The Fourboot version of the Legion of Super-Heroes has been a massive disappointment. Brian Bendis has started this new version of the beloved Legion franchise with three straight issues of mindless babble, zero character work, practically no content, and zero plot progression. I could not imagine a more disastrous start to the Fourboot Legion than what Bendis has given us to this point.
It is incumbent upon Bendis to actually install some substantive plotlines and deliver some actual plot progression with Legion of Super-Heroes #4. It is also vitally important that Bendis finally focus on more than just three or four Legionnaires. It is also critical that Bendis delivers some real character work, too. Unfortunately, I am afraid that the Fourboot Legion is already the comic book version of the Titanic and that there is no happy ending in store for us. Let’s hope for the best and hit this review for Legion of Super-Heroes #4.
Words: Brian Bendis
Pencils: Ryan Sook and Mikel Janín
Inks: Wade Von Grawbadger and Mikel Janín
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Story Rating: 1 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with a recap page being delivered by Triplicate Girl. We then see Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy hooking Superboy up to Computo. (Bendis has given Computo the A.I. appearance of Danielle Foccart.) Superboy is going to witness the formation of the Legion through virtual reality.
We cut to Imra on her home in Saturn. Imra is meditating. Imra’s parents chastise Imra for not being able to keep her thoughts quiet and for disturbing her family’s collective mind.
Imra’s parents then inform her that she has been made an offer to join the United Planets Youth Delegation for Peace. Imra is excited. Imra admits to secretly applying to the organization without telling her parents. Imra desires to leave the family’s collective.
We shift to Winath. We see Ayla and Garth Ranzz standing in between some locals and a group of U.P. Science Police. Ayla and Garth power up their lightning. Ayla rants about how the Science Police need to leave her planet. The Science Police engage in wacky dialogue like they are the Keystone Cops before deciding to retreat.
We cut to Garth and Ayla back home. We see that Garth and Ayla have four siblings. (That is a big change. Garth and Ayla have always had just one other sibling. Their older brother, Mekt who becomes the villainous Lighting Lord. What a weird change. Also, Winathians are all either fraternal or identical twins. The odd thing about Mekt was that he was not a twin and this is part of what led him to become villainous. Anyway, Bendis does not mention this fact about Winath.)
We see Garth and Ayla’s two mothers. (Another change. They used to have a mom and a dad.) One of their moms is a regular looking human. Their other mom looks like a pink energy being. (I have no idea what is going on. Is this a pink energy creature that the one mom has married? Or is this possibly a pink hologram? Who knows?! Bendis ain’t telling! I think it is a pink energy being. All the kids look like the human mom. I am unsure of the science that allows two different species of the same sex to produce children that look identical to just one of the mothers Since the two moms are of different species that must mean that Garth and Ayla are infertile.)
The two mothers are watching a news video of Ayla screaming at the Science Police. The moms say that is no way to talk to the Science Police. Garth sits there like a dummy while Ayla does all the talking for both of them. Ayla rants that people are being forced to move against their will. Families are being torn apart. Someone else is making a profit off of it. (I have zero clues what is going on right now. I just know that Ayla comes across as annoying in this scene and Garth comes across as dumb.)
One of the moms says that Ayla is going to get killed. Ayla says that her moms have six other kids to torture. (I only count six total kids including Ayla. So, I am not sure where this mysterious seventh child is during this scene And if there are seven children then that means Bendis either never researched Winath and the fact that they are all twins or Bendis is retconning away this fact about Winath.)
Suddenly, representatives from the Science Command knock on the door. They say that they have invites for Ayla and Garth Ranzz to join the United Planets Youth Delegation. Ayla screams and rants that she would rather die and she is not going to join such a corrupt organization. Garth asks if they have to take both him and Ayla or can just one of them accept. Then we get some wacky dialogue from the Science Command people like they were the Three Stooges.
We zip to Braal and see Cosmic Boy defeating three giant metal monsters. We learn that only 1% of Braal’s population has magnetic powers. (That is another bizarre change. It has always been that all Braalians had magnetic powers.) We see that Rokk is in the center of a large arena and people are chanting for him. We see that Rokk is the Braal Champion. (The Braal Champion of….what? Bendis sure isn’t telling. Love these half-baked origins! Also, It has always been that Rokk was Braal’s Magnoball champion. Magnoball is a sport that is a source of great pride for Braal.)
