The Revolution has been stunned at how truly awful Brian Bendis’ Fourboot Legion of Super-Heroes has been over the first four issues. Each issue commits the exact same mistakes as the prior ones. This title makes the reader feel like they are Bill Murray in Groundhog Day and are unable to escape this version of comic book hell.
At this point, it seems foolish to expect Bendis to actually introduce multiple plot lines, to pick up the pace, to perform actual character work, and to focus on more than just four Legionnaires per issue. This is the sad fate of this new Legion of Super-Heroes. The sales numbers continue to trend down for this title as Legion of Super-Heroes #4 only sold 30,675. That is massively disappointing given the incredible hype that DC gave Legion of Super-Heroes prior to its debut.
Remember, DC had Bendis on national TV on the Seth Meyers show hyping this new Legion. How often do you see DC have a writer on a national TV show on broadcast TV pimping a new title? It is clear that DC had high hopes. And what have they gotten? A title that is doomed to be selling in the high 20,000 unit range by the fifth issue. Add on top of the poor writing and poor sales the fact that the Legion of Super-Heroes is now suffering from scheduling delays. At this point, this Fourboot Legion seems destined to be selling in the under 20,000 unit range by the time we get to the twelfth issue.
As much as I adore the Legion and despite the fact that it is my all-time favorite franchise, I am steeling myself to the fact that DC will probably end up canceling the Legion of Super-Heroes after one year.
With that in mind, I guess we can only do our best to enjoy whatever we can about the Fourboot Legion until DC cancels this failing title. Let’s hit this review for Legion of Super-Heroes #5.
Words: Brian Bendis
Art: Ryan Sook, Scott Godlewski, and Wade Von Grawbadger
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Story Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with a one-page recap page of Computo telling us what happened in Legion of Super-Heroes #3. (Recap pages are great, but not necessarily in a comic that has zero plot progression from issue to issue.)
We cut to Cosmic Boy, Bouncing Boy, Lightning Lad, Superboy, Karate Kid, Triplicate Girl, Doctor Fate (Gross), and Monster Boy squaring off against the Science Police. Brainiac 5 appears in a hologram. Brainiac 5 tells the Science Police that they do not have the authority to detain the Legion. Brainiac 5 says that the fight will also not go the way the Science Police thinks. That the Legion will easily defeat the Science Police. Brainiac 5 says that the Legion and the Science Police should never be at odds. That this all feels like an abuse of powers. Brainiac 5 tells the Science Police to stand down.
The Science Police quickly conference and then agree to stand down. Superboy then asks why the Legion and the President of the United Planets are in a standoff. Brainiac 5 says that Jon is asking an excellent question. Cosmic Boy then says that the answer is in the orientation program the Legion made for Superboy. (Jesus. Fucking. Christ. We are in the FIFTH issue and still hammering away on the goddamn orientation program.)
Superboy says that it probably is not a good time for him to resume the orientation program while the Legion is in a standoff with the Science Police. Bouncing Boy says that they can handle it. Superboy responds that Bouncing Boy is strong. (……What?! Where in the hell did that come from?!)
Brainiac 5 then says that he has found the Trident’s trail. Shadow Lass asks if the “Invisible Guy” took the trident. (Huhbutwhat?! Why in the world would Bendis had Shady accuse another Legionnaire of this? This makes utterly no sense at all.) Shadow Lass says that she does not like the look of that guy.
Suddenly, Invisible Kid appears out of nowhere. Invisible Kid asks why the other Legionnaires are always talking about him behind his back. (And we now learn that Bendis chose Jacques Foccart who is Invisible Kid II to be the Invisible Kid of this Fourboot Legion.) Jacques says that his name was the Invisible Gentlemen and not Kid. Jacques asks what even is a kid. (Ummmm…really? Has the word “kid” been erased from the English language? Is that what we are being led to believe? This whole scene is a huge bag of stupid.)
Brainiac 5 then says that Ultra Boy, Dawnstar, Shadow Lass, Timber Wolf, Monster Boy, and Wildfire will go and retrieve Aquaman’s trident. The Legionnaires leave. This leaves Brainiac 5 alone with Chameleon Boy. Cham says that he should go with the team to get the trident. Brainiac 5 then apologizes that the two of them have not had more time together. Cham says there are more important things to be dealing with right now. We then get three panels of no dialogue. Cham then admits that the President of the United Planets is his mother. (Damn. Bendis burned through one of the Legion’s greatest surprise plot reveals in just five issues and delivered it in the most nonchalant and boring fashion.)
Brainy asks Cham if he can give the Legion any insight on why his mother is doing what she is doing. Cham says that his mother is scared.
We hop back to Bouncing Boy putting Superboy back into Computo’s orientation program. Superboy asks Computo to play the program from the perspective of the President of the United Planets.
