Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Legion Lost HC

Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Artist: Olivier Coipel & Pascal Alixe
Company: DC Comics

My history with the Legion of Superheroes is a bit odd.  I love the concept: Gifted teens from different worlds banding together to create a peace keeping force.  It's a bit of Green Lantern mixed with Star Trek.  That said, my first experience of TLOSH as a kid was the "Five Years Later" story arc from Keith Giffen.  As one might imagine, that's a pretty tough nut to crack, especially for a kid.  Years later though a friend re-introduced me to The Legion, where DnA had a run of 33 issues.  It instantly grabbed me in a way that few books do.  It was a mixture of fun, sci-fi, classic DC, and just great action.  Still, I had always heard such great things about their Legion Lost storyline, not to mention their "Legion of the Damned"
story, which DC reprinted in their DC Comics Presents line a few weeks ago.  "The Legion of the Damned" story was harrowing and just as good as people said that it was.  Because of that primer, to say that I was excited to finally get my hands on this story would be an understatement to the thousandth degree.

This hardcover collection does not disappoint.  Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are a force to be reckoned with on the writing frontier.  They know what makes a true comic book tick.  They knew it then and they still know it today.  Keeping that level of creativity and clarity for a writing career is impressive.

As for the particulars of the story, Legion Lost focuses on a group of Legionnaires who are pulled through a rift in space and end up lost in another galaxy, far far from home.  That group consists of: Apparition, Brainiac 5, Chameleon, Kid Quantum, Live Wire, Monstress, Shikari, Ultra Boy, Umbra, and Wildfire.  That's a fairly diverse and large group of characters to keep track of, especially if you don't know them from Adam or have never read a Legion title before.  Don't sweat though, as DnA do a great job of introducing you to these characters.  One of the best ways that they do that is with each issue, the events that are happening are told through one of those character's eyes.  With thought captions, you get to hear what's knocking around in their head and really what makes them tick on a much greater level than some characters these days.  It's a great tool that allows the reader to really connect with the story.  Now, that's not the only way of course, as they also flesh these guys out through actions too.

Truthfully, Legion Lost is a much more cerebral and story focused tale than I expected it to be.  There is action and great sci-fi elements at work of course, as we see this small band of men and women run across species that are foreign to even them, the Kwai and the Progeny, and battle giant aliens living in hard light pyramids.  That said, much of the twelve issues collected in this hardcover focus on the rigors of being separated from the norm, the life that these characters had grown used to, and how you cope and stay sane.  It reminded me a lot of the recent Battlestar Galactica series in many ways, though Legion Lost has the whole superhero element going for it, which makes it a little less dire.  One of the greatest story elements for me was that Legionnaires do not, under any circumstance, kill.  They really hit home with that and make the rule a focus of several stories.  DnA want to distinguish that these characters, no matter what kind of horrible situation that they find themselves in, are in fact superheroes.

Handling the art for the book are Olivier Coipel and Pascal Alixe, with Andy Lanning providing inks.  Coipel pencils the brunt of the issues (8 of the 12) and with one glance you can tell that this is early on in his career.  His pencils are rough, or scratchy, and nowhere near as clean as his work on Thor is.  Still, that really works in favor of the story.  The roughness translates to the harshness of the environments that these characters are traversing and the hardships that they are having to endure.  Coipel also really captures these characters and makes them both look cool and exude emotion.  You can feel the tenseness and the pressures boiling as the story unfolds, which is extremely important and awesome.  Alixe is also a fantastic artist.  His ability to make scenes that are essentially two or three characters talking in a single room interesting, is sprocking cool.  His style isn't as scratchy though and feels in line with current day artist Timothy Green III.  I will say that while each artist certainly has their own style, you never felt jarred by the change up when it occurred.  It felt natural.

Overall, I finally understand why people always touted this as a great story.  The action, character studies, drama, and super-heroics that are found here rival what we have on the shelves today.  I for one hope that DC decides to put out a collection of the Legion Worlds mini that directly followed this series and maybe, just maybe, a collection of The Legion that DnA launched.  That would make me a happy camper indeed.

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