Legion of Super-Heroes #6
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Ryan Sook, Wade Von Grawbadger, and Jordie Bellaire
Lettering by Dave Sharpe
Published by DC
‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10
While the cover of Legion of Super-Heroes #6 heralds four new recruits to the team, readers are likely going to be disappointed — while Gold Lantern gets a brief introduction after his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in the series’ first issue, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Ryan Sook deliver a chaotic free-for-all rather than digging particularly deeply into this already sprawling super-team. Yet if you’re willing to forgive the bait-and-switch of the cover, this is a beautifully illustrated book, despite its pacing leaving a bit to be desired.
In a lot of ways, Bendis’s approach to Legion of Super-Heroes reminds me a lot of his run on New Avengers — whenever he’s had a big cast, Bendis has always chosen to focus on them on a more a la carte basis, which can be hit-or-miss depending on the reader. But this approach feels magnified with this particular book, given that the Legion, by their very name, has been defined by its enormous stable of interstellar heroes — which means that in practice, most of them will get short shrift.
Superboy Jon Kent, as the series protagonist, continues to be an effective point of view character, but Monster Boy only gets a quick one-liner, while the new Doctor Fate doesn’t actually appear in this issue at all. Even Gold Lantern’s bombastic introduction still feels like something that was still in the early draft stages — Ultra Boy says the new Lantern “has such an amazing story. Wait till you hear it!,” but that’s clearly going to be a story for another comic, as we really don’t have any idea who the character is or what they can do, beyond vague constructs and the fun visual of a Lantern ring and a Legion ring working side-by-side.
It’s those visuals that keep Legion of Super-Heroes as a mixed bag rather than a massive misfire — Ryan Sook can bring it with the best of them, with Wade Von Grawbadger’s lush inks giving the whole book a sort of Pat-Gleason-by-way-of-Tony-Harris-style weight. It’s a testament to colorist Jordie Bellaire that she’s able to juggle so many different colors for all these different characters, and not make the book look like a chaotic mess — but she really ramps up the energy nicely throughout.
It’s a great foundation for Sook to throw as many characters into the mix as Bendis’ script calls for — while there’s a ton of double-page sequences that make this issue feel decompressed even for Bendis, that gives Sook a ton of elbow room to draw larger-than-life space battles. The Gold Lantern sequence of course is the highlight of the entire issue, as Sook lets this new GL cut loose in a way that even overshadows Legion of Super-Heroes staples like Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad.
That said, upon rereading this issue, the level of decompression here does hamper the story momentum in a fairly dramatic way. Even with a semi-expanded page count of 22 pages, nearly half of that page count is eaten by double-page spreads, while the actual conclusion of the story essentially takes place off-panel, as United Planets President Brande winds up just recounting the Legion’s win via a hologram. It’s a deeply anticlimactic way to end what had been an over-the-top battle royale, and given that this eats up a quarter of the page count, it makes for a disappointing way to wrap things up.
I’d argue that the reason to include new members to an iconic super-team like the Legion of Super-Heroes isn’t just to come up with the next media-ready franchise, but to also give newcomers to a series a character to latch onto, one that doesn’t have the history or complications of 60-plus years of history behind them. But I would say that people unfamiliar with the Legion would likely pick up this issue and be completely bewildered — and that’s not counting the people who were drawn in by the cover and feeling a bit hoodwinked. (And given this is the second time this title has done that in six issues, given the almost non-existent guest appearance by Damian Wayne, I’d understand feeling burned.) Thankfully, Ryan Sook’s incredible artwork will likely keep readers on the hook, even if Legion of Super-Heroes #6 doesn’t quite live up to its cover.