Ah, my beloved Legion of Super-Heroes. There is no franchise I adore more. I was so excited for Legion of Super-Heroes #1. Yeah, I was not thrilled with the odd choice to have old man Brian Bendis put in charge of this franchise. But, I held out hope that DC had a great plan in place for the Legion. It had been five years since we got a monthly Legion of Super-Heroes title and I wanted it to be awesome.
Unfortunately, Legion of Super-Heroes #1 was a massive disappointment. Then I saw the sales numbers for the debut issue and was even more crestfallen. Despite a huge media push by DC that included Bendis appearing on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Legion of Super-Heroes #1 still only moved 51,835 units. DC has to be incredibly disappointed. They put a “big name” writer on the Legion and then paraded him all around the internet and even on network television. The result? A pedestrian sales number for the debut issue.
It is vitally important that Bendis actually deliver something resembling a real story with real character work that highlights the strengths of the Legion of Super-Heroes franchise. If not, my beloved Legion may rapidly fall to the 20,000 unit range and be at risk of getting canceled. Let’s cross our fingers and hope that Bendis rebounds and delivers a fun issue that shows off the diverse personalities of the Legionnaires and the team chemistry along with a strongly plotted and paced story that kicks this title into high gear!
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 with Cosmic Boy giving a recap of Legion of Super-Heroes #1. (Jeez. Sadly, Bendis makes Rokk sound like a complete bubble-head. Which is a total 180 from what Cosmic Boy’s personality has always been. Yay.)
We cut to The Horraz, lead by their leader Tortor, attacking the Legionnaires. Tortor demands that the Legionnaires give him Aquaman’s trident. Ultra Boy gives the trident to Superboy and tells him that he must be the one who uses it. Superboy asks why. Ultra Boy responds, “Because, you’re super, man.” (Yes. Dad jokes from a man in his 50s is exactly what a youthful title needs. By the way, Bendis writes Brainiac 5 in this scene with the same dumb “witty” Bendis speak like any other character. Again, a complete 180 from what Brainy’s personality has always been. Yay x 2.)
Saturn Girl then powers up and fires off a massive mental blast that knocks everyone out except for herself, Superboy, and Tortor. Tortor and Superboy struggle for possession over Aquaman’s trident. Suddenly, the trident glows yellow and a massive tsunami of ocean water engulfs the area.
The water begins to recede. The Legionnaires all stand around stunned at what just happened. Superboy says that he doesn’t feel like he did that.
We hop over to the United Planets Great Hall on Daxam. Madame President Brande is throwing a temper tantrum about the Legion bringing Superboy into their time period. (Gross. Is this President Brande character supposed to be Bendis’ version of the awesome RJ Brande? No gracias.)
Rose Forrest appears on the scene. Rose is the official Liaison for the Legion of Super-Heroes. President Brande is pissed that the Legion broke the law by bringing Superboy into their time period. Rose attempts to defend the Legion’s actions as harmless. Rose is unsuccessful in her attempts to mollify President Brande and then leaves the scene. (We get lots and lots of random ranting and circuitous dialogue between Rose and Brande in this scene.)
We zip back to Brainiac’s Lab in the Palmer Pavilion at Legion Headquarters. (Hey, hey! A shoutout to the BEST Atom ever! Ray Palmer!) Brainy is examining Aquaman’s trident. Brainiac 5 confirms that the trident is genuine and really was Aquaman’s trident. Brainy fires off a lame joke about how he thinks the 14th Star Wars movie was the best movie ever made.
Rose enters the scene and hopefully brings some actual plot progression and content with her. Wildfire asks “Who are you, again?” (Really? Wildfire does not know who the Legion’s liaison is? C’mon. Does Bendis have to write every Legionnaire as a moron?)
Rose says that President Brande is pissed off at the Legion. The Legionnaires respond that the Legion’s charter allows them to operate completely independent of the U.P. Rose counters with the fact that the Legion bringing Superboy to their time period was childish shit. Rose says that when the Legion does childish shit they cannot be surprised when the U.P. reacts accordingly. Cosmic Boy then calls for a meeting in Heaven.
