Brian Bendis’ Legion of Super-Heroes has gotten off to a disappointing start. The first two issues of this Fourboot Legion have been rather shallow and, frankly, dumb. Bendis’ well-established weaknesses are on full display as he completely struggles to juggle more than a few characters in any single issue. This is a huge problem given that the hallmark of the Legion is its massive roster of characters. As we head to the third issue of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Bendis has failed to establish any plot line other than the singular plot line involving Aquaman’s trident. The story appears to have little to no direction or purpose as the first two issues have been lazily paced.
It is incumbent upon Bendis to finally deliver a tightly plotted, focused, and lively paced issue with Legion of Super-Heroes #3. Bendis absolutely has to get more Legionnaires involved in this title. Bendis also must start building out more plot lines outside of the Aquaman trident plot-line in order to get more Legionnaires involved and to bring more depth to the story. Further, Bendis absolutely has to start performing real character work on the various Legionnaires and give them distinct and unique personalities outside of the bland and generic Bendis speak that we have gotten in the first two issues.
Legion of Super-Heroes #3 is an important issue. New readers are only going to give a new title but so many issues in order to get on track and convince the reader to add the title to their pull list. Let’s hope that Bendis kicks things into high gear and delivers a great read with Legion of Super-Heroes #3.
Words: Brian Bendis
Pencils: Ryan Sook and Travis Moore
Inks: Wade Von Grawbadger and Travis Moore
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Story Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Dawnstar explaining her home planet of Starhaven and how it is connected to the 13th century on Earth. Dawnstar talks about how important it is that Superboy is now with the Legion.
We cut to Rimbor where Ultra Boy’s father, Crav the General Nah, is beating up his lackeys for losing possession of the trident.
We shift to Jon Kent and Damien Wayne in a time sphere and traveling to the 31st century. Jon talks about how cool the Legion is and how cool the future is and how much Damien will like it.
Superboy and Robin then arrive in the 31st century and step out in front of the Legion’s headquarters. Dawnstar arrives on the scene and says that they have been looking for Superboy. Dawny says that Jon was supposed to be in the Orientation Pavilion. (Christ. We are three issues into this title and we are still talking about the damn orientation program. Just get it over with already.)
Jon says that Robin is the perfect person to investigate the mystery of Aquaman’s trident. (Ummmmm…okay.) Suddenly, Robin begins gasping for air. Superboy asks Dawnstar if there is a medical bay around. Superboy then asks if they still have medicine. (**stares blankly ahead at comic book** Do they still have medicine in the 31st century?! Seriously? It’s official. Bendis cannot write Jon to be anymore dumbshit stupid. I am amazed that Jon can breathe and walk at the same time given how idiotic Bendis writes Jon’s character.)
We shift to Rimbor. We see the team of Cosmic Boy, Shadow Lass, Mon-El, Ultra Boy, and Colossal Boy arrive on the scene. We learn that Cosmic Boy and Shadow Lass are dating each other. (Aaaaand I just threw up in my mouth. Mon-El and Shadow Lass are an iconic couple. This is like having Aquaman date Lois Lane. Just gross. I guess this is Bendis being “creative” and showing how “unique” this Fourboot Legion really is. This scene is full of mindless banter about how the Legion members should be updated on who is dating who. I have no idea why that should ever be something that members of a super team need to be officially updated on. It is just more stupid piled on top of more stupid.)
Ultra Boy’s father appears on the scene. Crav asks where is his trident. Ultra Boy sidesteps the question and says that he represents all of Rimbor as a member of the Legion. Crav erupts in anger saying that one-half of Rimbor has been in a constant holy war with the other half of Rimbor. Crav says that Jo is a traitor and a thief.
Cosmic Boy then steps in and introduces himself to Crav. Cosmic Boy says that they are here to help. Crav says that this is even more insulting. Crav punches Cosmic Boy. Crav takes down Colossal Boy. Mon-El then punches Crav and knocks him out. White Witch subdues all of Crav’s soldiers.
Ultra Boy then says that according to Rimbor Law that Mon-El is now the Ruler of Rimbor. (This. Is. So. Stupid. I love how shit flies in literally out of nowhere.) Bendis then has the Legionnaires start squabbling with each other in a babbling fashion. (Riveting.)
We hop over to the Q Wayne Foundation in Planet Gotham. The team of Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Chameleon Boy, and Triplicate Girl arrive on the scene. They marvel at how Planet Gotham is so clean. The Commissioner of Police, December Sevenbergen meets the Legionnaires. The Legionnaires ask to question Mordru.