We cut to Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad defending the President from the attack of Horraz. We cut to the President addressing the United Planets and advocating for the creation of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The President invokes the 21st Century which was the age of super-heroes. The President says that they need heroes.
We zip back to Rokk, Garth, and Imra meeting with the President. Imra is stunned that the President wants them to be the new Justice League. Rokk and Imra know about the Justice League while Garth has no clue about the Justice League. The President says that she does not want a League. That she wants a Legion of Super-Heroes with the three of them at the center.
We cut to Rokk, Garth, and Imra sitting alone. They have until tomorrow to give the President their answer if they will join the Legion of Super-Heroes. Saturn Girl says that she wants them to form the Legion based on pure intentions. Saturn Girl says that the President does not have pure motivations for starting the Legion. Imra says she dug into the President’s mind and her only thoughts are about what is best for her.
Blok then walks past our heroes. Rokk says that Blok was amazing in the fight against the Horraz assassins. Rokk asks Blok if he would like to join the new Legion of Super-Heroes. Blok says, “Okay.” Rokk asks Blok to come sit with them. Blok says, “No.” Blok keeps on walking. (Remember when Blok was an incredibly smart, perceptive, sensitive, and empathetic person? Yeah…Bendis figures that a dumb rock character is an upgrade in personality. Fantastic.)
We zip to Rokk, Imra, and Garth meeting with Brainiac 5 on Colu. Imra asks Brainy if he would like to join them in helping to put together the Legion of Super-Heroes. Brainy explains his 12th level intellect and how he has a higher understanding of the universe and this has left him shaken. Brainiac 5 says that the Legion will be a massive success and that it is an outstanding idea and that he will join them.
Brainiac 5 reveals that the 21st century on Earth holds everything together. All realities and all dimensions are tied to that era. Brainiac 5 has data about reality abnormalities at the edge of their “galactic” and it is all tied to the 21st century on Earth. Brainiac 5 says that if the 21st century on Earth survives then they survive. If the 21st century on Earth does not survive then neither will they.
Brainiac 5 says that when Earth broke into pieces so did it’s already rebooted and revised history and timeline. Brainiac 5 says they have lost so many texts and scripture to crisis.
Brainy says that for the health of their universe that they must bring together the Legion of Super-Heroes and also bring Jon Kent to the future to be a part of the Legion. Brainy says that they need to help prepare Jon for his coming role as the “one true Superman.” (Gross.)
Brainy says that time is not linear. That they live in multiple dimensions and connect simultaneously and always have. (Does this mean that the real Legion is still out there somewhere?! Yes!) Brainiac 5 says that if Superman (Jon) fails in his world then they (The Legion and everyone in the future) disappear in their world. That reality disappears. (This is so unbelievably stupid.)
We shift to the present with Superboy ending the orientation program. Saturn Girl is standing there. Suddenly, Brainiac 5’s hologram appears and he yells that they have found the trident. That it is “here.” Brainiac 5 tells them to evacuate Earth immediately. End of issue.
The Good: Sweet baby Jesus. It is going to be tough to follow The Revolution’s Rule of Positivity with Legion of Super-Heroes #5. Let’s see. Well, I loved that Shadow Lass got some dialogue. Yeah, it was only a measly three panels of dialogue in the entire issue, but that is better than what we have gotten for most Legionnaires not named Garth, Imra, or Rokk in the prior four issues. Shady is a great character and her blunt comments were completely in keeping with her personality. Sure, she sounds a bit bitchy. But, Shadow Lass can be like that at times.
Plus, drama is something Bendis’ Fourboot Legion desperately needs. Up to this moment, Bendis’ Fourboot Legion has been painfully bland with all of the Legionnaires possessing the same personality and there being absolutely no chemistry or friction between the Legionnaires. Drama, chemistry, and friction are core attributes of any successful Legion comic.
So, I liked that Shady threw some shade at Jacques. (See what I did there. Sorry!) And I like that Jacques threw it right back at the other Legionnaires. This was the first and only moment during the first five issues of Bendis’ Fourboot Legion that we have gotten any of this delicious drama.
The artwork by Ryan Sook, Scott Godlewski, and Wade Von Grawbadger is solid. Several Legionnaires look fantastic in their updated designs. Shadow Lass, Bouncing Boy, and Brainiac 5 all look good. The artists do a fine job iwth the facial expressions of all of the characters. Which is important considering Bendis gave the artists literally nothing to do as Legion of Super-Heroes #5 was full of nothing but dialogue heavy scenes and zero action. All in all, the artists did the best job with the material that they were given.
The Bad: Legion of Super-Heroes #5 is another shallow and dull read. Go back and read our reviews for Legion of Super-Heroes #1, Legion of Super-Heroes #2, Legion of Super-Heroes #3, and Legion of Super-Heroes #4 because the defects and weaknesses of this title are the exact same ones in each and every issue. Bendis is stuck in a cycle of failure where he is doomed to commit the same writing sins over and over again producing a comic book that is spectacularly awful.
