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A review of Legion Lost

Story by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Olivier Coipel and Pascal Alixe
Reviewed by Kris "G'leep" Burger

What do you do when a series is drowning under a 30-year legacy?

Tear it all away.

In essence, this is the premise behind "Legion Lost," the twelve-issue maxi-series launching the Legion of Super-Heroes in a new creative direction, and breathing life into a stagnating series. Following Zero Hour, the Legion books suffered from a desire to be new coupled with a respect for "what had gone before" - as a result, many old tales from previous Legion titles were revamped and republished with the new Legionnaires. The few creative bright spots were in how the new series played with the expectations of the old, but the Legion titles never managed to move beyond those expectations.

Not so for "Legion Lost." Instead of the same plots Legion fans felt they had seen before, Abnett and Lanning decided to take the Legion of Super-Heroes out of their familiar context. Thrusting half the Legion through a rift in space-time, the series focused on a small section of the team and their efforts to regain what was lost: their homes, their family, their legacy, and in many ways, themselves. The Legionnaires find themselves adrift in a strange universe without backup, without authority - without even a star chart.

The story opens to a re-cap of how the team arrived in this section of space, recounted for the alien huntress Shikari by a 'crystal memory' of Element Lad. Shikari has stumbled across the remnants of the Legion Outpost, and after hearing Element Lad's tale, she locates the crystals in which he has hidden his teammates to keep them safe.

An attack of the Progeny, insectoid aliens who destroy all variant life forms (which means anything not like them), awakens the hibernating Legionnaires. A quick roll call reveals that Saturn Girl, Kid Quantum, Live Wire, Umbra, Ultra Boy, Monstress, Chameleon, Brainiac 5.1, and Apparition are stranded.

The issues spotlight different characters, although not all the players are given equal focus (Umbra's issue is sadly lacking). It is less plot-driven and more character-intensive than most of the post-Zero Hour Legion, which is perhaps "Legion Lost's" greatest strength. For the first time since Zero Hour, we begin to see something of what makes these Legionnaires real people. We are given insight into their thoughts and their feelings, without the latest villain of the month arriving to blow things up.

The plot devices, however, are weak and expected. There are precious few surprises in store and most of the twists can be predicted in advance. Their saving grace is that at least they are new directions and new challenges, not merely old tales redone.

The art fits the feel of the books, dark and gritty. In some ways, the pencil style was the most disappointing part of the series; while it matched the mood and the theme of the stories, it looked mostly like scribbling. Neither Coipel nor Alixe managed to pull away from the heavy lines and indistinct characters long enough to lend realism to their work; the books' imagery remained heavily impressionistic. For readers accustomed to the highly representational art in the Legion previously, this departure was jarring.

"Legion Lost" was a highly anticipated (and in some cases, a highly dreaded) series. For new readers to the Legion, it offered a starting point without the need to understand the past. For older readers such as myself, just becoming used to the post-Zero Hour Legion, it was yet another upheaval of a beloved team. I admit I picked up the first issue expecting to hate the new direction, and I wasn't impressed by what I read. Yet, as the series continued, I found that despite the artwork, the writers' had a vision and they weren't afraid to reach for it, and never mind what long-time fans might want. The end of the series hooked me in spite of myself, even though I could guess the climax of the tale, because Abnett and Lanning had managed to make me care about the characters.

This is not the Legion of Super-Heroes I remember, and it may not be the Legion I want - but it is unmistakably the Legion, and when all is said and done, it's well worth the read.

 
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