Rokk’s “Prime Father” tells him that they are going to the next level. (Yeah, I have no clue what the hell a “Prime Father” is either. Bendis ain’t telling.) Rokk is then told that he has been invited to join the Young United Planets. (I love that Bendis does not bother to write the name of this organization the same in any of these three scenes. Maybe it is done on purpose for some type of humor or something? It just comes across as sloppy.)
We zip forward to Rokk, Garth, and Imra all meeting each other for the first time. Garth demonstrates that he is still a braindead moron. After some pointless babble, the President of the United Planets enters the room. The President introduces herself as R.J. Brande. (This is just killing me. The real R.J. Brande was such a cool character. What a shame.)
The President tells the three teenagers that she has a new plan for them. Suddenly, the room is attacked by the Horraz. Rokk, Garth, and Imra spring to action. But, before we get any actual action or fighting in this issue we shift from that scene back to the present day with Computo and Superboy. Computo says that it is ending the orientation presentation.
We see Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Bouncing Boy, and Triplicate Girl in the room with Superboy. Cosmic Boy says that he told Computo to wake up Superboy. Lightning Lad says that Superboy should go back and finish the orientation program. (Jesus Christ. Can we end this orientation program gag already? It got old after Legion of Super-Heroes #1.)
A hologram of Brainiac 5 appears. Brainy tells them that the trident is nowhere in Metropolis. Superboy exclaims, “Aquaman’s trident is missing?” (Yeah, moron. That is literally what Brainiac 5 just said.) Brainy says that someone stole the trident and that it is time for a full-scale Legion investigation.
Suddenly, the Science Police bust into the room and say that the President has ordered the Legion to be locked down until further notice. That the Legionnaires cannot leave their confined areas. (What confined areas? Bendis told us in Legion of Super-Heroes #1 that the entire city is the Legion of Super-Heroes headquarters so…do they get to just wander across the entire city?)
Superboy then says that he thought that the Legion of Super-Heroes was the President’s idea. Cosmic Boy replies that maybe they should have let Superboy finish the orientation. (Horse turned into glue. Bendis has beaten this joke to death over four issues. This is like your 50 some year old dad who finds something funny and just keeps repeating it over and over and over…) End of issue.
The Good: Legion of Super-Heroes #4 is awful. I did not think it was humanly possible for Bendis to deliver an even more shallow, boring, meandering, and dumb issue than what we have gotten before on this title. Well, Bendis managed to prove me wrong.
Having said that, there is a big positive to Legion of Super-Heroes #4. That is the excellent artwork by Ryan Sook, Mike JanÍn, and Wade Von Grawbadger. This is a great looking issue. The artists do the best to take the chicken shit that Bendis gives them and makes chicken salad out of it.
There are only two pages of action in Legion of Super-Heroes #4, but the artists manage to make all of the scenes as visually exciting as possible. This is achieved for two reasons. The first is the creative panel layouts that make each scene look interesting. The second is the incredible facial expressions that the artists give the characters. This helps to breathe some life into a script that saddles every character with the same generic external voice and a story that delivers little action.
The artists also deliver nicely detailed panels. The art looks slick and smooth. This is a good match for a title like the Legion of Super-Heroes. I dig how the artists draw Garth and Ayla’s lightning and Cosmic Boy’s magnetic powers.
The Bad: As I finished Legion of Super-Heroes #4 several questions immediately sprang to mind. Why are we here? What is the point of Bendis’ Legion of Super-Heroes? Does anybody, including Bendis himself, even care any more?
The first three issues of Legion of Super-Heroes have been marred by shallow stories, poor plotting and pacing, and a general lack of a sense of purpose. It is nearly impossible to imagine, but Bendis actually delivers an even more shallow and meandering than the prior three issues. In fact, Legion of Super-Heroes #4 manages to make the horrendous prior three issues of Legion of Super-Heroes actually look good. I am stunned.