We cut to Mordru in his cell. Tortor suddenly appears and says that he is here to rescue Mordru. Tortor says that they must hurry before the Legionnaires arrive to question Mordru. Tortor says that the Legion has the trident. Tortor asks why the Legion has it and what can they do with the trident. Tortor asks what the trident even does and why are his men dying over the trident.
Mordru then realizes that Tortor is not real. Mordru tells Saturn Girl to get out his head. Mordru then shows Saturn Girl a terrible nightmare of the Legion lying defeated (maybe dead?) before the feet of an unknown villain. We see Imra collapse as Mordru shoves her out of his mind.
Lightning Lad says that the psychic interrogation did not work so they need a new plan. Lighting Lad asks December to wake up Mordru so he can question Mordru. December says that Mordru has uncatalogued mystical powers and she is hesitant to do that. Lighting Lad says that he makes lighting and asks if that makes December feel better. (I feel like Fozzy Bear needs to be in all of these scenes constantly saying “Waka-waka!!!”)
Chameleon Boy then says that this might be a job for him. Lighting Lad asks what Chameleon Boy’s plan is. Chameleon Boy replies that he was hoping Lighting Lad had an idea. (…My mind just collapsed in on itself from all the stupid in that panel. So, Cham says that he thinks this is a job for him but…Cham has no plan and was hoping Lighting Lad had one. So why in the hell would Cham think that this was a job for him then?!)
Suddenly, Dawnstar messages Saturn Girl and says that they need Saturn Girl’s team back at headquarters immediately. Dawnstar says that Mon-El arrested Crav. (Ummmm…how does Mon-El, a member of an independent superhero team, have the legal authority to arrest a foreign leader on that foreign leader’s planet? Bendis just randomly spits out words without any regard for the silly concept of logic.)
We cut to the Legion’s headquarters where Crav has regained consciousness and is plowing his way through the Legionnaires. We see Saturn Girl’s team teleporting back into the headquarters. (Sooo…I guess the Legion can now teleport or something? I have no idea what is going on.) Saturn Girl uses her powers on Crav. Crav says that her powers do not work on him. We see that Brainiac 5 and Wildfire fall asleep instead due to Saturn Girl’s attack. (Seriously. Bendis’ Legion is the Keystone Cops of super-teams.)
Superboy then attacks Crav from behind and knocks him out. (Cowardly attack!) Robin then asks, “That was a bad guy, right?” “Superboy replies, “I hope so.” (….Holy shit. It is stunning how Bendis cannot write these characters as anything other than a complete blithering moron. Yes, dumbasses, the guy trying to kill the Legionnaires is probably the bad guy.)
Mon-El talks about how Crav was probably still dopey from Mon-El knocking him out and that is why Superboy was able to knock Crav out. Superboy asks Mon-El who he is. Mon-El asks who does he look like. Superboy says that Mon-El looks like a guy from a show, but that Mon-El won’t get the reference. (This is awful.)
Mon-El gets mad and flies off. Superboy asks if he said something wrong. Triplicate Girl is about to tell Superboy how Mon-El is related to him, but Bendis just awkwardly drops that conversation so Imra can get mad at Jon for bringing Damien to the future.
Imra says that they have to put Damien back into the past. Imra uses her powers to wipe Damien’s mind of the 31st century. Imra then commands Damien to go to sleep. Superboy asks why Damien cannot stay. Superboy comments that he did notice a lack of Bat-themed people anywhere. Superboy asks exactly why is he here? Cosmic Boy responds that they have been begging for Jon to watch the orientation presentation. (Oh, for fuck’s sake. When can this terribly beaten down and not funny gag be dropped?)
Cosmic Boy says that the orientation is their perspective on how and why Superboy is needed here. Cosmic Boy then takes Superboy with him and says that it is time to properly introduce Jon to the Legion of Super-Heroes. (Yeah, nothing like waiting until the FOURTH issue of the new title to properly introduce Jon to the Legion. Fantastic plotting.) As Comic Boy and Superboy fly off, Superboy asks who was the cosmic barbarian they brought back from Rimbor. Cosmic Boy says that it is just Ultra Boy’s father. Cosmic Boy says, “We’re all in a lot of trouble. Can’t even deal with it right now.” (Ummm…you are the LEADER of the Legion of Super-Heroes. That is exactly your job. Again, Bendis never wastes an opportunity to make a Legionnaire look like a bubble-headed idiot.)
