Week 3 of The New 52 is here, and it brings us a dozen more brand-new DC series! 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’ve got the second of the two 31st century comics: Legion of Super-Heroes #1! Legion of Super-Heroes is generally considered one of the most impermeable titles in comics, and the critically-panned Legion Lost #1 by all accounts seriously missed the mark with new readers. Can the core Legion of Super-Heroes title can still turn things around for the franchise in The New 52?
This review will be as spoiler-free as possible.
[NOTE: I’ll be using the “short-form” review that omits individual sections for “The Right” and “The Wrong” for this and several other of The New 52 first issues where my feelings are particularly strong.]
NO! NO! NO!!!!! This comic book is most-likely the single best chance in decades for DC to get new readers to try out the Legion, but instead it’s most likely succeeded in permanently alienating more potential new readers than any issue of Legion of Super-Heroes in decades.
Let me dispel the notion that only “newbies” have no clue what happened in this comic book: I’ve read hundreds of Legion of Super-Heroes comics since the 90’s. I haven’t kept up with the book for less than one year out of the last fifteen but even I am totally bewildered and confused about who’s who and what’s going on in this first issue. Apparently during the last year a bunch of Legionnaires died and/or were lost, a whole flock of new recruits showed up, and some war or something or other to do with “The Dominators'” homeworld occurred and now the Legion is really worried about it. Lost? So are 90% of the other people reading this book.
A proper first issue of a relaunch would have been character-focused and introduced readers to the Legion through the eyes of an outsider or new recruit or even just a narrative by a member of the team. Well, there’ll be none of that here. If you did not read every Legion of Super-Heroes issue of the main book and any offshoots over the last several months, there will be no mercy here and you are completely and irrevocably screwed. Don’t know who Chemical Kid, Dragonwing, Glorith, and Comet Queen are or how their powers work? Tough. Clueless about who the Dominators are exactly or why we care about them? You’re not alone. Wondering who those statues being erected are of or what happened to them? Buy some back issues. This book is so arcane that I searched “Oaa” on Google after reading it to see who the recently-deceased character was, and all I could find were a plethora of others posting on forums and asking the same question.
Paul Levitz clearly had his next story arc planned out when the decision was made to launch The New 52, and he obviously was not going to modify his story in any way to make it welcoming or comprehensible to any potential new readers. Sales for LoSH haven’t exactly been setting the world on fire over the course of the last year, and this could’ve been a monumental jumping-on point for new readers. Instead, Paul Levitz has succeeded here in doing just about everything–everything–wrong to gain new readers. Here’s a clue, DC: maybe if you want to attract a fresh new reader base, the guy who started writing the Legion four decades ago and has forgotten what it’s like to be a new Legion reader is probably not the right choice.
Overall: This is a disaster. Legion of Super-Heroes and Legion Lost are almost certainly going to bleed more readers by issue 3 than 90% of the rest of The New 52 after these catastrophic first issues. Legion of Super-Heroes #1 fails to be enriching on any level for long-time fans of the Legion, and is utterly inaccessible and incomprehensible for new readers. A complete and total failure.