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John Kahane

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Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 8 #4

And once more, here's another read of an issue from the current series of Legion of Super-Heroes. This time out, we start in on the origin of this new Legion...

Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 8 #4
April, 2020
Script: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencillers: Ryan Sook and Mikel Janín
Inkers: Wade Von Grawbadger and Mikel Janín
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Colourist: Jordie Bellaire
Cover: Travis Moore (pencils) and Alex Sinclair (inks)
Variant Cover: Alex Garner
Associate Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Brian Cunningham

Mission Monitor Board:
Triplicate Girl, Cosmic Boy, Superboy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Bouncing Boy, Brainiac 5, Ayla Ranzz/Lightning Lass (flashback only)

Supporting Characters:
United Planets President R.J. Brande; Saturn Girl's family on Titan; Lightning Lad's family on Winath; Cosmic Boy's father on Braal

The Horraz; The Science Police

The issue begins with another one-page close-up, that sort of recaps the events of what's come before. In this one, Triplicate Girl, aka Luornu Durgo, tells us that she is a native of the planet Cargg, that she has the ability to split into three distinct selves, and that she gains the accumulated knowledge, memories and experiences of her three selves when she merges again. She also rambles on somewhat excitedly about how glad she is that Superboy (Jon Kent) has joined the Legion.

Meanwhile, Superboy is being escorted by Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad to a location on New Earth and the Legion's headquarters for his orientation lecture. He encounters Computo, an AI mixture of technology and human biology, for the first time, and is hooked up through collected mems via virtual reality to learn the origin of the Legion. The origin begins on Titan, one of the moons of Saturn, and the home of Saturn Girl.

The young Imra Arden is meditating, and her parents chastise her for not being able to keep her thoughts quiet and for disturbing her family's collective mind. Imra's parents then inform her that she has been made an offer to join the United Planets Youth Delegation for Peace. Imra is excited, and admits to having secretly applied to the organization without telling her parents. She tells them that she desires to leave the family collective, though she'll return for holidays, but her parents inform Imra that she won't return at all, not even for vacations.

The imagery and flashbacks of the past shifts to the planet Winath, home of Garth Ranzz (Lightning Lad) and Ayla Ranzz (Lightning Lass). The young Ayla and Garth Ranzz are standing between a group of locals being forced to move against their will and a contingent of the U.P. Science Police. The two siblings bring their lightning powers into play. Ayla rants about how the Science Police need to leave their planet. The SP officers engage in some seriously Keystone Cop-like dialogue, before deciding not to tangle with the two kids and their lightning powers. The Science Police retreat. The scene shifts to the Ranzz family home, where we see Garth and Ayla with their four siblings and two mothers. The two mothers are watching a news video of Ayla screaming at the Science Police "down on the transports". The moms say that this is no way to talk to the Science Police. Garth sits there like a dumb brother while Ayla does all the talking for both of them. She rants that people are being forced to move against their will, families are being torn apart, and that someone else is making a profit off of it. They are interrupted by the arrival of Science Command officers, conferring an offer from the U.P. President for Garth and Ayla to join the fledgling United Planets Youth Delegation. Ayla screams and rants that she would rather die and she is not going to join such a corrupt organization. Garth asks if they have to take both him and Ayla or can just one of them accept. The Science Command officers engage in some strange, inane conversation once more.

The scene shifts once more, this time to the planet Braal, home of Cosmic Boy. Rokk Krinn is in some sort of colisseum, where he uses his magnetic powers to defeat three metal monsters, and then people are chanting his name and he is named the Braal Champion. Rokk's Prime Father tells him that they are going to the next level. He tells Rokk that he's been invited to join the Young United Planets. Rokk asks if he means government, but his father says it's bigger than that. It's a step to becoming a leader on Braal, and that's a step towards becoming a leader of the United Planets. Rokk is not overjoyed at the news. His father, overjoyed on behalf of his son, insists that he accept the offer.