We cut to Heaven which is the Legion’s All Purpose Consumption Hall featuring the unique cuisine and rare food stuff from each of the United Planets. Ultra Boy tells his teammates about his father who is a nasty and powerful man on Rimbor. Ultra Boy’s father also has a lot of power in the U.P. Ultra Boy said Mordru hired the Horraz to steal the trident and Ultra Boy tracked them down to Planet Gotham. Wildfire comments on how Planet Gotham is the safest planet in the galaxy. Superboy is stunned by this fact. We learn that Planet Gotham is the first fully made artificial planet. Saturn Girl adds that it is all in the orientation program if Superboy would ever get around to viewing it. (Yeah, the orientation program joke is getting old. This joke got ran into the ground by the end of Legion of Super-Heroes #1. It is not any more fresh and entertaining in this issue. This is like a young child who says something funny that gets a laugh initially and then proceeds to say it over and over and over again. Parents know what I am talking about.)
Ultra Boy says that his father just discovered that his son joined the Legion of Super-Heroes which is a group that his father vehemently opposes. That Ultra Boy’s father is going to come here looking for him and the trident that he stole.
Cosmic Boy says that he will take a diplomatic team to Rimbor. The team is Cosmic Boy, Colossal Boy, Mon-El, and White Witch. (Booooo. Wherever Mon-El goes so should Shadow Lass.) Wildfire says that he is in on that diplomatic mission, too. Cosmic Boy says that Wildfire is not coming. (Smart move! Wildfire is about the last Legionnaire that you would want to bring on a diplomatic mission.)
Lightning Lad says that he will take an investigation team to try and find Mordru’s trail. That team is Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Chameleon Boy, and Triplicate Girl. They are going to find out what Mordru was planning on doing with the trident and where the trident came from.
Ultra Boy apologizes for not telling his fellow Legionnaires about his father. Jo says that he is embarrassed about being from Rimbor. Jo’s fellow Legionnaires say that they totally understand and that Jo would be surprised at how many of them can relate to his situation.
Saturn Girl tells Superboy to stay at Legion headquarters and view the orientation program. (Jesus, Jon. Just watch the damn thing so we don’t have to hear about this for a third issue!) The Legionnaires leave. Superboy then thinks about Planet Gotham and says that he has got to go get “him.”
We cut to present-day Gotham City. We see Damien on a rooftop. Suddenly, Superboy teleports onto the scene. Superboy says, “Welcome to the Legion of Super-Heroes. You are going to freak!” End of issue.
The Good: Legion of Super-Heroes #2 definitely did not meet expectations at all. Unfortunately, Brian Bendis followed up the debut issue with a very similar lackluster read with Legion of Super-Heroes #2. Having said that, there were a couple of nice aspects to this issue.
The best part of Legion of Super-Heroes #2 was the cool moment where Superboy unknowingly uses Aquaman’s trident to summon a massive tsunami. This was an unexpected moment! It certainly grabs the reader’s attention and makes for the only real excitement in this issue.
I am curious to learn more about why Mordru wants Aquaman’s trident. I am also interested in why Ultra Boy’s father also wants the trident. Aquaman’s trident is a cool plot device and I want Bendis to make it something much more than just a mere MacGuffin. Hopefully, that happens.
Ryan Sook does a nice job with the artwork in Legion of Super-Heroes #2. Sure, the panels lack any background detail at all. But, the characters’ facial expressions are nicely done. That helps to give the story life. The panel layouts are varied and interesting. Lastly, the fight scene is dynamic and well presented.
The Bad: Legion of Super-Heroes #2 is a flat out bad issue in every possible way. Poor pacing, poor plotting, lackluster character work, and generic dialogue all wrapped up in a thin story that presents with the reader with nothing interesting or intriguing. It is as if Bendis is just collecting a paycheck and completely mailing it in with Legion of Super-Heroes. There appears to be no effort or originality at all with Bendis’ work on the Legion.
