Review: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 2: The Trial of the Legion trade paperback (DC Comics)

With Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 2: The Trial of the Legion, it feels Brian Michael Bendis finds his groove on the title, just as “Future State” hits and the series faces an uncertain continuance. My overall sense of the title is still cacophony, the chatteringness that is both Bendis' greatest strength and weakness. But here, as the team splits off into smaller sub-teams, that a million things are happening at once seems more Legion-esque, in line with this title past. Not to mention Bendis presents some engaging ties to his books in present continuity.

I’ll be curious to hear what some more ardent Legion fans think of the changes Bendis makes in this iteration. On one hand he is hinting at doing “that Legion thing” that all writers on new Legion iterations hint that they’re going to do, which for various reasons I think is a bad idea. On the other hand, in a couple of places I’m pretty sure Bendis is coupling up Legionnaires who are not historically coupled, which while not the be-all and end-all is at least some deviation from doing very exactly what we’ve seen before.

Overall if I was unsure about this book before, I felt much more confident about it at the end of Trial. Which makes it all the more problematic that, at least as far as the most recent DC Comics solicitations, Legion isn’t back on the schedule yet. We know DC has been going slow with their “Infinite Frontier” rollout and neither have we heard Legion is cancelled yet, so maybe no news is good news. It’d be a shame if it ended just as Legion was getting good again.

[Review contains spoilers]

It’s about the time Superman baddie Rogol Zaar is attacking one group of Legionnaires on New Krypton while another group is ambushed by Mordru on Daxam, plus Ultra Boy is named the new leader of Rimbor and Brainiac 5 investigates Gold Lantern’s powers on Earth, that this began to feel like Legion to me. Various plots going various different directions, some related and some not, some quickly resolved and some to be handled … who knows when? That’s the mad, mad, mad Legion I know and love. Not the muddle of everyone in the same room shouting that we had in Bendis' Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 1: Millennium, but rather instead a muddle of storylines, making the Legion’s futuristic setting feel lived-in and full.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

There’s a lot of great character work here, big and small. This collection includes Bendis' two vaunted “jam” issues with a different artist per page, so we get quick hit looks at characters like Colossal Boy, Monster Boy, Timber Wolf, and Invisible Kid. Mon-El plays a large role, seemingly more dramatic and argumentative than his traditional “Valor” iteration (a portrayal, I imagine, that ardent Mon-El fans might not like); plus we come to find he’s no longer a time-lost Daxamite, but rather one of Superboy Jon Kent’s descendants. At the same time, some of Mon-El’s later reasoning for his attitude is sensible, not to mention that there’s a lot to unpack in “grandpa” Zod cooing over his grandchildren and why this iteration of Mon-El has a brood of children anyway.

Gold Lantern was probably among the most intriguing new Legionnaires at the outset, given that the Legion has famously not had a Green Lantern equivalent. We’re treated to a trip to Oa, and then to the revelation that much of what the Lantern’s been told about his powers may not be true — among the many reasons that I do hope this series gets another “season.” Also Ayla “Lightning Lass” Ranzz is mostly in the background, but gets an excellent scene with Brainiac 5 discussing her place as a raconteur on a team of diplomats.

On the romance front, Bendis has Phantom Girl (usually with Ultra Boy) in an on-again-off-again relationship with Mon-El (he’s usually with Shadow Lass, who’s with Cosmic Boy). Ultra Boy gets an overture from Dawnstar, who’s usually with Wildfire, who’s off on his own this time. I applaud mixing things up, though I’m curious how Bendis came up with these pairings, why he decided this one was better with this one and so on. (Just realized, is Shrinking Violet around? What’s a Legion without Vi?)



I discussed in my review of Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 1: Millennium how constant antagonist Mordru seemed less than fearsome that time around, so I was glad he was more of a threat this time — and teamed with Rogol Zaar, no less! Zaar was the major villain of Bendis' Superman: The Unity Saga stories, unceremoniously defeated in the end, and a return in the future was definitely the “full circle” he needed. At the same time, there’s much talk here about a coming “Great Darkness,” which I hope we don’t see and I’m sorry was even brought up — we know that’s Paul Levitz’s famous Legion epic, we know it involves Darkseid, and there’s hardly much suspense in doing Great Darkness Saga again (Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning tried, once upon a time, to no great effect). I’d much rather see Bendis do something new than rehash the old (though the “Future State” tie-in would be inspired to start “Five years later …”)

So again, Brian Michael Bendis' Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 2: The Trial of the Legion swims this time around. Interesting characters, lots of plot potential, plenty of stories left to tell. No sooner did we get Young Justice back than we lost it again; hopefully the same won’t be true for Legion.

[Includes original and variant covers, concept art, Interlac translation guide]


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