Computo moves the story forward, and the scene shifts to the first meeting between Rokk, Imra, and Garth aboard a ship (belonging to the U.P. President). The three youngsters introduce themselves to each other and learn a bit about each other, engaging in some banter. Then the President of the United Planets, R.J. Brande, enters the room with a small entourage. After introducing herself, she tells the teenagers that while the plan was for a Young United Planets group, she feels a need for a change, as she wants more. Before she can tell them what she wants [a Legion, obviously], they are interupted by a sudden attack of the Horraz. The three teenagers find themselves springing into action for the first time.

However, the scene is cut short as Computo takes Superboy out of the mem virtual reality and back into the present day. Computo says that it is ending the orientation presentation for now, as Superboy is needed as there has been a "development." Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Bouncing Boy and Triplicate Girl are in the room with Superboy. Cosmic Boy says that he told Computo to bring Superboy back to the present. Lightning Lad says that Superboy should go back and finish the orientation program, but Cosmic Boy argues that there is a Justice League-level emergency, exactly the type of situation that calls for and why they need Superboy. A hologram of Brainiac 5 appears, and tells them that the trident is nowhere to be found in Metropolis. When Superboy exclaims, "Aquaman’s trident is missing?", Brainiac 5 says that someone stole the trident and that it is time for a full-scale Legion investigation.

Suddenly, the Science Police burst into the room and say that the President has ordered the Legion to be locked down until further notice, and that the Legionnaires cannot leave their confined areas. Superboy then says that he thought the Legion of Super-Heroes was the President's idea. Cosmic Boy replies that maybe they should have let Superboy finish the orientation. The story continues in the next issue.

And so we finally come to it... The origin story of the current version of the Legion of Super-Heroes begins this issue! Well, sort of. This is an issue that I was really looking forward to and that I wanted to like, but while it's my favourite issue so far in the new series' young run, it's not really all that good. The often teased orientation for Superboy that's been a running gag for the series' run so far finally sees I said, sort of. One thing that I really liked about this issue was the main cover, featuring the three founding Legionnaires with not a sign of Superboy to be found. I really haven't seen the need to have Superboy on the covers and featured so prominently as he has been for the first three issues, and so this cover came with a sigh of appreciation on my first seeing it.

The issue gets off to a good start, with a lead page featuring an ebullient, bubbly Triplicate Girl, and in some ways, set the tone for the issue - relatively light, with a bit of humour (too much for my taste, to be honest, but still this is Bendis after all), and some interesting stuff revealed in part. One of the strengths of this issue, aside from the art which I'll come back to, is the limited number of Legionnaires in the story. As an origin tale for the organization, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy are central to the story, and Superboy's presence is the "glue" that brings it together (the damn orientation presentation!). While Triplicate Girl, Bouncing Boy and Brainiac 5 only appear briefly, they play a minor role and so the focus is squarely on the Legionnaires Three.

Because of the limited number of Legionnaires in the issue, there are some interesting things that we learn about various Legionnaires in this issue, and not just the founding Legionnaires Three. I'll take this in order of appearance in the book. The opening page gives us some insight into Luornu Durgo aka Triplicate Girl. We learn about her powers, but also the fact that she gains the knowledge, memories and experiences of her three selves when she merges into one. She has come across in the comic so far as playful and bubbly, and that feeling persists here as well. The wide smile that she has on her face most of the time fits that very well. Her "I/We" talking gives us a lot of insight into how she thinks of herselves/themselves. In a nod to previous Legion continuity (specifically the Adventure Comics Vol 1 days), Blue Luornu says that one of them will be marrying [Superboy/Jon Kent] one day, and while Purple Luornu rebutts that sternly, it's a lovely moment. What's interesting so far about this take on Triplicate Girl is that since the series started we haven't seen her in merged form. Have to wonder if that says something about the individualities of the character, and whether she joined the Legion to get away from the Carggite mentality of merging much of the time, though there's no indication of that.

