Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #1
"Future State Part One"
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller: Riley Rossmo
Inker: Riley Rossmo
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Colourist: Ivan Plascencia
Cover: Riley Rossmo
Variant Cover: Ian MacDonald
Assistant Editor: Bixie Mathieu
Editors: Brittany Holzherr & James S. Rich
Mission Monitor Board:
Ultra Boy, Shadow Lass, Saturn Girl, Brainiac 7, Colossal Boy, Chameleon Boy, Duo Damsel, Blok, Bouncing Boy, Lightning Lad, Lightning Lass, Superboy, Ferro Lad, Monster Boy
United Planets Personnel:
Cosmic Boy, Mon-El, Polar Boy, Princess Projectra, Shrinking Violet, Sun Boy, Star Boy, Timber Wolf
Science Police Commissioner Sevenbergen
The Horraz; Legion of Substitute Heroes (Fire Lad, Antennae Boy, Color Kid, Double-Header, Infectious Lass, Porcupine Pete, Stone Boy); Element Lad
The story continues, sort of, from the previous issue... Some time in the unspecified future, Ultra Boy has sent out a summons to the various former Legionnaires to reform the Legion. In the ruins of Planet Gotham, Shadow Lass is picking through the ruins of stuff when Ultra Boy arrives. Jo tells her that he wants to reform the Legion, and at first she is very hostile, saying that the Legion should stay disbanded and that the word "Legion" should never be spoken again. She violently attacks him with her shadow powers, but is stopped when Saturn Girl appears on the scene and mentally calms Tasmia down. Brainy, now calling himself Brainiac 7 and having given himself a new body that he can will into new shapes and forms, has accompanied Saturn Girl. He tells Ultra Boy, Shadow Lass and Saturn Girl they must confront "him", the "most sensitive" Legionnaire, on Daxam. Before they can talk further, they hear the sound of an explosion, and racing on the scene find Colossal Boy crushing several Horraz small vessels. Ultra Boy explains that he brought Colossal Boy for protection. As the reformed Legionnaires prepare to depart, Saturn Girl says that she senses that the others all really want Reep Daggle, aka Chameleon Boy, back on the team as well. Shadow Lass tells her why they want him back on the team. Chameleon Boy is the only one of them brave enough to stand up for them.
On Daxam, home of what is left of the United Planets, Chameleon Boy stands nervously before the United Planets Emergency Disaster Investigation, changing facial form at random until he calms down. What is left of the U.P. Council is now being led by Rokk Krinn, the former Cosmic Boy, who demands to know where Jan Arrah, the former Element Lad and traitor, is. Several other former Legionnaires also appear to be part of the Council, including Mon-El, Polar Boy, Princess Projectra, Shrinking Violet, Sun Boy, Star Boy, Timber Wolf. Rokk asks him to tell them, in memory of his dead mother (R.J. Brande), and Chameleon Boy tells him that he doesn't know, and says that Rokk was in the Legion for the 100 days it lasted, so asks if they've checked on Trom.
Meanwhile, on the planet Winath, not everyone is against what Element Lad has been doing. A sort of Legion of Substitute Heroes, led by Fire Lad, and with other members such as Double Header, Infectious Lass, a female Porcupine Pete, and a couple of others, is preaching to the crowd, saying that the United Planets is broken, that their remains will just fight over who is to blame, but the Elemental Rapture has happened, and this is the new normal. He tells them that the lower classes have been freed by this societal upheaval and it has elevated people into something more. Luornu Durgo, now Duo Damsel (one of her bodies having died presumably during the event) is present, having heard rumours about what's been going on on Winath and who has come to find Element Lad. She chastises Fire Lad and the others for preaching such zealousness and tries to talk sense to the people. She is attacked by the various Substitute Heroes, and wipes the floor with them. She's surprised by the appearance of a more humanoid-looking Blok, who tells her that he has come looking for her but also was following a similar lead to hers. Blok asks her when was the last time that she merged, but the Luornus tell him that she doesn't do that any more, as it's better that way, since when she does she feels the absence of her third self much more strongly. The two take the fight to the zealots and the Substitutes. They are interrupted by a message from Brainiac 7, who sends them coordinates for where they can meet him and the others. When they ask who the others are, Brainiac 7 says, "Long Live the Legion!"
The Horraz seem to like what Element Lad is doing, as their pirate ships are swooping in on wrecked planets and pillaging what is left. In the Colu Quadrant, Bouncing Boy is having none of that. Invulnerable in his inflated ball mode, he is bouncing and battering his way through the Horraz fleet there before they can take their attack to Earth. Brainiac 7 calls Chuck to tell him that they think they've found Element Lad. Chuck wants nothing to do with it or Brainiac 7, blaming him for the loss of his "family," but Brainiac 7 tells him he knows Chuck blames him and hates him, and yet he still called on Chuck. As Chuck continues smashing his way through the Horraz fleet, Commissioner Sevenbergen of the Science Police Collective contacts him, telling him to cease and desist as they do not condone this violence. Chuck caves in and asks Brainiac 7 where Jan Arrah is, and the former tells him that the back channels have it: they're celebrating Jan Arrah's work on the sixth moon of Trom.
