The official debut of this new Fourboot Legion in Superman #14 was rather unimpressive. To be fair, the Legion barely have any panel time at all in Superman #14 and it was also only at the very end of the issue. Superman #15 should shine more of a spotlight on the Fourboot Legion. The Fourboot Legion is prominently displayed on the cover of Superman #15. So, I am expecting some quality panel time for the Legion in this issue. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for Superman #15!
Words: Brian Bendis
Pencils: Ivan Reis, Brandon Peterson, and Evan Shaner
Inks: Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Brandon Peterson, and Evan Shaner
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Superman looking at Rogol Zaar captured in a stasis bubble. Adam Strange enters the room. The two men hug. Adam Strange asks if teenagers from the 31st century really did show up. Superman said that it is true. Adam Strange then congratulated Superman on the United Planets concept. Adam Strange wonders why he didn’t think of such an idea earlier. Superman says that it was all Jon’s idea.
We cut back to earlier with the Legion of Super-Heroes saying that they are from the 31st century and are here at this moment when the United Planet was formed. Superboy says that the United Planets has not been formed, yet. That they just asked the leaders if they wanted to create a United Planets.
Brainiac 5 hurriedly starts tapping away on his tablet. The Legionnaires all ask Brainiac 5 if they have arrived too early for the once-in-a-lifetime visit to the most important moment in galactic history. The assembled leaders asks what is going on and if this is one lame Earth humor theatre. (Took the words right out of my mouth! I am beginning to wonder if Bendis is going to reveal that Fozzie the Bear is now a Legionnaire, too.)
Ultra Boy hisses to Brainiac 5 that they are really stepping right on the moment right now. Saturn Girl asks if they should go away and come back. Brainiac 5 says that this moment is happening. Cosmic Boy says that they came to celebrate history and tripped and fell on it instead. Ultra Boy asks if the moment is now forever and for all time the Legion doing this. (Soooo, Bendis’ big unveiling of the Fourboot Legion is for the Legionnaires to stooge around and act like jokes. Fantastic.)
Brainiac 5 says that they only missed the moment by about four minutes. Lightning Lad says that this moment is about sharing and they wanted to add their voices to the moment. Triplicate Girl says that they want to say that the United Planets is still in existence in their time.
The assembled leaders are stunned that the United Planets is so successful that it is still in power in the 31st century. The Legionnaires reply that they are a sort of delegation from the United Planets of their time. That each Legionnaire resents one planet and power. (Well…that is not exactly true. Some Legionnaires are from the same planet. And some Legionnaires have multiple powers. But..whatever. Continue.)
The assembled leaders are so impressed that the United Planets is so successful and lasts so long into the future that they all agree to form the United Planets. (Khunds and the Dominators in the United Planets? That is not a thing. Never has been.) The Khunds asks who will speak for Earth. Superman says that he will speak for Earth in these matters. (Whaaaaat?!?! This makes exactly zero sense. Superman literally has no power or authority to bind to Earth to anything at all.)
All the leaders officially agree that we now have a United Planets. Saturn Girl uses her telepathy to congratulate Superboy. The leaders then asks what they should call this day from this moment forward. Superboy says that they shall call this day United Day. (…amazingly creative.)
We hop back to the present with Adam Strange telling Superman that Superman has an incredible son. Superman then says that he is sad about losing him to the universe again.
We zip back to the formation of the United Planets. Superboy asks the Legion if they want him to live in the 31st century. They say that he can if he wants to do so. (Oh, let’s not have Superboy be a permanent every day member of the Legion.) Superboy says that he is not sure what to say. Superboy asks if they need an answer right this second. Saturn Girl says that everyone is just excited. That she will come back tomorrow and see if he has an answer then. Wildfire then asks if Superboy would introduce him to his Aunt. (Woah, now, Drake. Supergirl has always been Brainiac 5’s crush. You go hit on Dawnstar!)
The Legionnaires then head back to the 31st century. General Zod then asks Superman where is Jor-El.
We shift back to the present with Adam Strange telling Superman that the United Planets has sentanced Jor-El for his crimes against the galaxy. That Jor-El created Rogol Zaar and set him loose into the galaxy. That the U.P. has decided place him in a time sphere and send him back to Krypton the moment before it exploded.
We cut to Jor-El arriving back on Krypton. Jor-El seas his younger self and Lara-El holding each other. Jor-El tells his younger self that Kal-El does it. That he brings the universe together. Krypton then explodes.
We hop back to Superman and the House of El saying goodbye to the newly formed U.P. Zod then approaches Superman and says that the U.P. has agreed to create a new outpost for the Kryptonians. Zod says that he and his wife and son will go there and start a new Krypton. (Ewwww. That is going to require lots of inbreeding for that to happen.)
Zod says that the U.P. is not just peace for the universe, but also peace between the House of El and the House of Zod. Zod says that the House of El are welcome on New Krypton anytime.
