Justice League vs The Legion of Super-Heroes #1 review

In the 31st century, the Legion of Super-Heroes have been warned that a Great Darkness is coming. Today, it arrives.

On a different ‘today’, in the 21st century, a Justice Leaguer also feels something dark pulling at her.

And if there were any doubts the incidents were connected…

Soon – in a very relative sense – new Superman and onetime Legionnaire Jon Kent brings the two teams together.

If you’re a fan of the Silver and Bronze Age team-ups between the JLA and JSA, this spread likely put a big smile on your face. It’s a delightful nod to the socials the heroes of two earths would have before some cataclysm broke up the party. Here the point is information sharing rather than a catch-up, but there are still plenty of great character moments.

It’s been a while since writer Brian Michael Bendis gave us a story of the new Legion he created with artist Ryan Sook, but it turns out to have been worth the wait. The story feels more focused, presumably because here he’s writing for a six-issue mini-series – his ongoing Legion book threw up far too many mysteries and not enough answers. The Great Darkness Saga was the original Legion’s finest moment, so this new version of the Darkseid thread has a lot to live up to. The actual story is titled ‘The Gold Lantern Saga’, so surely we’re going to get to know at least one member pretty well.

And in the absence of a roll call, Gold Lantern’s narration sketches in some of the main players nicely.

That’s good comics writing, balancing character and situation nicely to jolly the story along.

So far as the JLA goes, I’m a tad tired of Bendis’s Black Canary’s reaction to most situations being ‘@#$%§’, as if she’s a newbie with a terrible vocabulary, but a million points to Bendis for this Batman moment.

(Every single DC release this week, around a dozen, features Batman or his allies.)

Another nice touch is Bendis leading oldtime fans to think he’s having something happen to a character that’s happened to earlier versions, then zagging.

And I love this chat, encapsulating the exasperation I felt for the entirety of Crisis on Infinite Earths, when we were told the Anti-Monitor was striking in all times and places at once, something which couldn’t possibly have been the case

The Great Darkness effect occurs three times, and with each one someone queries ‘Did – did we do something wrong?!’ I can’t figure out why they might. Is it a gag that’s not landing for me?

While I was never down with the ageing up of Jon Kent, I nevertheless enjoyed how Bendis wrote him, as a super-sunny soul; it’s great to see that Jon with his pals again. I wonder why it’s Jon’s dad who’s on the cover, though, as he’s not in the issue.

Said cover is by illustrator Scott Godlewski and colour artist Ryan Cody, and it’s beautiful, a Bronze Age-style ode to the joys of superhero comics.

The art inside is pretty darn wonderful too, with Godlewski expertly coping with Ryan Sook’s often complicated Legion character designs. His Justice Leaguers look similarly fine, and I really like his Jon in the new costume.

One thing I’m forever harping on about is spreads taking up space unnecessarily in today’s relatively expensive comic books. Here, though, Godlewski and Cody’s two-page panel showing the future being infected by the Great Darkness is mighty powerful.

The storytelling is clear from start to finish, with Godlewski going by the most direct route to hit a dramatic beat, without ever being dull. After so many fill-ins, it’s about time he received a series all his own to spotlight his talents.

Cody is a new name to me, but I hope to see more of their work, which is beautifully balanced and easy on the eye.

Letterer Dave Sharpe is an old hand, but lately he’s been getting ever more playful with his contributions, with hand-lettered (apparently, at least) breakout dialogue really enhancing the pages and reading experience.

So far, there’s not a sniff of ‘Vs’ about this project, but presumably the two teams will fight for some daft reason at some point. I hope Bendis gets it over with quickly, as he writes cooperation and friendship so well.

If you enjoyed the last Legion series at all, or missed it but are open to a new take on the Future Teens concept, you won’t get better than this.

20 thoughts on “Justice League vs The Legion of Super-Heroes #1 review

  1. Oh, boy, this was fun. I loved the fakeout with that one character’s fate, although I’m still concerned about her. I loved how they skip some story beats we know are coming — we never see the result of Batman’s call to Jon, or Jon meeting the JLA and seeing Luornu … we just see Batman reach out to him, and in the next moment we’re in the 31st century, getting things done. And then back in the present, again dispensing with the logistics of who gets to time travel.

