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WHttDCnU? – Legion Lost: Run From Tomorrow

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No it’s not an April Fools joke, we are here again to review Legion Lost. Back in February we were supposed to review the title for the new 52, and you might remember we had a bit of a mix up where Cinna At Heart picked up the comic of the same name but from 2000, not 2011/2012.

Well we’re back to take another stab at it! And as a special treat, this today I have two Ultima Society comics for you! Isn’t that a nice April 1st surprise  for a change?

Now let’s get to it shall we? Welcome back for:

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE DC NEW UNIVERSE?

QueenQeeko

WHTTDCNU-synopsis

trailblazer-rIn a small town near Minnesota, an unfortunate team of medical professionals fight to calm down and treat a strange looking man raving angrily in an unknown language. He’s an alien, and screams for the human scum around him to back off before the hospital explodes following his threats. In the forests surrounding the town of Red Lake Falls, a bubble like craft crashes to Earth with a deafening explosion in the fabric of time and space, with a group of seven heroes of various alien races barely clinging to hand holds, many being thrown from the vehicle. Tellus, a large yellow frog like telepath immediately sets to helping Yera, AKA Chameleon Girl, regain her normal form as the Durlan is currently melting from the rough landing. The winged, energy and spiritual empathic Dawnstar rushes to the bushes with acute nausea while Tyroc, Brin Londo AKA Timber Wolf and Drake Burroughs AKA Wildfire assess their surroundings and disadvantages. Members of the Legion of Superheroes, their landing was a result of an unstable time stream following their delayed pursuit of a criminal called Alastor to stop him from releasing a deadly pathogen, full of numerous alien DNAs, on Earthlings of the past. However they’ve arrived a full 29 hours later than the fugitive, despite only leaving an hour after him. Nearby in the woods, after discovering their Legion Flight Rings don’t work, they find the villain’s time bubble, in worse shape than their own. They salvage what they can from Alastor’s ship so that they may return with him to the 31st century, but Wolf takes off to fetch Alastor, believing that capture should be the priority while he has the fugitive’s scent. Brin finds Alastor tearing the town apart, and detains him after Alastor spares a little girl before passing out. Timber Wolf returns with his catch, and the Legion immediately get ready to go back to the future (heh). But the villain begins to threaten the craft by transforming inside it, resulting in a new explosion while their teleporting bug-like alien team member Gates, and Yera attempt to restrain him. They land roughly, the time bubble destroyed, and Wolf and Dawnstar inform the others that organic residue of their team mates Gates and Yera is falling with the rain. They’re dead, and Alastor is missing.

Days later, when checking out the memorial for the hospital explosion, a familiar figure is sighted by Timber Wolf. He’s the first victim of pathogen, Dr Scanlon, whom was the one treating Alastor when the hospital exploded, and he is now an energy being like Wildfire, but wearing a fake skin. He escapes after a heated, rather startling first encounter with the Legion. Soon after however Dawnstar easily locates him from energy signature left on Wildfire’s containment suit, and this time more calmly, the Legionaires meet with Scanlon and explain the pathogen and what is happening to him, the first of many new “hypersapians”. Unfortunately, Scanlon decides to go the other direction of reason and aggressively flies off the handle, exploding the house and admitting to Wildfire he does not want to be human. Fruitlessly Drake begs him to calm down, even offering to share his suit with Scanlon, but the doctor dissipates, leaving Wildfire regretful.

Witnessing the increase of victims from outbreak, Timber Wolf is frustrated without anything to do, (or CAN do, as Brin is not very tech savvy). The team is split by those searching for Alastor and Scanlon, and the remainders trying to fix their devices, meanwhile a military outfit has also noticed the outbreak. Timber Wolf leaves to do some tracking after one bad story on the news. Sneaking into the morgue holding a corpse he suspects was a hypersapian, he phones to Tyroc with his confirmation. another hypersapian, a Rdrayyj hyrid, is specifically hunting other pathogen victims. Timber Wolf finds the Rdrayyj which is attempting to kill a harmless flying monster, an Anaxian hybrid, at a local mall. At the same time that Wildfire and Tyroc spot the carnage on the news, Timber Wolf realizes that the Rdrayyj isn’t after food, or just hypersapians; he also smelled Durlan DNA from the Anaxian, just like the corpse at the morgue. Brin knocks the Rdrayyj down, and from its stunned, writhing form emerges the frightening and pained remnant of Chameleon Girl! As Yera begs Brin for help, a Colonel Nicholson and her organization send in a unit to the town.

