Review: Legion of Super-Heroes: Enemy Rising collected hardcover (DC Comics)

Monday, December 15, 2008

A review is supposed to be unbiased, judging a work based on the merits of the work alone. A blogger, alternately, is inherently biased, providing opinions that build on the opinions expressed in posts prior. We can discuss that dichotomy another time, but this is to preface the review by saying I wasn't inclined beforehand to like Legion of Super-Heroes: Enemy Rising, disappointed as I was in writer Jim Shooter's comments when his run on Legion ended. And indeed, while Enemy Rising has some merits, it doesn't necessarily surprise me that DC Comics ultimately cancelled the book after the next trade.

I have not been a long-time Legion fan, and it was Mark Waid's new take on the Legion (plus the Legion cartoon) that made me a fan. Legendary 1960s Legion writer Jim Shooter received the unenviable job of following Waid's run on Legion -- but whereas Waid's run felt like a new, unique take on Legion, Shooter's felt like more of the same.

The basic continuity between Waid and Shooter's runs remain, but the premise of Waid's Legion -- thirty-first century teenagers obsessed with twenty-first century culture -- is all but gone. One of the biggest differences is that Shooter's Legionnaires use thirty-first century faux curses (each, to me, sillier than the last), when the whole point of Waid's Legionnaires was that they talked like twenty-first century teens. A few times, one of Shooter's Legionnaires actually explains to another a bit of twenty-first century culture; the posters that the various Legionnaires have on their walls are all thirty-first, not twenty-first, century icons. There's a few moments where the script recalls the Legion's twenty-first century obsessions -- when the Science Police try to steal comic books from Phantom Girl, or when a character makes a passing remark about how thirty-first century adults don't tend to meet face to face -- but it's such a small part of the story as to be the exception that proves the rule.

The title's continuity aside, this is a fair Legion story. Most of it centers around Lightning Lad Garth Ranzz trying to keep the team afloat both mission-wise and financially as the new team leader; Garth is unbelievably bad at his job (that is, Shooter didn't quite convince me Garth could be as bad as he is), though this exploration of the logistics of running a futuristic "legion" was interesting. The other half of the story focused on Legionnaires on missions; while it was hard to have much curiosity about Shooter's generic behemoth alien destroyers, there's always a thrill in seeing the Legionnaires in action using their various powers.

Shooter's story -- to its detriment -- works best at its most even-keeled. When Shooter tries for high emotion, the story quickly switches to melodrama. Witness, for instance, the near laughable love scene between Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad ("Take me, own me," she opines. "Do something ... shocking."), or how Invisible Kid goes on ad nauseum about his love interest Giselle. This is fair superheroics, but it's not compelling story -- whereas Waid's was compelling -- and the latter is surely what Legion needs right now.

The completist in my will be picking up Shooter's final Legion trade so as to see how all of this ends, but as far as I'm concerned, the end of this latest Legion run is really just an example of what this title needs to rise above when the next team starts.

[Contains full covers, expose on Legion flight rings.]

On now to Gail Simone's debut on Wonder Woman with The Circle, coming up next.
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1 comment:

  1. Being a long-time LSH fan, I found Waid & Kitson's run extremely painful. Most of that was due to Kitson's art. It really rubbed me the wrong way. So, getting Francis Manapul on the art was a welcome relief. I can always handle different takes on the LSH as long as I can buy the look of the 31st century. Shooter's take was not boring. But, until they get the links with the 21st century & the LSH history...

    Anyway, I can't wait to see the next version. Hopefully, Geoff Johns will do for the Legion what he did for Flash & the JSA.

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