Brian Michael Bendis meets the Legion of Super-Heroes: this is one crossover that many superhero fans have been anticipating ever since Bendis first announced his jump to DC Comics. Bendis has been referencing the Legion regularly on Twitter, podcasts, and elsewhere, including a stream of Legion art posted throughout the last week (some of which is featured below). It all culminated in today's announcement that, yes, there is a Bendis Legion of Super-Heroes book coming. Beyond all that, the two share a lot in common, a long history in comics, die-hard fanbases, a tendency to bring out the best in their artists, and telling some of the best superhero stories ever. So it really seems like this pairing is overdue.
However, many fans of one (or neither) may not see the natural fit between writer and concept. While most superhero readers today likely recognize both names, plenty have only limited exposure to the relatively long-retired Legion or Bendis’ new brand at DC Comics. In order to recognize just how naturally these two pieces fit together, it’s worth looking at what makes both the Legion of Super-Heroes and the “Bendis Brand” at DC Comics great before imagining how they will combine their powers.
What is the Legion of Super-Heroes?
Actually explaining what the Legion of Super-Heroes is might require a multi-part explainer, purely to handle the dozens of characters and slightly less numerous number of retcons and reboots. Legion history is a mess, but the concept of the Legion of Super-Heroes is beautiful for its simplicity.
Here it goes: in the distant future, children from across the galaxy collect themselves in a club to fight for truth and justice, inspired by the heroes of the 20th and 21st centuries, specifically Superman. Each of them represents a different alien race with their own unique superpower. Together they reflect both the incredible diversity of life in the universe and what can be accomplished when many people unite as a whole. Their flying rings, bright costumes, and shared ideals make them a beacon of hope in the past, present, and future.
It’s honestly sort of beautiful, a superpowered (and effective) version of the United Nations created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino just over a decade after the real deal came into being. Even when the Legion has been made more adult or taken on a darker tone, the core optimism of the series has remained along with an incredible array of aliens and abilities.
What is the “Bendis Brand” at DC Comics?
The concept of the “Bendis Brand” is less clearly defined than the complete Legion of Super-Heroes franchise. It’s something more than the style he helped popularize during his extensive tenure at Marvel Comics. Bendis will always be associated with decompression, extended scenes of stage-like dialogue, and juxtaposing the mundane with the fantastical. However, the “Bendis Brand” as we are using it applies specifically to his time at DC Comics.
When Bendis joined DC Comics less than two years ago, he didn’t simply announce a title or two; there was a sprawling red carpet set out for his arrival. In addition to taking over the direction of the Superman line for the foreseeable future, writing both Action Comics and Superman, he was set to guide two imprints of his own: Jinxworld and Wonder Comics. The former is a home for his creator-owned work, including continuations and some new creations. It’s the Wonder Comics line that’s worth focusing on as a part of the DC universe, though. This imprint includes the titles Young Justice, Naomi, Wonder Twins, and Dial H for Hero. Set side-by-side with the core Rebirth titles, they offer a more youthful, hopeful and, oftentimes, stranger set of superhero stories.
Both the Superman line and Wonder Comics imprint have come to be a beacon of energy and optimism at DC Comics, a publisher whose set of superheroes are renowned for these traits. All of the titles fit neatly within the superhero genre, but there is an added dose of screwball pleasure that makes them stand out from everything else DC or Marvel are offering up. Sometimes that surfaces in twists of comedy, family drama, and superspy-dom, but they are all consistently exaggerated and make for a joyful reading experience.
Why is This a Perfect Fit?
That’s why Bendis is perfect for the Legion of Super-Heroes in this moment. He is no longer the same writer who brought us a gritty new take on Daredevil or the blockbuster revamp of New Avengers. Moving to DC Comics (and perhaps a bit of wisdom that only comes with age) has shifted Bendis’ style as a superhero writer from realism in all aspects to an embrace of the odd and fun, albeit with similarly realistic personalities and manners of speech. His softer, kinder scripts and increased ambition could not suit the Legion of Super-Heroes any better.
The team demands creators who are willing to take on massive challenges (both in addressing continuity and such an expansive cast) and reintroduce beloved concepts. These are the sorts of feats Bendis has accomplished again and again, including relaunches of almost all of Marvel’s most popular series in some form. That merges with an appreciation of youth as its own superpower and a valuing of superheroes willing to smile even in the darkest moments. His Superman has confronted some terrible days already, but his confidence and love always shine through. That is the sort of character required to inspire the Legion of Super-Heroes after a full millennium has passed, and it suggests Bendis understands the foundation of this team perfectly.
The Legion is a concept that, if imagined today, would fit perfectly into the Wonder Comics imprint and easily form crossovers with Action Comics or Superman. That sort of fit means that Bendis won’t just be returning the Legion to an existing fanbase, but providing the perfect introduction for a whole new generation of fans. As Wonder Comics targets younger readers, Bendis’ is the big writer at DC Comics best prepared to make the Legion of Super-Heroes a comic about and accessible to those same readers. He is a writer returning to the roots of the genre and making them feel new again, connecting the earliest issues of Action Comics from the past with the present of DC Comics to form a bright future for this high-flying team of do-gooders.