Each weekday, Tim will take a look at what we know about each of the upcoming 52 new comics from the September DC relaunch, one series at a time. Today: LEGION LOST!
The Concept and Characters: Ten years ago, DC published a comic called Legion Lost, written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning about the 31st century Legion of Super-Heroes team lost in space. The series, drawn by a young and scratchy Olivier Coipel, was a fascinating combination of Homer’s Odyssey and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, but with super-powered teenagers from the future.
This new series has nothing to do with that other series, other than the name.
This Legion Lost series tells of seven Legionnaires, accidentally catapulted back through time to the present day DCU. Seven Legionnaires trapped in the present, with threats to the very fabric of reality if they do figure out a way to get to the 31st century. So, this one isn’t The Odyssey meets Heart of Darkness. It’s the Magnificent Seven meets Back to the Future. Potentially more crowd-pleasing, sure. More Cinerama Dome, less high school English class.
And who are these seven heroes from the outer space of the future? Based on the cover image, it looks like Wildfire, Dawnstar, Timber Wolf, Tellus, Gates, Tyroc, Chameleon Girl. Let’s run through the list.
Wildfire is pure energy, harnessed only while inside his containment suit. He’s hot-tempered and passionate, even though he lacks corporeal form.
Dawnstar is a space-tracker with super-speed flight. Noble and dignified.
Timber Wolf is strong and feral. He’s Wolverine before Wolverine was Wolverine. (The Wolverine “look” was honed by artist Dave Cockrum, who also gave Timber Wolf his feral appearance and visual attitude before leaving DC for Marvel, all those years ago.)
Tellus is an undersea telepath who needs a fish-tank helmet to survive above water. He’s passive and kind, though he looks like a monster.
Gates is a teleporter. He’s kind of annoying, but he tries hard not to be.
Tyroc is a the 31st century version of a Blaxploitation hero, a guy who used to sport pixie boots and an afro to accompany the chains across his chest. He can sing really loudly. He’s no longer the angry young man he once was, mostly because that was an embarrassing stereotype.
Chameleon Girl is a shape-shifter and the wife of still-in-the-31st-century Colossal Boy. She will probably be sad.
Unlike many of the DC relaunch books, this one doesn’t change anything from the most recent version of Legion continuity. As writer Fabian Nicieza says, “I approached this entire title as if the Legion team was going on a mission between issues #12 and #13 of their title and the crap hits the fan, creating Legion Lost #1.”
That’s probably for the best. The Legion of Super-Heroes characters have been rebooted several times already.
The Creative Team: Writer Fabian Nicieza has been around for a long time, and has written some absolutely terrible comics along with some completely enjoyable ones. His work on the New Warriors series of the 1990s hits the nostalgia-buttons of readers in their late 20s or early 30s, even though he was saddled with a character called Night Thrasher who began his career as a vigilante skateboarder.
Nicieza has done most of his notable work for Marvel, but he’s recently been working on some of the fringes of the Batman universe, and has continued to produce journeyman work for the likes of Azrael and Red Robin.
Artist Pete Woods did impressive work on an extended Catwoman run a few years back, but his more recent work on the Superman family of titles has shown an increasing adherence to photographic reference for his character work. My understanding is that he composes his pages photographically – and has for a while – using live models, and then draws his pages based on those compositions. Unfortunately, as he’s pushed to make his figure drawing and facial expressions more “realistic,” he’s brought a deadening to his drawings, and his Lex Luthor stories in Action Comics lacked much of the liveliness that we found in Catwoman.
Recommendation: Wait for the collected edition. One of the great pleasures of the Legion of Super-Heroes comics is that they take place 1,000 years removed from the continuity of the rest of the DC Universe. So while they have the trappings of superhero comics, and can draw on that affiliation when it helps the story, they live in a world where anything can happen. Characters can get married, die, change their gender, whatever, and it won’t be reigned in by the constraints of normal shared universe rules.
This Legion Lost series doesn’t have that benefit. It takes place now, firmly in the DCU. Nicieza isn’t likely to make any drastic changes to the characters, and the stories he’s going to tell will largely fall in the same pattern: the characters try to adapt to life in the 21st century.
But that doesn’t mean that it won’t have charms of its own. The cast of characters seems like a good bunch for internal drama and visual appeal as they carve their way through the DC of today. And because of its lost-in-time concept, it’s the kind of series that might be a good portal into this superhero universe. Something a new reader might appreciate, because it won’t waste time retelling origin stories. It will just get right to the business of adventure, with a rag-tag group of heroes, 1,000 years from home.
Tim Callahan writes about comics for Tor.com, Comic Book Resources, Back Issue magazine, and his own Geniusboy Firemelon blog.