Legion Lost #1 – Reviews Of Old Comics

blogheaderWith a new Legion of Super-Heroes series launching the week that I’m writing this, it seems like a perfect time to revisit one of my favorite Legion stories of all time, Legion Lost. I like it so much that it would be my pick for a Legion film adaptation. I’ll come back to that.

As the millennium came to a close, Legion of Super-Heroes was in dire need of a new direction. They were referred to as the “Archie Legion” due to the more light-hearted and innocent nature of the stories. Of course, this was stark contrast to the last major new direction for the Legion with the start of the “Five Years Later.” This version kept up two series, which probably didn’t help in the late 1990s when the tone of comics went darker and grimmer. As the series came to an end, the Legion faced a terrible threat that apparently killed several members. 

Source: DC Universe

Legion Lost #1

May 2000
DC Comics

Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Penciller: Olivier Coipel
Inker: Andy Lanning
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Lettering: Comicraft
Cover Art: Olivier Coipel

Synopsis:

Three flying aliens are in space, playing in the tail of a comet. They are attacked by other aliens called the Progeny, who kill two of them. Shikari flees them, now on her own. She flies into a nebula that conceals the wreckage of a space station. It has the markings of the Legion of Super-Heroes, but Shikari doesn’t recognize it. She needs sanctuary from her pursuers and goes inside.

As she explores the station, she triggers a recording of Jan Arrah, Alchemist of the Legion. Using crystals in the station, Jan recording a message that plays back empathically, so Shikari can get the meaning, if not the words. A rift in space-time threw the station a long distance. He protected some others with Tromium Crystals, but is distressed that no equipment works to assist him in finding their location. Listening to the recording, Shikarui retracts the armor that she had been wearing in space.

The recordings reveal that the station has been thrown outside of the known universe. Jan has been calculating a way to get home. A lot of time has passed, but without clocks, he doesn’t know how long. He then tells about how the Legion was formed to protect the universe through cooperation of different people. He laments that the dream was Beautiful, which entrances Shikari. The recordings end as Jan prepares a desperate attempt to save his comrades.

Shikari hears a noise and armors up. She rushes forward and discovers the Tromite crystals with Jan’s comrades. The Progeny have made it aboard the station and spotted Shikari. They attack her, and stray blaster fire hits the crystals. A hand punches through one of the crystals. It’s a hand wearing a Legion flight ring.

The Progeny knock down Shikari. Before they can take her away, lightning strikes one of them from behind. In Interlac, Live Wire  delivers a warning to them. Standing with him are Chameleon, Saturn Girl, Ultra Boy, Umbra, Monstress, Brainiac 5, and Kid Quantum. The Progeny attack, but quickly before the Legion. Saturn Girl gives Shikari a telepathic earplug so she can understand them.

As Ultra Boy looks for Apparition, Brainiac 5 breaks the bad news to the Legionnaires. He has no clue where they are. Shikari briefs them on Jan Arrah’s recording that they were thrown outside of the universe. Ultra Boy begins to freak out, worried that his wife could be anywhere, hurt. Apparition phases through the floor, instantly calming Ultra Boy down. Brainiac 5 then informs everyone that an approaching, massive ship has spotted them.

Art by Olivier Coipel

Review:

The opening sequence is straight out of a motion picture. It’s this sequence that convinces me that adapting this story would make for an ideal Legion of Super-Heroes film. Until I see what ideas Brian Michael Bendis brings to the Legion, I’ll hold to that. That sequence is perfect for some opening credits and the chase leads into Jan’s recording of the Legion’s history and what happened. The Legion emerges from their crystals and we have probably the first 15-20 minutes of the film. We don’t need to be strict with the cast we have here, the Legion can be whomever we want it to be. I would argue that Saturn Girl and Ultra Boy are important for what happens later.

What makes this issue so good for the beginning of a film makes it a good comic. New readers can jump in and get the gist of what has happened to the Legion. The problem that everyone has with picking up the Legion is that it has a lot of history. Of course, as Abnett and Lanning demonstrate here, it’s a history that can be summed up in a few panels of story. In Legion Lost, the focus is on the story and the primary problem is getting home. There is a clear enemy to stop them. However, it looks at first like the Progeny poses no threat to the Legion.

Olivier Coipel’s art is very unique. He was one of the best things to happen to the “Archie Legion.”  You might know his work more from House of M and Thor. Personally, I love how the Legionnaires vary so much in height. Chameleon’s reaction to how tall Shikari is lends some much needed humor to a very serious comic book. His Legionnaires look young, which many artists who tackle the Legion struggle with. His environments seem real, but sometimes a little too spacious.

There’s some talk in Legion fandom that Shikari is a replacement for Dawnstar. Enough personality is given to her that she is similar, but not a replacement. I don’t know what the reasons are for making this a brand new character. She serves some of the same purposes that Dawnstar did. However, if Shikari were a humanoid Dawnstar, then the Legion’s alien nature in this new universe wouldn’t mark them as outsiders. Shikari almost has to be more alien in order for the story to remain logically grounded. Once you begin radically altering a character, then it ceases to be that character.

Art by Olivier Coipel

Notes:

If you’re looking for the issue itself, then don’t pay too much for a copy. It might get into the double digits if you are looking for a copy in near mint condition. It wouldn’t be surprising to find it in a bargain box, but that might be because of lesser condition. If you want to read it digitally, there’s DC Universe or Comixology. It has been collected in the hardcover Legion Lost (ISBN: 1401231209) and The Legion by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning Vol. 2 (ISBN: 1401280404). 

Final Rating: 9.5 (out of 10)