We shift to Ultra Boy, Brainiac 5, Shadow Lass, Dawny, Cham, and Colossal Boy placing Crav in a prison cell. Cham refers to Damien Wayne as “Baby Hitler.” (Would a 20th-century historical figure from Earth be someone that an alien from a foreign planet would refer to in the 31st century? That would be like an alien from another planet arriving on Earth in our current time period and then referencing a historical Earth person from the 9th century. In present-day America, people would barely be able to name a single historical figure from the 9th century let alone an alien from another planet being able to do so.)
Brainiac 5 says that Cham is making an unfair comparison. That they are working to avoid the outcome where Damien Wayne is bad. That their entire existence is dedicated to rooting for Damien’s success.
Ultra Boy says that they do not need to worry about Damien Wayne. That they need to worry about the fact that they are in the middle of an intergalactic incident. (Yes. Introduce a new plot-line and then immediately have a character tell the reader that the new plotline is unimportant.)
Computo then signals the Legion’s alarm. Computo tells Brainy that the trident has been stolen. Crav then tells Ultra Boy that he has ended his Legion of Super-Heroes. End of issue.
The Good: Legion of Super-Heroes #3 is another mess of a read. Having said that, there were a couple of bright spots to this issue. I love Crav Nah. This character is such a badass. I dig his brusque demeanor and his bravado. I love seeing him kicking ass. Part of what makes Crav so enjoyable is that he is the only character who possesses a unique external voice and personality. What a refreshing change of pace from the generic Bendis-styled personality that all of the other characters get saddled with throughout this issue.
I also enjoyed the scene in the prison. I am glad that Bendis had Mordru quickly ferret out Saturn Girl’s plan and then overpower her and throw her out of his mind. It is important that Bendis establish Mordru as a serious heavy hitter. This is something that Bendis completely failed to do in Legion of Super-Heroes #1. In this prison scene, Bendis finally begins to build up Mordru’s character. I will take it. It’s better late than never. I am thrilled that Mordru is being presented as a powerful adversary. I am definitely looking forward to Mordru’s inevitable escape and finally clashing with the Legion in spectacular fashion.
I also love the use of Interlac throughout Legion of Super-Heroes #3. Bendis loads up the introductory page with plenty of Interlac in the background. It is touches like this that makes the story more immersive. Plus, it is a fun Easter egg hunt to decipher the Interlac to see what messages Bendis is sending the reader.
The only other use of Interlac was near the end of Legion of Super-Heroes when we see the word “Sleep” in English and in Interlac as the sound effect for Saturn Girl’s attack on Crav. I love this! This is such a neat and creative use of Interlac. It is a fun touch. Next time, Bendis should just go ahead and use the Interlac spelling of the word and not give the translation. Part of the fun is translating the words yourself!
Ryan Sook, Travis Moore, and Wade Von Grawbadger combine to deliver a great looking issue. The lines are clean and the art looks smooth. I love the design for Crav Nah. I dig the tattoo on his chest that is the same design as Ultra Boy’s logo. I like that Bendis is establishing this design as a Nah family symbol. All in all, Crav is a badass looking character.
Sook, Moore, and Von Grawbadger do an excellent job drawling all of the Legionnaires. All of the characters have excellent facial expressions. This helps to charge Bendis’ story full of emotion and helps pull the reader into the story. The artists do a great job with the dialogue-heavy scenes as well as with the action scenes. The artists also do a nice job with the panel layouts. The panel layouts are creative and vary from page to page.
The Bad: Legion of Super-Heroes #3 suffers from all the exact same defects that plagued Legion of Super-Heroes #1 and Legion of Super-Heroes #2. Just go read those reviews and apply the exact same criticisms to Legion of Super-Heroes #3.
The plotting and pacing continue to be a mess. The story continues to be shallow. We are three issues in and Bendis still has only given us two plotlines and neither of them have been developed or progressed at all. We have the trident plotline and the Damien Wayne plotline. That is it. That is simply way too few plot lines and way too little plot progression for the third issue of a new title. It is also way too few plot lines and way too shallow of a story for a Legion of Super-Heroes title.
The strength and unique magic of the Legion has always been their massive roster. The massive roster always meant that the writer would construct numerous plot lines in order to keep all of the members of the Legion busy. The result was a title that offered the reader a complex read with lots of story content and plot progression. Is it an easy task? Hell, no! Writing the Legion of Super-Heroes is probably one of the hardest tasks in mainstream comics. But, that is what a writer signs on for when they take over the Legion of Super-Heroes. And plenty of writers from Jim Shooter to Paul Levitz have shown how you get the job done.
