Oh, hell yeah! We are finally here! DC is finally giving us a new Legion of Super-Heroes title! It has been five long years since we have had a Legion of Super-Heroes title. I am beyond excited for this moment. To be fair, I should make it known that the Legion of Super-Heroes is my all-time favorite comic book from any publisher. There is no franchise that I adore and love more than the Legion. In fact, when the Comic Book Revolution first started in 2006 it was known as Rokk’s Comic Book Revolution and one of our main focuses was the Legion of Super-Heroes. Needless to say, I will be reviewing Legion of Super-Heroes #1 through the lens of a long-time fan.
For readers who are new to the Legion of Super-Heroes, you can check out my recommended reading list for the Legion here. Also, for new readers, you can check out my Legion of Super-Heroes time-line and chronology right here in order to better understand all of the different versions of the Legion that we have gotten over the years.
Now, I have already published my thoughts on whether Brian Bendis was the right man for this job or not. I am not going to re-litigate this topic with this review. You can read my take on Brian Bendis being named the writer for the rebooted Legion here.
I have already given my takes on the various new Legion character redesigns here, here, here, here, and here. I am not going to re-litigate these issues here in this review, either. I also addressed my takes on the brand new Legionnaires that Bendis has created for this new Fourboot Legion here.
Even though I think that Brian Bendis is about the worst writer that DC could have selected for this newly rebooted Legion of Super-Heroes, I am still incredibly excited for Legion of Super-Heroes #1. I hope that Bendis succeeds only because I want my beloved Legion of Super-Heroes to succeed and to attract tons of new readers. Let’s cross our fingers, hope for the best and hit this review!
Words: Brian Bendis
Pencils: Ryan Sook
Inks: Ryan Sook and Wade Von Grawbadger
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Story Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin in the Bludhaven sewer system. Ultra Boy is chasing a ship full of Horazz criminals. Ultra Boy takes down the Horazz ship. Ultra Boy then beats up one of the Horazz criminals. Jo then picks up a container that holds something special. Jo cannot believe that whatever is in the container is actually real.
Suddenly, Mordru appears on the scene and attacks Ultra Boy. Mordru takes possession of the container. Suddenly, Wildfire appears on the scene and blasts Mordru. We see that Karate Kid and Star Boy are also with Wildfire.
Karate Kid engages in some “wacky” banter by introducing himself and then insists that Wildfire also formally introduces himself in an equally cheesy manner.
Mordru engages in some canned villainous dialogue and says that he does not fight children. That Mordru eats children. (Oooookay.) Ultra Boy then punches Mordru and knocks him out. (Uuuuuuuhhh. Sooooo, one of the most iconic and powerful Legion of Super-Heroes villains gets dropped by one punch in a fight scene that lasts one page? Fantastic.)
Jo grabs the container and keeps saying that he hopes what is inside of the container is not broken. Jo opens the container and pulls out Aquaman’s trident. Jo says that Arthur Curry’s trident has been missing for a thousand years.
We hop over to New Metroplis where Saturn Girl and Superboy are engaged in a bunch of Bendis speak. Basically, Superboy is adjusting to being in the future. That even the air in the future feels different.
Saturn Girl then introduces Superboy to the Legion of Super-Heroes who are all assembled before them. (Basically, this scene is replaying what we already got in the pages of Superman #14 and Superman #15.)
We learn that the Legionnaires use some old technology to create holograms next to them that has their codename, real name, powers, and planet of origin. They use this when deployed on worlds that are in crisis so that the citizens that they are rescuing know who they are and will not panic as much.
Superboy then looks up into the sky and asks, “What is up there?” Brainiac 5 then stooges around saying the old “Is it a bird?” Superman reference. The Legionnaires tell Brainiac 5 to stop with his cheesy dad jokes. (Yup. Even Dox who is famously cold and calculating gets Bendis speak you know…for the yucks.)
