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John Kahane

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Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 8 #8

Time for another read from the current Legion of Super-Heroes series, this time out the start of the trial of the Legion. Enjoy! :)

Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 8 #8
October, 2020
"The Trial of the Legion of Super-Heroes - Part 1"
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: See the Credits in the Commentary, below
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Colourist: Jordie Bellaire
Cover: Ryan Sook
Variant Cover: Dustin Nguyen
Associate Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Brian Cunningham

Mission Monitor Board:
Superboy, Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Chameleon Boy, Ultra Boy, Mon-El, Element Lad, Dream Girl, Princess Projectra, Phantom Girl, Shadow Lass, Gold Lantern, Karate Kid, Shrinking Violet, Star Boy, Bouncing Boy, Blok, Brainiac 5, Timber Wolf, Wildfire, Matter-Eater Lad, White Witch, Monster Boy, Colossal Boy, Dawnstar, Cosmic Boy, Triplicate Girl, Sun Boy, Lightning Lass, Ferro Lad

Guest Star:
United Planets President R.J. Brande

Supporting Characters:
U.P.-Legion Liaison Rose Forrest

General Crav Nah and elite guard (Parliament of Rimbor)

The story continues from the previous issue, sort of. The first page begins with a close-up on Superboy, who says that he knows his being in the 31st Century and part of the Legion of Super-Heroes is a controversial matter. The idea was that he shares his knowledge of the Age of Heroes from which he comes and in return gets to see and experience a much brighter, hopeful future. That isn't the way things worked out however, and Superboy goes on to summarize the events of the business with Aquaman's Trident and last issue's events in which General Crav Nah of Rimbor arrested the Legion en masse for their actions against the Rimborians.

United Planets President R.J. Brande says she doesn't care about this, and wants to see the orientation file on (Jan) Arrah. Chameleon Boy asks her what she's looking for. She replies she wants to see the Legion audition files for herself.

In the audition file on Jan Arrah, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, and Lightning Lad learn that Jan Arrah is the lone survivor of Trom. The Horraz had been trying to use his people's abilities to change elemental properties for their benefit, but the Trom natives resisted. The Horraz destroyed the planet and the people of Trom, saying that if they couldn't use their powers for profit, no one could. Demonstrating his powers on a desk, Jan explains that he can't reassemble the desk as it was. The three Legionnaires give him the name Element Lad.

The next audition file is on Nura Nal of Naltor. She is thrilled to meet Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy, having dreamed about them for years, and is glad that this precognitive thread has come to a conclusion. She explains that almost everyone on Naltor is a pre-cog, one of the reasons she couldn't wait to leave Naltor. She tells them that she's seen their near future and that it is "glorious chaos." She shows them an astral projection of their dream future, and says that she can't show them everything that's coming, but promises to reveal to them when she sees something "upsetting." The three Legionnaires decide to call her Dream Girl. Nura reacts by saying, "Girl? Sure."

The next audition file is on Princess Wilimena Morgana Daergina Annaxandra Projectra Velorya Vauxhall of Orando. Cosmic Boy tells her that they want to make her a unique offer, bu that she already knows about the Legion of Super-Heroes and wants to fund the team. She says that she has a doctorate in Ancient Earth Studies, as well as those of Mars and Thanagar, and that they will be a "Justice League for all times." However, Saturn Girl and the others tell her that the Legion doesn't need her money or her haughty attitude. Saturn Girl says that she knows her power is that of illusion, and that she can see through the illusions that the Princess is creating at that moment. The lavishly decorated, massive chamber reverts to a very simple, relatively bare room. The Princess tells them that perhaps this new environment where she is treated as an equal might not be just the thing she needs.

On Daxam, the home of the United Planets, President Brande asks for the audition files for Brainiac 5 and Bouncing Boy, changing her mind in quick succession. She asks Chameleon Boy, her son, where the idea of the Legion went wrong. Chameleon Boy tells her that it didn't, that the galaxy they've sworn to protect is "cracked". She demands to know what happened, telling him that he comes when she calls, and then he tells her his perspective on what happened after General Crav Nah showed up to arrest the Legion.