Legion of Super-Heroes #3 begins with a one-page re-cap delivered by Dawnstar. Recap pages are fantastic in titles that actually have complex stories with lots of plot progression. But, on a title like Legion of Super-Heroes where nearly nothing at all has happened in the first two issues, this recap page just simply serves to make the story feel even slower.
Bendis then gives us a one-page scene on Rimbor with Jo’s father freaking out about not having the trident. Again, there is nothing new at all in this scene.
We then get four pages of Jon and Damien coming to the 31st century. This scene offers zero new content or plot progression. Bendis just recycles the same dialogue and information that we have gotten over and over in the first two issues.
We then get the five-page scene on Rimbor with the Legion taking down Crav. This scene is easily the best part of Legion of Super-Heroes #3. This scene also offers the reader the only action and the only real plot progression.
Next is the five-page scene on Planet Gotham. This scene is a complete waste of time. Yeah, it was cool to see Mordru flex his powers, but there was literally zero plot progression at all in this scene. These five pages were pure fluff designed just to waste time. There was zero new information conveyed to the reader.
Bendis then delivers the five-page scene back at Legion’s headquarters where we learn that Damien should not have been brought to the 31st century. We get hints at Mon-El’s relationship with Jon. That is about it.
Bendis then ends Legion of Super-Heroes #3 with Brainy revealing that the Legion’s existence is tied to Damien Wayne’s future. Then we learn that the trident has been stolen. We finally get a second plotline in the form of the mystery around Damien Wayne and how he influences the 31st century. Two plotlines are still too few for a Legion title and having to wait until the very end of the third issue is too late in the game for a properly plotted and paced title.
Let’s talk about the trident plotline that involves the Aquaman’s trident, Crav, Mordru, and the Legion. We are now in the third issue and the reader knows exactly the same amount of information about this plotline as we did in Legion of Super-Heroes #1. Nothing. There has been zero plot progression with this plotline.
All Bendis has done is give us a MacGuffin in the form of the trident and then have characters randomly run around and shout about the trident without any sort of reason or purpose. Bendis just keeps giving the reader the same thing over and over again with this plotline. Everyone wants the trident. Nobody knows why. Three issues of that.
Why should the reader care about the trident? Why should the reader care about why the various characters want to get the trident? Bendis has done nothing at all to get the readers invested in this plotline. The reason for that is because this plotline is completely vapid. There is simply no substance to it at all.
Let’s now take a look at the second plotline involving Damien Wayne and his impact on the 31st century. Obviously, Damien must have done something terrible at some point and it is up to the Legion to make sure that the timeline is managed so that Damien either is redeemed or that Damien is prevented from going down the wrong path in the first place. Either way, why should the reader care? Bendis has given us no reason to care.
I am also less than thrilled with this Damien Wayne plotline because it continues to bind and restrict the Legion to the 21st century DCU. Bendis already tightly bound the Legion to the present-day DCU with the inclusion of Superboy and clearly placing all of the focus and attention on Jon instead of the Legion. Bendis has already gone out of his way to show that nearly everything in the 31st century is directly due to Superboy. The creation of the United Planets? That is because of Superboy. The creation of the Legion? That is also because of Superboy. This alone is already way too much and makes the Legion far too dependent upon the present-day DCU.
Now, by adding Damien Wayne into the mix, Bendis is making the Legion even more ridiculously dependent upon the present-day DCU. Now, Bendis has the Legion’s very existence tied to Damien Wayne’s success. This is just too much.
By making the Legion and it’s setting in the 31st century so insanely dependent upon the present-day DCU only serves to shackle the Legion. This approach completely robs the Legion of its agency. This makes the Legion seem less special and unique and more derivative and unoriginal. This approach also robs the Legion’s setting of the 31st century of its own uniqueness and independence.
I am fine with there being a few ancillary threads running between the present-day DCU and Legion and the 31st century. But, they should be far and few and nothing more than window dressing and a bit of fan service. If the Legion was a culinary dish then the Legion and the 31st century should be the steak and potatoes while the connections to the present-day DCU should simply be the garnishment placed upon the dish.
The Legion shines when the spotlight is placed upon the Legion and the 31st century. The franchise flourishes when the Legion is their own independent franchise with their own rich and unique setting that stands on its own feet. By making the Legion so dependent upon the present-day DCU the franchise begins to be subordinate to the present-day DCU and far less important.
