13 February 2017

Return to the Threeboot: A Review of Legion of Super-Heroes: Enemy Rising

Comic hardcover, 192 pages
Published 2008 (contents: 2008) 

Acquired and read August 2016
Legion of Super-Heroes: Enemy Rising

Writer: Jim Shooter
Pencillers: Francis Manapul with Aaron Lopresti, Sanford Greene
Inkers: Livesay with Matt Ryan, Nathan Massengill
Colorists: JD Smith with Nathan Eyring
Letterer: Steve Wands

With Supergirl gone, the "threeboot" Legion returns to its original title, though it gains a new (less attractive) logo in the process. It's always odd when a new creative team takes over a title with a very distinctive voice, especially if that new creative team doesn't have any interest in aping what came before. Jim Shooter's writing is not really like Mark Waid's at all, nor is Francis Manapul and Livesay's art anything like Barry Kitson's. Though you might argue that the Waid/Kitson Legion never lived up to its potential-- the revolutionary idea was downplayed more and more as the series went on, and they seeded so much character stuff in the first twelve issues that they never came back to as Supergirl and the Dominator plot took over the focus-- I'm not convinced the solution was to basically throw all that out. The idea of the Legion as an inspiration to the youth of the galaxy, and the face of a wider moment, is completely gone here: we never see the crowds outside Legion H.Q. anymore. Even the DC Comics spinner racks are gone from H.Q.; when we do briefly see Phantom Girl with some comics, they're drawn as generic books, not as recognizable issues of DC Comics as they would have been during the Waid/Kitson run.

Ah, yes, I too really enjoyed the classic book Comics.
from Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 5 #43 (art by Francis Manapul & Livesay)

Plus Shooter introduces future space cursing to the title, which is... terrible, to put it mildly. I don't remember anyone using any of that stuff during the Waid/Kitson run, other than "grife," which works because it's basically "grief." But under Shooter, suddenly everyone is saying "florg." People are "florged" and bad guys are "florgging." It's a desperately terrible word that needs to go; it throws me out of the story every time I read it. Florg florg florg florg florg. It's not real! It doesn't even sound like it could be real!

Like, how can I take dialogue like this seriously?
from Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 5 #38 (art by Francis Manapul & Livesay)

Putting aside all my change-of-creative-team kvetching, how was Enemy Rising, which collects the first half of Jim Shooter's run, before the "threeboot" was inceremoniously dumped for the "deboot"? Basically, it's okay. Shooter has the Legion being overstressed with crises popping up across the solar system and the galaxy, while Lightning Lad-- the new leader-- struggles with United Planets bureaucracy. The bureaucracy was fun at first, but the longer it goes on, the more irritating it gets, because it's the same thing again and again, as Lightning Lad gets more calls than he can handle, pisses someone off, and the Legion gets a new restriction slapped on it, repeat ad nauseam. I kinda felt like he deserved a better portrayal of his leadership than he got, and based on the way this subplot is seemingly resolved at the end of the book, I don't think it was worth the eight issues spent on it. (Plus, does it make sense that the United Planets would be anti-Legion again in the wake of the Dominator War?)

Other than that, the Legion is fighting mindless aliens that are popping up across the galaxy. Brainiac sets up a minor mystery about them, but other than that, they're not very compelling foes. The minor enemies the Legion encounters, like Science Police officers, aren't very interesting either. And was it really necessary to have a group of space pirates turn up to threaten our teenage heroes with sexual coercion? Ick. His Legionnaires seem more bickering than Waid's, too. Not that Waid's didn't argue, but it usually seemed to come from principled beliefs; these guys are just mean to each other a little bit too much.

The whole premise of this series is that she's underage, you know.
from Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 5 #37 (art by Francis Manapul & Livesay)

I liked Francis Manapul's later work on The Flash, but here he doesn't do a ton for me. It's not bad, but the sort of anime-influenced style he uses is a little generic. I really liked Aaron Lopresti's fill-in, on the other hand-- his characters were very expressive, and I loved the playful stuff he did with Chameleon throughout the issue.

If I was a shapeshifter, I'd be making my fingers into miniature people when I was bored, too.
from Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 5 #41 (art by Aaron Lopresti & Matt Ryan)

I guess I'll see where this all goes, but for now it comes across as a sort of action-adventure epilogue tacked onto the Waid/Kitson run. Nothing wrong with it on its own, but I felt that Waid and Kitson were reinventing these characters and concepts, whereas Shooter is just using them somewhat generically in a widescreen story.

No comments:

Post a Comment