Legion of Superheroes #1 Review
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Ryan Sook
Inker: Ryan Sook & Wade Von Grawbadger
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover Artist: Ryan Sook
Variant Cover Artists: Ryan Sook, Jim Cheung & Romulo Fajardo Jr
As Legionnaire Ultra Boy runs through the dark alleys of Planet Gotham, he’s pursued by gang members after the case the young Jo Nah is carrying, he’s soon confronted by crime boss Mordru, before reinforcements Karate Kid, Wildfire and Star Boy, fending off the malicious gangster. Opening the case, the Legionnaires are shocked by what the find!! Meanwhile, a new era for Jon Kent begins as the son of Superman and Lois Lane, aka the twenty-first century, Superboy arrives in New Metropolis, circa the thirty-first century! But not everyone is happy about this new recruit…
I’ll be completely up-front here. When this new series was announced, along with who was writing the title, I was concerned. While I do love many of writer Brian Michael Bendis’s works (Ultimate Spider-Man in particular largely being responsible for my love of the medium), I have been disappointed by some of his more recent works at DC Comics. And while I”m not a massive fan of the Legion of Superheroes as a franchise, I do have a soft spot for the future super teens and their stories. And I’ve always wanted the chance to dig in and explore said tales in real-time. So I’ve been bound and determined to try and give this new direction for Legion of Superheroes a fair shake.
And at least in this issue? I think it’s mostly successful. Handling the relaunch of such a vast team of highly diverse characters, and the world (or more aptly universe) they inhabit is no easy task, but this issue does so relatively well. Opening the series up with an action sequence so the reader(s) can see what the Legion does is pretty effective, as is the mystery established at the end of the sequence before cutting to the main bulk of the issue, Jon’s arrival in New Metropolis, and the exposition tied into that. It helps make the book’s pacing seem a bit quicker and the storytelling more intense than the first issue might’ve been otherwise. And some of the Legionnaires characters are established here. Some of them. Unfortunately with the entire group all gathered together to meet Superboy, a lot of the group gets lost in the shuffle. Long-time Legion of Superheroes readers may be able to pick up on trace elements of characterization they recognize here or there, but new readers may be left overwhelmed.
Jon’s characterization (as has been established since he was aged up in recent issues of Superman) is very effective, as through him the reader(s) can feel equal parts intrigue, shock and splendour over this radically different Earth than the one he just left. As an anchor for this reintroduction to the Legion of Superheros, this aspect of the comic is handled perfectly and becomes one of its two biggest strengths.
The single best aspect of Legion of Superheroes #1 however, is without a doubt, the outstanding artwork from Ryan Sook, Wade Von Grabadger and Jordie Bellaire, as they make this new world so exciting and inviting, and the characters all incredibly dynamic and uniquely distinct. The cardinal sin of any superhero team book is to make the characters feel like they could be mistaken for one another, and not once does that ever happen in this comic. The art team has taken painstaking lengths to design every Legionnaire so that they’re both eye-catching and unforgettable. This art grabs your attention and refuses to let it go. And the art conveys the shifting moods of the narrative with incredible grace. Between the gloom of Planet Gotham or the warm atmosphere of Saturn Girl and Superboy’s mind link, neither feels jarring and keeps you compelled to read on.
Dave Sharpe’s lettering is highly effective, clear and precise, but striking out to grab attention when needed, being just as bold and enthralling as the art (no meagre fit), bringing the visuals of the comic together perfectly.