Superboy then asks if what he sees is glass. Superboy then freaks out and asks if the city is in a bottle. Superboy then says that he has a problem with being in a bottle city. Superboy then says that this is a thing with his people.
Rose (from Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium) approaches Superboy and introduces herself to him. Superboy then blows her off and flies off into the sky. (Ha! This is absolutely hilarious! Because nobody cares about Rose’s character!)
Superboy flies up into the air and looks down on New Metropolis. Superboy asks if this is Metropolis. (Does Bendis think that Jon Kent suffers from brain damage. Bendis just has Saturn Girl talk about how this is New Metropolis. Jon cannot be written to sound so dense.)
Saturn Girl then says that the entire city of New Metropolis is the Legion’s headquarters. (That is laughably stupid.) Superboy asks why New Metropolis is covered in glass. Saturn Girl says that it is not glass.
We then cut to Superboy and the Legionnaires in space and looking down at New Earth. New Earth consists of an energy core, two metal rings, and several domed cities rotating around the energy core. Superboy freaks out and says that they have to go back into the past to save the planet Earth. The Legionnaires said that they already did that. That what Superboy sees is what they could save. That the Earth was damaged by all of the revamps and reboots.
Brainiac 5 explains how New Earth is the product of the best engineers from all over the galaxy. It is the greatest project of the United Planets and the Earth’s President. Superboy asks if there is a Gotham. Brainiac 5 says that most of what they know of Gotham’s history is classified.
Saturn Girl then asks Superboy if he could come back to Legion headquarters and sit through orientation. (Well, technically he is already in Legion headquarters since the entire city is stupidly their headquarters. Be more specific.) That the orientation will bring Superboy up to speed.
Superboy exclaims that all of the oceans are gone. Superboy then asks if there are bathrooms. (…..Bendis definitely likes to write Jon as a total moron….)
Suddenly, Chameleon Boy’s Legion flight ring starts buzzing. Cham says that there is a red alert at Legion headquarters. (That means nothing! Again, Bendis told us that the entire city is Legion’s headquarters!)
We then arrive at an undisclosed location in New Metropolis. (I guess this is the main area of the entire city that is the Legion’s headquarters. Who knows? Bendis is not telling us.) We see Ultra Boy holding Aquaman’s trident. Star Boy, Wildfire, and Karate Kid are also there.
Ultra Boy says that the alarm is his fault Ultra Boy says that he lives here. (Ummmm…if Jo lived here then why would he set off the alarm? Also, if this is where Jo lives wouldn’t his teammates all know that? After all, the Cham said that the alarm was going off in their headquarters. Also, why is Ultra Boy introducing himself to his teammates? Jo was with all of the Legionnaires when they went and recruited Superboy in Superman #14 and Superman #15. There is no need for him to introduce himself to his teammates like they do not know who he is. This is all a mess.)
Wildfire says that they have teleported here with a foreign object of unknown power. Wildfire says that he didn’t read the Legion manual but that they have accidentally broken at least eleven big ones. (Well, if Wildfire has NEVER read the manual then there is ZERO way he would know if they broke eleven rules or more. Everyone is an idiot in this story and there is no internal logic.)
Saturn Girl asks Star Boy what they were doing in Gotham. Star Boy replies, “Nothing.” Saturn Girl exclaims that she can read her mind. (Jeez, Saturn Girl is an awful teammate. Talk about invading the privacy of her teammates.)
Ultra Boy then says that it is time that he told the Legionnaires about his father. (Wait, I thought Bendis was implying that Jo had never met the Legionnaires before. This sentence implies that he has known the Legionnaires for a while. Again, zero internal logic.)
Brainiac 5 says that Jo’s father is Crav Nah who is the highest-ranking military officer in the United Planets. That Jo’s home planet of Rimbor is always in a state of Civil War. This is why Ultra Boy lives in New Metropolis.
