Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Platypus Reviews: A Legion Lost Retrospective

Today saw the last issue of Legion Lost, another New 52 launch title, hit comic book shops and the cancellation leaves me with conflicted feelings towards the title. On one hand, it was nice to have a second Legion of Super-Heroes title for the first time in twelve years, but the title was scarcely above average at best and mediocre most months. Not that there was anything with the concept: a team of legionnaires chase an anti-human terrorist who wants to change the past by mutating the humans of our era, but everything goes to hell when their arrival ends with two legionnaires dead and their advance technology inert. A concept that shares similarities with James Cameron’s the Terminator and the deaths of the two legionnaires ramped up the stakes. So where did the title go wrong?

I am afraid that the title was doomed from the beginning and I am, quite frankly, surprised that Legion Lost was not a victim of the first and second New 52 cullings. The Legion of Super-Heroes, similar the New Teen Titans, was a niche title since the seventies after the apex of the team’s popular Adventure Comics run in the sixties. Legion fans have an eye for minutia for continuity and obscure characters who made a single appearance like Legion rejects and the like. If you never had picked up a Legion title before the New 52, chances are that you would find the first issue confusing and chaotic. If you had no idea of who Dawnstar, Wildfire, Timber Wolf, or especially Chameleon Girl and Gates were you had no reason to even care that a time travel accident left them stranded in the 21st century. Writer Fabian Nicieza did not give much of an introduction to these characters nor did he establish their personalities to make an uninitiated audience care.

Things did get better over the next five issues when things calmed down enough to show tensions between the time-lost legionnaires. Especially team leader Tyroc who had to deal with the always hotheaded and belligerent Wildfire or Timber Wolf who (appropriates) broke off from the crew to hunt for their target. Likewise with Dawnstar who seemed emotionally distant from her teammates, which led to a rift between her and longtime love interest, Wildfire that I always found forced because Geoff Johns pulled on this plot thread in Legion of Three Worlds. Combine that with the fact that they were persona non grata in the 21st century, survival became a concern, especially when unidentified metahumans tended to attract unwanted attention from the US government and the secretive team of metahuman operatives Stormwatch.  However, two events sent the title sliding into mediocrity: the departure of Fabian Nicieza and “the Culling” crossover with the Teen Titans. Not that to knock on Tom DeFalco’s skills as a writer but “the Culling” was a needless diversion from the main storyline and some of the names he used (like “Psy-Kill” and the “Meta-American”) sounded like a villain from an early 90s Image comic penned by Rob Liefeld. So the conclusion to the first arc ended on a whimper rather than with any meaningful resolution, so the title dithered on to its final issue.

Not that there were not any interesting plot developments. I found the Echo division of the Science Police (the 31st century version of the FBI, or the Mounties if you are Canadian like me), who monitored the timeline and sent denizens of the future to past eras as part of a Witness Relocation Program intriguing. Even the revelation that Chameleon Girl was an SP spy was a clever touch considering that the character infiltrated the Legion back in the eighties during Levitz’s acclaimed run on the title. Even, her superior, Captain Nathaniel Adym (any relation?) had a sinister presence as her superior who ordered her to make sure the stranded legionnaires fulfilled their destiny. And then a space barbarian and his talking dragon show up to threaten Earth for no reason other than he just can.

Seriously, an evil, celestial version of He-Man and Battlecat are the final villains the stranded legionnaires face in their own title. To quote a certain contributor to That Guy With the Glasses, “I could not make this shit up if I tried.”

To sum up the plot that the last issues in as few words at possible: the ersatz He-Man sets up a force field and builds a machine. Captain Atom—I mean, Adym decides to blow up ersatz He-Man with a singularity bomb that will destroy half of North America to “save quintillions.” The Ravagers, Superboy, and even Harvest from “the Culling” join the fray. Then Gates teleports ersatz He-Man, his space dragon, and the bomb into the nearest black hole to eliminate the threat; all the legionnaires are alive at the end and there was much rejoicing!

Except when telepathic goldfish, Tellus, reveals that ersatz He-Man’s intended “to communicate” to an unrevealed presence with his machine and not to destroy the Earth as they first thought. So the stranded legionnaires will be waiting for whoever was at the end of ersatz He-Man’s call and the final issue ends with, “Never the end!”

I know I am glossing over more that a few details, but does it really matter at this point? I cannot help but feel that these sixteen issues were a waste of my time because despite the compelling story elements Nicieza and DeFalco offered me as a reader, the bad far outweighed the good and DC could not bother to give us long-suffering readers any resolution other than the promise that these Legionnaires may make an appearance in a future issue of Teen Titans or The Ravagers? I would rather have had DeFalco take them back to the 31st century where they would receive the attention they deserve than have them sit around and wait for Harvest or whoever to show up. In the end it feels like a waste. A waste of my money, a waste of my time, and a waste of my patience with DC after the New 52 nearly burned up the last of my good will.

But at least The Flash has been a compelling read and a visual treat, but please do not tell any Wally West fans that I said that.

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