It would have been a far more impressive start if Bendis kicked off the new Legion of Super-Heroes title by completely focusing on…wait for it…the Legion of Super-Heroes! This franchise is blessed with an insanely rich and diverse setting and boasts one of the mast amazing roster of characters that you will find in any superhero comic book. Bendis should have fully embraced the Legion’s roster and their rich setting of the 31st century and worked hard to show the reader how special and unique the Legion is and why this franchise is so damn cool. Instead, all Bendis has done is give us a Super Sons story set in the 31st century.
Things do not get any better when we take a look at how Bendis is writing Superboy and the members of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Bendis’ character work and dialogue is a complete and total dumpster fire at this point. Again, the Legion’s strength has always been its diverse roster of incredible characters and the strong and engaging chemistry that exists between them. That is utterly and stunningly lacking in Bendis’ Legion of Super-Heroes. It is shocking that any editor at DC would think that this is appropriate. This is a massive failing at the most obvious and core strength of the Legion franchise.
Let’s start with Superboy. I am stunned at how Bendis continues to write Jon as a complete and utter buffoon. Honestly, Jon is as dumb and bubble-headed as possible. I am unsure if Bendis thinks this is “cute” or “endearing.” It most assuredly is not. Perhaps Bendis has a low regard for the intelligence of the average modern male teen. I have no idea what is going on here. All I do know is that Superboy comes across so dumb that the reader quickly becomes thoroughly annoyed with Jon’s character.
And the problems with Bendis’ version of Jon do not stop with him being written as an idiot. On top of that, Bendis gives Jon the most vanilla personality possible. There are beige walls in government buildings that have more of a lively and interesting personality than Bendis’ version of Jon. Superboy is completely lacking in anything that would resemble an actual personality.
Now let’s look at how Bendis is handling the supposed stars of this title: The Legionnaires. Unfortunately, Bendis completely fails to give any of the Legionnaires their own unique external voices. Bendis also fails to give the Legionnaires their own well developed and distinctive personalities. All of the Legionnaires talk with the identical generic Bendis-voice. All of the Legionnaires have the same bland personality. Bendis has completely failed to perform any character work in these first three issues. Bendis has also failed to generate any chemistry at all between any of the Legionnaires.
On top of this, Bendis manages to make the Legionnaires all sound like complete bubble-heads. It is pretty much the same approach that Bendis is taking with Superboy. I believe that Bendis is attempting to deliver is trademark “humor” and “witty” banter, but the result is that the Legionnaires all sound like morons. This hurts the Legionnaires as characters and reduces them to punchlines. Therefore, the reader never takes any of the Legionnaires seriously. This leads the reader to never feel the need to become invested in these characters that come across like the Keystone Cops of super-teams.
Another huge problem with Bendis’ handling of the Legionnaires is Bendis’ complete inability to juggle more than a few characters at a time in a single issue. This has been a long-standing weakness of Bendis’ writing since he first broke onto the scene with Marvel. That is why Bendis has always shined on solo titles like Daredevil and Ultimate Spider-Man, but struggled and collapsed on team titles or big events. The problem is that the Legion of Super-Heroes is the one single title where the number of characters a writer has to handle each issue is the single most important task for the writer.
Bendis debuted the Fourboot Legion with thirty-five members on its roster. We are now three issues into the Fourboot Legion and only a handful of Legionnaires have gotten any meaningful panel time or dialogue. In the first three issues of Legion of Super-Heroes #3, the only characters that have gotten any real panel time are Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Ultra Boy, and Brainiac 5. That is about it. Everyone else gets little to no panel time. Everyone else gets little to no dialogue. This approach robs the Legion of its greatest asset.
Bendis continues to fail to flesh out the Legion itself. The reader still does not have any concept of why the Legion was formed, how the Legion was formed, the protocol for the Legion’s operations, the Legion’s headquarters, and their internal structure. Bendis has failed to tell the reader the various roles that each Legionnaire plays within the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Overall: Legion of Super-Heroes #3 is another poorly written and executed issue. Brian Bendis appears to be a complete bust on this title. I was skeptical that Bendis was the proper match for a franchise like the Legion. My fears are proving to be a reality.
I have no idea at all who Legion of Super-Heroes #3 would appeal to. Long-time fans are sure to be disappointed with this issue. New readers will be bored and uninterested in this issue. The Legion comes across as so lame and dull that I doubt many new readers will be excited by what Bendis has to offer in this issue. The Legion of Super-Heroes is still lacking a unique identity and a mission statement. Bendis has failed to tell the reader why they need to add this title to their pull list. There is nothing about the Legion of Super-Heroes that separates itself from all of the other superhero comic books flooding the market. Readers are much better off spending their money on the numerous other superhero team titles that are currently on the market.
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.