On the sixth moon of Trom, Commissioner Sevenbergen is present as Jan Arrah, Element Lad, explains that he came out of seclusion to show her something. He has Lightning Lad a prisoner, and presumably plans to kill him, but they are having a heated discussion. He asks Garth if he remembers his name, not his Legion name but his birth name. Garth tells him that he remembers, but that he came there to kill Element Lad for betraying the Legion and destroying the galaxy. Element Lad explains to him, seemingly again, that he was sick of seeing the universe's elements and materials destroyed by what was happening in the galaxy, and so he took matters into his own hands. Before they can continue their discussion, Lightning Lass arrives and blasts Jan, but he is relatively unaffected. Element Lad can't believe that the two of them would come here on their own. That's the exact sort of things that caused the Legion to fail.
But Lightning Lass tells him that she didn't come alone. And with Ultra Boy's cry of "Long Live the Legion, you qroting bastard!" the rest of the Legion (??) are there! The story concludes in the next issue.
Before I talk about this issue, I want to clarify something here. The listing of characters that I've added here above is very much speculative, other than the specific individuals who are mentioned by name in the text, as the Legionnaires and their friends, allies and enemies have changed in appearance greatly between the Legion run of Vol 8 and the start of Future State. So take some of the character names listed above with a grain of salt. With that said...
Over the years, DC Comics has made some radical changes and rebooted their universe several times. Most notable of these are the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, the later Zero Hour, and of course, the New 52. Then there was the "One Year Later" jump that occurred with Infinite Crisis, where all the DC titles jumped forward a year in their timelines, while keeping the foundation of the books intact but raising a whole set of (some would say interesting) plot mysteries. I was reminded of this latter change when reading Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #1 quite a lot. This story certainly takes place in the timeline of the Legion that Brian Bendis has been building since he relaunched the series, but the reader just doesn't know when in the timeline, othr than that it is some time in the future. That said, I'm not sure what I actually think about this issue, although perhaps that will become clearer as I write this review.
The early bit in this issue, where Ultra Boy is trying to recruit members back into the Legion, which has been disbanded for reasons we don't yet know, reminded me a good deal of the 5 Years Later Legion from Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 4, in which Chameleon Boy is trying to convince the former Cosmic Boy, Rokk Krinn, to get the Legion back together. Throw in the revelation that Jan Arrah, Element Lad, has gone bad which resulted in the "Elemental Event" and there's the plot reminder from back in the Abnett/Lanning Legion Lost Vol 1 days of that story. Why is poor Jan always getting the short end of the stick? Interestingly, when Jan Arrah finally appears towards the end of the issue, he looks quite diabolical here, certainly not the "is he stoned?" Legionnaire that the reader has seen through the 12 issues of the title so far. Even his costume/outfit this time out evokes the evil Jan from the Legion Lost Vol 1 series.
I think that overall, I liked the story in this first issue of Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #1, but I disliked the artwork intensely. (I'll come back to the artwork shortly.) The story plot isn't all that complicated. The first few pages make it clear that the Legion of Super-Heroes is no longer together and a certain member betrayed the team. The Horraz are still the bad guys and there is another fledgling group of aliens who wish to form their own "Legion" radicalized by the failure of the original team. Bendis does manage to convey some interesting tidbits of information. Triplicate Girl is now Duo Damsel, Brainiac 5 is now Brainiac 7 and the United Planets is essentially dead following the presumed murder of Chameleon Boy's mother, who was the former Madame President of the United Planets. What is most obvious about this Bendis-scripted tale is that he has conveyed more substantive plot elements into a single issue than he has in any of the previous twelve issues of the Legion title.
The 31st Century future of this story is a mess. The revelation of what caused the disaster that led to the break-up of the Legion underscores just how incompetent the team is and was. Readers are to understand that the United Planets lasted one thousand years into the future at which time a group of teenagers felt compelled to go back in time to acquire Jon Kent for reasons that are as yet unrevealed. This "future state" of the Legion of Super-Heroes does not address any of that. None of the questions and plot lines that Bendis introduced in the main series is hinted at here, other than letting us know what other Legionnaires are likely sleeping together (or are thinking about it). That said, Bendis's dialogue in the story is snappy and succinct, much more so than in the regular title, and the plots shifts almost seamlessly from scene to scene giving te reader more information about the current state of the Legion's universe.