In the flashback to the events of earlier, the scene at Legion Headquarters in New Metropolis becomes one of chaos. Ultra Boy, who definitely has issues with his Father-One, gives the order to attack, and the Legionnaire take the fight to General Crav and his five associates, the Parliament of Rimbor (Crav's personal elite guard). Lightning Lass launches several devastating attacks on the General and his associates, seemingly taking him down but Lightning Lad and Wildfire watch in horror as he reflects her massive attack back at her, bringing her down. In narrative, the President comments on how impressed she is with how powerful Wildfire is, even on a team with two Kryptonians and a Dryadian. Wildfire launches his attack on General Crav, during which all the other Legionnaires are simply blown back. However, Crav manages to suck the Legionnaire into an energy containment pod, from which Dawnstar struggles to attempt to free him. Mon-El moves in to the attack, but this time General Crav is prepared for him, and tosses the Legionnaire aside, sending him hurtling away. He is caught by Superboy. Elsewhere, Blok is fighting one of Rimbor's two-sword wielding fighters, and managing to hold his own, though he does appear to be wounded somehow at one point. He catches both of her swords, and then slugs her, presumably taking her down. Saturn Girl telepathically contacts the Legionnaires, telling them that they have to back away from the fight. She can't get into Ultra Boy's father's head to calm him down, seeing nothing there but darkness, and that he's there with some sort of a plan. She says the smart move is to surrender, and let the United Planets handle the matter. Timber Wolf is beyond reason , and attacks one of the Parliament of Rimbor, unleashing his powers, and seriously wounds the man. Meanwhile, Dawnstar has managed to free Wildfire, and joins Colossal Boy, who is trying to deal with the Rimborian ship, while Element Lad gives him cover dealing with more of the Parliament of Rimbor. Wildfire arrives, but wonder where the other Legion powerhouses are, notably Cosmic Boy.

Elsewhere, high above New Metropolis, Cosmic Boy is off talking to his father after being voted out as Legion Leader. He feels sorry for himself and wants to return to Braal, but his father tells him he can't run away from the first time he has faced adversity. Before they can continue, Brainiac 5 interrupts the call, telling Rokk of the attack, and Cosmic Boy returns to his friends.

Back at Brainiac 5's laboratory in Legion Headquarters, Brainiac 5 talks with Computo while watching Cosmic Boy head back to his teammates, saying that he can't fathom how he fouled everything up. He tells Computo that he doesn't understand how brazen General Crav and Rimbor was going to be towards the Legion, despite his superior intelligence, and that he has to be more prepared. Computo says that he's too obsessed with life and death. Before he can pursue that thought, however, Brainiac 5's monitors show that one of the Legionnaires has just died.

It turns out it's the recently arrived Ferro Lad, whose vitals disappear when he powers up. Brainiac 5 tells him via flight ring comm or whatever that Crav Nah is absorbing energy off the other Legionnaires' attacks and using it against them. The best way to beat him is to strike him with a blow that he cannot absorb, and that's just what Ferro Lad does, hitting General Crav with so much power that he can't absorb it, expelling it outward in a massive blast. The Parliament of Rimbor manage to grab their defeated King and retreat.

However, United Planets President Brande insists that the Legion surrender to her. Legion Liason Rose Forrest tells her that she doesn't see that happening, saying that they need to send someone to Rimbor to place General Crav under arrest. President Brande says that Ms. Forrest needs to remember who is in charge, and then learns that Rose is from Earth, 1,000 years in the past. The President tells Rose to convey to the Legion...

...which she does through Phantom Girl that the Legionnaires are under arrest and are going to trial. The Legionnaire react appropriately, and Phantom Girl tells the recovering Mon-El that he's partially to blame. Mon-El tells her that they are no longer coupling, and donning his costume flies off. Wildfire is surprised to learn that Tinya and Mon-El were together, but she says "Not anymore."

Up above New Metropolis, Mon-El chides himself for not handling the situation better than he did. Superboy finds Mon-El, having finally heard his name, and wonders who Mon-El is to him. Mon-El tells Superboy that he's his great-to-the-5th grandchild from New Krypton. Mon-El says it would be lovely if Superboy weren't there. Before the surly Mon-El can say more, they are summoned telepathically by Saturn Girl to the Mooney Teleport immediately. The trial of the Legion of Super-Heroes is about to begin. The story continues in the next issue...

