Review: Legion of Super-Heroes: Consequences hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Legion of Super-Heroes: Consequences is a fine next chapter in Paul Levitz's ongoing Legion saga. I use the word "saga" specifically here, because indeed Levitz seems to be writing a Legion opus, as he's done before, that pays no real mind to the structures of issue nor collection. Consequences picks up some threads from the previous volume The Choice and entirely overlooks others; it also ends very suddenly, underlining that where the collection ends was not so much foremost in the mind of the author. It does not help the vague nature of this collection that in the hardcover, at least, some of the chapters are printed out of order.

The Legion of Super-Heroes titles remain at the top of my reading list, but Consequences is the kind of Legion collection that reinforces how much dedication it takes to be a Legion fan. You must be really invested to read a collection that follows these characters but bears little connection to the previous book. Consequences will leave ardent Legion fans hungry for the next volume, but I wonder if with this one we'll lose some of those that were on the fence.

[Contains spoilers]

Consequences's driving story is of a plot by shapeshifting Durlans to assassinate members of the United Planets council. Levitz portrays this well, and what could have been a run-of-the-mill conspiracy story becomes a mystery with a nice twist at the end. We have seen plenty of multi-species wars in the Legion titles before; it's actually refreshing that this turns out to be a more basic crime story than another lofty tale among others.

Long-time Legion fans will find much to enjoy in this one. Not only does Chameleon Boy specifically call out to his last trip to Durla before this book -- an adventure published almost twenty years ago in one of Levitz's earlier runs on Legion -- but Levitz's approach to the Legion hasn't much changed either. Cosmic Boy is tired of being Legion leader just as Lightning Lad and Element Boy were in Levitz's Great Darkness and The Curse from the 1980s; Consequences features an in medias res Legion leader election just like Levitz's old stories do. Levitz has a very specific formula for how the Legion works which has lasted him well for a while and he does not deviate from it here, if you like that sort of thing.

The story shines in Levitz's depiction of Chameleon Boy and also of Brainiac 5, who's brilliant and witty and sarcastic and caring all in one (there's never been a Brainiac 5 miniseries? Really?). Levitz also portrays an interestingly moody Mon-El, the thirty-first century's new Green Lantern. Mon-El's recent angst has been hard to place given that we didn't see he and Shadow Lass's divorce onscreen, but the scene where Shady talks about how Mon-El changed since his newest imprisonment in the Phantom Zone goes a long way toward explaining it. The story's inference that Mon-El was perhaps destined to be a Lantern is fascinating, and I enjoy this subplot even if it does seem slightly to pander to the Green Lantern title's current success.

I was struck, however, by how much Consequences doesn't cover. The Durlan B-plot from Choice becomes Levitz's A-plot here, but Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl's struggles with Darkseid's minions from Choice barely warrants a mention. We don't see Blok and the White Witch at all, nor much of controversial new Legionnaire Earth-Man or the Legion Academy. Choice's cliffhanger dealt with time-travelling professor Harmonia Li, but surprisingly Levitz clarifies Li's origins almost not at all.

I refer to the "A" and "B" plots also specifically; Levitz did not necessarily create this way of writing serialized fiction where a B-plot starts small and rises to the surface, but he has championed what's called the "Levitz paradigm". It ought not be much of a surprise then that the Legion title is functioning this way, but some may find it unsettling in this landscape of one-hero-one-story titles.

The real impediment to Consequences's easy reading, however, is that I believe DC has presented the issues collected here in the wrong order. The book starts with the Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #1, which refers to "the Durlan crisis" even though the characters don't actually find out about it until Legion #7, which is presented second. Adventure Comics #521 is next, followed by Adventure #522 and then Legion #8, but Legion #8 should be between the two Adventure issues because they find out about a specific Durlan impostor in #8 and then refer to it in #522; otherwise the reader will think "How did they know that?"

A well-versed reader like me can figure it out, but it did confuse me for a moment; and an uninitiated reader might very well set the book aside for this kind of thing. It's one thing to tie up a reader in a mystery, but a reader having to translate the correct order of chapters is another thing entirely. This is obviously a mistake by the DC collections team, one harder to catch because it involves two titles instead of just printing two issues of the Teen Titans series out of order.  I emailed DC collections editor Ian Sattler about it to maybe get it fixed in the paperback, but so far I haven't heard back.

These issues aside, the space soap opera continues, and having spent the last two weeks reading and reviewing Legion of Super-Heroes comics, all I can say is that I want more! It's a pleasure to have Paul Levitz back on Legion and it's obvious he cares about these characters, and I'm eager to see what he does with them in the DC New 52. For now, Legion: Consequences will have to tide you over until Legion: When Evil Calls comes around.

[Includes original covers, extras from Legion annual. Printed on glossy paper]

Green Lantern reviews and more, right here next week.
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2 comments:

  1. On an only slightly related topic, I wish they'd collect all the "logo covers" from Jan. 2011. I loves me some iconic imagery.

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  2. You're right, CE, the correct reading order would be LoSH #7, AC #521, LoSH #8, AC #522, LoSH #9-10 and Annual #1. DC's collected editions department can pretty sloppy when it comes to Legion collections, as evidenced by the DC Comics Presents book you reviewed on Monday.

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