Ultra Boy says that he heard his father being briefed about Aquaman’s trident. That a Rimborian hit squad was chasing Mordru for the trident. Ultra Boy then went out and followed the trail of the hit squad. (Wait. This issue takes place after Superman #16. And we know that Ultra Boy was in Superman #15. How much time passed between Superman #15 and Superman #16. It only seemed like a day. How could Ultra Boy also have already been so deep into this mission tracking down the trident?) Superboy says that he thinks the trident talks to fish. (Why does Bendis continually give Jon all of the stupid bubble-headed dialogue?)
Brainiac 5 says that legend has it that when Earth fell that the oceans did not just disappear into space or burn in the final fires. The Legionnaires wonder if the trident can bring back the oceans.
White Witch then asks Wildfire if he forgot to close the portal. Wildfire says, “I want to say no.” We then see the Legionnaires surrounded by a horde of Horraz criminals. (Really? This story is predicated upon the fact that the Legionnaires are morons.)
White Witch says that the Legionnaires have this under control. The Gold Lantern replies that they do not have this under control. Superboy asks who are the Horraz. Saturn Girl says that all of this is covered in the orientation. (Oh, the yucks! All the time! No matter the scene!)
We cut to United Planets Homeworld. The U.P. President (who is a weird-looking female alien) is being informed of the Legion of Super-Heroes pulling Superboy out of the time stream and bringing him to their time period. The President says that the Legion has broken the number one rule of the United Planets.
The assistant says that the Legion brought Superboy here in honor of United Day. The President tells her assistant to stop. The President then asks, “No seriously, why would they do that?” (Ummmm….your assistant was telling you why the Legion brought Superboy to your time period before you told him to stop…)
The assistant then tells the President that there is also news about a stolen Aquaman trident. The assistant says, It’s a complete affront to everything we’ve been – -“ We then get a panel of the silent President and the words, “To be continued.” End of issue.
The Good: Okay, look, there is going to be tons of deserved criticism for Brian Bendis’ effort, or lack thereof, in writing Legion of Super-Heroes #1. But, let’s focus on the positive! THIS IS A NEW LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES MONTHLY COMIC! A And that is a good thing! We like getting a Legion of Super-Heroes monthly comic. New Legion is a good thing and should always be praised. Seeing the title “Legion of Super-Heroes” across the cover of a new monthly comic book put a huge smile on my face.
Regardless of the quality of writing, I am going to enjoy getting a monthly Legion of Super-Heroes title for as long as DC decides it is financially worth their time and effort to publish one. We went five years without a Legion title, so I am not taking this new title for granted. You never know when DC will cancel this title and if they will find publishing another Legion title worth their time and money. So, let’s get excited and enjoy having a new Legion of Super-Heroes comic for as long as DC gives us one!
We only got a single measly plot-line installed in Legion of Super-Heroes #1. But, what a cool plot-line it is! This plot-line centers on Aquaman’s trident and is tied into the fact that the Earth’s oceans all mysteriously disappeared. This should be a fun plot-line. I like Aquaman and I always like it when a writer can find a way to tie the Legion into the present-day DCU. I think this plot-line has tons of potential and I am excited to see where Bendis goes from here.
I am curious to learn more about the President of the United Planets. The original Legion (Pre-Crisis Legion) had Marte Allon as the President of the U.P. Marte was the mother of Gim Allon aka Colossal Boy. The Reboot Legion (Post-Zero Hour Legion) had Winema Wazzo as the President of the United Planets. Winema was Phantom Girl’s mother.
I do not recognize the character design for this current President of the U.P. It is possible that this is a massively redesigned Marte or Winema. Or, maybe Bendis is going to go in a totally different direction. Personally, I am hoping this turns out to be either Marte or Winema. I like the drama that comes from the President having a child on the Legion of Super-Heroes whenever the Legion disagrees with the U.P.