After the very nice previous issue that was Legion of Super-Heroes V8 #7, I wasn't sure what direction this issue was going to take, let alone how it was going to come out. It turns out that this issue is a mixed bag of stuff. The issue is the first in the series to have an actual title to the story, "The Trial of the Legion of Super-Heroes - Part One", but is essentially a conversation between U.P. President R.J. Brande and her son, Legionnaire Chameleon Boy, about where the idea of the Legion went wrong. The story offers the reader several "audition" files of Legion try-outs that are interesting, giving readers somewhat unique viewpoints of four Legionnaires (Element Lad, Dream Girl and Princess Projectra), and then switches to the events of what occurred after last issue's final page where General Crav Nah arrived to place the Legion under arrest.

The Legion is going on trial, except - why? What are they being charged with? The dialogue from the last page of Issue #7 is repeated word for word on page 6 of this issue, where General Crav says they broke Rimborian law, but so what? What's the trial about, and what laws specifically have they broken? For that matter, even if they did break Rimborian law, why isn't the trial being conducted under the auspices of the United Planets, rather than one of its member worlds? And if the trial is so important, why do we then have the three pages of Legion "auditions", two pages of Brande sitting around with her son, and a page about who's coupling with whom. This leads me to believe the story *isn't* about the trial itself, and that there's something bigger at stake. But I can't for the life of me figure out what, and writer Bendis isn't giving any clues that hint at things here.

Then there is also the mystery of Mon-El... The story reveals here that he the great-to-the-5th grandson of Superboy, but so what? Why does that make him angry with the Teen of Steel? What irked me here was that in the scenes with Superboy and with Phantom Girl, Mon-El comes across as a real idiot. Speaking of Phantom Girl, I'm not a big fan of Bendis' characterizations (as I've mentioned in earlier issue thougts), especially when all we learn about the women is who they are sleeping with. First it was Shadow Lass and Cosmic Boy, and now Phantom Girl and Mon-El. I would really like some more dynamic scenes with the female Legionnaires. Something that bothered me was the scene where Wildfire's energy had been siphoned by General Crav into an energy containment pod or some such. Dawnstar tries to rescue him. All well and good. But then he is freed by Dawnstar somewhere between page 9 and page 14, completely off-panel??!! That is completely unacceptable, to be honest, and belittles the female Legionnaire. And this is pretty much typical of Bendis's writing on the series to this point; too many seemingly important little bits occur off-panel, not deemed worthy of the readers' seeing how they occurred.

There are also some intriguing plot threads in this issue as well. Ferro Lad punches General Crav so hard that all of his built-up energy is expelled. So, since when do Rimborians absorb energy and then expel it back at them? Unless this has something to do with Ultra Boy's powers as well in this iteration of the Legion? And perhaps that also accounts for what happened with Lightning Lass on page 8 in her attack on Crav. Two intriguing things this issue are hinted at perhaps by the Interlac text on page 11 that features Blok. First off, there's the fact that Blok is keeping an eye on which Legionnaires are actively fighting and which ones are pretending to. What's that about, though a better question might be why is watching for this? But the second bit of Interlac, where he notices that Shadow Lass isn't doing anything, might be a sinister hint of things to come. Is Shadow Lass an agent of Rimbor, a mole for someone much larger? Or is she just not interested in fighting here for some reason? Perhaps this one is the most intriguing panel of the entire issue. That said, I can't help but think that there are plenty of readers of the comic who don't read or aren't familiar with Interlac, and are missing out on things like this.

However, I can't finish talking about this issue without mentioning the art. First of all, here's the list of the artists this issue...

