Legion of Super-Heroes #37-38

Written by Jim Shooter
Penciled by Francis Manapul
Inked by Livesay
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

If you ask long-time Legion of Super-Heroes fans what eras make up the high points of the series, almost every single one will include Jim Shooter’s run on the book. Famously beginning writing the series at the age of 14, Shooter created numerous long-running characters for the series, and to great success. Now, some 30 years after he last left the book, Shooter has returned to the book that began his comic book career. But are the two still a good fit for each other?

In the 31st century, an unknown alien menace has arrived on the outer edges of our solar system. They’ve already struck outposts in the Oort Cloud and Scattered Disc areas—and their next strike will be Neptune’s moon Triton. With only Saturn Girl, Invisible Kid, Star Boy, and Timber Wolf standing between the invaders and the entire population of Cryogeyser City, and reinforcements unable to arrive, will these new attackers be able to continue their strike towards Earth?

It’s been a while since I’ve read the latest incarnation of Legion of Super-Heroes, so it’s very much to Shooter’s credit that I felt like I hadn’t missed a thing. We’re landed right in the middle of the action, but at the same time Shooter makes sure that everything that happens is clear. You never feel like you’re being spoon-fed exposition, even as he makes sure that you’re up to speed on different characters and their current storylines. So when Lightning Lad is struggling as the new leader of the Legion, or Princess Projectra has to deal with the recent destruction of her world, Shooter is continuing storylines that existed from when Mark Waid wrote the book, but they feel new, like you don’t need to hunt down earlier collections to get the full picture. So far as I can tell, it’s a seamless transition.

More importantly, though, Shooter’s first two issues are just plain fun to read. Having just four heroes up against an entire army brings a strong sense of drama to the story, and Shooter’s able to keep the deck stacked against our heroes in a way that not only doesn’t feel forced, but is a new storyline that works into the larger scheme of things for the series. Shooter introduces a new character, Giselle, in a way that makes her both a good guest-star as well as (presumably) a strong addition to the supporting cast. It’s perhaps a bit cliché to have a new character not trust our heroes, but Shooter does a good job with her set-up that it worked for me. While the issues aren’t perfect (a scene involving Legion try-outs lasted a little longer than what was needed for a comic interlude—although once again also serving as part of a longer storyline that’s starting to build), they’ve got my attention quite strongly.

I wasn’t familiar with Francis Manapul’s pencils before, but he does a strong job with his Legion debut. If I had to describe his art style in a single word, it would be “blocky,” but even that isn’t quite right. I like the solid structure of his characters, like these are people with actual body mass and muscle. At the same time, though, there’s a grace to their movements. When Karate Kid strikes one of the alien invaders at the opening of the story, he moves in such a way that you really believe that this is someone with amazing martial arts abilities. Likewise, Giselle’s movements, both snowboarding and in a fight, come across graceful and smooth. For being a member of alien race that is only really different from us outwardly based on eyes and skin, Manapul makes her both feel familiar and different at the same time. Add in a strength for facial features and I’m quite happy with Manapul’s addition to the series.

Shooter has said in interviews that he plans on writing Legion of Super-Heroes for as long as he can, and based on his first two issues I’d say it’s a more than welcome position from me. In a comic book culture that seems more and more dominated by waiting for collected editions, Shooter and Manapul make me anxious for each new issue to hit the stands. Shooter and Manapul have made a very strong debut here; if you’ve ever been thinking about giving Legion of Super-Heroes a try, this really is the time to do so.

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