Wildfire and Tyroc soon arrive and battle the local police, giving Timber Wolf an opening to escape the mall and chase down Yera, whom has reverted back into the Rdrayyj beast. As the three reunite in the place where Yera has collapsed, they discover she was tranquillized. Those responsible, military Black Razors then ambush the group. Meanwhile, Dawnstar and Tellus have still be searching for Alastor, and have finally found him in a university. Dawnstar expertly extracts him from the campus and deposits him near a highway for a chat, but having none of it Alastor attacks. As Dawnstar fights the now three bodied Alastor, Tellus attempts to battle him on a mental level. He accidentally alerts the entire group with a psychic scream, and Tyroc disarms the Black Razors with hypersonics to make their escape and come to the rescue. Arriving first, Wildfire lays down covering fire on Alastor while Tellus finally unearths all of Alastor’s inspirations for revenge, beginning with the death of his sister by “Earth First”, a xenophobic terrorist group. Finally crumbling him with the knowledge that the pathogen would only bring greater acceptance of diversity and by that logic making him a saviour of humanity, the race he hates, Tellus subdues Alastor. With the morally shattered villain in custody again, a disfigured Gates makes his new entrance, to the shock and glee of his team mates. Back in the city, Timber Wolf has escaped the Black Razors, only to be suddenly confronted by the Martian Manhunter!

…Whom delivers Brin right to the Black Razors. Making himself invisible to the military’s cameras and minds, J’onn J’onz chats with Timber Wolf whose captivity makes him a captive audience by default. He wants to know where Wolf is from, but his differently evolved brain is making that difficult so he’s forced to actually converse with the prisoner. Already having found Clinic #6, the government facility in Winsconsin where Brin and Yera are being held, the Legion infiltrate, sending in Gates first to lay some military hatred on the poor unsuspecting soldiers. He’s very good at this. Ad they’re busy breaking in and disarming guards the head of this outfit, Major Nicholson has Timber Wolf brought out of his cell so she can repeat back to him what he already knows about all of his teammates and their respective powers, probably to parade about the unit’s observations skills more than actually Tell Timber Wolf anything new. She prattles on while the Legionaires burn their way through the compound and locate Chamelon Girl only to be met with the Martian Manhunter. Throwing him a bone, Tyroc lets J’onn read his mind, and now convinced that they ARE from the future, and don’t actually mean harm, the Martian Manhunter leaves them be, but not before telling them where there is more Durlan corpses for Yera to ingest. Yum yum. Bored of Major Talks to Much, Timber Wolf breaks free of his decoy position and joins the others in making their way out, with J’onn J’onz giving a final crushing statement, time travel being a one way trip, they can all expect to die in the 21st century. The Legionaires arrive back at the hotel to find that Tellus, having stayed behind to watch over the unconscious Alastor as gone and lost him again.

A few days later the group is ‘ported to New York via Gates’s Transport­­™, they get themselves new digs in a shinier hotel and promptly all dissolve into an argument about their failed mission, and what methods are not working. Wildfire, whom has been increasingly more interested in Timber Wolf’s more proactive approach, challenges Tyroc for team leadership but just as Dawnfire is shutting them all down, Tellus notifies the group of a psychic scream he has heard. Dawnstar, a little too eagerly, says they should go help the girl that the scream came from. Woah now says everyone else, let’s find out more. Bored and tired of being cooped up Brin takes a walk and catches a young man whom was watching them earlier, and through him finds something to do for the night (Beat up some thugs and take their money). Dawnstar discovers that the distressed girl is in a coma in a hospital and Tyroc and Wildfire surprisingly agree that this woman isn’t worth their time as she’s in no real danger, much to Dawnstar’s discomfort over wanting to do SOMETHING. Tellus has the girl covered though, reaching into her unconscious mind and helping settle her fears. She crashed her car and is going to die regretting that, and acting as a friend in her final moments Tellus helps her forgive herself. Right at the end however, she tells him that HE needs to be truthful with his friends about something he’s hiding. He knows something terrible is coming.

