If popular superhero properties held a competition to determine which one was the most inaccessibly inexplicable to new readers, Legion of Super-Heroes would be a ringer. Ever since the continuity of this superhero team based approximately 1,000 years in the future of DC Comics was first scrambled during Crisis on Infinite Earths, each subsequent attempt at redefinition or clarification has only made the concept more confusing. Even relatively recent attempts from popular writers like Mark Waid have resulted in entry points too slavishly devoted to nostalgia to ever succeed in the present. So to say that Legion of Super-Heroes #1 provides readers with an entertaining and welcoming first issues is, by itself, something of a coup.
The first issue divides partitions itself in two portions. The first half of the narrative begins in media res, providing readers a sense of what the series’ adventures may look like, before providing some exposition about the team, setting, and status quo of the series in the second half. Starting with a blend of action, including chases, shoot outs, and the revelation of a powerful MacGuffin, embeds this story within the superhero genre and clarifies how it functions within a well-established framework. There’s no need to recognize Karate Kid or Wildfire in order to grasp their roles within the story. Actions speak much louder than words (especially in comics), and Brian Michael Bendis and Ryan sook are confident in their abilities to tell a solid superhero story.
After readers have been made comfortable, the second half of Legion of Super-Heroes #1 expands the series’ scope well beyond the confines of the familiar. For some that might simply mean the introduction of a sprawling cast of characters, with so many excellent, new costume designs that even readers familiar with Legion will likely be awestruck by a spread assembling their numbers. There’s a lot more to go on than there being a lot of new codenames and superpowers wandering the page, though. This portion of the comic builds bridges to the past and develops a future that is far more intriguing than most visions of how Earth will appear. It moves beyond a typical dystopian or utopian vision and fuses the two together in a wildly imaginative reconstruction of the planet. Even though it’s not addressed in this issue, the very setting of Legion of Super-Heroes reads like an important character and one that can touch upon compelling modern themes.
More than any other element, its Sook (and von Grawbadger and Bellaire’s) visual storytelling that makes this debut accessible. Action sequences provide compulsive reading, quickly pulling readers eyes between panels. An expansive scope and careful eye for detail do far more to explore the world of the 31st Century later in the issue than any long string of word balloons might. Multiple spreads detailing the setting—presenting both the Legionnaire’s base and Earth—are immersive experiences. Carefully selected elements of dialogue help to guide readers through an image that is best understood through study. These moments speak to a creative team working in sync and trusting one another, with spreads that feel greater than the sum of those constructing them.
Whether it’s the action at the start or the worldbuilding at the end, Legion of Super-Heroes #1 is, above all else, a lot of fun to read. No matter how many conversations might have occurred about how to handle continuity, they have been left far away from the reintroduction of this popular team. This is a comic that stands apart from everything that came before it, reveling in the unaging thrills of the superhero genre without wallowing in nostalgia. Its ambition appears as obvious as telling the best version of this tale, one that is infused with youth, sci-fi, and superpowers. In leaving the past behind, Legion of Super-Heroes finally appears ready to enter the present.
Published by DC Comics
On November 6, 2019
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Ryan Sook and Wade von Grawbadger
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
Letters by Dave Sharpe
Cover by Ryan Sook