    As you point out, the scene where the teams meet is reminiscent of the classic JLA/JSA teamups, where they’d spend a couple scenes highlighting some cross-team interactions, like Firestorm trying to flirt with Power Girl, or Huntress unsure how to deal with being in the same room as a guy so much like her dead dad. These are moments readers remember forever, and Bendis and Godlewski presnet them well here.

    And speaking of Godlewski, he does a really nice job on this book. I wasn’t particularly fond of his Superman fill-in issues on that alien planet full of mantis people, but he doesn’t take the same shortcuts here. And it could very well be that he took those shortcuts because he had to speed up to work on this! If so, his priorities are well chosen. This looks fantastic; everything’s crisp and clear.

    Long Live the Legion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I could see the Luornus merging and winding up at an average age that’s way beyond teenager-hood, so they have to leave. That would be so Silver Age!

      Was the result of Batman’s call to Jon not his visiting the future and bringing his friends back? I’m OK with skipping steps we can most likely fill in for ourselves. A less-decompressed Bendis is fine by me.

      Long Live the Legion!

      Like

      1. Yep, that’s my point exactly. Bendis and Godlewski skip over everything that was can assume played out as intended, rushing us along to the fun of the teams meeting.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I wonder if the ‘sucking in’ could have been an effort to create the Great Darkness clones that we all recall from the original saga?

    I am not super thrilled with this, if only because topping or even approaching that epic seems impossible. But here’s hoping.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now that’s a great theory! In the WW scene, at first I thought the big black blobs were possible Servants.

      I do agree, a do-over of TGDS would be a mistake. Heck, even creators involved with the original couldn’t pull off that ‘thematic sequel’, the Quiet Darkness.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved this. I’m under no illusion that this great darkness is going to be anything close to the original “Great Darkness”. I suspect it’s going to be something entirely different. Will Darkseid be involved? Maybe. But I doubt it. But if he is… let’s see what Bendis does with it. i’m curious to see if this great darkness is going to connect with the Justice League Incarnate great darkness. I feel like it’s gotta, yeah?
    My only quibble with this issue was that Pink Triplicate Girl is supposed to be… older? The art could have done a better job of conveying that. Pink Lu looked just like Blue and Yellow Lu with the exception of an extra line or two on her face.
    “Did we do something wrong?” I think it was only Naomi asking that question wasn’t it? I just attributed it to her being new and not knowing how the hero game works. She barely knows how her own powers work. It’s natural for her to assume that anything wonky that happens is a result of her inexperience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I see your point about Pinkie not looking old enough, it might have helped had we seen her full face. I don’t think we’ve ever seen the girls without their Mole Man/Captain Cold glasses.

      Naomi asked the question twice, Saturn Girl once.

      Like

  4. Hey, you in the UK – this is the Justice League, no “America”!

    I really liked it – reminds me of the Legion book which I wish had not been cancelled. (It weirdly never officially was.)

    In this interesting interview with Bendis and Godlewski, Scott said Bendis doesn’t provide stage direction, and it’s up to him to figure out how to arrange the pages so that the dialog can work. He calls it logistics, like setting up a sports play.

    https :// aiptcomics . com/2022/01/11/brian-michael-bendis-talks-jl-vs-ls/

    And here he calls it seat planning for a wedding:

    https: // http://www.cbr . com/brian-michael-bendis-scott-godlewski-justice-league-legion-super-heroes-interview/

    Something I didn’t always know is that artists block out where the balloons and narration fit on the page – I’ve often seen that at the thumbnail stage. That way they can leave room, and make sure to draw in a way that the text can be logically followed. I suppose letterers can deviate if they come up with a better way, but they don’t ever want to mess up the important art elements. (This sometimes fails on DC’s “trademarked” montage splash and double-splash pages, where I may have to try out different reading orders before I land on what is *probably* right. It’s not always obvious, if the text is nonsense magic comicbook dialog. You can actually read that in any order, as it makes no literal sense regardless. But the big double-splash in this issue only looks forbidding at first glance – it’s not a montage and is really like an office party, where you really can drop in on any of the separate conversations in any order.)

    Oh well – I didn’t know what the Great Darkness originally was, and now I do. But of course I’ll read it anyway! And maybe, as Murray postulates, it will be something different anyway.