Bendis definitely makes Legion of Super-Heroes #1 an all-ages title. And this is a good thing. The Legion should never be an adults-only title. The Legion should always be written with children and young adults in mind first and then adults second. I also like that Bendis gives Legion of Super-Heroes #1 an overall positive tone with a fun vibe. These are two words that should always be associated with the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Bendis does a nice job giving the reader just enough action to keep Legion of Super-Heroes #1 from being a dull read. All of the action takes place in the first seven pages of this issue. This is important since the remainder of the issue is just pages of talking heads. Bendis was smart in loading up enough action at the beginning of Legion of Super-Heroes #1 to give this issue some energy and excitement.
Ryan Sook and Wade Von Grawbager did a great job with the artwork! Legion of Super-Heroes #1 is a nice looking issue. I was a bit concerned that Sook’s artwork lacked the necessary intricate detail work that is necessary for a Sci-Fi title like the Legion of Super-Heroes. But, Sook gives just enough detail to pull off this Legion story. Sook’s art is also smooth looking which is also necessary for any artwork in the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Sook also does an excellent job with the panel layouts. This helps gives this issue a dynamic and interesting look with each page. All in all, Legion of Super-Heroes #1 is a solid and professional-looking comic. I am now feeling more confident in DC’s decision to make Sook the artist for the Legion.
The Bad: Unfortunately, Legion of Super-Heroes #1 is riddled with poor and sloppy writing. Legion of Super-Heroes #1 is an incredibly important issue. This is the first Legion comic book in five years. This is also the first issue of a brand new rebooted version of the Legion of Super-Heroes. A debut issue of a new title is a special issue and it is the issue that usually attracts the most attention from new readers. Therefore, it is imperative that Bendis take full advantage of this opportunity and deliver a strong debut issue that is likely to make a compelling case why new readers should add the Legion of Super-Heroes to their pull list.
Sadly, Bendis completely wastes this special opportunity and fails to deliver a debut issue that successfully lays out the new title’s mission statement and why new readers should come back for more. Debut issues of a new title need to clearly outline the mission statement of the title. The writer must also tell the reader what kind of story the reader can expect. The writer must also give the reader a good sense of the setting for this new title and for the characters that will populate the new title. Bendis swings and misses on all fronts.
What is the mission statement of the Legion of Super-Heroes? I don’t know. You don’t know. Nobody knows. Bendis fails to clearly deliver the mission statement in Legion of Super-Heroes. All Bendis tells us is that the Legion of Super-Heroes is a large group of young heroes who are goofy and live in New Metropolis. That is it. Is the Legion of Super-Heroes just a bunch of teenagers getting together and being renegades and just doing whatever the hell they want to do? Is the Legion of Super-Heroes a classic super-hero team like the Justice League? Is the Legion of Super-Heroes a quasi space police force like the Green Lantern Corps? Is the Legion of Super-Heroes a peace-keeping force working under the authority of the United Planets? Is the Legion of Super-Heroes a group that focuses on political and social issues? Nobody knows! Bendis completely fails to clearly tell the reader what the mission statement is for the Legion of Super-Heroes. This s a massive flaw to Legion of Super-Heroes #1.
Bendis also totally fails to give the reader a sense of what type of story we can expect to get on Legion of Super-Heroes. Is this a Sci-Fi title? Is this a classic super-hero title? Is this a character-driven title? Is this an action/adventure title? It is unclear to the reader what kind of story we can expect from this new Legion of Super-Heroes.
Bendis also drops the ball with the setting of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Bendis only gives the reader a vague idea about New Earth and the general framework of the United Planets. Bendis also does a terrible job explaining the Legion of Super-Heroes’ headquarters. This is huge. The Legion’s headquarters has always played a massive role in the Legion of Super-Heroes’ continuity. Whether it was the old school clubhouse from the Silver Age or the cool Sci-Fi headquarters in the Modern Age, the Legion’s headquarters was always an important aspect of the Legion.