It is becoming wash, rinse, and repeat when it comes to reviewing Bendis’ Fourboot Legion. Let’s run through the checklist of writing sins found in Legion of Super-Heroes #5. Slow paced story? Check. Lack of substantial plot progression? Check. Lack of substance and content? Check. Dull and somewhat dumb story? Check. Zero character work? Check. Generic dialogue? Check. Still focusing on a small handful of Legionnaires per issue? Check.
And there you go! The bulk of this review for Legion of Super-Heroes #5 is complete. Now, there are a few of the aforementioned weaknesses that we should really focus in on with Legion of Super-Heroes #5. First, Bendis delivers another dull issue. Legion of Super-Heroes #5 offers the reader zero action. Instead, Bendis loads up another boring issue full of repetitious dialogue.
Second, the character work continues to be disappointing with each Legionnaire that Bendis introduces for the first time. Bendis gave Blok some panel time with this issue. Up until now, we have had no knowledge of how Bendis was going to write Blok’s character. Sadly, Bendis saddles Blok with a dumb and boring personality.
For new readers who are unfamiliar with Blok’s character it is important to describe how Blok used to be written. Blok was always an intelligent, caring, and insightful character. The gimmick was that Block’s physical looks and powers contrasted sharply with his personality. This was the classic case of not being able to judge a book by its cover. It was brilliant and Blok was a character that became quite popular and engaged many Legion fans.
Unfortunately, Bendis takes the uncreative easy route with Blok. Like with most of the other Legionnaires, Bendis keeps things dumb. Bendis’ history of disliking researching continuity and understanding the history of characters makes it certain that Bendis has never actually read any of the past Legion issues starring Blok. I am confident that Bendis probably looked at Blok’s character design and thought, “Hey! He’s a big rock! I know! I can make his personality as….wait for it…dumb as a rock! So funny!”
So, another Legionnaire falls to Bendis’ lazy and uncreative writing. It is unfortunate to see a team with such a deep and diverse roster of characters like the Legion being reduced to such one-dimensional and boring characters.
Another one of the reoccurring weaknesses to Bendis’ Fourboot Legion that we should examine a bit more closely is the complete lack of panel time for the vast majority of the Legionnaires. Over the first four issues of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Bendis has mostly focused on about six Legionnaires. This continues with Legion of Super-Heroes #5. In this issue, Bendis again focuses on Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, and Brainiac 5. These are the same characters who have gotten the vast majority of the panel time in the prior four issues. Bendis also gives us a little bit of panel time for Bouncing Boy and Ultra Boy. This is also in keeping with the prior four issues.
That is it. Bendis keeps his focus on roughly the same six Legionnaires with each issue. This should be of no surprise. Six characters are the standard roster size for a team title. Combine this with Bendis’ well-established history of being utterly unable to ever write an issue while juggling more than just a handful of characters. The result is a Legion of Super-Heroes title that is utterly robbed of its greatest strength: It’s impressive roster.
What has always made the Legion unique and interesting has been its incredible roster. IT is the massive cast of diverse characters and the way that they interact with each other. This continues to be completely lacking in Bendis’ Fourboot Legion.
At the end of the day, I do not blame Bendis. Bendis is simply being Bendis. One would be foolish to expect anything different. It is like hiring Frank Miller to write a title and not expect it to read like a Frank Miller title with all of its plusses and minuses. I put full blame on the continued failings of the Fourboot Legion squarely upon the shoulders of Dan DiDio and the rest of the DC editorial staff. DiDio is who greenlit the idea to place Bendis on the Legion of Super-Heroes. In doing so, DiDio doomed the Legion before it even started.
It is up to the Editor in Chief and the rest of the editorial staff to select the proper writer for each franchise. It is up to editorial to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their writers. It is up to editorial to then set their writers up for success as much as possible by paring their writers with titles that fit their strengths. DC’s editorial completely screwed the pooch when it came to doing this with Bendis and the Legion of Super-Heroes franchise.
Legion of Super-Heroes #5 presents the reader with very little plot progression and content. Again. The first seventeen pages of this issue are just recycling and rehashing the same content that we have already gotten over and over again in Legion of Super-Heroes #1-4. It is in the final six pages of this issue that the reader gets any actual new content.
What exactly is that new content? It is the revelation that Jon Kent is the “one true Superman.” The other revelation is that the present-day DCU on Earth is what holds everything together. That all realities and all dimensions are tied to that era. That if the 21st century on Earth survives then The Legion’s time period survives.
Oh, we also get a small Watchmen reference when Brainiac says, “Earth could not be more important to us and our survival and yet it’s all broken. To be translated, interpreted, misinterpreted.” Saturn Girl replies, “Like those poor Watchmen.”
