THIS WEEK: Behold! There appeared a smiling group of young faces, and for a brief moment in Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #2, all was right with the DC Universe.
Note: the reviews below contain spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Nicola Scott, Jim Cheung, Jeff Dekal, and Ryan Sook
Colorists: Tomeu Morey and Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Since writer Brian Michael Bendis made his official jump from Marvel to DC last April with the short story that launched his Superman run in Action Comics #1000, Bendis has — I think it’s fair to say — changed DC’s superhero universe. He’s done so on a somewhat micro scale within the pages of Superman and Action: building out Metropolis a bit here, pushing forward Jon Kent’s growth there, and finally getting Jor-El off the board and back into his original place in the mythos. That’s all been great; I was admittedly skeptical at this run’s start, but I’ve fast become a big fan of Bendis’ work in Action Comics, Superman, and (by way of Marc Andreyko) Supergirl.
What I’ve appreciated the most about Bendis’ move to DC, however, isn’t his writing. Not exactly. It’s actually Bendis’ uncanny knack to put out fires (so to speak), and re-introduce in satisfying ways fan favorite characters and concepts. It feels like Bendis took this job, looked at what was happening at DC (focusing on what fans were clamoring for), and went to work fixing what he could.
It’s been almost 18 months now, and in one way or another you can trace to Bendis the following characters, creators, or tones returning to DC: The Question (both Renee Montoya and Vic Sage), Young Justice (with Bart Allen as Impulse, Cassie Sandsmark as Wonder Girl, and Conner Kent as Superboy), a more robust Metropolis (populated by Rose and Thorn, The Guardian, etc.), a solo title for Jimmy Olsen (the first since 1974), a solo title for Lois Lane (also the first since 1974, fellow writer Greg Rucka, and levity. In addition, Bendis brought over friends like David F. Walker, Matt Fraction, and Kelly Sue DeConnick, some of whom lend much-needed diversity to DC’s stable of creators.
That’s all been well and good, and not exactly easy. To be that influential as a writer of superhero comics takes not only vision, but a proven/continuing sales track record, clout, and diplomacy, all of which Bendis seems to wield. His biggest trick so far, however, takes place in the pages of this week’s Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #2, when the titular Legion appears, and appears as more than a quick plot device as they did in last week’s Superman #15.
Yes, it took a long journey — two over-sized $4.99 comics and 1,000-some years of future continuity — but Bendis (with the help of collaborator Ryan Sook) has brought The Legion back, and it’s really an impressive thing. See, Bendis has not just brought the Legion back, but he’s also managed to update and modernize the characters, concept, century, and even the Earth they inhabit. This is not the Legion in any of the ways we’ve seen them as of late, be it from the solid-yet-traditional lens of writer Paul Levitz, or allegorical nationalism version put forth by Geoff Johns in a pre-New 52 story in Action Comics.
Millennium #2 slowly builds to a Legion we’ve never seen before, doing so through excellent vignettes, the first of which is delightful Booster Gold-origin short drawn by Nicola Scott. This is the strongest of the vignettes by the way, and a bit of a tease really, given that it had me picturing a Booster Gold: Year One story penned by Bendis and illustrated by Scott, both of whom just seemed to get the character. Anyway, this is followed by an inherently more frightening glimpse of OMAC. This story, illustrated by Jim Cheung, moves lightning fast, delivering us to a final ethereal meditation in space drawn by Jeff Dekal. Of the three, I liked the third story the least, which is something I ascribe to my knowing the arrival of the Legion was at hand, like wanting an opening band to hurry up and finish before the headliner at a long-touted reunion show.
Once we’re through that segment of Millennium #2, however, it’s time to meet this new Legion. From the moment we get the first glimpse of Sook’s futuristic artwork, this comic feels special. Sook is a clean and optimistic superhero stylist, who drew my favorite page of 2019 (the one in Action Comics in which Clark goes into an alley to change, sees a kid reading comics, puts a finger to his lips as if to say don’t tell anyone you saw this, and then zooms up up and away). His second page is the re-imagined Earth, which is now just a core with a set of pods tethered to it in more of less the shape of a sphere. After that, it’s time to meet our new Legion, and boy is it a treat.
