Review: Legion of Super-Heroes: Death of a Dream

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Admittedly, before Mark Waid's most recent incarnation of Legion of Super-Heroes, I had never been a fan of the series. I thought the Legion were interesting as guest-stars in other series, but as a whole Legion was too remote from the DC Universe proper, and as well the post-Zero Hour reboot always seemed to skew a little young in the art and plotlines, as opposed to the various Teen Titan groups of the time.

I find Waid's newest Legion, however, smart and funny, science-fictiony without being unrelatable, and most of all intriguingly political (read our review of the first volume, Legion of Super-Heroes: Teenage Revolution). This, combined with my excitement over the (lately hit or miss) Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon, has finally made me a fan, at least as long as the Legion keeps its current level of maturity.

The second volume, Legion of Super-Heroes: Death of a Dream, finds Brainiac 5 and a team of Legionnaires travelling to Colu, site of the next attack by the evil Lemnos, who plans to destablize the United Planets government. Meanwhile, Legion leader Cosmic Boy breaks into Brainiac's private lab searching for secrets; this leads to a fraction (and battle) among the team members, with Cos leaving as leader. Brainiac and the team fight Lemnos's forces on the planet Helegyn; they're saved by Cos, who makes his peace with Brainiac. Cos splits the team into three groups to try to stop Lemnos's invasion plans; they succeed, but Lemnos's attack on Earth destroys the team's headquarters and kills Legionnaire Dream Girl.

Mark Waid's first trade in this Legion series set up the kids as revolutionaries, vying against a society that just wants kids to behave. This second trade offers an intriguing wrinkle with the villain Lemnos that only the Legion can see; the Legionnaires become like Chicken Little, warning a disbelieving government that the sky is about to fall. By, in the end, taking over the government's child-tracking system and using it for Legion purposes, and deputizing every teenager in the universe to fight for their planet, the Legion overtakes the government, becoming a society of their own.

It's interesting that it's in this same trade that Waid shows the Legion (for a short time) fracturing. Cosmic Boy and Brainiac 5's complaints against each other are ultimately the same--each resents the other for the perceived keeping of secrets from other Legionnaires. Waid makes the interesting choice of having communication between Legion flight rights (something that's been standard in other Legion series) here be a new technology, one not entirely welcomed by all Legionnaires. This new forced closeness, itself a symbol for the growing legimitization of the Legion in their universe, ultimately causes Sun Boy to resign in order to be his "own person." It will be interesting to see how the Legion reacts to no longer being rebels in their own time.

Obviously, if you enjoyed the first volume of Legion, you'll like the similar tone of the second (and will want to read the second to see the cliffhangers of the first resolved). At the same time, the difficulties of the first trade are perhaps even more apparent in the second. This is a remarkably long trade despite the fact that little, relatively, happens, and much time is spent either on character bits of the Legionnaires, or the team members standing around talking; not that there's anything wrong with that, necessarily, but Legion is truly just as much soap opera as it is superhero book.

The book also seems to lack some finesse in moving from single issues to collected form, as Cosmic Boy reiterates ad nauseum the details of Lemnos's threat, with often the very same invading hordes artwork in the background. There's also a jarring sequence where the Legion fights a battle off-screen, wins, and then reiterates the battle in flashback, in a way that suggests that the story structure was reorganized so that Barry Kitson could draw the fight, but it makes for a jumbled experience overall.

I tend to think, with two mainly identical trade paperbacks, that Legion of Super-Heroes would have trouble keeping up it's same level of intrigue for much longer; as such I'm pleased to see the addition of Supergirl in the next trade to shake things up. Stay with us, if you will; more Legion on the way!

[Includes full covers, summary of first trade, roll call pages.]

Tune in tomorrow for Legion trivia, and then come back Monday as we continue our Legion review series!
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