The secret origin of the new Legion of Super-Heroes is here! After three inconsistent (and occasionally problematic) issues of Brian Michael Bendis and Ryan Sook’s new Legion of Super-Heroes series, we now get the new origin for the team in issue #4. This issue is written by Bendis with art by Sook, however Mikel Janin is this issue’s guest artist and inker on the origin sequences. Joining them is Wade Von Grawbadger on inks, Jordie Bellaire on colors, and Dave Sharpe on letters. While this new continuity does have a new origin with some interesting twists, plenty of the classic Legion origin is there as well. It represents one of the series’ stronger moments thus far, but I was left wanting more.
The origin story is split into three perspectives that come together at the end: Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, and Cosmic Boy. In Saturn Girl’s perspective, we get to see a bit of her home planet Titan. The team went with a really interesting route here, depicting Titanian society as a telepathic collective consciousness. There’s some really cool visualization of this artistically. Saturn Girl sits in a gray-white void, and when she communes with another Titanian, their presence fills the panel with red. It’s a striking and unique way to depict a telepathic society. Saturn Girl is invited to join a Young United Planets initiative after she writes an essay critical of the U.P. I’m not sure how I feel about this choice, I always felt Saturn Girl leaving Titan to join the Science Police gave her character some agency and informed us on what she was looking for in life. Ultimately this accomplishes the same goal however, and she leaves the Titanian collective.
We next get a look into Lightning Lad’s past. Also featured here is Garth’s twin sister Ayla, a.k.a. Light Lass. The two are seen interfering with Science Police officers who are separating families. It’s a scene that draws very much from our current political reality and seeing Lightning Lad and Light Lass take this on directly is great to see in a superhero comic. Ayla is portrayed as passionately political here, which is an awesome choice. Where Garth seems a bit more reserved, Ayla is clearly committed to her ideology and stands up for what she believes in. When the two receive the same invitation as Saturn Girl, Ayla declines, citing the U.P.’s corruption. In this scene we also get to see their family. Winathians being born nearly exclusively as twins seems to hold true in this new continuity, however we see no signs of Garth and Ayla’s older brother Mekt. This family has two moms now, which is also great to see. Hopefully we’ll be getting some explicitly queer Legionnaires as well.
Finally, we are left with Cosmic Boy’s origin. We are immediately shown the robot dinosaurs of the planet Braal, something that goes all the way back to the first time the planet was shown. The art team has redesigned them a bit to mesh with this world, and I love how its all done. Braalian’s magnet powers evolved to combat these robo dinosaurs, and its something so silly that I’ve always loved. Unlike classic Legion though, only 1% of Braal’s denizens have magnetic powers. Its an interesting choice here, and Cosmic Boy is outright referred to as the one percent. Could we potentially be seeing some class issues on Braal in the future based around those who have powers and those who do not? Speaking of Cosmic Boy, Rokk remains a talented athlete, though his sport appears to be fighting creatures rather than magnoball. Like the other two original Legionnaires, Rokk receives an invitation to the Young United Planets initiative.
With the three now meeting up on RJ Brande’s ship, the origin proceeds as usual for the most part. RJ Brande is attacked and the three unite and use their powers to protect her. Though in this case, the new villains dubbed “The Horraz” are the attackers. Of note though is the invitation that brings the three together. Rather than being invited to the Legion, our three characters are invited to a Young United Planets initiative. We’ve seen a lot of criticism of the United Planets in its corruption and the various awful acts being committed, RJ Brande feels a new perspective is needed to solve the problem, hence the initiative. Whats interesting though is the implication that something had happened after this point to put the Legion at odds with President Brande and the U.P. Perhaps a more reformatory or even revolutionary spirit gripped the Legionnaires, much like in Mark Waid’s threeboot series. This is possibly the most compelling thing thus far in this new Legion book. We live in a time where our governments seem broken and ill equipped to tackle the catastrophic problems facing us in this era. To see a Legion of frustrated young people take action in response to this is both timely and necessary. However, I can’t help but feel this sort of thing should have been shown up front. This is the kind of feeling that can truly grip people and convince them that the Legion is something special.
We’ve had many different origin stories for the Legion across their various continuities. This team has crafted an interesting and engaging blend of new and old, but I wish they didn’t hold back so much. The kinds of themes considered here are what people need to see in the Legion and should be front and center. Ultimately though, this represents one of the stronger issues of the book thus far.