionnaires and Justice Leaguers engaged in pointless blathering that does nothing to add new content to the story or further any plot lines. So, we are now four pages into this seven-page scene and have gotten nothing but fluff in order to burn up some more pages in this issue.
We then get two pages of the Great Darkness portal arriving and sucking all of the heroes away from the scene. We then get one page of Gold Lantern all by himself wondering where everyone went. Again, those three pages offer about one page of content stretched over as many pages as possible. In the end, we are left with a seven-page final scene that provided the reader maybe two to three pages of actual content. It is a fitting end to a disappointingly shallow issue.
Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1 is poorly written and constructed from every possible angle. Bendis delivers a story that is painfully simplistic. There is only one plotline introduced in this issue: The Great Darkness threat. That is it. I can forgive that there is only one plot line since this is just a six-issue mini-series. However, if you are going to go with just one plotline then it had better be well developed and engaging to the reader. That is not what happens at all in this issue.
Bendis presents the Great Darkness plotline in the most generic manner possible. Bendis presents to the reader some vague presentation of the Great Darkness threat. There is no real meat or complexity to the Great Darkness threat. Bendis presents this cursory Great Darkness plotline in the scene with Brainiac 5 and the UP. Bendis then literally repeats nearly word for word the exact same discussion of the Great Darkness threat in the final scene where the Brainiac 5 is talking to the Justice Leaguers. The Great Darkness plotline lacks any substance or intrigue. Bendis does nothing to flesh out the Great Darkness threat to make it anything of real importance or of any depth or texture. Nor does Bendis try and make the Great Darkness threat anything special or fascinating in order to get the reader immersed in the story and eager to come back for more.
The Great Darkness threat comes across to the reader as generic at best and uncreative remix culture at worst. Obviously, Bendis is attempting to trade off of the hard work of Paul Levitz when he created the greatest Legion story of all time in the Great Darkness Saga that took place from Legion of Super-Heroes v. 2 #290-294 in 1982. Bendis relies on the reader’s prior knowledge of the Great Darkness Saga in order to create any excitement or sense of threat rather than actually trying to deliver this himself. This is nothing more than creatively bankrupt and lazy writing by Bendis. This is the type of lukewarm remix culture that has driven away so many readers over the years.
The biggest sin is that Bendis does nothing at all the hook the reader into coming back for more. It is vital that the debut issue of a mini-series quickly and clearly convey to the reader what is so unique and interesting about the mini-series that warrants the reader to come back for more. The writer must demonstrate why the mini-series stands apart from the slew of superhero titles on the market.
Bendis fails miserably in this number one task of this debut issue. There is absolutely nothing in Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1 that is unique or interesting. There is nothing in this issue that makes it stand out from the other superhero comic books littering the shelves of local comic shops. Bendis offers up a generic and boring read that makes no case for why it should exist and why readers should want to come back for more. Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1 fades into the sea of superhero titles on the market as just another insipid offering from DC Comics.
What makes matters worse is that Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1 also delivers zero character work. All of the characters in Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1 are as generic as possible. None of the characters outside of maybe Wildfire demonstrate anything resembling a unique personality. The complete lack of character work is not helped by the fact that Bendis serves up a heaping helping of his usual vapid dialogue. All of the characters have the same external voice. There is zero personality to any of the characters.
The poor dialogue is evident from start to finish. But, there are several scenes where the lousy dialogue really sticks out. The scene with Triplicate Girl angry at the other Legionnaires before Jon Kent arrives was so weird. The dialogue was bizarre and the reader has no idea what Bendis is trying to do at this moment. It just makes all the Legionnaires in this scene seem awkward and dumb.
The colorless dialogue and poor character work lead to zero chemistry between any of the characters. And that is a fatal flaw for any Legion of Super-Heroes comic book. Excellent chemistry between the Legionnaires is one of the secret ingredients of this franchise.
Of course, it gets worse from here. If you are going to offer a comic book with a shallow story, uncreative and poorly developed main plotline, poor character work, and basic dialogue then you had better compensate by delivering some bad-ass action and great fight choreography. Well, we do not get any of that, either.
In fact, Bendis goes out of his way to purposely avoid any whiff of action or fight scenes in Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1. The opening scene where the Legionnaires are dealing with the generic alien threat is delivered in such a passive manner as to avoid any actual fight choreography at all. We just have Legionnaires arriving on the scene and flying around while Gold Lantern narrates that they fought and defeated the alien threat. Then we see the Legionnaires all standing around triumphantly as the threat has been captured.
Again, when we first see the Justice League, we see our heroes standing triumphantly over the Legion of Doom. Would it have been so terrible to cut to this scene mid-fight so we could get some cool action? I guess so. Instead, Bendis purposely avoids any action. It makes no sense. The decision to avoid any and all action helps to contribute to Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1 being such a boring read.