This is rather depressing. Finally getting a Legion of Super-Heroes monthly comic after five long years is something we should be celebrating. However, the lack of quality in the first two issues of Legion of Super-Heroes is alarming. I want this title to succeed so DC will continue to give me more Legion. However, I cannot figure out what type of reader would be interested in what Bendis is delivering through the first two issues of the Legion.
Legion of Super-Heroes #2 suffers from terrible plotting and pacing. Bendis moves the story along with zero sense of urgency. There is no sense of purpose in the story. Bendis simply lollygags his way through this issue. The scenes are largely repetitious. Bendis ends Legion of Super-Heroes #2 basically in the exact same place as he did Legion of Super-Heroes #1.
Legion of Super-Heroes #2 is painfully shallow. One of the hallmarks of the Legion franchise is that writers would deliver complex issues with multiple plot lines involving as many Legionnaires as possible. Paul Levitz was known to juggle a dizzying array of short, medium, and long-range plot lines that would keep every single Legionnaire on the roster busy.
Unfortunately, Bendis gives the reader one main plotline involving the trident and then supplements that with two minor plotlines involving President Brande being mad at the Legion and Superboy bringing Damien to the future. There really is not that much going on after two issues. Bendis has only found a way to keep a small handful of Legionnaires active and operating with purpose. There is just so little actual content and depth to Legion of Super-Heroes #2.
Bendis opens the Legion of Super-Heroes #1 with a recap page. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do love and value recap pages. However, is there really a need for a recap page when there has only been a single solitary issue of the title so far? And that single issue was rather slow on top of it all.
We then get a nine-page fight scene. Fight scenes can be great. Long fight scenes can be kick-ass. But, to make a long fight scene work there needs to be excellent psychology to the fight scene. The reader should learn something about the characters in the fight. Perhaps the writer is even able to deliver plot progression during the fight scene.
That is not the case with this fight scene. Bendis gives the reader a rather bland fight scene that fails to deliver any psychology or give the reader a better feel for the Legionnaires’ personalities or their team chemistry. On top of it, nine pages was way too long for such an uninspired fight.
Bendis then gives us a three-page scene on Daxam. This scene was utterly pointless. We already knew that the President was pissed at the Legion for bringing Superboy to their timeline. We got that in the last issue. This scene simply rehashes the same dialogue over and over. This scene has enough content for a one-page scene.
Next is a four-page scene in Brainiac 5’s lab. Again, we get another pointless scene. All Bendis does is rehash information that we have already gotten. On top of that, Bendis gives us this rehashed information in the form of repetitive dialogue. It is not a pleasant combination. This scene should have been delivered in one to two pages at the most.
Bendis then delivers a four-page scene in Heaven. Again, all Bendis does is rehash information that we already knew from Legion of Super-Heroes #1. There is no real new content. When a story is as shallow as this there really is no need for the author to continue to rehash information as if the reader does not know what is going on and might be lost. This scene would have been better if it was one to two pages of our heroes breaking into teams and then leaving.
Bendis ends Legion of Super-Heroes #2 with a one-page scene of Superboy going to Gotham to get Damien. At this point, Legion fans just sigh and realize that Bendis never planned to give us a real Legion of Super-Heroes title. Instead, Bendis wants to give us a new Super Sons comic book under the disguise of the Legion.
This is a terrible ending to Legion of Super-Heroes #2 as Bendis does nothing to get a Legion fan to want to come back for more. I barely think that Superboy belongs to this title in the first place. But, now adding Damien into the mix makes things even worse.
Damien being introduced into the title will only serve to further overshadow the Legionnaires. Superboy, by himself, already hogs the majority of the panel time and overshadows the Legionnaires. By adding Damien to the mix the Super Sons will now completely eclipse the Legion.
This is possibly the worse direction Bendis could take in trying to introduce a completely new version of the Legion of Super-Heroes that even long-time readers like myself have no knowledge of or familiarity with. Bendis’ primary focus should be on shining the spotlight solely on the Legionnaires and trying his damndest to properly introduce the Legionnaires to readers. Bendis should be focusing on the different unique personalities of the Legionnaires. Then Bendis should be creating the legendary team chemistry between the Legionnaires that made them such an appealing a unique franchise. The point of a new Legion of Super-Heroes title should be in making every effort in getting the Legionnaires over with the reader as big deals. Presenting the Legion as the. back-up dancers to the main stars in the Super Sons will not get any Legionnaire over with the readers.