Computo takes an interesting form in this incarnation of the Legion, having the image and form of Danielle Foccart. This is obviously an homage by Bendis and Sook to Invisible Kid II's sister from earlier runs of the Legion (her first appearance being in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 Annual #1), but... It was a strange science fictional trope to use, especially since its "category nine humanoid biology" was at odds in the way it looks compiled by morphing bits and blocks. Aside from that, I'm not sure whether Computo is an actual Legionnaire or not, so have not included her/it in the Mission roster. Hopefully this will be answered in a later tale.

And then there's the Legion founders, the Legionnaires Three. I'll take them in order. Imra Ardeen (Saturn Girl) comes across as a highly relateable teenage girl, frustrated by her parents and eager to leave home for the first time. There is also the fact that she seems to want some separation from the telepathic collective of Titan, and is quite rebellious in this regard. This does seem a bit at odds with her playfulness and sense of self during the first three issues, but those issues have highlighted that she's not perfect, and that she's a bit more nosy and inclined to use her telepathic abilities for things that...she didn't in previous incarnations. One can see that she's happy to receive this offer, though she is concerned by the fact that her family doesn't understand her. Garth Ranzz (Lightning Lad) appears as a reluctant boy without a real voice of his own, but deep down Garth is obviously brave. Frankly, Ayla Ranzz was the best character in this entire issue, but she's a flashback to the past, and she stormed off in a teenage huff and wasn't seen again. Garth came across, to be honest, as a bit simple here and was completely overwhelmed by Ayla's personality. Finally Rokk Krinn (Cosmic Boy) seems to be like a 31st Century equivalent of a high school sports star of some sort. He's one of the 1% of Braalians born on Braal who can control magnetism, and everyone loves him because he uses this power to excel at some competition/sport involving trashing metal monsters. However, his father has a weird, creepy coach/puppet master vibe, and seems more interested in making sure that Rokk's fame grows. Rokk doesn't come across here as the leader type at all, though he has an exuberance that I rather like. Also, unlike previous incarnations of the Legion, Rokk is not the amateur expert on Earth history; that seems to be Star Boy's province this time out (as seen in the earlier issues).

Then there are the changes from earlier continuity. Garth and Ayla Ranzz are shown here with two mothers and four siblings. This is a definite change from earlier continuities. In the past, they have had one mother and one father. Here, one of the mothers is a normal humanoid, but the other seems to be a pink energy being of some sort. Or perhaps a hologram? In older continuities, the two Ranzz siblings have had one older sibling, Mekt, who became the villainous Lightning Lord. It should also be noted here that in the Interlac text provided on the page, all Winathians are either fraternal or identical twins. Ayla says that her moms have six other kids to torture. However, the scene only shows six total children, including Ayla. That means there are three sets of twins, including her and Garth, single child. Mekt, perhaps? We also learn here that only 1% of Braal's population has magnetic powers. This is a serious departure from previous continuity, in which all Braalians had magnetic powers to some degree or other. This raises some interesting questions.

To be honest, the first meeting between Garth, Rokk and Imra was a boring, somewhat dry scene that offered nothing new and no real character development. That scene wasn't helped out any by their meeting with President R.J. Brande, and her wanting to recruit these "frustrated and empowered" youths to provide "some perspective" different from her own. Brande says she is looking for more than a United Planets Youth Delegation for Peace. She wants to create something new for the frustrated and empowered youth. Perhaps she's already thinking of something like the Legion. However, given what we learn over the next couple of issues, perhaps she is hoping to put together a group of powerful kids she can control while having them exist under this progressive idea. Hmm... I don't trust this Brande. And I have to wonder whether the fact that her head of security is perhaps a naive kid named Blok... who joins the Legion, and might be an unwitting dupe. The last bit, with the Legion being locked down by order of Brande speaks a lot here.

