After six years of being largely off of their publishing slate, DC Comics announced a new Legion o Super-Heroes series in June 2019, to be written by former Marvel superstar Brian Michael Bendis. Legion fans immediately split into three broad groups–those who loved Bendis and were excited about the news, those who hated Bendis and were frustrated by the news, and those who may or may not have loved or hated Bendis, but loved the Legion and were willing to put up with just about anything to get them in print again.
I came closest to the third group.
The series began with a vaguely-related two issue miniseries in September (which I tried but failed to buy) and then kicked off with their regular title in November. I rarely pick up individual comics anymore so I decided to wait for the collected paperback to read it. I pre-ordered it of of Amazon with some Christmas money, with an expected release date of this past June. But then there was a global health crisis, and everything was delayed. In Australia, it wasn’t due out until this December, but then I saw that in America the book was coming out earlier. So I bought it there and my wonderful mother sent it over with some early Christmas presents…
…and now I’ve finally read it!
And so did two of my daughters (well, one of them is still working on it), big Legion fans that they are.
Some moderate spoilers ahead.
The book is titled Legion of Super-Heroes–Millennium, and it’s Legion of Super-Heroes, version…well, it’s not easy to figure out. Basically, this is the fifth major continuity for the team, though there are certainly more “eras” than that. It all depends on how you count (see my best effort here).
This time around, DC has gone with introducing the whole team en masse, as current Superboy Jon Kent suddenly gets visited by, well, a whole legion of teenaged super-heroes from the future, and invited to come join them. All the characters have been significantly redesigned, leading to a lot of old fans spending lots of time trying to guess who everyone is. Most of them are at least somewhat recognizable visually, though for the most part their personalities have been overhauled.
At least, as far as one can know. Six issues in (the number of issues of the regular series) and there’s only been a little bit of characterization so far, with the majority of the heroes still being a bit of a blank slate. We’ve had bits of Ultra Boy, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, Brainiac 5, Lightning Lad…in short, most of the most popular members. But really, it’s only a bit. I quite like Saturn Girl, who seems kind and level-headed, while Ultra Boy looks and acts quite differently, even though his planet is depicted in a similar way to how it has been for a while.
But really, the whole experience so far is a bit like suddenly showing up at a crowded school halfway through the year, trying to find your way through the physical and social infrastructure without much of a guide. Some of the people seem scary, some seem weird, some are cool and attractive and you are hoping that they will talk to you at all. My daughter Johanna commented that she felt like she had some sense of who people were just because she’s read prior versions of the Legion for a long time, and thus came into things with some prior working knowledge. Even so, she spent a lot of time wondering what planets people were from, what their exact powers were, and who was in a relationship with who. She has no idea how a new reader would handle it all.
But in the absence of anything like depth, there is a sense of breezy fun over the whole thing. Bendis likes to fill his book with snappy dialogue (often lots of dialogue) so it is an amusing read. There is a serviceable plot going on and a decent set-up for future stories, and thankfully it hasn’t taken too long before the series has begun to fill in some backstory.
The world building includes various elements that are familiar to long-term readers, all re-mixed for a new generation of readers. So the Legion seems to be a larger movement than just the core team of heroes (like in the Threeboot), they seem to live on an artificially created “New Earth” after some sort of disaster (like the SW6 version), they works for the President of the United Planets who has some sort of creepy agenda (like in the reboot), who is the parent of Legionnaire Chameleon Boy (like in the preboot), and overall, the Legion is primarily concerned with stopping bad guys (like in most, though not all, prior versions).
Vaguely at the centre of all this is Superboy, aka Jon Kent, aka Superman’s son, who is summoned to the future at the start of the Legion’s regular title. He both provides a point of view in trying to understand the future, and a motivation for shady government types to get suspicious about the Legion’s actions.
Amusingly, Jon at one point goes and gets Damian Wayne (Robin) to come and join him. It doesn’t last long, but for a short time there’s a Super-Sons reunion, which is a fun if you are a fan of the Super-Sons, and potentially annoying you are not. My two daughters are also fans and enjoyed seeing these guys again. I like them too, but I was worried that the various “modern day” characters would threaten to overtake the book and put the Legion into the background. Thankfully, that didn’t happen–Damian is only around for a short time, and Jon doesn’t hog the spotlight once he gets settled.
(Rose / Thorn are also along for the ride, having been the feature characters of the only tangentially-connected two issue miniseries that starts off this collection. She appears in the Legion book now and again, working with the team in a way that is never really explained).
I’m not very strong at assessing art, but from what I can see the pencils and inks by (mostly) Ryan Sook and Wade Von Grawbadger are fairly cleanly rendered and nicely expressive. There are so many cast members that it’s often a bit confusing, but the characters themselves are pretty distinct. The colors by Jordie Bellaire are quite bright and help to give it all an upbeat feeling.
Overall, I quite enjoyed Legion of Super-Heroes–Millennium, and the kick-off to this latest interpretation of the concept, and I’m looking forward to more–even if it’s not “my” Legion. My Legion ended years ago…several different times, actually. That’s right, there are several old versions of the team that I consider to be “Mine”.
Maybe there can be another?