WHTTDCNU-art

glau-lI’m kind of torn about the artwork in Legion Lost. Pete Woods isn’t a bad artist- in fact he’s pretty good, really. He obviously knows what he’s doing, and all of the characters are well shaped and in proportion… well, except for Tallus, but that’s not really surprising, considering. Plus, he doesn’t twist his figures into unrealistic shapes.

Even so, his art just didn’t sit right with me. While I liked the stylized art- which sits just this side of cartoonish- and its juvenile appearance kind of fitted with the context of the trade given the relative age of the characters, I found the lineart and inking itself to be rather lacking. Most of the inking was thin and weedy, and it just ended up feeling inelegant and clumsy- despite the fact that there wasn’t anything really wrong with it. I guess I like having a bit more to chew on, lineart wise.

I did notice however a distinct change in styles in issue #7 however, which is interesting given it’s still Woods in charge. The inking becomes heavier- with more personality in the lines, despite Legion’s faces inexplicably getting clumsier.

Beyond the lacking lineart, I thought a number of panels remained quite static, despite the perceived action scenes, and many faces were stoic and emotionless. Furthermore, the colouring, whilst bright and lively, is all cell-shaded, and it left many panels feeling choppy- particularly when they zoomed in faces. I kind of wish the colourist had blended them better. All in all, I found the art in Legion Lost to be skilfully executed, but lacking in the certain pizazz that could have had me really enjoying things.

 

trailblazer-rI liked this book if not for the story then definitely for the art.

Not only were the designs of the characters and places interesting for in general, the sequencing of the art was very well used to tell the story as much as what the characters were saying, and with such a varied cast of characters and body shapes most unusual bending of bodies just seemed like part of the style and never looked out of place.

It’s simply one of the friendlier drawn books in the new DCU, allowing it to be bright and vibrant even when it’s dark and extremely expressive with the thoughts and feelings of the characters. And it’s the sort of art that keeps your eyes busy, telling parts of the story and developing the characters without words needed. This is successful story telling art. And it looks like it was inked with a fricken Sharpie.

WHTTDCNU-writing

glau-lI started out reading Legion Lost feeling immensely confused and frustrated. Issue #1 starts off smack bang in the middle of the story- or what feels like it, anyway because it then progresses in a linear fashion. It does not promise a good story when you’re on page three of the first issue and you already have absolutely no idea what the hell is happening. I literally had to double check that what I was reading was in fact issue #1, because absolutely nothing made sense to me. It was a struggle to want to keep reading through the issue, which is not exactly a good sign for a first trade of the reboot of the DC universe.

With that said, things did clear up a bit as the story progressed, but the first part had left me so miffed I was kind of inclined to dislike the rest of it on principle. Of course it didn’t help that the story felt quite choppy, swinging between bouts of characters floundering around, not knowing what to do and spurts of action. All of it was interspersed with a mind-numbing amount of monologues.

And the reasons for the team hanging around with nothing to do were beyond aggravating. Timber Wolf at one point asks why they’re not going to ask for help from the Justice League and Tyroc makes quite possibly the dumbest excuse I’ve ever heard- citing that it would be ‘too much of a risk’ to go and ask Superman or whoever when they could possibly infect them.

I’M SORRY, but when you’re facing a pathogen of pandemic proportions and lack the resources to stop it yourselves, you man the F#$% up and ask for help. There are SO MANY ways they could have done it without exposing the Justice League. I can only think of the Legion of SuperIdiots condemning Earth to a cataclysmically bad pathogen because they were too ‘scared’ of asking for help.

Another thing I didn’t like? The dialogue- a lot of it was clumsy and unwieldy, and I was left largely unimpressed with it all. Tyroc’s line “Luckily, between Chameleon Girl’s shapeshifting, Tellus’s telekinesis and my harmonic manipulation most of us can fly on our own” sticks in my mind from issue #1; because it is quite possibly the clumsiest bit of dialogue I’ve ever read from someone over the age of sixteen. It made me die a little on the inside.

