After a several months break, we finally have the capstone to the first arc of the Brian Michael Bendis-written Legion of Super-Heroes revival. With the main art team of Ryan Sook, Wade Von Grawbadger, and Jordie Bellaire doing the entirety of this issue, I was truly excited for #6.
Unfortunately, I found myself disappointed aside from the beautiful art. The most frustrating thing about this new Legion of Super-Heroes book has been the inconsistency. I’ve gone up, down, back and forth on the quality of this series virtually every time a new issue comes out. The last two origin-focused issues gave me hope the title found some sense of consistency, but #6 drops the ball again and gives us a lackluster conclusion to this first arc.
This issue is entirely focused around a big battle scene between the Legion and new villains the Horraz. I’m not huge on the Horraz — there’s very little to them from what we’ve seen thus far. Legion has a history of such incredible villains. While focusing on the new and creating new villains for the Legion is a great idea, the Horraz just have not been interesting from what we’ve seen of them. The Horraz have arrived on Earth to fight the Legion over Aquaman’s trident.
In complete fairness, the resulting battle is pretty rad. Sook, Von Grawbadger, and Bellaire do an incredible job rendering this 31st century brawl. The layouts are sleek and cinematic, and the rainbow of Legionnaire colors against the ships and laser blasts in space look great. The page of the Horraz leader announcing himself looks incredibly striking amid the alarms and is the only time he feels remotely threatening. Its all in all an absolute pleasure to look at, but it feels empty and amounts to nothing.
This battle dominates the issue and leaves little space for anything else. We’re six issues into this new Legion book (eight if you count the Millennium special) and we still have had little to no characterization for many of the Legionnaires. It feels like such an inefficient use of pages when newcomers to the book have little reason to care about many of these characters.
This is especially bad seeing as this issue’s cover advertises an introduction to the three new Legionnaires of this continuity: Gold Lantern, Doctor Fate, and Monster Boy. While comic covers are known to be misleading, it makes it extremely frustrating that this just isn’t in the issue when we’ve got little to no characterization at all. Gold Lantern appears in the battle and does a cool move, we’re told he has “such an amazing story” and then that’s it. Monster Boy appears at the beginning where we are given a pretty funny scene about the workings of his powers, but nothing else. Doctor Fate doesn’t appear in any major scenes at all. This issue could’ve fit both the battle and properly introduced us to these three, but it opts instead to let the art compensate for its emptiness.
The decompression of this issue is frustrating, not only because it lacks needed characterization, but also because of how awful the pacing is. The pacing across the five previous issues has been rocky at best, but this issue is particularly egregious. The battle that dominates most of this issue just… stops. It just ends, and then we’re brought to a celebratory scene of the Legion victorious. It’s treated like this pivotal moment for the Legion, but it’s just totally unearned and comes out of nowhere. It just… happens. It’s a very pretty moment courtesy of the issue’s amazing art team, but it doesn’t land like it should at all.
Moreover, looking at the whole issue, nothing happens. At all. There could have been that characterization, there could have been expansion on this key Legion moment for the finale of the first arc. This issue could have literally any reason to exist besides it being a vehicle for pretty art, but there is nothing here.
I will admit I am biased in this book’s favor. Really, I’m just happy there is a Legion book again after all this time. But the up and down quality of this book with its constantly start/stop pacing severely hampers my enjoyment. What’s most frustrating is, it’s not all bad! There are some really good ideas here, and the groundwork is laid for an incredible Legion book. Everything is on the table for this to be the definitive modern Legion take, but the execution problems ultimately keep this book from realizing its own potential. It is very possible for this book to reach its potential — it just needs a level of polish and care it isn’t getting.