Review: Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes: Strange New Visitor trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, January 07, 2008

From almost the moment she steps on the page, Mark Waid Legion-izes Supergirl. It's hard to put your finger on the special brand of weirdness Waid has introduced in his latest incarnation of the Legion of Super-Heroes, but the fact that the time-lost Supergirl thinks all the other Legionnaires are characters in her dreams is a pretty good example. The third Legion volume, and the first under the new name of Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes, keeps the same slow pace that Waid used in the first Legion trades, but also with the same snappy dialogue that makes this series so interesting.

In the wake of Lemnos's attack against Earth, the United Planets offers to deputize the Legion; in order to keep the Science Police from arresting some members, temporary leader Lighting Lad accepts. One of their first tasks is to stop a Dominator projectile targeting Earth, where they encounter the time-lost Supergirl. Despite some members' uneasiness, Supergirl is accepted into the Legion. The Girl of Steel, and later Chameleon, help the Legion defeat rogue underground robots, and the team confronts Brainiac 5 about stealing deceased Legionnaire Dream Girl's body.

Mark Waid creates an interesting dynamic with the newly-mainstreamed Legion. Even as the Legion now has the backing of the United Planets, this only seems to serve to make them more revolutionary, not less; Waid immediately follows the scene of Lightning Lad's acceptance with one of Ultra Boy and others disrupting Earth's staid society in the name of peacekeeping. Even as the Legion has been legitimized, they get absolutely no respect in these pages from their rivals, the Sciece Police, up to and including the Science Police's arresting of Chameleon. Waid risks much of what makes this incarnation of the Legion special should they become "everyday" super-heroes, and I'm glad to see the transition is not an easy one.

In portraying Supergirl as a kind of Alice in Wonderland, "it's all a dream" character, Waid breaks down the fourth wall -- Supergirl, in this case, stands in for the writer himself. Within these pages, there are a number of crazed fans -- some who argue about Supergirl's origin, another who believes himself to have dated Dream Girl -- and when Waid writes about the "dark side of fandom," it's hard not to read this as something of a commentary on the Legion's own wide fanbase. This continues to the humorous "letters pages" section at the end of the trade, where the Legion members answer real (sometimes ardent) reader emails.

Not much happens in this trade besides Supergirl's introduction, and I'm eager for the story to move in the next -- Brainy's hold on Dream Girl's corpse, for instance, has gone on almost seven issues now. And while I applaud Waid's decision not to delve into the earliest origins of the Legion quite yet, some aspects of this universe -- like Earth's war against artifical intelligence -- possibly needed a little more explaining than they get in these pages, at least if they'll become more important later. We'll see.

[Contains full covers, "Letters to the Legion" sequences.]

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