With the return of the Legion of Super-Heroes, I had been hoping for some kind of celebration. The Millennium two-part special presented an interesting (if unsatisfying) glimpse at all the various DC futures, but it felt lacking as a big return for this team. Legion of Super-Heroes #8 and #9 present an attempt at something much bigger.
This two part story, titled “the Trial of the Legion of Super-Heroes,” brings over 40 all star artists to the table with each of them drawing one page starring one Legionnaire. Joining them is Brian Michael Bendis as the series writer and Jordie Bellaire on colors. It’s a colossal gathering of talent for the future’s greatest super team. While I don’t think this issue quite lives up to how incredible the premise is, Legion of Super-Heroes #8 is one of the stronger issues of the book thus far and does address a number of my complaints.
When I heard about this grand plan for this storyline, I was immediately interested. My assumption would be that each page would be a one-page story each highlighting one Legionnaire. While the first three pages do follow this pattern, the rest of the issue plays out like a relatively standard superhero battle, with each page focusing on a Legionnaire in the middle of this event.
Structurally, I feel like this often results in a lot of these artists being wasted. Because this is scripted in many places like a normal comic, some pages are just more striking than others. You’ll have pages where artists get to shine and pages where talents are totally wasted. Alex Maleev’s page in particular was a major disappointment for me. While many of these incredible creators put out some beautiful pages, I feel that the issue as a whole doesn’t live up to the credits page.
On the plus side though, being forced to focus each page around a specific Legionnaire has improved the density of this issue dramatically. Unlike many previous issues, Legion #8 feels incredibly satisfying with the amount of content you get. Questions are answered, voices are heard, we actually get to know more about a bunch of these characters. I’ve also complained about the lack of focus on many of the characters thus far. While this issue doesn’t fix this completely with its one-page spotlights, it’s a dramatic step forward and we meet so many more people. Everyone gets a little injection of personality where they previously had little to nothing.
While the penciler credits are quite incredible, Jordie Bellaire’s work here is truly commendable for the level of color consistency across these artists. Over the course of the series, many artists have hopped on alongside Ryan Sook. Maintaining a consistent feel across all those issues was difficult enough; here, 22 different artists across different styles need to feel like they’re depicting the same world. Bellaire succeeds stupendously and it’s an incredible achievement in coloring.
Despite the visual successes, the way the word “barbarian” is thrown around to describe Ultra Boy’s father, Crav Nah, is a major problem of Legion #8. In earlier issues, Bendis introduces a new version of the planet Rimbor and Ultra Boy. Rimbor is depicted as a planet of, as far as we’ve seen, brown people who are engaged in a “holy war.” Crav Nah is a major figure in this war and is described as a “barbarian.” In this issue, he is once again called a “barbarian” by Brainac 5 and I’m disappointed Bendis has continued to incorporate this into his dialogue. It’s frustrating to see the Legion diversify so much and then have one of its major nonwhite cultures treated this way. This is just straight up bad and it needs to stop.
I’m feeling a bit of difficulty talking about this issue. On the one hand, it’s one of the best issues of the run, we actually get to see a lot more of these characters, and we get to see so many of these artists do cool Legion art. It’s a solid issue. On the other hand, I feel that for all these amazing artists working on this once in a lifetime opportunity, it should be better than solid. It should be this amazing, moving celebration of Legion, and the issue is just good. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, and I’m happy to see some improvement from the book. I just feel that this could have been structured in such a way to make better use of all this talent.