Bendis begins Legion of Super-Heroes with a re-cap page that is the most useless recap page ever. To be fair, next to nothing has happened in the three prior issues so there really is not much of anything to recap. This recap page did display Bendis’ truly awful take on Triplicate Girl’s character. Bendis probably has not read any issues with Luornu in them because Bendis writes Luornu in a completely different fashion from her established personality.
Luornu is a fantastic character who is smart, capable, and non-nonsense. Luornu has always served as a counter-balance to her husband, Bouncing Boy, who is more silly in nature. Sadly, Bendis gives Luornu the generic Bendis-speak personality that he has given all of the other Legionnaires. Only, Bendis has layered on top of Luornu’s generic personality the use of I/We all over the place. It feels like a cheap gimmick that quickly begins to irritate the reader.
The I/We gimmick also lacks internal logic as Bendis goes out of his way to point out that Luornu is just one person. That her triplicates are not three separate individuals. It is just one person being able to replicate herself. This makes the I/We gimmick pointless. To make it even worse, Bendis then contradicts himself by saying that one of Luronu’s triplicates is going to marry Superboy. All of this comes across as idiotic.
Bendis then wastes two pages of Superboy being hooked into Computo. We have drawn out this orientation program to the point of nausea over the first three issues that we did not need two full pages dedicated to this moment. A few panels would have been more than enough.
Imra gets the short end of the stick when it comes to the origins. Bendis only gives Imra three pages. Of course, this is a shallow scene that should have been no more than two pages at the most. There is simply next to no content at all to be found here.
Garth and Ayla then get five pages. Again, there is next to no actual content in this scene. There was no need for this scene to be more than three pages. All Bendis was establishing is that Ayla hates the Science Police and that Garth…is simple. This scene also gives us a ridiculous amount of “wacky” Bendis speak with the Science Command agents. This attempt at humor feels painfully forced and clashes with the overall tone of the scene.
We then get the four-page scene giving us Rokk’s introduction. Again, the scene is shallow. We do at least get the only action in this entire issue with the two pages of Rokk beating up the metal creatures. The two pages following the two-page action scene were just too long and repetitious. It could have been done far more effectively in one page.
We then get the four-page scene of Rokk, Imra, and Garth meeting each other, then the three Legionnaires meeting Brande, and then the Horraz attacking. Again, there was little actual content in this scene. Everything Bendis gives us in this scene we already knew from the prior issues. This scene could have been effectively done in two to three pages at the most.
Then we end with the two-page scene of Superboy being brought out of the orientation program, Brainiac 5 announcing that the trident has been stolen, and then the Science Police placing the Legion on lockdown. These two pages offered the reader the only new content. These two pages also delivered the only actual plot progression in this entire issue.
What is absolutely bizarre about Legion of Super-Heroes #4 are the sixteen pages where Bendis gives the reader the abbreviated backstories of Rokk, Garth, and Imra and them coming together as the beginning of the Legion of Super-Heroes. These sixteen pages are amazing in the fact that they are both shallow, cursory, and barely fleshed out and yet at the same time incredibly drawn out and meandering.
I have no idea how Bendis managed to pull off such a seemingly impossible feat. It is like having the reverse Midas touch. Bendis gives the reader next to no real substance concerning Imra, Rokk, and Garth in these flashback scenes. Instead, we just get scenes that seem hastily written. Bendis does not attempt at all to flesh out any of the backstories. Bendis keeps then as generic and bland as possible.
Bendis skates by like a C student giving the reader just the barest amount of information about Rokk, Imra, and Garth. There are so many holes and gaps in these origin scenes. The scenes feel sloppy and haphazard. These scenes read like a rough draft outline where Bendis put in the basic plot points for the scenes but then failed to go back and actually flesh out the scenes into final products. After reading these sixteen pages the reader feels no closer to any of the characters. The reader certainly does not feel as if they have gained any type of important insight into any of the three characters.
The plotting and pacing continue to be atrocious. We have now completed four issues on this new title and Bendis has installed a total of two plotlines: The mystery surrounding the trident and the President being angry with the Legion. That is it. In four issues. And neither of the two plotlines have seen any progression at all over the course of the four issues. It is pathetic. The Revolution routinely reviews debut issues of new titles that install more plotlines and offers more plot progression in the single debut issue than Bendis has delivered in four issues.