All right, there is nothing more to be said about the writing in Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1. Let’s turn our attention to the artwork in this issue. It is obvious that Bendis just hates artists in general. I feel so bad for any artist who is unlucky enough to be paired up with Bendis. It is clear that Bendis goes out of his way to give his artists absolutely nothing to work with at all.
I can only imagine what a meeting with Bendis and Scott Godlewski went like when planning Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1.
Cue scene with Bendis and Godlewski on a Zoom conference call with each other:
Bendis: Okay, so this is the debut issue of a new mini-series starring two of DC’s most iconic super teams so we gotta do this right.
Godlewski: Definitely! Something that will really grab the reader’s attention!
Bendis: Absolutely. So, look I am thinking we start with an action scene between the Legionnaires and some alien threat.
Godlewski: Cool! So a big action shot to kick it off and then I can show the Legionnaires employing their powers and displaying effective teamwork and strategy in defeating the threat!
Bendis: Nah. We are gonna skip over that and get right to them all standing around after the fight and talking.
Godlewski: Ummmm…okay. That’s cool, too. I guess.
Bendis: Yeah! And then after one of Triplicate Girl’s bodies disappears we can get to a big double-page splash shot as we mention this new Great Darkness threat. I am thinking something like two generic red planets and some empty dark space.
Bendis: Yeah!! And then we can roll into a second double-page splash shot of Brainy and the Legionnaires just standing around while talking to the UP in their Great Hall!
Godlewski: …….Just talking?
Bendis: Sure! It is so cool! The readers are really gonna freak out!
Godlewski: *Tosses pencil and paper down on his desk*
Bendis: Then we can introduce the Justice Leaguers in a double-page splash shot.
Godlewski: Doing something rad like beating up some villains!
Bendis: No, even better! The Justice Leaguers will be standing around engaged in random banter with the defeated super villains at their feet!
Godlewski: ….. *Reaches for a bottle of bourbon on his desk*
Bendis: Then I am thinking once the Justice Leaguers and Legionnaires all meet that we have another double-page splash shot.
Godlewski: I would ask if this is them battling something related to the Great Darkness. But, what’s the point…
Bendis: Oh, man! I totally got you covered with this double-page splash shot! I am envisioning a double-page splash shot of a bunch of talking heads.
Godlewski: Fantastic. Thanks, boss. *Stares blankly at the floor and takes another shot of bourbon*
Look, Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1 is a visually boring issue. But, it is not the fault of Godlewski. Bendis simply gives Godlewski absolutely nothing to work with at all in this story.
The character designs for the Legionnaires continue to be completely horrendous. Again, this is not Godlewski’s fault that the Legionnaires look terrible. But, the fact remains that these are some truly awful character designs. It is so hard to get past that fact.
We still have some of the dumbest hairstyles I have ever seen on comic book characters. There is Saturn Girl’s awful undercut hairstyle that makes her look like a video game NPC. Then there is Cosmic Boy’s moronic-looking haircut. Then there is Shrinking Violet’s hideous haircut. We also have Ultra Boy’s horrid frosted hair. Seriously. Frosted hair like it’s the 1980s? C’mon. All of these epically bad hairstyles just make so many of the Legionnaires look like total clowns.
And then we get to the weirdness that is Bendis’ Lightning Lad. Garth went from being his traditional iconic Ginger-American form in all of the promo artwork prior to the debut of Bendis’ Fourboot Legion to being racially retconned into a black guy. Up until this issue, Lightning Lad has been drawn with an orange and black hightop fade/afro haircut. His sister, Lightning Lass, has gotten orange and black braids. But, in Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1, Lightning Lad now has orange white dude-type hair done up in a pompadour. Meanwhile, Lightning Lass still has braids but they are all brown now.
All in all, Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1 is a boring-looking issue. There is very little eye candy in this issue that will capture the reader’s attention or get them excited about this story.
Overall: Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1 is the Nilla Wafers of comic books. It offers you nothing more than a bland taste and empty calories. There is nothing in Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1 that will appeal to Legion fans. There is also nothing in this issue that will appeal to Justice League fans. Those fans need to know that the Justice League is barely even in this issue. There is also nothing in this issue that will appeal to general comic book readers who are not fans of the Legion or the Justice League. Those readers can find far more interesting and unique superhero titles on the market to read. There is no way I would recommend that anyone spend their hard-earned money for Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1.
To comment on this article and other Comic Book Revolution content, visit our Facebook page, our Twitter feed, and our Instagram feed. Also, catch up with all of Rokk’s other musings about comics, anime, TV shows, movies and more over on his Twitter page.