By: Paul Levitz (writer), Francis Portela (artist), Javier Mena (colorist)
The Story: Sworn to protect the universe from threats throughout the cosmos, these courageous heroes—oh no, wait—that’s the other Legion. This is the one that wants to kill you.
The Review: Writing the villains always entails some risk because obviously, it’s an uphill battle trying to sell their criminal motivations. Considering most comic-book villains also tend to be on the just plain crazy side, it can also be tricky giving them personality beyond their mad ravings. It takes some subtlety or irony to make these unsavory folks fully-realized characters.
Saturn Queen definitely falls in the deranged category, but thankfully Levitz writes her twistedness with a palpable sense of how sinister she really is. Her condescension to everyone, even her fellow villains, mixed with her now-amplified telepathy show that she just gets off on controlling people. The way she turns her dissenters into groveling pawns (love her emasculating breakdown of Lightning Lord’s confidence) certainly lives up to the queen in her name.
In fact, she hogs so much of the spotlight, the other characters never get much opportunity to shine at all. It’s a pity Levitz takes the trouble to assemble a fairly formidable team of antagonists then gives them nothing to do all issue except follow Saturn Queen’s orders—which includes a bumbling course through an interplanetary storm (only to change their minds at the last second) and a perplexed attempt to destroy the Rock of Eternity.
It’s pretty astonishing that for an oversized one-shot, almost nothing significant happens. You get introduced to the premise and figures of note for a storyline that’ll no doubt play out in Legion of Super-Heroes, but otherwise the plotting and character work remain light. Besides Saturn Queen and Lightning Lord, the other villains are new (?) and you get no handle on what dangers they pose, which seems a waste of a whole issue centered on villains.
One nice touch about Saturn Queen’s current plan to throw the entire universe into chaos (which, grand as it sounds, still seems pointless) is it ties into the force that destroyed Titan, a plot thread which seemed all but forgotten till now. It also seems that Saturn Queen acts on behalf of even greater, mysterious power, and considering the huge scale of her mission, this may be the start of a whole new epic storyline for the Legion, which they sorely need.
There’s little to complain about with Portela’s art—it’s solid, detailed, and gets the job done. His character designs feel a little cliché, but they feature some classic figures: the giant mech, the obese, translucent powerhouse, etc. He also makes some great facial expressions. Saturn Queen’s menace and her team’s total creepout around her come through clear and true in every panel, at times hilariously so. Sometimes he puts in a couple nonsensical details—like where the heck Saturn Queen gets that severed finger—but mostly he plays to the script. Mena’s colors are bold and lively, but otherwise do nothing to improve or take away from the issue.
Conclusion: The whole issue feels like a glorified setup for the next major Legion story arc, which doesn’t seem like a good value for the five bucks you’ll have to fork over for it.
– Minhquan Nguyen