The story is a strange mix of the old and the new. As our story begins, we find a handful of former Legionnaires on what's left of New Gotham as the matter of getting the Legion back together is debated. Within this first scene, the overly sharp contrast between old and new is immediately noticeable. Nowhere does this stand out more than with Saturn Girl. While Imra still sports the same level-headed calm and intellect Bendis has always written the character with, her appearance comes across as nothing short of bizarre for her. With an oddly oblong "death's head" helmet that almost looks like some sort of science fiction football, one almost wonders if she didn't just escape the drawing-room of a bad 1990’s anime episode. As Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #1 progresses, this clash of personality and look repeats itself repeatedly. While the character designs themselves are not bad, though muddied by Riley Rossmo's odd, bizarre art style, they just don’t fit the personalities they have been paired with. The one exception to this is the new version of Triplicate Girl, now Duo Damsel, whose new costume works great for where we find the character in this new story.
Insofar as the artwork this issue is concerned, I don't really know who Riley Rossmo is and have never encountered his artwork before, but looking up his bio material see that he's a Canadian artist. To say that I dislike the artwork in this issue is an understatement. I find Rossmo's art to be very dark, very muddy on the page, and the almost stick figure-like characters to be unappealing. That said, the characters in the story come across with a very animation quality to them, and if you had told me that a cartoon show had inspired the look, I would have believed you. To be honest, I had problems identifying most of the characters, Legionnaires and others, and would have failed to know who was who if not for the text and word balloons that told us who the characters were for the most part. That said, it took me a couple of reads to associate various bits of dialogue to characters and specific names to Legionnaires. I find Rossmo's art to be some wild and stylized, gritty enough to fit this type of more dystopia story, but I don't like or appreciate this style of art. And to be honest, after the work that Ryan Sook and Wade Von Grawbadger put into the main Legion title, this is just jarring to look at. That said, there is a lovely bright and vibrant colour job here from Ivan Plascencia (another name I don't recognize) that I rather like, contrasting with Rossmo's muddy work, that enhances the feel of a cartoon. I must also credit Dave Sharpe's lettering in this book. With a good deal of exposition needed to catch the reader up, some of the pages here get very dialogue heavy, but Sharpe manages to really keep the conversations and talk going smoothly. When it comes down to the artwork here, Rossmo's artwork is very good when it comes to drawing backgrounds, especially with the right colourist. Another nod to Ivan Plascencia's work. However, I just don't think that Rossmo's illustrations are appropriate for a Legion of Super-Heroes comic, but will admit here that his very un-traditional style does convey a sense of discomfort and alienation, which pretty much sums up how I felt about the artwork this issue.
To sum up, I like the plot of the story, even if it was somewhat derivative of past Legion stories where one of their own goes bad, but really disliked the artwork in the tale. If I'm somewhat disappointed, it's the fact that the writer and editor went with a very dark future for the Legion, as I had hoped that DC Comics would break the trend they seem to be on with very dark, depressing storylines and worlds. I have to assume there's some sort of plan for the Infinite Frontier universes, and so really hope that the future of the Legion and any stories they appear in after this one concludes will be more hopeful than this. If nothing else, this story and the artwork gave the reader a definitely unique vision of the Legion. I don't know whether I'm looking forward to the second and concluding part of this story, but we'll see what we shall see.
This story will conclude in the next issue...
At the top of the first page, the Interlac reads,
"The triumphant victory of our heroes saves all reality from the brink of destruction and shakes loose the very fabric of space and time. From the ashes of Death Metal rises new life for the infinite multiverse and glimpses into the worlds of tomorrow."...
The Interlac in the middle of page 1 reads,
The first artificially created planet. A full planet-wide evacuation has been ordered by the emergency UP council."...
Shadow Lass now has blonde hair. Furthermore, she can now use her shadow powers (which don't have a dark colour to them) to physically attack people...
Saturn Girl now wears some type of "death's head" helmet and has a mechanized right arm. The former is likely to prevent her from manipulating/convincing others...
Brainiac 5 now calls himself Brainiac 7, and has given himself a new body that he can will into new shapes and forms. The Brainiac 7 name is a misnomer, but that's not something I'll get into here...
The Interlac at the bottom of page 8 reads,
The first planet hit in "The Elemental"."...
According to Chameleon Boy, this version of the Legion of Super-Heroes lasted for a mere 100 days...
The Interlac on page 10 reads,
The planet hit hardest by the Elemental event."...
Triplicate Girl is now Duo Damsel, as one of her bodies died in events not related in the story here, but presumably during the "Elemental Event." She hasn't merged in a long time, as it supposedly makes her feel the third Luornu's absence even more...
In a as yet unrevealed manner, Blok now has a more humanoid, but much larger, body than he did in the early run of the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 8...
The Interlac on page 17 reads,
A Horraz armada has been caught rummaging the dead planet."...
Next Issue: ??