My real problems wit this issue are two-fold. First, is the fact that Bendis keeps focusing in on four or so Legionnaires with each issue - and it seems to be the same Legionnaires, too. We haven't been introduced to most of the Legionnaires yet, and to be honest that makes having 30-plus heroes a complete waste of time and space. Granted, this is the origin story so there needs to be a focus on the three founders. The second issue I have is with the origin story of the Legion itself. Back in the day of the Classic Legion, the Legion of Super-Heroes origin story was told many years after the team of heroes first appeared. We got a short version mentioned in pass‌ing of how Rokk Krinn, Imra Ardeen and Garth Ranzz save the life of billionaire R.J. Brande from an assassination attempt on Earth, to which they had travelled each for their own reasons. But we didn't get the full origin story until many years later - and it wasn't necessary. We knew the basics, and that was really all we needed to know. The Legion was a team of super-heroes, albeit teenagers at the time, and we learned about them through the stories that were told, the personalities put on display, and the fact that they weren't perfect people. With Bendis's Legion, to the contrary, the first part of the origin story was unnecessary, to be honest, as we still haven't met over half the team to this point! As mentioned above, the stories through the first four issues now have been pretty much about four characters. Better that the origin story had been mentioned in passing at this point, and that the reader be introduced to all these other Legionnaires and the team as a whole. But of course that is impossible with Bendis's Legion, because the series is so tied and rooted to the 21st Century comics and series, and notably to Superboy (Jon Kent).

The artwork in this issue is once again stunning. There are only two pages of action in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 8 #4, but the artists manage to make all of the scenes as visually exciting as possible. This is achieved because of two things. The first is the creative panel layouts that make each scene look interesting. The second is the incredible facial expressions that Sook, Janín and Von Grawbadger give the characters. I'm not familiar with other Janín work, but the flashback scenes are drawn and detailed very nicely and work well. Overall, slick and smooth artwork.

When it comes down to it, this was a good story. There was a great story to tell here, but I don't think that Bendis is capable of achieving such lofty heights of storytelling here. I enjoyed the tale, and look forward to seeing where the second part of it goes, but am not sure about things. Other than the fact that this issue shows that the series has a lot of growing up to do before it becomes a monthly title that I eagerly await the way I used to do in the Legion's heyday.

Final Notes:
Once more, this fourth issue of the current series does not have a title for the story, though it really should have given its importance...

There are five pages of Interlac this issue. On page 1, the Interlac on the upper left side reads, "Headlines"...

On page 2, the Interlac reads, "UNITED WISDOM PLAZA. A place built for communication, information, education."...

On page 7, the Interlac reads, "Winathian's overbeing is called Validus, the lord of lightning. Single births are considered the children of Validus."...

On pages 14 and 15, the Interlac bits read, "Rokk!"...

On page 15, the Interlac text reads...well, I don't know... I can't make it out clearly because of the blue-on-blue format here. Annoying...

On page 18, the Interlac reads, "The President’s security team is led by a dryad. Commander Blok of the 47th. He is six years old."...

Computo takes an interesting form in this incarnation of the Legion, having the image and form of Danielle Foccart. This is obviously an homage by Bendis and Sook to Invisible Kid II's sister from earlier runs of the Legion (her first appearance being in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 Annual #1), but...

It is established in this story that Garth and Ayla Ranzz were born with their lightning powers, rather than having gained them when they crashlanded on Korbal in previous continuities. This may be due to the fact that one of their mothers here seems to be electrical in nature...

It is also established that only 1% of the Braal population has magnetic powers, unlike the previous continuities where all Braalians had them. It's not clear here what Rokk Krinn/Cosmic Boy is the champion of here, though perhaps some of the Interlac that I couldn't decipher may have shed some light on that...

The note about single births on Winath being considered the Children of Validus is one that is an homage to the villain Validus, who first appeared in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #352, joining the Fatal Five at that time. It was later revealed that Validus was actually Garridan Ranzz, mutated by Darkseid as Saturn Girl's "reward" for helping to defeat him during the Great Darkness Saga. The implication here is that Validus already exists in the current timeline, even before the new Legion of Super-Heroes has been founded. One has to wonder, in the context of the fact that Garth and Ayla Ranzz were born with their lightning powers in this version of the series whether the unknown seventh child, the single birth, is Mekt Ranzz, who in previous continuities went on to become Lightning Lord.

Next Issue: From Beyond the Unknown Giant Vol 1 #1
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion read, lll, long live the legion!, lsh, review

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