Superman, Superboy, Supergirl, and Krypto then fly off for Earth. Superboy says that he and Damian need to have a talk about Superboy joining the Legion of Super-Heroes. End of issue.
The Good: Superman #15 was an average read. I was just here for the Legion of Super-Heroes and, well, I did not really get much of anything of real substance at all. Having said that, it is still great to see the Legion of Super-Heroes even if it is an entirely different and fully rebooted fourth version of the team.
What I am interested in is seeing how DC handles this new Fourboot Legion and where they fit within the DCU in general. DC is still trying to work out the continuity nightmare that has been created by the New 52. Convergence and Rebirth brought some good changes, but also caused even more continuity problems.
The Legion of Super-Heroes did exist during the New 52. That Legion was the Pre-Crisis Legion that Geoff Johns brought back in Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds. DC then brought back the bearded Pre-Flashpoint Superman. The Pre-Flashpoint Superman was a member of the Pre-Crisis Legion and Geoff Johns has given Superman all of his memories of the Pre-Crisis Legion back to him. In Superman #52 we got the conclusion of “The Final Days of Superman” that ended with the death of the New 52 Superman. The Pre-Flashpoint Superman then replaced the New 52 Superman’s within the DCU. So, we have the Pre-Crisis Legion operating in the New 52 and we have the death of the New 52 Superman and the return of the Pre-Flashpoint Superman as THE Superman in the DCU..
Yet, here we are and somehow the Pre-Flashpoint Superman that we have in Superman #15 no longer has his memories of the Pre-Crisis Legion. And we have the appearance of a new Fourboot Legion even though the Pre-Crisis Legion also existed during the New 52. I have zero idea how DC is going to explain this complete and total mess. Deciding to go with a fourth rebooted version of the Legion may prove to have been a mistake. Having said that, I am sure that Geoff Johns could write a Legion of Four Worlds mini-series that explains how all four versions of the Legion all exist on different Earths in the Multiverse.
Honestly, the best part of Superman #15 was how Bendis writes Superman. All of the other characters are rather bland and generic. But, Superman? Bendis nails it with Clark. There is such an elegance sense of sadness that emanates from Clark throughout this issue.
The reader gets such an excellent sense of the sadness in Clark’s heart over losing his father. Again. Bendis does an excellent job dealing with Clark’s conflicted feelings over Jor-El being sentenced to death for his horrible crimes against the galaxy. Clark fully understands how Jor-El is a terrible person who has done awful things. Yet, Jor-El is still his father. Clark’s struggle with these conflicting feelings and emotions are palpable.
Bendis also does an excellent job handling Clark’s reaction to the prospect of Jon leaving him to go live in the 31st century. Bendis effectively conveys to the reader that pang of fear and sadness that a parent experiences when their child grows up and leaves them. Parents are always conflicted by two competing primal impulses when it comes to their children. On one hand, a parent has the desire to see their child grow into being a successful and independent adult. On the other hand, the parent has the equally strong desire to keep their child close to them and to protect and love them forever.
Letting go of a child and allowing them to be adults and live their own lives is the hardest thing that a parent can do. Bendis absolutely nails this internal struggle that is going on inside of Clark during Superman #15. I may not like many things about Bendis’ writing, but I continue to enjoy how Bendis writes Clark Kent. And Bendis particularly shines when handling Clark and Jon’s relationship with each other.
Ivan Reis, Brandon Peterson, Evan Shaner, Joe Prado, and Oclair Albert combine to deliver some solid artwork, Artwork by committee rarely gets a high score from me and Superman #15 is no different. Having said that, all of these men are talented artists and they do their best given the artwork by committee nature of the issue.
The Bad: Superman #15 is a rather shallow story. There is no real depth or texture to the story. There is nothing particularly creative at any point in this issue. It feels like Bendis phones it in with most of this issue.
The establishment of the United Planets was anti-climactic and done in a cursory fashion. It was not fitting for such an old and iconic DC creation. Bendis breezes over the formation of the U.P. with the most convenient and superficial fashion. There was no sense of tension and conflict that leads up to the birth of this iconic organization. There was no sense of gravitas to the creation of the U.P. that would make it a truly momentous occasion. Instead, it is treated much in the same fashion as a bunch of business associates deciding where to have their business lunch.
Bendis also does a horrible job introducing the Fourboot Legion to readers. The introduction of the Fourboot Legion in Superman #15 is critically important. This is the first issue where readers get a sense of this new version of the Legion. This is the first moment that Bendis has to properly sell the Fourboot Legion to readers.
I often think of superhero comic books in terms of professional wrestling. The two products are so similar in terms of the types of character, psychology, and approach to storytelling. In pro wrestling, the debut of a new wrestler can make or break their career. A proper introduction for a new wrestler involves presenting that wrestler in a serious fashion. The new wrestler is booked to look strong so that they will be over with the crowd in the arena and the viewers at home watching it on TV. If a new wrestler is booked strong and portrayed in a serious manner then the audience will understand that they are being told by the wrestling promotion that this character is someone important and someone that the audience should pay attention to and want to root for in upcoming matches.
