The “Trial of the Legion of Super-Heroes” two-parter concludes with Legion of Super-Heroes #9. This is the finale of the big celebration written by Brian Michael Bendis, drawn by an incredible list of artists, and colored by Jordie Bellaire. I felt the first part of the story was a better than average issue for the book, but ultimately was underwhelmed when considering the talent working on it. I can definitely say this second part is stronger, and it brings new revelations that have me interested in the series’ future. However, the book continues to struggle in some aspects.
This issue digs into the trial proper, and the overall structure works much better with the premise. Individual pages are devoted to character origin files and individual trial testimonies. These work far better with the format of one artist per page per Legionnaire. I still don’t think it’s ideal, but it’s certainly a better use than last issue’s big fight. The various artists get more of a chance to leave a meaningful impact on each character. In particular, Tula Lotay, Michel Fiffe, Mitch Gerads, and Joe Quinones were personal favorites of mine. The pacing continues to be much stronger than the previous issues as well. With Bendis having to focus his scripting such that each page matters and each page has a new artist, both issues of the Trial have been denser and more satisfying than the others before it.
This issue also delivers much more characterization because of this structure. We learn a lot more about so many Legionnaires here, with many of these pages bringing new revelations about these iterations of the characters. One of my longstanding problems with this series has been the lack of proper character introductions, now we’ve gotten to know most of the team. Unfortunately, some Legionnaires were left out of this storyline. Karate Kid, Lightning Lad, Sun Boy, Matter Eater Lad and Star Boy don’t get pages to themselves, while some characters are repeated across the two issues. As this event is supposed to spotlight each Legionnaire, it’s a shame that not everyone got focus.
In addition to the things we learn about these characters, there’s one major revelation here that will be key to the book moving forward. Something that explains everything we’ve seen thus far and indicates where the book may be heading. Without going into spoilers, there are a lot of ways it could go. At best, it could be a big exciting new storyline for the Legion. At worst, it could be a pale repetition of things we’ve seen before. Ultimately, I feel the book needed something big like this to build up to. Despite the book’s problems, Bendis and Sook’s Legion hasn’t been one to lean on the old. Only time will tell how it turns out, but I am interested regardless.
Despite mostly enjoying the issue, there are elements that really irked me here. The continued use of the words “barbaric” and “barbarian” to describe General Crav Nah, as I’ve described in my previous reviews, is still present and still awful. There’s another scene here that’s worded very poorly with Timber Wolf on his page. We’re witnessing him join the Legion and this new ecological angle to his character is introduced (something I very much like). However, he says the line “this is what happens when other planets turn their backs on the simpler and less evolved,” an EXTREMELY poorly worded line calling to mind ideas that should have no place in the Legion’s 31st century. Bendis continues to show an incredible insensitivity in his word choice and it needs to be addressed.
Lastly, the book ends on a kiss between Saturn Girl and Jon Kent. This frustrates me, because we’re nine issues into this book we have seen no queer Legionnaires. Despite the little character focus in these nine issues, we’ve seen three straight relationships among Legionnaires. We did get scenes with Lightning Lad and Lass’s moms, but those aren’t Legionnaires. This book NEEDS to be queer and it’s continuously dropped the ball on doing this. Jon Kent is a character that could have very easily been queer. He’s brand new, and his love life hasn’t been touched on. I had hopes that Bendis might take him in this direction, but as of now it doesn’t seem likely.
Ultimately, I have positive feelings about the “Trial of the Legion of Super-Heroes”. It’s the strongest storyline of the book so far, it properly introduced us to a ton of these characters, and it has great art. Despite the story not quite living up to the immense talent behind it, I came away enjoying it. I’m also excited for where the book goes from here, though it’s entirely possible I end up disappointed. However, the recurring issues of the book need to be addressed and resolved. I like many aspects of this new Legion book, but Bendis seriously needs to look at his scripts with a more critical eye for this to be worthy of 2020, let alone the 31st century.