 

trailblazer-rThe writing by Fabian Nicieza for Legion Lost tackles a number of feats in its debut run, including an engaging group dynamic, a plot with distinguishable A to B to C sequences of events to follow and introducing most of the new information naturally, starting with the heroes falling out of the sky having done a trip through time. Time travel isn’t always a great plot point, but in this story the travel is just one step of the bigger picture and spurs on the rest of the genuine obstacles the Legion have to face. It’s not just time travel for the sake of it, instead it’s tied into a successful revenge plot that hits every despairing note.

If Nicieza is guilty of anything, it’s taking the style of the dialogue back about three decades or so and having the characters re-announcing the same sorts of information over and over, for the benefit of the reader’s knowledge instead of just trusting the reader might know what the characters are talking about. Okay, we get it, Tellus is a telepath and can create shields and stuff. That’s quite all right, Wildfire, you don’t have to say again that you’re a being of living anti-energy. By this same method of repetitive explanations of everyone’s abilities, we are also treated to segments of characters reminding each other of their predicament despite the helpful little exposition box with the story’s setting plonked into the beginning of each issue.

Still, this choice for the narrative aside, the story elements then are well crafted together, involving the futuristic team struggling to adapt to Earth of centuries past and scrambling to contain an outbreak they failed to prevent and arguably the best kind of villain – a tragic victim whom we can almost identify with. Y’know, until the whole genocide of an entire race for the sins of a few xenophobes thing. More surprising to me was that the story didn’t take to a monster of the week format per issue, instead seeing the return of Alastor, whom is still a carrier of the pathogen let’s not forget, and his subsequent escape yet again, and then the introduction of a military anti-metahuman outfit. By issue #6, Nicieza is joined by Tom Defalco, and the script, as both are credited for, does take a slight bend in progression, as though with a little more direct purpose and less things just happening for the Legion to react to.

Sadly, despite being invested in Legion Lost so far, I found that the final issue of the book is not overly engaging and barely advances the group and their story by way of plot, more as a bit of character building page filler before finally hinting at a great threat, set to cross over with the Teen Titans. It it felt largely uncomfortable and could very easily have been written for a TV series version of the story. Timber Wolf wanders off to knock heads and take money from a local gang, the Legionaires bicker about what they are doing or should be doing, and over here being useful is Tellus giving a dying girl some peace as he hears her out in her comatose regrets, before finally the bomb is dropped on us; GASP the big yellow dude is holding out on the others..! Yeah, not that interesting I’m afraid, as such a betrayal felt like last minute drama being shoehorned in, and barely makes an impact. Frankly we only just got Yera back and this should have been the opportunity to actually spend more time with this character whom has been absent for five of the first six issues. On that note…

WHTTDCNU-characterisation

glau-lIt’s actually really hard to say anything profound about these characters. Legion Lost suffers from a large cast of pre-existing characters, a limited amount of time and a plot that is too involved to allow for any level of character development. Fabian Nicieza tries to combat this with an absolutely ungodly amount of exposition, with the first six issues focussing on an individual character- one that doesn’t ‘die’ in the first issue. Whilst it’s a halfway decent way of letting us get a look into some of the character’s psyche, it’s also annoying as hell, and really lazy as far as writing goes. It’s also one of the main reasons why I don’t have much to say about them.

Oh, that, and the fact that we’re thrown straight into the story, with no hint of character backgrounds, or any kind of history. Nor are we enlightened to any character history throughout the whole trade, beyond what’s immediately relevant to the plot at hand. It’s like we’re just expected to know what’s happening, and who the characters are.

We have Timber Wolf… who I’m guessing is some kind of humanoid canine alien… but that’s all I know about him besides that he’s got something of an anger management problem. Then there’s Dawnstar… she’s… no. I don’t know what she is- an alien angel of some kind? She’s a perfectionist, comes across as a bit of xenophobe… the other characters (which for 90% of the trade are all guys) like to call her Dawny. Tyroc is… a diplomat with sonic superpowers. That’s it. That’s all I know about him.

Aaand the pattern continues for all seven characters of the Legion. The only characters who even gets a remotely decent backstory is Alastor, and he’s the villain! Of course, backstory is all you get- forget about any further development.

So yeah, very little to talk about character wise in Legion Lost. Which is simultaneously remarkable and disappointing for a large cast.

