July 28, 2009

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Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes (Volume 5) Dominator War

Written by Mark Waid and Tony Bedard
Illustrated by Barry Kitson, Kevin Sharpe, Mick Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Mark McKenna, and Jack Purcell
DC

Mark Waid's swan song on the title wraps up the main plots he's put together for the past few years along with a string of much more consistent artwork due to less hands in the work.

It's crunch time of the Legion, as they confront the mysterious Wanderers and face off against the Dominators, a powerful alien race that wants to destroy humanity and its allies (ala the Borg). Things look dark as the villains use the 31st Century's reliance on technology against the Planetary Alliance.

But just as things look their darkest, our heroes show their mettle and why they once again are the true heirs to the legacy of Superman, Batman, and the rest of our time's metahumans.

Unfortunately, this requires quite a few sacrifices, and Legion casualties are prolific while others make decisions that may haunt them forever and change team dynamics in a way that might have been seen except that after this arc, Waid and Kitson left the book and along with them, my interest in the title.

I mentioned before I don't really care for the Legion all that much, and it's a credit to Mark Waid that I wanted to keep reading for a good 30 issues. In this final trade, in which you can see he's being uncharacterisically quick to wrap up plot threads, Waid ratchets up the violence (characters are tortured, maimed, and otherwise abused quite a bit) and does his best to make things look both hopeless and possible all at the same time.

The problem for me is that I just don't care for "all powerful foe" stories for just that reason. I know the Legion won't lose. Waid knows that. His editor knows that. So no matter how bad things get, I just can't get behind the story because I know how it ends. Since I'm not a huge fan of galatic stories, the mitigating factors for this type of plot aren't present. If I did like the Legion more as a group, however, I bet I'd have been chilled when people were being ripped limb from limb.

Speaking of which, Barry Kitson is really on his game here. The players are all in constant movement and also in constant states of duress, something he gets across without going over the top in the gross-out department. (This is not a horror comic, and therefore does not need to bleed all over the page like one.) Facial expressions sing and compliment Waid's words. It's a shame he did not have more consistent inking on the other volumes.

I think perhaps the most interesting thing is that while this plot ties in to the doings in 52, Waid doesn't write that particular issue. It's a clever use of a time traveller to set up the reason for the war, however, but once again brings in another element I don't care for in comics because of the inherent complications--time travel. It seems like most of this trade was written for a taste that wasn't mine.

Overall, I enjoyed this trip into Legion-land, but I don't see a reason to keep reading. While rather abrupt, Waid's exist provides a nice stopping point. If you want a series you can read more or less self-contained (very rare these days) that has good writing, great character interplay, and a chance to show why it's always best to follow the writer, not the character (a lesson I learned in the nadir of Marvel's 90s comics), Waid's Legion reboot is for you. You don't even need to be a Brainiac to figure that out.