Legion of Super-Heroes: Enemy Rising
by Jim Shooter and Francis Manapul
I stopped buying comics as monthly pamphlets when I moved to Montreal in 1995. I have a hideous number of long and short boxes and the only way that I could stop them from continuing to breed like Tribbles was to stop cold turkey.
I do still buy comics, but I am one of the trade-waiting basterds who allegedly distort the market. I mainly buy from Millenium who give me a pretty good discount when I wander in and pick stuff up. To further keep my buying in check, I mainly buy only hardcovers, first because they look nicer on the shelf and second because I used to believe that there was some of quality barrier to something being released in hardcover. Marvel has been doing its best to kill this belief of mine and at some point I may just unload on some of the shitty shit that they have released in hardcover, but let us instead zag instead of zig and talk about something that I picked up last week:
Now, I picked this up on the general principle (which I share with Chris Sims) that it is the Legion of Super-Heroes and as a huge fan of the LoSH, I should encourage DC comics to publish as much Legion comics as possible even if that means picking up the Legion when it is not very good.
In other words, I was expecting nothing from this book, and I was mildly peeved that DC decided to print this book as a Hardcover when they chose not to print any of the really really really good Mark Waid/Barry Kitson Legion of Super-Heroes relaunch in hardcover.
The first comic book that I ever owned was a Doctor Strange. Either Denys Cowan or Frank Brunner on art. I know that it involved Doc turning Clea into some kind of wild cat in the middle of Central Park. My Dad bought it (allegedly for me.)
The first comic book that I ever bought was an Adventure featuring Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. It was an issue where some villain (I think Universo) sent a group of Legionnaires into the past each to face their own doom in appropriate historical deathtraps. I could probably figure out the exact issue with some research. Adventure#349 written by Shooter as it turns out, only it was published in 1966, a year before I was born, so I must have bought a reprint. It was probably one of those 100 page specials that they published in the middle 70s.
I have been a Legion fanatic ever since. Huge cast of characters but each with their own distinct personalities, strong female characters, young heroes, what's not to love? The one weird thing about the Legion of the time (to me) was that while almost all of the Legion girls had boyfriends, their was little or no soap-opera at all. Legion relationships were more stable than most marriages.
When Waid and Kitson relaunched the Legion, they kept the characterization but knocked apart the relationships. Saturn Girl was still dating Lightning Lad, but most of the rest of the relationships went *poof*
Leading to an interesting hook-up in this book between Karate Kid and Light Lass. (Karate Kid has been injured and Light Lass takes advantage of his weakened condition.) In the original Legion, Light Lass dated Timber Wolf, so going over to Karate Kid wasn't much of a stretch for her. Karate Kid, in the original series dated Princess Projectra and in fact married her. (He died right after their honeymoon, killed by Nemesis Kid. At which point, Projectra went all Zena, Warrior Princess and slaughtered Nemesis Kid, becoming one of many Legionnaires booted temporarily out of the Legion for violating the no-killing rule that the Legion adopted due to their hero-worship of Kal-El.)
At the risk of being labelled a complete fan-boy. Waaaaaay too late. It was a little disconcerting to see Karate Kid knocking boots with Light Lass while Projectra was busy dealing with the fact that her whole planet has been blown up by the Dominators and that as a result she is no longer a Princess lacking a planet and a people.
Also, Light Lass has the biggest mixed-signal uniform this side of Power-Girl. "Look at this Giant Arrow on my chest, telling you to look in my eyes!" Plus, while it is incredibly funny that all the female Legionnaires gossip about what the boys are like in bed, it is still a little disconcerting to have Triplicate Girl dropping double entendres about Karate Kid's sex life.
Still those minor grousings aside, Shooter nails the characterizations, from Lightning Lad's fiery temper to Braniac 5's absent-minded genius and everything in between. Phantom Girl being talented both as a nurse and a pick-pocket is one of the great little touches that Shooter throws in. I also enjoyed the revelation that Element Lad is a bit of a pot-head.
Some people have complained that too much time was spent with Lightning Lad being frustrated by petty United Planets bureaucracy, but frustrating Lightning Lad is fun. It also allows for Legion teams to be trapped with no back-up, creating real peril for them to deal with. The bureaucracy story also allows Shooter to introduce a team of even more useless heroes than the Legion of Substitute Super-Heroes, including Fruit-Boy whose power is ripening fruit.
It is almost as though Shooter did too good a job frustrating Lightning Lad, because most of the complaints with the story sound like they are made by Garth Ranzz rather than a fan.
The other thing that I kept hearing is that the art-work was better than the story. I found myself liking the story better than the art. Manapul is obviously incredibly talented and he is Canadian, so I have his back, but the art feels rushed in places. It also seems like the story is serving the art more than the art serving the story. Still Manapul has real chops:
That is the very first page of Shooter and Manapul's run, featuring Karate Kid, one of Jim Shooter's creations on his original run on the Legion when he was still a teenager himself. (DC Published his first Legion story at age 15!)
Just to set it up, because Lightning Lad has all the management skills of a dead raccoon, he has sent Triplicate Girl by herself (herselves?) to deal with a killer evolving alien robot from beyond time and space about to attack an asteroid mining colony. Obviously, things did not go well, although Triplicate Girl was able to distract the monster long enough for the civilian miners to escape. Karate Kid took it on himself to follow-up on how Triplicate Girl was doing and is in the process of putting himself in harm's way to protect her (them?). As we find out when Phantom Lass joins the party a bit later, by this point in the fight, Karate Kid has broken his right arm. Then he does this:
Just to sum up:
On the second page of Shooter and Manapul's run Karate Kid guts a killer alien evolving robot monster from beyond time and space with his broken arm... using Space Karate.
B) That is totally in character for a guy who once fought the Fatal Five by himself.
C) I know this is in space where no one can hear you scream, but that panel is crying out for a sound-effect that describes gutting a killer alien evolving robot monster from beyond time and space with your broken arm... using Space Karate.
So, yeah all those hating on Jim Shooter's Legion either old or new can eat a Miracle Machine without salt or a glass of water to wash it down.