At the conclusion of Legion of Super-Heroes #4, the reader gets the sinking feeling in their stomach that Bendis has no plans at all for this title. That Bendis is simply wandering about and making up crap as he goes along. Bendis’s Legion of Super-Heroes is the exact opposite of Hickman’s X-Men. There is nothing complex and immersive about Bendis’ Legion of Super-Heroes. Hickman’s X-Men and its world is the comic book equivalent of Galaxy’s Edge in Walt Disney World. Bendis’ Legion and its world is the comic book equivalent of the run-down traveling carnival in the parking lot next to your local Wal-Mart.
Legion of Super-Heroes #4 also suffers from terrible character work and poor dialogue. Bendis has utterly failed in developing any of the Legionnaires. The character work is completely absent. All of the Legionnaires are written identically to each other. All of the Legionnaires have the same basic generic personality with a dose of Bendis speak. None of the Legionnaires have displayed any unique personalities. None of the Legionnaires have a unique external voice.
To make matters worse, Bendis continues to write the Legionnaires as morons. To be sure, Garth gets the worst of it in this issue. Bendis makes Garth seem absolutely brain dead. But, in general, none of the Legionnaires come across as particularly intelligent or capable at all. It is unfortunate that Bendis views the Legionnaires as nothing more than punchlines for his “wacky” humor.
And that leads us to another massive continuing problem with Bendis’ Legion of Super-Heroes. Bendis’ constant forced “humor” and “witty” banter. It is literally everywhere. Everyone gets “wacky” humor inserted into their dialogue. Every single character stooges around and plays for laughs. There are several problems with this. First, Bendis’ humor is terrible. Bendis’ humor is basically just awful dad jokes. You can tell that Bendis is in his 50s. This lame dad joke-filled humor is not what I would expect from teenagers.
Second, Bendis making every character in the story stooge around for laughs only serves to make the reader not take anyone or anything seriously. Often the humor is discordant with the scene. An example of that is when the Science Command officers are at the Ranzz house. Bendis is delivering a serious scene about the Science Police violating people’s rights and Ayla’s anger over the situation. Then we get the Science Command officers acting like the three stooges out of nowhere. The humor is awkwardly jammed into the scene and goes over like a fart in an elevator. Bendis delivers tone-deaf moments like this all throughout the issue.
With wacky dad humor lurking at every corner in the issue it makes it impossible for the reader to ever take any of the Legionnaires seriously or the story itself seriously. If the characters are constantly playing for laughs then the reader feels like nothing in the story is important. The reader feels no reason to ever get invested in anything that is happening in this title.
Another continuing problem with Bendis’ Legion of Super-Heroes continues in Legion of Super-Heroes #4 is the limited use of Legionnaires. The Legion of Super-Heroes’ biggest strength has always been its massive roster. This is what has always set the Legion apart from every other title on the market. Unfortunately, this is also Bendis’ biggest weakness. Therefore, Legion of Super-Heroes #4 continues the trend of Bendis only focusing on three or four Legionnaires.
In this issue, the only Legionnaires who get any attention are Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl. Triplicate Girl does get the opening page and Superboy gets a little panel time, too. That is simply not enough. Bendis keeps focusing in on four or so Legionnaires with each issue. And it seems to be the same Legionnaires, too. There are numerous Legionnaires that still have not gotten any panel time at all. Bendis reducing the scope and size of the Legion’s roster completely robs the Legion of Super-Heroes of its biggest strength. This also makes reading the Legion of Super-Heroes far less fun and exciting. I have every comic book that the Legion of Super-Heroes has ever appeared in. I have never seen a writer take a such a limited scope to the Legion’s roster as Bendis has over these first four issues.
Overall: If you like zero character work, a story as thin as rice paper, zero plot lines and no plot progression all wrapped up in a bunch of dad jokes then Legion of Super-Heroes #4 is the comic for you. For everyone else? Avoid Legion of Super-Heroes #4. There is literally nothing in this issue that would even be worth a .25 cent cover price let alone a $4.00 cover price.
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