Instead, Bendis is going to keep that spotlight firmly on Superboy, and now Damien, and continue to relegate the Legionnaires as mere stage props. In fact, the only Legionnaires that are getting any real panel time at all are Saturn Girl and Ultra Boy. Cosmic Boy and Brainiac 5 get some panel time to a lesser degree. For the most part, Bendis largely ignores a massive percentage of the Legionnaires. In Legion of Super-Heroes #2, Bendis is basically focusing on Superboy, and to a lesser degree Saturn Girl and Ultra Boy, and then keeping the rest of the Legionnaires as background filler for each scene.
Speaking of Bendis using the Legionnaires as generic stage props, this leads into two other huge defects of Legion of Super-Heroes #2: poor character work and dialogue. There is simply zero depth or personality to any of the characters in this issue. All of the Legionnaires are just bland cardboard cutouts.
Bendis writes every single character with the exact same generic Bendis personality. Everyone seems identical. On top of this, Bendis gives all the characters his usual Bendis speak. All of the characters possess the same external voice. There is nothing even remotely unique in any of the Legionnaires’ personalities or in their external voices.
Therefore, the Legion comes across as a large army of clones. Bendis’ Legion is more like a Bendis Borg. You will be assimilated! Everyone will speak and act the same! In the end, the result is that there is zero chemistry at all between the Legionnaires. That is a damn shame. Unique personalities and incredible chemistry are two of the greatest strengths of the Legion franchise.
One odd thing is how Bendis is unintentionally making so many of the characters in Legion of Super-Heroes #2 come across as bubble-headed idiots. The reason that I do not think it is intentional is that the reason that the characters sound so dumb is that Bendis finds his “witty” Bendis speak to be endlessly hilarious. So, it is fine to make a character seem dumb if it means Bendis can deliver a joke.
This approach to writing dialogue also causes certain characters to act completely out of character. A good example of this is Brainiac 5. By having Brainiac 5 stooge about for laughs takes away his unique personality and runs counter to his established personality. Brainiac 5 is not the only character who suffers from this. Bendis also has Cosmic Boy stooge for laughs which runs counter to his Type-A personality.
Cosmic Boy, Superboy, Brainiac 5 all take turns sounding like bubble-heads in this issue. However, Superboy is definitely the worst. Bendis writes Jon as nearly brain-dead at certain points. It is stunning that Bendis has Jon come across like a total moron. At this point, Jon brings absolutely nothing of value or substance to the story.
President Brande is an unimpressive character. It is a shame that Bendis took a great character like RJ Brande and gave us this caricature in President Brande. RJ Brande was the beloved founder of the Legion and later revealed to be the father of Chameleon Boy. Brande’s character deserved far more than what Bendis gives us with this shallow and boring President Brande character.
Overall: Legion of Super-Heroes #2 is another disappointing read. It pains me to say this, but there is just no way I would recommend readers pay $4 of their hard-earned money for this issue. There are far too many well written comic books on the market that readers should be buying. I am not sure what reader Bendis is targeting with Legion of Super-Heroes #2. This issue is not going to satisfy long-time Legion fans. This issue also will not attract any new readers who are unfamiliar with the Legion franchise.
At this point, I can only recommend Legion of Super-Heroes #2 to die-hard Legion fans like myself. And even then I have to point out that the reader can easily skip Legion of Super-Heroes #2 and pick up Legion of Super-Heroes #3 and not miss a thing.
Honestly, if you want to read an excellent Legion of Super-Heroes-style comic then go purchase Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men and some of the X-Men franchise titles like X-Force and New Mutants. What Hickman is doing with the X-Men franchise is really just a Legion story. Hickman is delivering a detailed and complex story that is set in a detailed universe. Hickman is juggling numerous plot lines and a huge roster of characters with excellent chemistry. You know, maybe DC should just reach out to Hickman and see if he would be willing to take over the Legion of Super-Heroes franchise.
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