DC Comics’ The New 52 rolls on in its second week! I’ll be reviewing all 52 #1 issues released this month, and you can find all of the reviews on the Comic Book Reviews index page. This week we get 13 more new series, and one of them is a book I was super-hyped for the moment I heard it announced: Legion Lost! It’s been a few years since we had a second Legion of Super-Heroes ongoing title. With proven writer Fabian Nicieza at the helm and a group of primarily underused Legionnaires on a mission in the present day, I was prepared to be blown away by the quality of this first issue! Did it turn out that way, though…?
This review will contain spoilers.
The Legion of Super-Heroes is a huge freaking team. At any one time the membership can be upwards of three dozen members.
Fabian Nicieza picked what is on paper one of the most diverse and interesting Legion rosters ever for this book. None of the founding Legionnaires (Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, and Cosmic Boy) are on the roster, nor is the (deserving) ubiquitous fan-favorite, Brainiac 5. Instead we have three well-known members in Timberwolf, Dawnstar, and Wildfire; as well as four popular underutilized Legionnaires in Tyroc, Gates, Tellus, and Chameleon Girl. I love that there are three non-humanoids on this roster, and Gates is tied with Brainiac 5 as my favorite Legionnaire ever. The richness of the characters that make up this team is absolutely the book’s greatest strength.
While one of the main tenets of The New 52 was to bring in new readers with accessible comics, Fabian Nicieza obviously didn’t get that memo. If you’re looking for the most impermeable book of the first 27 issues of The New 52, here it is. This book does not explain anything–anything–that a new reader would want to know. And of all the teams to not give any context or exposition for, the Legion of Super-Heroes is the worst possible one.
Virtually every issue of Legion of Super-Heroes includes an exposition box with a character’s name, powers, and planet in the main series and has for years. Well, dear new readers, you’ll get none of that here. Instead you’ll get a group of characters thrown at you in what seems like mid-story, as they use powers and call each other by their personal names with no preface or explanation whatsoever. I’m been a longtime reader and fan of various iterations of the Legion for well over a decade, and even I found myself jarred and confused throughout this issue. I can only imagine how baffled new readers were by this story.
I had to stop and reread pages several times just to understand who characters were talking to, what was happening in various panels, and what the passage of time was. In one panel several members of the team leave to gather parts, and two panels later they’re “back” although there’s no indication that any time has passed. I had no idea who the villain was, what his powers were, what he supposedly did that made the Legion chase him to the present, or how he traveled through time to begin with. Tyroc and Tellus are the Legionnaires on the roster I’m least familiar with as far as who they are and what they can do, as well as their relationships with their teammates. And I’m still unfamiliar with those things, because they’re not defined clearly in this book at all.
And did I mention that the Legion is composed of different aliens from all different planets that are members of the United Federation of Planets from the 31st century? Because this book doesn’t. That’s right–a “reader-friendly, accessible” first issue of a Legion of Super-Heroes comic book doesn’t clearly explain the core concept of the Legion. This is just craziness.
You’d think that would be the worst of it.
Two beloved, underused Legionnaires apparently die in the “shocking twist” climax of this issue. I put “shocking twist” in quotes because Fabian has pretty overtly stated in interviews leading up to the book that said characters were doomed. I knew about this event and was hoping it would at least be dramatic and worthwhile, but instead the deaths occur in a throw-away scene where the art and scripting is so bad that it’s not even clear what’s going on. In fact, the Legionnaires themselves are as baffled as the reader is afterwards. Don’t think for a second that this scene was cleverly written or compelling, though–it was actually just so poorly done that not even the characters know what happened. If these deaths stick they will be unarguably the worst deaths of longtime members of the Legion ever. And even if the deaths aren’t real, there was no point to them happening in the first place, as they occurred suddenly and before new readers even knew who the characters were or why they should care about them. And at the end of the day, two of the most interesting members of the Legion are either dead or off on the sidelines for now, so the real losers are the readers.
Overall: I went into The New 52 with Legion Lost as one of my 5 most-anticipated books. I came out of issue 1 angry, hurt, and frustrated by the impermeability of the content, the thoughtless character deaths, and the ill-conceived pacing. To me, that makes this first issue an unquestionable dismal failure. I always expected Green Arrow #1 to be terrible and thus I wasn’t surprised, but this book is so disappointing that I have to say it’s the worst of The New 52 to me thus far. I’ll be buying the next few issues of this solely because of my long-time loyalty to the Legion and to see if Fabian can turn this book around. But I absolutely, positively cannot recommend this book to anyone who is not a hardcore preexisting fan of the Legion of Super-Heroes. And even if you are a diehard fan, be prepared for this book to be a major disappointment.