There’s a certain terror of impenetrability with the Legion. The great team of intergalactic heroes are astonishingly, but they mystify and scare readers old and new with their complex history comprising a myriad of reboots and retcons and retroboots. While the Otto Binder and Al Plastino creation is unquestionably one of, if not the, best ideas in the realm of DC Comics and superhero mythology in general, there is that aura of ‘Well, where does one begin?’
This exists to resolve that. You don’t really need to go back to the originals, you don’t have to go through the Reboot or The Threeboot and then The Reboot. You can get a fresh, clean slate to start with right now, for the 2010’s. A new Legion for a new age. But that means a rebuilt DC future for a new time. And thus Legion Of Super-Heroes: Millennium. A two-part lead-up to the actual arrival and emergence of the Legion in the 31st Century, it boasts writer Brian Michael Bendis with an onslaught of great talent. Each art team draws an entirely different era and period of DC’s futures, from Batman Beyonds to Kamandi, The Last Boy On Earth.
But navigating all those big ideas, these great legends that display the direction of the DC world past its Age Of Heroes, that requires a character, as Bendis very much enjoys grounding things in perspective. And thus we have Rose, from Rose and Thorn, a vigilante of Metropolis who realizes that she’s no longer aging and is effectively immortal.
She serves as the sort of focus point in this stream of future worlds, guiding us through the changes of the DC landscape. So if you’re someone who’s been looking to get into the Legion, there’s hardly a better time. This is as accessible a lead-in as you’re ever going to get and you get an easy crash course on DC futures. But if you’re a veteran fan, there’s clearly a number of things here that should pick your interest.
Jim Lee/Scott Williams/Alex Sinclair do the 21st Century, but at a much later stage, showing us sci-fi towers and an old President Kara Zor-El of Earth. Then we move from there to Dustin Nguyen and Josh Kalisz’s world of Batman Beyond, ostensibly the 22nd Century. From the cyberpunk dystopia, we movie in an apocalyptic one, as Andrea Sorrentino and Dave Stewart deliver us to the world of Kirby’s Kamandi, which seems to be now the 23rd Century. Then artist André Lima Araújo, colored by Jordie Bellaire here, makes his DC debut by taking us to the world of Tommy Tomorrow and The Planeteers, now likely set in the 24th Century. The time is hard to really pin point exactly, as the book opts for gigantic ‘And Then’ transition captions over any specificity to root the various futures in. If you were expecting data in Hickman-esque fashion, this isn’t really that comic. It’s much more a broad order of events, with the focus very much being put on Rose and her perspective.
It’s a gorgeous looking book, as Nguyen/Kalisz knock it out of the part as expected and Sorrentino/Stewart on Kamandi match the fantastic level of expectations they’ve setup through their work on Gideon Falls. Through it all though, it’s Araújo’s work that really stands out. It’s utterly distinctive and nothing like anything in this book or, well, DC’s line in general. There’s a wonderful European Science-fiction meets manga sensibility in here, as Moebius influences leap out. Even Bellaire’s color palette makes it look like a new image sci-fi comic somehow sneaked into the realm of DC. It’s pure contrast to the murky shadows of the Sorrentino/Stewart story, which highlights the grim despair of the apocalypse. There’s an overwhelming weight, like a shadow’s fallen on the world in Kamandi, while there’s an airy, almost fluffy sense of freedom and possibility in the time of Tommy Tomorrow. The grime, grit and dirt is gone to give way to structure and clean order, even reflected in the way the pages are laid out. The world after The Great Disaster strikes with double-page spreads, letting you know, much like the Ages Of Heroes, this is a big deal. A key point.
That being said, the issue definitely suffers from certain issues. It’s precisely what it promised it was going to be, with nearly every page in the large issue, save for one or two, having already been shown in every preview or teaser. Chances are, if you’ve been following this, you’ve pretty much gone through the entire comic unlettered and uncolored at one point or another. But that sort of lack of surprise with the pages helps illustrate what the issue suffers from- it is entirely too much what it said it was going to be and not much else. There’s really no room for anything that’s a genuine surprise or a thrill, eliciting a ‘alright’, rather than perhaps the awe it should. The idea of moving through the various DC’s future is a fantastic one, but there isn’t much here to really sort of breath in those worlds and learn about them, as they’re used as background dressing to Rose herself. In a way, the comic feels entirely too short, despite its larger length, because we’re not given enough time in these times.
It’s hard to shake off the feeling that this really should’ve just been one single one-shot, akin to the Rebirth special, after which people could just dive in. As it stands, the end isn’t really an end, as much as a pause in the scene. Given the numerous artists, with the sort of almost anthology-esque setup (with a singular character), the story would’ve likely been stronger as one big one-shot rather than cut up into two. It’ll likely read better and flow just fine in a trade, once it’s collected, but in the intermediate, it’s not terribly satisfying. It does what it says it intends to, but doesn’t really pack any hard punch beyond that. A great opener leaves the reader with more than the base premise they were promised upon entry, to really hook them. The absence of that can lead to apathy at times, as a book isn’t really giving you more than what you had in your head. The choice of Rose for the protagonist also feels a bit out of left-field here, as the reasoning is still relatively unclear. We’ll likely get a better sense of that as we move forward but it does feel a bit odd currently.
On the bright end, Dave Sharpe is lettering this book and thus ostensibly, Legion, which should be interesting. Bendis’ best lettering collaborations tend to be with Josh Reed, but Sharpe brings a snappy, over-the-top and fun sensibility to his books, which has found a great home in Wonder Comics titles such as Dial H and Wonder Twins. So seeing him work with the teens of the 31st Century should prove interesting. Bendis has called Legion ‘advanced reading’ when discussing it in comparison to other franchises, (not his book, as much as the property itself), comparing it to something akin to Dune, full of ambition, ideas and this great big world and history, this wealth of creative energy. And he’s certainly right, so seeing Sharpe tackle a Bendis/Sook/Bellaire interpretation of the sci-fi super-team, ought to be intriguing.
Legion Of Super-Heroes: Millennium #1 is a solid issue that delivers pretty much what it says on the tin. It’s a very easy entry point into the future of the DC Universe and it’s a walk to the door of the 31st century, where the Legion await. Whether you’re a new reader intrigued by the team or the futures of DC or whether you’ve been chanting LONG LIVE THE LEGION for years on end, this is a decent appetizer as the DCU gets ready to welcome its greatest super-team back home.