Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Legion of Super-Heroes #1

Following in the footsteps of their recent rejuvenation within Legion of Three Worlds and Superman and the Legion of Superheroes, everybody's favorite futuristic platoon of super powered alien humanoids has returned from hiatus with a new ongoing series. Residing on and around an Earth that's rescinded its recent objections to extraterrestrials, the new Legion has been asked by their former persecutors to prove the strength of their morality. The Terran government may have moved on from the anti-alien sentiment that gripped it all too recently, but the road to redemption isn't without its twists and turns. More pointedly, they've already given the new LoSH an ultimatum: adopt and rehabilitate Earth-Man or find a new base of operations.

Of course, the real focal point of this issue – at least in terms of personnel – is the return of longtime writer Paul Levitz, who penned the Legionnaires for a lengthy stint in the mid-to-late ‘80s. It's not often you'll find an author so intimately familiar with his cast and their historical significance, particularly within a first issue. Levitz's past relationship with many of these characters helps it to feel less like a reboot and more like a direct continuation of a story that's many times larger than it initially lets on. Although his dialog often comes off as somewhat clunky and dated, I have to admit this writer's choice of an initial storyline, the forced redemption of Earth-Man, is intriguing in its complexity. Having apparently realized the error of its past ways, the Earth's government is looking to the Legion for both inspiration and validation. If the LoSH is going to preach universal acceptance and equality, what better way to test their conviction than to demand they adopt the man responsible for the very anti-alien discrimination that recently plagued them?

Like his partner's writing, artist Yildiray Cinar's work is a rich blend of old and new, exaggeration and realism. His style, a blend of Gary Frank's tight rendering, Art Adams's playful compositions and Mark Bagley's casual body language, seems like a nice fit for the series, flexible enough to deal with a large cast but restrained enough to keep the pages easy to navigate. Cinar's work is constantly dodging an onslaught of word bubbles, but despite the intrusions it retains a simple, uncomplicated look and still finds time to properly detail the background scenery. That's no easy task, and while his success with some cast members is more successful than with others, for most of the issue Cinar goes above and beyond what's expected of him.

My fear going into this issue was that it, like many of the Legion's past runs, wouldn't be written with fresh readers in mind. That it would exist to pay lip service to dedicated followers at the expense of gaining any new ones. In a way, those worries were both embraced and resisted. Paul Levitz is smart enough to include a very brief identifying blurb each time he introduces a Legionnaire, but their numbers are so great, their histories so rich, that it's tough to boil everything down to fit inside a simple narrative box. Really, the best way to appreciate an issue like this one (and the method that's actually suggested by a note in its final pages) is to do a bit of homework online. That's not exactly a good means to an end for new readers on the fence about a fresh ongoing series, but it's about as much as I think could've been expected for a book that seems to be more interested in moving forward than looking back. The new Legion is open for new minds without feeling redundant to the experts. Borrow it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7

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