All it took was a single two-page spread in Millennium #2 for me to realize that, yes, of course Bendis with his sometimes-silly rapid-fire scripting is the perfect writer to take on stories with a literal legion of mostly-teen superheroes. His snippy exchanges, quick jokes, and penchant for packing word balloons seamlessly on pages is a perfect fit for this team, giving the Legion right away a new and more jovial feel, one that reminds me of watching younger folks online trade barbs, in-jokes, and memes while also talking about the importance of climate change or some other searing political topic.
In this introduction at the end of Millennium #2, it is right away made clear that Bendis gets that a legion of super-hero teens would be a bit idealistic, a bit quixotic even, as prone to lobbing teasing one-liners at each other as they are at working their hardest to change the universe. It’s fitting that Bendis has these kids in the 31st Century now, because it really feels like a new era for the Legion has finally come.
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Trevor Hairsine
Inker: Stefano Gaudiano
Colorist: Rain Beredo
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
So, DCeased #5 somehow brought a quick tear to my eye, proving yet again that Tom Taylor is the absolute master of taking what looks like a truly terrible idea (DC technozombies!), doubling down on classic and long-standing character relationships, and putting out must-read comics. Seriously, I don’t know how this guy does it. He made Injustice, a promotional video game tie-in, the most-compulsively readable DC Elsewheres story in years. Meanwhile over at Marvel, he’s told evergreen stand-alone stories with buried titles like the fourth X-Men team comic and the fifth Spider-Man solo book (which also had an issue this year that made me emotional).
While there’s almost something intangible to his work (it’s just good), there are some specific things that Taylor does well across the board evident this week in DCeased #5. You see it clearest here in a couple of key scenes. The first one involves Lois Lane hauling off and cracking Lex Luthor in the face (in a full-page splash) for insinuating that Superman’s carelessness lost him two homeworld’s in one lifetime (what a dick). The second sees Superman saying goodbye to his family after becoming infected with the technovirus or whatever.
Both of these disparate scenes are immensely satisfying for the same reason: they show an uncanny ability to wield long-standing relationships in a satisfying way for long-time readers. Of course Lex would say something like that, and of course it would be Lois who decides, correctly, that this is the sort of thing that merits a straight up (non super-powered, of course) sock to the face. The second knows that Superman is the type of guy who while dying would lose some of his last moments existing to give his wife, mother, and son lasting pep talks. The art team (Trevor Hairsine, Stefano Gaudiano, and Rain Beredo), meanwhile, take this absolute gem of a scene and do wondrous things with it, especially with Clark’s last smile, which they have astoundingly rendered (in tandem with the words and plotting) to convey sadness, fear, and absolute confidence that even in the face of the world-ending, his son will grow to be a great man who does great things in the service of others.
For a goofy, alternate-reality zombie comic, this sure is some beautiful stuff.
- I fully intended to write about Lois Lane #4 this week, which is the first time that comic’s release has fallen to me in our rotation, but its complex and satisfying slow burn got overshadowed by flashier Superman-adjacent business. I’ll have my chance to write about it again in December.
- I would have written about Doom Patrol: Weight of the Worlds #4 this week, too, but all I really have to say about this one is BUY THIS FREAKING COMIC. Nick Pitarra comics are all must-buy for me, and this one is especially clever, with a great parody of Marvel’s symbiotes that I won’t spoil here.
- This Justice League run has been at 11 from its start, but this issue maybe kicks it up to 12? Er, I don’t really know what that means either, but the Justice/Doom War is really ramping up, and I’m increasingly into it. Starting to seem like these creators are building toward a cri—shh, I don’t even dare to say it.
- In Young Justice #9, André Lima Araújo continues to establish himself as one of the publisher’s best artists. Guy can really really draw.
- I also enjoyed Batman #80, Deathstroke #48, and The Green Lantern #12 this week. And I’m not the biggest fan of one of those books, ahem. Anyway, overall this was just a solid set of releases from our friends at ol’ DC Comics.
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