However, in Legion of Super-Heroes #1, Bendis gives the reader a vague and wishy-washy vision of the Legion’s headquarters. Bendis has Saturn Girl say that all of New Metropolis is the Legion’s headquarters. But, then Bendis writes Chameleon Boy saying that there is a red alert in the Legion’s headquarters and they go to a specific undisclosed location in New Metropolis. This indicates that there is actually a specific place in the entire city of New Metropolis that is considered the Legion’s headquarters.
This is such vague and messy writing that simply makes it look like Bendis has put forth zero effort in trying to construct a detailed, complex, and intriguing setting for the Legion. The reader gets the feeling that Bendis does not view the setting as important and, therefore, the entire world for the Legion seems shallow. The reader gets the sense that Bendis put forth zero effort in trying to carefully construct an immersive and complex setting for the franchise. The world-building that we get in Legion of Super-Heroes #1 is the opposite of what we get from Jonathan Hickman in Powers of X and House of X or from Geoff Johns in Doomsday Clock.
Legion of Super-Heroes #1 is also a bit of a dumb issue. Bendis’ story lacks any internal logic and is sloppy and contradicts itself at times. Things happen for little to no reason. Bendis has characters contradict themselves at certain points in the issue. One example of this is what exactly constitutes the Legion’s headquarters. Another example is how Bendis has Ultra Boy act as if he has never met the Legionnaires even though they were together in the prior story over in Superman #14 and #15. Then Bendis has Ultra Boy act like he does know the Legionnaires. Or how Bendis has Ultra Boy off on a mission while he was being shown being with the Legion while they recruited Superboy in the pages of Superman.
The character work and the dialogue in Legion of Super-Heroes #1 are pedestrian at best. None of the Legionnaires display anything resembling a unique personality. None of the Legionnaires have a unique external voice. All of the Legionnaires get a huge helping of Bendis speak. The result is that all of the Legionnaires sound the same. And all of the legionnaires have the same personality. Ultra Boy sounds like Bendis as Ultra Boy. Wildfire sounds like Bendis as Wildfire. And this continues with all of the Legionnaires in this issue. Also, Bendis’ love for his own wacky humor also hurts the Legionnaires in this issue. Bendis forcing wacky humorous dialogue for every single character makes all of the Legionnaires come across as a bunch of generic comedic relief characters.
Bendis also fails to properly introduce the Legionnaires. We do not get names for most of the Legionnaires. We have no sense of the personalities of the various Legionnaires. We have no sense of the relationships between the various Legionnaires. We have no sense of the specific roles on the team of the various Legionnaires. There is also zero chemistry at all between any of the Legionnaires.
These are huge defects since the unique personalities and the unique roles on the team are hallmarks of the Legion of Super-Heroes franchise. Also, team chemistry is another core pillar of the Legion of Super-Heroes franchise. Bendis completely fails to address these main characteristics of the Legion franchise. And these have always been the main selling points and strengths of the franchise.
What makes the Legion of Super-Heroes so special are all of the unique characters and personalities and how they mesh together. Brainiac 5 is the cold and rational character that rubs his teammates the wrong way at times with his lack of emotion and humor. Bendis having Brainiac 5 stooging around and yucking it up with the other Legionnaires just strips Brainiac 5 of his uniqueness and his special role on the team. It simply reduces Brainiac 5 to just another comedic relief character along with everyone else.
The same could be said about Wildfire who normally plays the role of the brash hothead who acts as the loyal opposition to the establishment. Or to Ultra Boy who is usually portrayed as a bad-boy renegade. Unfortunately, because Bendis is so in love with his genius wacky humor and dialogue it causes Bendis to completely fail to tap into the Legion’s greatest strength.
Bendis also has the Legionnaires act like morons at certain points of the story just to move the story forward in a direction he wants or simply for some laughs. One example would be Superboy in pretty much every scene. Bendis goes way to overboard and makes Superboy come across as a complete bubblehead.
