Another month, another issue of Legion of Super-Heroes! Only this time, things are going to get a bit more critical. I’ve said a lot thus far about this new take on Legion, written by Brian Michael Bendis, drawn by Ryan Sook, inked by Wade Von Grawbadger, colored by Jordie Bellaire, and lettered by ALW’s Troy Peteri (with Travis Moore joining on art and inks for this issue). I was excited by the redesigns and initial creative decisions in issue #1, while issue #2 left me feeling a bit cautious about where the book could go. Unfortunately, Issue #3 left me questioning some entirely new majorly problematic decisions, as well as generally questionable writing choices.
The diversity of this new Legion incarnation has been the book’s greatest victory thus far. One example of this is the now brown skinned Ultra Boy. In this issue we journey to the planet Rimbor and meet Ultra Boy’s father, as well as several other denizens of his planet, Rimbor. The planet originated as a dark and seedy city in a classic Jim Starlin issue of Legion. Rimbor is much different now, and while change isn’t something I’m opposed to, there are some deeply problematic choices made here. Ultra Boy’s Father, General Crav Nah, is depicted as a “cosmic barbarian” who leads one of Rimbor’s two factions in “constant holy war”. This is the first depiction of a brown skinned culture in Legion of Super-Heroes history (to my knowledge). To depict this society as one built on religious extremism and violence is extremely tone-deaf. We finally have a Legion team that reflects real world diversity and lives up to the promise of the franchise, and it is so quickly contradicted by this kind of writing. I can only imagine how many people might check this book out because of the racial diversity, only to see this. I’m immensely disappointed in the creative team here. I don’t know that this can completely be fixed, as this is the way Rimbor has been established in this continuity, but at the very least the “Holy War” angle needs to be completely dropped.
Aside from this critical issue, Legion #3 also focuses on the guest appearance of Damian Wayne. Damian is my single favorite comic book character. The character’s journey of redemption is one I find deeply inspiring. Being a Legion of Super-Heroes fan as well, Damian guest starring in the book seems like a dream come true on paper. In reality, there are some things I take issue with here. Bendis’ characterization for him is something I’ve not liked in other books. To me, Bendis’ Damian comes across as an arrogant, but standard teen character. My enjoyment in the character comes from how much he isn’t like a lot of the standard young comic book characters, but that’s very much my personal taste. There’s nothing quite egregious in terms of his dialogue in Legion #3, but somethings definitely still off to me. Regardless, that’s not even getting into the reason he’s in the issue. The Legion’s played coy with Jon about why they brought him to the future, repeatedly asking him to watch their orientation presentation. It is revealed here that Damian goes bad at some point in his future, and the Legion has brought Jon to their time in order to change this. I think this stumbles into a pitfall a lot of characters with a redemption arc end up in. Once the arc is completed and the character chooses to be good, it seems like writers often lean on the tension of “will they ever fall off and go bad again?” There are so many stories that could be told with Damian, but this one not only seems tired, but gives him little agency. Damian is only showing up in Legion as a guest appearance, he’s not a member of this book, and he doesn’t have his own solo where he can grapple with this revelation.
Aside from these two major issues, the book has some minor successes. I greatly enjoy that a different Legionnaire handles the recap page every issue. Now not only do these pages function as recaps, but they help people get to know this big giant cast. We also pick up from last issue with the classic Legion split up, following a smaller group of characters. We get some minor banter and romance drama, though its nothing really substantial yet. The moments where Sook draws the book are still great, though Travis Moore is definitely not as good. His art is fine though and manages to keep up the overall feel of Sook’s take. Beyond this though there isn’t too much going on. We don’t progress with the Aquaman’s Trident plot too much, nor the RJ Brande plot. Legion is a big book with so many pieces, and I understand plot points need time to play out. However, this issue just doesn’t feel substantial in terms of what’s actually happening. Bendis is definitely trying to go for the classic Legion approach of these big issues planting seeds to be revealed later, but those issues always had something happening each issue. It’s a kind of compression that isn’t being met in this iteration.
Legion of Super-Heroes #3 is not something I can recommend, as much as it pains me to say it. The problematic choices made here are absolutely unacceptable, and even setting those aside there’s not quite enough of any one thing happening to make this feel satisfying. It’s my sincere hope the creative team takes a step back to reevaluate what they’re doing with Rimbor and make some corrections. The foundation for a great diverse Legion is here, and I believe the book can be a success as long as this team doesn’t mess it up.