With the Trial of the Legion of Super-Heroes reaching its conclusion, I was left feeling more positive on the future of the series. Legion of Super-Heroes #10, written by Brian Michael Bendis, penciled by Ryan Sook, inked by Wade Von Grawbadger, colored by Jordie Bellaire, and lettered by Dave Sharpe deals with the fallout of the Trial and propels the book into new territory. Despite the occasional highs and strong visuals, this Legion of Super-Heroes series has been riddled with sloppiness and questionable choices on the scripting front. Issue #10 captures both the highs and the lows of the series. There are exciting visuals and some awesome expansion on previous ideas. However, the book continues its move into questionable territory.
Immediately out the gate, the art team is doing incredible work here. This issue marks the return of main series artist Ryan Sook on the entire issue. His work alongside inker Wade von Grawbadger and inker Jordie Bellaire is a beautiful synthesis, and together the three make an unstoppable visual force. One thing that very quickly grabbed my notice is the new setting titles for each planet we visit. They’re so striking and use both English and interlac. These titles not only describe where we are, but set the tone in a way that feels epic, cosmic, and cinematic. I’m not sure if these were done by the art team or the letterer, but I seriously hope they stick around moving forward. The art itself also looks absolutely incredible. We get to see a lot of settings this issue — Planet Gotham, Oa, Rimbor, and New Krypton — and all of them look stunning and have such unique identities.
This issue also offers a lot of expansion on characters. We jump around from a couple different settings with different groups of Legionnaires and I feel it really works on a structural level. Oa in particular was a real standout for me this issue. We finally get to see more with Gold Lantern and I really love everything going on here. There’s still more I want to know, but it’s much more of an “I’m excited to see this character’s story unfold” rather than a “we’re 9 issues in and I don’t even know this guy’s name”.
The visuals for the planet are absolutely outstanding, with redesigned Guardians of the Universe looking exceptionally cool. The planet is looking a lot more gold than green these days, and it’s just so stunning and intriguing. New Krypton also offers interesting revelations. There are some incredibly designed new characters I cannot wait to learn about here, as well as some very interesting revelations I won’t spoil in this review. As this next storyline seems to be focusing on New Krypton, I’m eager to see more of this new Kryptonian world and what has become of Superman’s legacy.
Planet Gotham’s segment left me feeling a lot less positive. Gotham is shown to still have a commissioner and police in the 31st century, something that seems unimaginative especially in the current cultural context. The Science Police do exist in this world, yes, but they are depicted as a corrupt fascistic policing entity that the Legion are fighting against. Gotham’s police here are just Gotham’s “good cops” still doing the same things in the 31st century. It’s a choice I really question for a book all about imagining a future.
On Planet Gotham, Saturn Girl and Jon Kent have their first date. I mentioned in my previous review how I felt disappointed in the focus on straight relationships, and those disappointments manifest even more so here. We have seen so much straightness in a cast of 30-odd people, multiple straight relationships getting brought up, and now a major focus around a straight relationship. The only queerness we have seen is Lightning Lad and Lightning Lass’ parents. It is immensely disappointing that even in a book imagining a thousand years in the future, queer relationships and identities still do not receive the focus they deserve.
Rimbor is the last of the major setpiece of this issue and it continues to offer incredibly awful storytelling choices. As with nearly all previous issues, Rimbor and all of its denizens are characterized by “barbarism.” It’s particularly bad here though because we get to visit the planet itself and all we see is arena style combat. Rimbor’s people are the main source of nonwhite people in this new 31st century thus far, and consistently over these ten issues they have been defined by the word “barbarian”. For all of my excitement at how diverse this team is, the treatment of Rimbor really is a huge step backward. This treatment of brown characters is contrary to everything that a Legion of Super-Heroes book should be.
There’s another problematic element that’s new to this issue, and it’s a bit complicated, so bear with me a bit. During the Trial, Mon-El quits the Legion and breaks up with Phantom Girl. This issue sees the team visit his home on New Krypton to convince him to rejoin. During this conversation, Shadow Lass is mentioned as being in a relationship with Mon-El, despite her currently being in a relationship with Cosmic Boy. Is this a polycule or a scripting error? Bendis previously introduced Lyle Norg as Invisible Kid in the Millennium two-parter only for Jacques Foccart to appear as Invisible Kid later on with no clarification, so personally my money’s on the latter.
But it gets stranger. Here, Phantom Girl is said to be 17 years-old. Yet, Mon-El is revealed to have three daughters in this issue, which Phantom Girl didn’t even know about. Is Mon-El a teenage dad, or is he an older man who was in a relationship with a 17-year-old girl? What is going on here? In Young Justice there was a fake out involving Conner being a father, so maybe something similar is happening here? Ultimately, with the previous scripting mix-ups and Bendis’s track record with questionable storytelling lessons, I’m not exactly willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. As of now at least, this whole situation is bizarre and problematic.
Legion of Super-Heroes #10 frustrates me deeply. For the most part, it rises above the technical issues that have plagued the book. It offers incredible visuals, fascinating world-building, and expansion on interesting characters. Yet for all its highs, this issue also exemplifies the problematic scripting choices that make me hesitate to recommend this to anybody. It is uncomfortable, it is questionable, and honestly, it’s racist. This book needs stronger editorial oversight for many reasons, but above all the issues with Rimbor’s treatment need to be addressed. This would have been a strong issue had these choices not been made.
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