I’ve been fairly critical of some issues of the new Brian Michael Bendis and Ryan Sook reboot, both of occasionally problematic choices and inconsistent quality. I am happy to say that while Legion of Super-Heroes #5 does not excuse these previous issues, it is the best issue of the series thus far and gives me hope for the book’s future. Bendis, Sook, Scott Godlewski, Wade Von Grawbadger, Jordie Bellaire, and Dave Sharpe have done a fantastic job with this issue, and I really feel readers old and new can find something to enjoy here.
Like issue #4, Legion of Super-Heroes #5 has both a present-day story and a flashback sequence covering this Legion’s origin story. I enjoyed the bits of this origin we got in issue #4, and I’m pleased to say issue #5 builds on that in a great way. There’s some really interesting blending of other Legion takes involved here. Like in reboot, this every Legionnaire is a representative from one of the United Planets. There are also some political aspects a la threeboot here. This Legion harbors some anti-corruption sentiments and is explicitly defined as having autonomy from the United Planets or any private backers. In previous continuities, the Legion was backed by billionaires or had a much closer relationship with the government. This change really synthesizes the best aspects of older takes on the team to create something that works much better for modern audiences. We also see how the old Age of Heroes influences the creation of the team. The Legion has always been inspired by the super-heroes of the present day DCU, but here we get to see that clearly factored into their origin in a great way. All in all, I’m very happy with the origin story we’ve gotten, though I do still think it would have been more effective at the series’ beginning.
Scott Godlewski is the guest artist on these flashback scenes, and he does a well enough job. He manages to keep a similar style to Sook, and I like some of his faces, but there are certain high concept scenes I feel could have been delivered in a more grandiose way. Sook handles the present day sequences and his spreads are filled with gorgeously rendered Legionnaires. The sci-fi edge he provides continues to be a standout feature of this new book. Jordie Bellaire’s colors are bright and beautiful and ensure visual consistency the whole way through. Her colors enhance both artists exceptionally and make the transition between artists incredibly smooth.
The real standout Legionnaire of this issue is Brainiac-5 (my personal favorite). I’ve really liked the few bits of Bendis’ Brainy we’ve seen thus far, but here I was really sold on his take on the character. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of making Brainy this emotionless being of logic that has to learn to be more human and emotional, but it’s all been done before. Bendis avoids this beautifully and characterizes him as someone who is smart but cares deeply about his friends and the Legion. He’s funny, he’s dorky, and he uses his intellect to get the Legion out of a sticky situation. It’s exactly how I think Brainy should be written and I couldn’t be happier. That said, I’m really hoping with these character focuses we start getting more Legionnaires explicitly defined as queer.
One of Brainy’s major scenes is in the origin flashback and defines the Legion’s purpose in a critical way. Without delving into spoilers too much, there’s much more to this Legion’s goals than meets the eye. Major threats await the 31st century in a similar way and the Legion intends to meet them in a similar way to today’s young people taking a stand against climate change. What I really feel is great about this scene is the way it defines the Legion’s purpose in such an explicit way that can resonate with young people everywhere. A major force threatens the universe and the people in power are incompetent to stop it. Even if you’ve never picked up a Legion comic before, I think this will really connect with people in a way that other Legion origin stories don’t.
One of the things I love most about the Legion is that they give me hope for the future when the present is too much to deal with. In the worst of times, they call on me to not only imagine, but believe in something better. Legion of Super-Heroes #5 isn’t perfect, but it gave me that feeling when I really needed it, and I hope it will for anyone else who does too. I felt the passion I have for the characters and this team, and excitement for what this new 31st century could hold. It called on the core ideals of why the team exists in the first place. The Legion not only exists as a reminder of what we can achieve, but that uniting for a better future is always worth it.
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