None of this makes me even remotely excited. Calling Jon the “one true Superman” is an obvious lead in to DC’s 5G plans where Jon Kent is supposed to replace Clark Kent as Superman. Now, Legion of Super-Heroes #5 was written prior to DiDio’s sudden and stunning firing. Prior to DiDio’s firing, we knew that Scott Snyder wanted his big event in Death Metal to have nothing to do with 5G at all. Since DiDio’s firing, we have learned that Snyder was not a fan of 5G and had some massive fights with DiDio. It also appears that Snyder has gained more power in DC since DiDio’s firing. Snyder has even mentioned that with DiDio’s firing that Death Metal is now even larger and more important within the context of the DCU than ever before.
We also have seen DC pull solicitations for the second issue of Generations which was the lead-in to 5G. At this point, we have no idea if 5G is being trashed or if it is being heavily modified or if it is progressing forward as previously planned. If 5G does get dropped or is heavily modified then that will have a huge impact on what Bendis was planning on Legion of Super-Heroes.
I have consistently viewed the rumored 5G plans to be another example of DC failing to learn from the obvious sales failures known as the New 52 and the All New All Different initiative. Therefore, I have little interest in anything connected to 5G. Further, if 5G is in fact dropped or modified then Bendis’ story takes on even less importance.
The concept of Jon Kent as the “one true Superman” instead of Clark Kent is ridiculous. Kal-El is Superman. Kal-El is the keystone for the entire DCU. It has always been that way and it will always be that way. And this is coming from someone who has never liked Superman. I have had zero interest in Superman’s character my entire life. But, I respect Superman’s character and his obvious and objective importance to the DCU.
Also, Bendis’ tying the Legion of Super-Heroes very existence and the existence of their entire time period to Jon Kent and the events in the present-day DCU do the Legion a massive disservice. This move by Bendis only further subordinates the Legion and their time period to both Jon and the present-day DCU. This direction completely robs the Legion and their time period of their own agency.
The Legion of Super-Heroes saw its greatest success when the franchise matured as Paul Levitz guided them out of Superboy’s shadow. As Levitz made the Legion and their time period more independent from Superboy and the present-day DCU the more the franchise grew and flourished. This allowed the Legion and their time period to gain their own autonomy and self-value. This made the Legion a far more fascinating and fully developed franchise that focused on the Legionnaires and their time period rather than having to constantly look back to the present-day DCU. By shedding the crutch of the present-day DCU, the Legion was finally able to blaze their own trail.
Unfortunately, Bendis appears determined to completely subjugate the Legion and its time period to Superboy and the present-day DCU. Bendis wants to keep the Legion franchise stunted and one-dimensional and having to rely on Superboy and the present-day DCU as crutches for their very existence. This direction will keep the Legion as an underdeveloped and uninteresting franchise. This is the most myopic and uncreative direction that Bendis could have chosen for the Fourboot Legion.
The artwork in Legion of Super-Heroes #5 had a few problems. There are some strange inconstancies in how some of the characters are drawn in this issue. A good example of this is how Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad are drawn in this issue compared to the prior issues. Compare how Lighting Lad and Cosmic Boy look in Legion of Super-heroes #4. Lighting Lad has a short afro in Legion of Super-Heroes #4. Then in Legion of Super-Heroes #5, Lightning Lad has a white guy pompadour. The difference in how Comic Boy looks in both issues is striking. More consistency in how the Legionnaires are drawn is important especially as new readers are beginning to learn who are these various characters.
What makes this surprising is that the art team for Legion of Super-Heroes #4 is basically the same as the art team for Legion of Super-heroes #5. The art team for Legion of Super-Heroes #4 was Ryan Sook, Mikel Janín, and Wade Von Grawbadger. Colors by Jordie Bellaire. The art team for Legion of Super-Heroes #5 is Ryan Sook, Scott Godlewski, Wade Von Grawbadger, and Jordie Bellaire in Legion of Super-Heroes #5. When three of the four members of the art team are the same such large discrepancies of how characters are drawn are not expected.
While many of the Legionnaires have great designs, the more I see of the redesigned Chameleon Boy the more I hate it. Cham just looks more and more like a horror show every time I see his character. And my initial concerns that the new design for his face would rob his character of any effective facial expressions have been proven to be correct. It is difficult to give Cham real emotions with his current eyes and facial features.
Overall: Legion of Super-Heroes #5 continues the depressing death spiral of this new title. Bendis clearly is out of his comfort zone and has no plans for success with this franchise. I have no idea who would find Bendis’ Fourboot Legion interesting. This issue is not going to appeal to Bendis fans at all. It is too boring and simply does not deliver the kind of story that Bendis fans like. This issue is also not going to appeal to Legion fans. At this point, the Fourboot Legion is an answer to a question no one was asking.
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