The Legion of Super-Heroes are among the DC characters least affected by the New 52 shake-up … at least in one sense. For while the continuity continues unchanged from last month, there is a big status quo alteration as a third of the membership is cast out of the 31st century Legion comic and into this new book.
A terrorist named Alastor has commandeered a time bubble and headed for the 21st century, intending to release a killer pathogen. An emergency delayed the Legion in following him, and the lag meant the ‘Flashpoint Breakwall’ – longtime readers will immediately think Iron Curtain of Time – gave their bubble a battering, causing a bad crash landing in Minnesota. Worse, by the time this issue begins, he’s released the formula into the air.
He’s also on a murderous rampage in a nearby town, but before they can catch up with him the Legion finds that they have other problems – their protective transuits are failing to filter out pollutants, harming tracker Dawnstar in particular (but, oddly, not Timber Wolf, with his similarly super-senses). That’s not all – their flight rings are on the fritz.
Alastor, a human transformed into a horned hulk, is brought down not by the pursuing Timber Wolf, who follows his nose, but by a cute little girl’s plea to help find her sister among the carnage he’s created. It seems he’s turned against the human race because of something that happened to his little sister, and the shock of a desperate tot brings on a collapse, and reversion to human form.
Timber Wolf does find him, and the Legion aims their jerry-rigged bubble back at the 31st century. The going is slow, but they seem to be getting somewhere until it becomes apparent Alastor himself has been infected, causing him to begin transforming into a monster once more. The shape-changing Chameleon Girl attempts to restrain Alastor, while Gates prepares to teleport him into space, but he blows up. Tellus manages to protect most members with a telekinetic shield, but Chameleon Girl and Gates are lost. Tellus can’t feel them with his mind, Timber Wolf says ‘their … organic residue … is falling with the rain’.
With two members gone, futuristic technology not worth a damn, a time bubble now totally wrecked and no guarantee Alastor is dead as opposed to teleported away somewhere by Gates, the Legion is in dire straits.
Theoretically, anyway. The Legion has plenty of super-powered friends. Technology can be fixed or substituted. Alastor can be tracked.
Gates and Chameleon Girl, dead? I can’t see writer Fabian Nicieza killing off two Legionnaires in his debut script, especially when one is the very popular Gates. More likely they’ve been shuffled off the board because teleportation is so darned useful, and a first issue must have shocks.
The biggest shock for me this issue is that I’m just not feeling this book. It’s full of favourite Legionnaires, there’s a threat to the 21st century that may impact on the 31st, story and art by two excellent creators, but, well, ho and, indeed, hum. It’s not a bad comic – Nicieza keeps personalities consistent with what’s gone before, and elegantly introduces members’ names and abilities into the story. There’s action aplenty with good use of powers. Occasionally muddy finishing apart, Pete Woods’ art is big and bold and tells the story well. I suspect he’s still getting used to working on a team book, as some panels are overcrowded (one so much so that word balloons ends up placed on an important plot point – click on image to enlarge).
But both creators are trying very hard, and I really appreciate that.
I think my reaction is coloured by the supposed deaths. We’ve reached the point now at which a comic book without killings is unusual – it’s only a month since the last Legion fatality. The deaths here are so perfunctory that it’s difficult to take them seriously, yet I resent them because they remove Chameleon Girl from what was set to be her first starring role, and Gates, whose tetchy prole personality adds spice to any story.
Then there’s the use of the little girl to throw Alastor – not the scariest of names – off his game; too, too corny. And the old problem of Tyroc somehow flying via sonic scream while managing to have a conversation.
On the pro side, I did like a new use for Tyroc’s powers, and his leadership role – he’s been around even longer than Chameleon Girl without a consistent spotlight. And Tellus is to the fore too, something that always makes me happy. The fiery features given Wildfire by Woods works well, while his Timber Wolf is outstanding. And both do good work with Chameleon Girl (cue theatrical sigh).
Part of the problem may also be that I’m a Legion lifer: I’ve seen a Legion Lost series previously and that was such a fascinating, intense tale that any book using the same title has a big mountain to climb. And I’ve read about a Legion team stranded in the present day, and so far as I’m concerned, other than cameos, the Legion in our time is pointless. Plus, a Legion comic with the same small team every issue doesn’t feel like the Legion.
Newer readers whom the New 52 initiative aims to bring in, though, won’t have these experiences and prejudices, so their reactions will be different … and I’ll be thrilled to bits if this book helps a new generation of readers come to the Legion.
Because, again, as a Legion lifer, I’ll be here whatever. And it’s very likely that as the months pass Nicieza and Woods’ book will only get better, as they become comfortable with the series.
Long Live the Legion! Especially Chameleon Girl and Gates.