Another example would be Wildfire being stupid enough to leave the teleporter open so that the villains can conveniently surround the heroes at the end of the issue. Bendis doubles down on Wildfire being an idiot by giving him some wacky humorous lines about him being stupid enough to not close the teleporter. Why Wildfire would not close the teleporter behind them after returning from a dangerous mission where they are being attacked by Horazz criminals makes no sense. But, Bendis needed an easy and convenient way to get the Horazz onto New Metropolis. Therefore, Bendis sacrificed the intelligence of Wildfire’s character in order to make up for Bendis’ lazy writing and to move his story to his desired ending.
The Bendis speak for all of the characters and making all of the Legionnaires identical comedic relief characters sets the wrong tone for the story. I definitely think that the overall tone of the Legion should be a fun and positive one. But, the Legion is also well known for its drama, teen-age soap opera storylines, and for very serious moments, too. Bendis goes way too far in making the Legion of Super-Heroes #1 nothing more than fluff.
Legion of Super-Heroes #1 is also poorly plotted and paced. Bendis delivers an extremely shallow story. There is little depth or substance to Legion of Super-Heroes #1. Bendis does kick off Legion of Super-Heroes #1 in a lively fashion, but the story bogs down from there. The rest of the issue moves along at a lazy pace.
Bendis also fails to install multiple plot-lines. This is a huge mistake on a Legion of Super-Heroes title. One of the main qualities of a Legion story is the incredible plotting. Paul Levitz was known for being able to juggle multiple plot-lines in order to keep the large roster of characters always involved. Levitz would usually have several long-range plot-lines that served as the spines for each story arc. Levitz would then fill in several mid-range and short-term plot-lines to give more depth to the story, to create more drama and teen-age soap opera moments and to make sure all of the characters had something to do at all times.
Bendis has never been very good at plotting or at juggling a large cast of characters. So, it is of no surprise that Bendis only installs a single solitary plot-line involving Aquaman’s trident. It is a cool plot-line, for sure. But, it was imperative that Bendis install more than just one plot-line in Legion of Super-Heroes #1.
Bendis did an atrocious job in handling Mordru. It is stunning that Bendis would take one of the Legion’s most powerful and iconic villains and reduce him to the level of a joke villain. Mordru is never taken seriously. Mordru gets cheesy villainous dialogue. Then Mordru is taken out with one punch in a fight that lasts a single page. This is akin to rebooting Spider-Man and having the Green Goblin being presented as a total joke villain who gets taken out with a single punch.
I am absolutely stunned at either Bendis’ ignorance about Mordru and his position in the Legion’s continuity or by Bendis’ laziness in writing Mordru’s character. Either way, Bendis takes an iconic and powerful villain and reduces him to a punchline. All Bendis manages to do is educate new readers to the Legion franchise that they should never take Mordru seriously. This is a terrible job in building up a villain. Successful super-hero comics absolutely require a strong villain in order to succeed. Bendis shot himself in the foot with Mordru in Legion of Super-Heroes #1.
Overall: Legion of Super-Heroes #1 was a disappointment. Bendis missed on a golden opportunity with this restart of the Legion of Super-Heroes. This is a rare moment and Bendis failed to properly sell the Legion of Super-Heroes franchise and all of its cool and unique characteristics to new readers. I am sure many readers who had never read the Legion before picked up Legion of Super-Heroes #1. Sadly, I do not think that Bendis did nearly enough to get those new readers to want to come back for more.
Look, I am a die-hard Legion fan. I am going to buy Legion of Super-Heroes no matter what. But, I am part of an extremely small group of readers. If DC is going to keep publishing an ongoing Legion of Super-Heroes comic then Bendis must succeed in getting new readers to come aboard and want to stick around. I want DC to keep publishing an ongoing Legion title, so I am rooting like crazy for Bendis to do a good job and get good sales numbers.
Unfortunately, I can only recommend Legion of Super-Heroes #1 to loyal Legion fans and to die-hard Bendis fans. I just do not see where this issue does enough to distinguish itself from the myriad of super-hero titles already cluttering the market.
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