Needless to say, what makes the issue of the comic truly unique is that each page is drawn by a different artist pair or artist, and while the line-up of artists is impressive and each brings a unique perspective to their given page, the story has an odd feel to it, with some of the artwork truly gorgeous and some of it just plain...bad. Here are the thoughts about the issue's artwork that I have. Jeff Lemire's art on the Element Lad on page 2 is just terrible, making the three Legion founders and Jan look very old. The page is pretty bland as well, with no backgrounds to give any indication of where the Legionnaires are meeting Jan. By contrast, the Dream Girl stuff on page 3 by Dustin Nguyen is just stunning, with an aetherial look and feel to it that I really liked. The Princess Projectra page on page 4 by Joelle Jones is very well drawn, and gives the reader some lush detail in the backgrounds of the room, though it turns out to be all illusion. On page 5, in the final panel of the page drawn by Michael Avon Deming, what is with those Andorian-like antennae of Cham's, which seem to also be constantly changing in the earlier panels on the page? Sanford Greene's work on page 8 literally crackles with energy, electrical energy, during Lightning Lass's attack on General Crav. At the same time, the facial appearance of Lightning Lad in the bottom-most panel is just...not right. The less said about Dan Hipp's manga-like Blok vs. the Rimborian on page 11, the better. This page is like looking at pieces of art obscured by cellophane with Blok coming across as rather...well, blocky. It comes across as very cute-sy, to be honest, especially given the scene on the page, and I had some trouble understanding what Blok was doing there at the end. Darick Robertson's artwork on page 13, with Timber Wolf fighting the Rimborian, is solid, very reminiscent of the early work by Mike Grell, notably with the realistic violence, the use of shadow, and the focus on the combat. But in one panel, Timber Wolf bloodily rips open the side of a Rimborian; in the very next panel, the Rimborian is fine and there is no blood on Timber Wolf's hand. Still, Robertson's work is bloody and brutal. The work on page 14 by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund is probably my second favourite page of the issue, as the artists draw Colossal Boy, Element Lad and Wildfire in a highly natural manner. They can't make the new uniforms look good, however, but I'd be happy seeing these two take on the artwork in the Legion title on a permanent basis when Sook and company decide to leave eventually. Bilquis Evely did a marvellous job on page 15, in which Cosmic Boy is upset with losing the Legion election, feeling sorry for himself and calling home. That page just looks really good. The explosive scene on pages 18-19 by Ryan Sook and Wade Von Grawbadger prove that the two can draw blow-ups and explosions really nicely, but I was actually hoping for a bit more actual fight scenes here, rather than this scene of nothing but an explosion with bodies hurled every which way. My favourite art in the book on page 21 by John Timms is remarkable in that it shows the reader multiple views of Phantom Girl, and makes clear that she does go intangible (and does not teleport) as not only the art shows but the Frichtman tag does as well. Phantom Girl looks really good, but I'm still not sure about the purple skin and the halo over her head.

When it comes down to it, the first part of the Trial of the Legion of Super-Heroes didn't actually have a trial at all, but presented a few new things, added some to the new Legion lore, and gave the reader a story that was a mixed bag of both the story itself and the artwork in the book. Here's hoping the second part of the story doesn't let the readers down.

Final Notes:
This issue marks the first in the current Legion series to actually have a title...

The story continues in the next issue...

The Interlac on the first page... Above the image of Superman and Lois, the Interlac reads, "Headlines"...

On page 1, the Interlac at the bottom of the page reads,
"Interlac on the side: Jon Kent is the creator and founder of the United Planets. Named and designed after ancient earth’s United Nations, Jon Kent was the one to convince the first order of the United Planets to come together.
Conner Kent did none of these things." (It must be that the "The Interlac on the side:" bit is a note to the letterer.)...

Element Lad's real name is Jan Arrah. His people on Trom were killed by the Horraz, and the Legion was not involved in getting justice for them. There is no indication whether this means Roxxas exists in this continuity...

Dream Girl's real name is Nura Nal. She seems to be made of sand, and retains her abilities from previous versions. In addition to having precognitive visions, she is able to share them with others...

Princess Projectra's real name is Wilimena Morgana Daergina Annaxandra Projectra Velorya Vauxhall...

The Mission Monitor listing above is mostly taken from page 7, supposedly showing the entire Legion membership. However, Ferro Lad only shows up on page 17, Invisible Kid is also a member, and there's the mysterious green skeletal member that I believe is Chemical King...

On page 11, Blok's page, the Interlac at the top of the page reads,
""The Interlac narration will be something like: Blok comes from Dryad where they believe justice is proportional. So to Blok, this attack on the Legion feels like a full-scale war."

The Interlac at the bottom of page 11 reads,
"Blok is mentally noting which Legionnaires are actively fighting and which ones are pretending to.
It wasn't until this moment that Blok noticed that Shadow Lass doesn't seem to do anything."
(The bit about "The Interlac narration will be something like:" is once more along the notes to the letterer.)...

Colossal Boy is actually his normal height when he is giant-sized. He has to shrink himself to be proportionate to most of the other Legionnaires. This makes him more akin to Micro Lad from the Threeboot (Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 6) version of the team...

Ferro Lad says that he can change his entire body to "the hardest substance known to the galaxy". That's a different take on the character from previous incarnations where he turned to iron...

Next Issue: Action Comics Vol 1 #1025
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion read, lll, long live the legion!, lsh, review

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