Weekend Review: Legends of Tomorrow #1

legends 1

Legends of Tomorrow (DC)
Firestorm: Written by Gerry Conway, Pencils by Eduardo Pansica
Metamorpho: Written and Pencils by Aaron Lopresti
Sugar and Spike: Written by Keith Giffen, Art by Bilquis Evely
Metal Men: Written by Len Wein, Pencils by Yildiray Cinar

A long time ago I lamented the fact that, when DC’s New 52 came out, I had failed to read their anthology book DC Universe Presents. So when DC’s newest anthology book came out, I decided to put my money where my mouth was and pick up Legends of Tomorrow.

Where DC Universe Presents was a standard size issue that would tell a story for a few issues and then start another story, Legends of Tomorrow is essentially four issues wrapped up into a single comic. This time around the stories featured Firestorm, Metal Men, Metamorpho and Sugar and Spike. Given that Metal Men are one of my favorite lower tier super hero teams and that I’ve been loving Firestorm in both Flash and Legends of Tomorrow (the TV show), this was not a difficult sell at all. For ease of discussion, I’m going to break down each story individually, since there is no connection between them.

Opening the book is Firestorm. In this particular incarnation, we are introduced to Firestorm early on when they are still learning to use their powers and work together, an interesting challenge considering the actual make up of Firestorm. While the issues starts off with some basic superhero training stuff, it primarily revolves around the interactions of Ronnie and Jason while they are not joined as Firestorm. More than anything else, it helps to set up the divergent personalities that are forced to work together. One, Jason, is a star athlete who isn’t very good at playing by the rules, while Ronnie is obviously the brains of the operation, worried more about school and getting a high profile internship. And of course, there is the inevitable introduction of the story’s villain, whom Firestorm has apparently tangled with before. The art is solid, though mostly not of particular note. The two exceptions to this are the double page spread towards the beginning of the story and the half page panel near the end. The art is significantly better for Firestorm than for Jason or Ronnie. There are some pretty awkward looking faces planted throughout the story that tend to detract from the story as a whole.

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Next comes Metamorpho, a character I know almost nothing about. In part, that is what appeals to me and why I like a good anthology book. I’m inclined to say this is the second strongest story of the quartet and the one I’m most looking forward to seeing in the next issue. The story gives the reader just a taste of an origin story, which I felt was nice. Honestly, if all four of these stories were just origins, it’d probably be a pretty rough issue. Instead of a full blown origin though, in this story we find our hero imprisoned and under experimentation. Needless to say this is not going well for anyone involved and it isn’t until the introduction of a more sympathetic character that our hero has any real hope of escape or even survival. While I feel like this story has a lot to offer, if the billionaire business man is going to be the primary villain, I may have to reconsider my original excitement. I think that at this point, that particular stereotype has been played to death. Overall I found the art in this story to be stronger than in Firestorm, particularly the portrayal of Metamorpho himself. Given that the character has considerable control over his physical appearance, the artist did a good job of showing just how much he could change. There were again some inconsistencies in character faces, especially that of Java, the intellectually elevated cave man. At times he looks aggressive and cunning and other times just plain dopey.

Two different panels of the same character, Java.

Two different panels of the same character, Java.

While I may have only a minimal knowledge of Metamorpho, I had literally no idea who Sugar and Spike were before reading their story, and even after having read it, I’m not certain that has changed. “Fashion Sense”, as this story is called, is the best written story in this issue, going for an old school detective story feel. Even more fitting is the fact that they are hunting down a Batman villain, Killer Moth. The story is self-aware and willing to make jokes, but not to the extent that the story loses its intended feel. Of the four stories, this is the only one that appears to be a one and done story, which is a shame, because I think Sugar and Spike are characters worth further exploration, even if they are only done with single issue stories. The art is solid, reminding me a bit of Tim Sale’s Batman stories. There is also a great use of sound effects that I didn’t pick up on until the second time through the issue. One particular sound effect is used for Sugar and Spike’s gun shots, while a completely separate one is used for Killer Moth’s henchmen. Turns out that our heroes were using tranquilizer darts, hence the different sound effect. It’s a nice touch that adds quality and makes good use of comics as a medium.

Excellent use of sound effects.

Excellent use of sound effects.

Rounding out the batting order is Metal Men, a team I have had a soft spot for since 52. Unfortunately this is the weakest story of the bunch. By no means does this mean the story is bad, but after having read them all, I’m reluctantly forced to admit the truth.

The story starts in media res, which is normally fine, except that I missed the very small “End” caption on the bottom of the preceding page, so I had no idea I started a new story until the Metal Men actually appeared. While the team is out in the field, fighting and doing hero stuff, the story is pretty good, if a bit predictable. Once the team returns home however, the story gets bogged down in both real and imaginary politics, both of which I couldn’t care less about. Since this is the first story in what will probably be a short arc, I can do without trying to figure out the political machinations of persons completely off panel. Additionally, the villain of the story, a hacker called NAMELESS, is a thinly veiled reference to the hacker group ANONYMOUS, mashed into a single entity. In today’s current political climate, I read comics so I can ignore this kind of stuff, not wade through it. I once again found myself dealing with inconsistencies in the art. While the Metal Men themselves look fantastic, with wonderful detail and shading, the people that also occupy the world seem simplistic and more cartoon-ish. This may have been an intentional choice, or it may not have been, but the fact that I couldn’t tell leads me to believe that it was inadvertent and therefore something that detracts from the overall quality of the story.

Look at the difference in detail between Iron and the humans.

Look at the difference in detail between Iron and the humans.

In truth, none of these stories blew me away, which is ultimately very unfortunate. For a book like this to succeed, it needs to be more than just all right. It really needs to wow the audience with something in order for them to pick it up again. Don’t misunderstand, I’m onboard for at least the next several issues, but I’m also hoping for some pretty substantial improvements as the series progresses, or else, in spite of my support, I can’t see this series lasting much longer than its predecessor did.

2.5/5 Death Stars

2.5 Death Stars

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Filed under Andrew Hales, Comics, Reviews, Saturday Reviews

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