The latest issue of the Brian Michael Bendis/Ryan Sook reboot has the usual amount of the former and very little of the latter. That’s because it’s gimmick time, with Sook and inking partner Wade Von Grawbadger contributing a gorgeous big battle spread, while every other page features the work of a different artist. To make the changes from page to page less jarring, or at least to provide some motivation, each – well, most – spotlights a different Legionnaire. The jam concept therefore gives Sook a rest while providing Bendis with an excuse to let some of the little-seen members step forward and introduce themselves.
And I’d say the super-sized creative team pulls it off, providing visual novelty without sacrificing narrative.
The issue opens with someone watching a holovid-thingie of 20th-Century member Superboy introducing himself to Legion fans and recapping recent events, but that’s not what the spectator is interested in. They demand to see the Legion ‘auditions’, and the first wannabe to show up is Jan Arrah.
He makes the team and is christened ‘Element Lad’ by the judging panel of Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy. Bendis reveals a limitation on his powers that I don’t recall coming up with previous versions, and it could make for interesting times. Jeff Lemire draws this page with real skill and his Element Lad is on model so far as Sook’s design is concerned. Which is a shame – when a team has a member called Monster Boy it’s unfortunate that your Shaggy-from-Scooby-Doo choices make you the least attractive member…
Of course, looks aren’t everything. Princess Projectra has visual appeal to spare as drawn by Joëlle Jones, but she needs to work on her approach to teamwork.
As for Blok, frankly, I have no flipping idea what’s being said on this animation-style page illustrated by Dan Hipp… have I mentioned how much I hate Interlac as part of the narrative?
I don’t know it and have no wish to pause my reading to negotiate some online key. And presumably the problem is worse for non-English Language users, who will have to translate twice. Please bin it, Mr Bendis.
As the Blok bit shows, the issue isn’t all auditions – we segue from them to what’s prompted United Planets leader RJ Brande to summon her son, Legionnaire Chameleon Boy, to her side. This is where we pick up from last issue’s cliffhanger – which had new team leader Ultra Boy confronted by his very angry father, the chieftain of Rimbor – in a powerful Liam Sharp page.
And so it goes. The membership gathers to fight Crav and his super-powered goons, with an impressive array of artists by their metaphorical side. Along the way Bendis drops in bits of information, such as which two members are dating – for about ten seconds, anyway, as hero dumps heroine in a moment of pique drawn by Young Justice artist John Timms.
Husky bare chest apart, I really don’t like this new Mon-El – see also how he treats Jon Kent. Yes, he may have his reasons, but there’s no need to be so brusque.
There’s a great gag that calls back to Ferro Lad’s comic book history, a neat nod to the Mark Waid/Barry Kitson run in the large form of Cosmic Boy, a pep talk for a downhearted Cosmic Boy and lots, lots more, mostly coloured by the brilliant Jordie Bellaire – two of the artists do their own pages – and completely lettered by good ol’ Dave Sharpe.
Ryan Sook provides full colour art for the cover and it’s gorgeous, although why the Legion is fighting among itself, I have no idea. Then again, it does look to presage an upcoming romance…
The Trial of the Legion of Super-Heroes Part 1 is a treat, its script blending characterisation, revelation and confrontation, its pages a feast for the eye. And as that title implies, the fun continues next month – I dunno DC, couldn’t you have stuck the two parts together and given us an amazing annual?
Then again, maybe one of those is still to come…