 

trailblazer-rLet’s be truthful here. While possessing very useful talents each, the Legionaires in the book are all very good at being useless. But perhaps most useless of all was writers Fabian Nicieza and Tom DeFalco in giving us even coverage of the Legionaires. Now sometimes for the sake of the plot, it makes sense when you can’t have certain characters around all of the time, but for all of Gates’s time off page, we still get a very decent run down of what he is like and where he stands when he is gracing the comic; he’s a pain in the ass that everyone still really likes, he hates military scum, has a foul mouth but ultimately will do what it takes to take care of himself and his teammates. In the case of Chameleon Girl, by end of the book it felt distinctly like both writers were avoiding giving her much to say, or do, or even BE. I don’t know anything about her. She’s just sort of there and as a result I have no reason to give a damn about her except for the given that is loyalty to members of the Legion.

Everyone else is pretty standard without being boring. Tyroc is obviously a by-the-book Legionaire that was head of the squad and now that this squad is in the distant past, this is it, they ARE the Legion, and he is Legion Leader. And it’s daunting. Tellus is serene and empathetic and obviously very exotic, while being a little slow, but more empathetic them him is Dawnstar whom takes empathy onto a whole new level, making her sensitive and to her own mind, far superior to everyone and everything around her, especially this backwards time period. Her boyfriend, whom daily seems to be the only one actually in the relationship is Wildfire and is possibly the most angsty of the Legionaires while remaining the fundamentally most expressionless, outside of some burning, self loathing rage. He still manages to see the biggest picture time to time, and his rashness is only outdone by Timber Wolf is isn’t one for subtleties unless it’s stalking prey. He’s a very instinct driven guy you see, and incredibly restless.

This all makes for a group that will either work very well together or strangle each other on a mildly bad day, but the important thing is that their character tends to stay consistent, as this can be infuriating with group comics. Alastor over there was well enough fleshed out, with whatever fuller backstory that was inserted later not misplacing anything we’d already seen or heard about the deranged terrorist. His sort of meltdown isn’t unheard of and while some would say that his rage was well and truly understandable it’s the extent of his revenge that loses everyone. I just wish he’d hold friggin still.

WHTTDCNU-conclusion

glau-lI did not enjoy Legion Lost #1.

The artwork was good, but certainly nothing to write home about. The writing was… disappointing and lacklustre, frustratingly choppy with a story that just pops out of nowhere that makes me want to tear the comic up and set it on fire in a fit of spontaneous rage. Nicieza tries to compensate for the excessive number of characters and his overly involved storyline with an unholy level of monologueing that doesn’t actually help with anything. What you get is a book full of characters who are just kind of there; existing. And you know that they’re meant to be main characters, but you can’t actually bring yourself to give a crap about any of them.

I don’t know… maybe I’ll steal the comic off my friend and set it on fire anyway.

 

trailblazer-rAll in all it was a fun read that occasionally was a little taxing to gather together, whether it was a sudden shift in group dynamic or a drastic shift in their general goals, but was still keeping my attention. For the entirety of the book the visuals were charming and expressive with a simple premise outlining existing strife with the world and future of the Legion and their constantly changing list of priorities. I dig it.

Two things that actually drove me up the wall though: the first is the scared little girl from issue #1. A lesson from all you would-be writers out there: the popular cliché of the tiny child who isn’t afraid of the big monster that just levelled the town, is not entertaining or interesting, it’s just unbelievable. The second was the cover of issue #7, which if you bought the single issue, is right up there with click bait offenders of the internet, or if you got the trade edition, it is still misleading on art alone. “Timber Wolf Unleashes… can the Legion stop him?” … No one even tried, because the story isn’t about him in that issue! He’s over there giving dudes bruises and the others don’t even know he’s doing it in the least homicidal rage like ambush I’ve ever seen. There was either some serious miscommunication over at DC over this one or a bunch of folks didn’t realize 2 and 2 don’t make 3.

Anyway, if you’re not picky about that sort of thing though, then I think you should enjoy Legion Lost. It has it’s problems, and one or two things feel forced, but ultimately nothing is offensive to the senses or straight up bad about the book, and I would like to see where it goes from here.

WHTTDCNU-comic

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Double feature!