    I’m in great distress over what happened to Pinklicate Girl. The trio are my favorites – they always bring a smile to my face. The way they talk, as if they are different people and the same person at the same time, is just the best. That’s an example of Bendis dialog being put to good use. You get the feeling they are his favorites, too. A ready-made comedy team.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Who’s in the UK? I shall have you know I’m on a ship in US waters, back to Tampa tomorrow. But good spot on my giving this League the classic name. Like, oops. Still, it does give the two teams equal syllable status.

      What are “DC’s trademarked” montage splash and double-splash pages’? Don’t Marvel also waste space? Oh, those stupid Hickman graphics…

      ‘Pinklicate Girl’!

      I think artists have been sorting the balloon placement at least since the Marvel Method was born, and thank goodness… look at all those Golden Age stories in which the wordcount was more likely to crush a hero than the villain.

      Like

  5. I suppose Marvel style also includes splash panels, but I think they are employed sparingly. My impression is that Kirby style is still in force at Marvel, with the occasional splash only for maximum effect. It’s a more contained style than the sometimes chaotic panelling of DC house style. Freelancers well know what the houses expect, and they will definitely DC-it-up when drawing for DC, and tone it down for Marvel.

    But the montages I’m really referring to, while always drawn across either a full page or two adjacent pages, each include multiple scenes or moments, but without any panel borders. The scenes blend into each other, and it seems to me that they rely on the colorist to blend the boundaries of the different scenes so that there is nothing abrupt about the transitions. (If the transitions were abrupt, they would essentially be borderless panels, rather than all part of a montage.) I dislike the style, because the blending areas are hard to interpret. I like to know what I’m looking at, and those areas of blending are deliberately vague. And can sometimes leave the pseudo-panel reading order hard to figure out. It’s possible that digital guided view helps enormously (assuming whoever sets that up gets the order right). The double-splashes in particular are already impossible to read digitally without zooming around, as two pages get crammed into the space of one – so you might as well let the guided view do the zooming for you.

    Can I give an example of these montages? Not at the moment! I know ’em when I see ’em. Next time I spot one in a book you’re reviewing I’ll try to remember to point it out.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I admit to being annoyed by this whole thing. We had an ongoing Legion book that lasted for, what, 12 issues? Then, after two issues of Future State, absolutely nothing for an entire year. If Bendis was too busy writing other comics, why not assign a new writer and continue onward. The Legion deserves better then to be put on hiatus without explanation. Also, the Great Darkness Saga was 40 years ago. Maybe tell some new stories instead of going back to the same story over and over. Besides, the 5YL Legion already had the “thematic sequel” titled The Quiet Darkness, which I thought was excellent. But then again, I did love the 5YL Legion. Sorry to be grumpy. I always try to be positive. But why does Batman get 12 appearances in one week, while the Legion gets zero appearances in 12 months? The world’s greatest comic magazine (not you, Fantastic Four) deserves better. Long Live the Legion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No need to apologise for being grumpy, I’m just delighted to hear someone speak up for The Quiet Darkness. I read it as it came out and have never been back to it, maybe I should have another look.

      I do agree, why do we have to wait so long for a Legion book, there are plenty of great writers out there? Mind, DC today would be most likely to give it to some first-time writer who’s written a treatise on the lack of non-binary Legionnaires than an underemployed professional comic book writer. As is, this was a lovely surprise.

      Like

  7. “Diversity Legion” – Good one. This is the first time Bendis has warmed me up to his new Legion. His first 12 issues did little to distinguish personalities. Everyone seemed bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Still zero characterization and appearances of Phantom Girl and Violet thought. Sigh. Looking forward to the rest of this run and that Dream Girl gets some clothes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really hope this time the book is a big success, and we can have a look run introducing us properly to the characters. I don’t get the need to redesign characters as beloved as Dream Girl.

      Like

      1. I couldn’t agree more. The Lightning Saga Legion gave me so much hope of the Legion I loved returning to the DC proper, but alas…I want to enjoy this version. It’s a tall order for Bendis or any writer to make old fans fall in love with these characters again, but I’m 52 and I’m still here for it!

        Like

  8. Great review.
    Have to admit I glossed over the meta-ness of Batman’s comment. Love it.

    And yes, the ‘triplicate girl not 1/3 dying’ is interesting … if it lasts the whole series. We shall see.

    I liked this a lot, like you. I do think that Bendis brought his A game. And yes, the 2 dark pages does indeed let you know what the impact of losing this battle is.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to Anj Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.