However, if the new wrestler is treated like a joke in their debut then the audience will feel that the character is not one worth being invested in or taking seriously. If a wrestling promotion views the new wrestler as just a jobber or comedic relief then it is fine to present them as stooges that the audience should not take seriously. It is fine to debut that wrestler as a character that the audience should laugh at because the new wrestler is bungling or inept.
This same approach is applied to the initial debut of superhero characters. It is vital that if the writer wants the new superhero characters to be taken seriously and to be viewed as heroes worth rooting for that the characters be presented in both a serious and positive fashion. Unfortunately, Bendis definitely does not do that with the Legion’s debut in Superman #15.
Bendis treats the Legionnaires like walking punchlines. Bendis has the Legionnaires stooge around for several pages. The Legionnaires are treated like comedic relief. Bendis gives us a Legion that reminds me more of the Legion of Substitute-Heroes than it does the Legion of Super-Heroes. By presenting the Legionnaires as incompetent comedic relief Bendis is telling the reader not to take these loser superheroes seriously. This also gives the reader no reason at all to be interesting in the Legion or to want to buy the Legion’s new title.
Again, this is a common defect in Bendis’ writing. Often Bendis will treat characters like jokes and harm their development or presentation in the story just to get himself and his “brilliant” humor over with the readers. The way that Bendis presented the Legion in Superman #15 was all about Bendis himself and his trademark humorous dialogue and genius and not at all about the Legion and properly getting them over with the audience. It is unfortunate that Bendis does not present the Legion in a more respectful or heroic manner.
Another disappointing aspect of the Legion in Superman #15 is that none of the Legionnaires displayed anything that resembles a unique personality. They all get the same generic external voice. To be fair, Bendis shoves a lot of Legionnaires into this issue and we get very limited panel time. Still, it would have been nice if at least a few Legionnaires displayed an actual distinct personality or external voice.
What is also concerning is that we are just at the initial debut of the Legion of Super-Heroes and Bendis still cannot get even the most basic aspects of the Legion correct. Bendis has Lightning Lad say that each Legionnaire represents one planet and one power. This has never been true.
As far as each Legionnaire representing one planet. Light Lass and Lightning Lad are both from Winath. Andromeda and Mon-El are both from Daxam. Superboy, Supergirl, Colossal Boy, Invisible Kid, Invisible Kid II, Sun Boy, Bouncing Boy, Ferro Lad, Karate Kid, Wildfire, and Tyroc are all from Earth. I guess that Bendis may be instituting a ton of retcons to all of these characters’ histories. We shall see.
As far as each Legionnaire representing just one power. There are plenty of Legionnaires with multiple powers. Just off the top of my head I know that Superboy, Super Girl, Andromeda, Ultra Boy, Mon-El, Timber Wolf, Wildfire, Blok, Tellus, Dawnstar, and Colossal Boy are all Legionnaires who ihave more than one power. I am just completely mystified how Bendis can get even the most basic aspects of the Legion so wrong in the very start of the Fourboot Legion. I know that Bendis has always sucked at research and continuity, but these points are so basic I thought even Bendis could get them right.
It also appears that Bendis has retconned away a crucial aspect of the United Planets. The Dominators and the Khunds have never been members of the U.P. IN fact, they have been just the opposite. The Dominators and the Khunds have wages war against the U.P. Think of the U.P. as Starfleet and the Khunds as the Klingons.
At any rate, Bendis now has the Dominators and the Khunds as founding members of the U.P. This is either Bendis retconning a big aspect of the U.P. out of continuity. Or, this is Bendis being Bendis and now knowing continuity and the history of the U.P., Dominators, and Khunds. Both the Dominators and the Khunds are iconic Legion villains. I vastly prefer them to be enemies of the U.P. rather than founding members.
I normally love Jon’s character. But, Bendis writes him like a total bimbo in Superman #15. Maybe Bendis is just trying to write Jon in a manner that old fifty-some year old Bendis thinks teen-agers talk like these days. But, the result is that Jon sounds like a complete bubble head most of the time.
Overall: Superman #15 was not the most auspicious beginning for the Fourboot Legion. I am still thrilled that we will be getting a new Legion of Super-Heroes title. But, I remain concerned about the selection of Bendis as the writer for the franchise. Superman #15 did nothing to assuage my concerns.
At any rate, Legion of Super-Heroes fans can absolutely skip Superman #15. I know that the Legionnaires are on the cover of this issue. But, trust me, that is false advertising. The Legion are only in ten of the twenty-three pages of this issue. And in those ten pages the Legion are largely just there for window dressing and humor. They are never the focus of the story.
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.