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Legends of Tomorrow #1 [Review]


legendsoftomorrow0001Cover Art: Aaron Lopresti with Chris Sotomayor
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: May 2016
Cover Price: $7.99

I hadn’t paid attention to this originally when I saw it solicited…I noticed the “title” and chalked it up as yet another soon-to-be-failed tv-tie-in of near-zero consequence, at least to me and my following the “regular” continuity of DC stuff. I’m not sure if the tv show had premiered yet or was just about to, but I had no interest in yet another digital-first thing seeing print, and thus ignored it. Then recently there was an ad for it that caught my attention, and left me curious. I was a bit put off learning the thing would be $7.99…even for a double-length issue, being frustrated with $3.99 price points, essentially $8 seemed a bit MUCH for just one issue of something I wasn’t overly familiar with. Still, I resolved to wait and see, not swearing to avoid the book but not intending absolutely to buy it, either. When it came out last week, it was a small week for me, so the $8 wasn’t terribly steep…plus the issue’s squarebound with the title on the spine, so it can actually go on a shelf like a mini tpb, and not simply disappear into a box.

While I’d expected a “lead” story and the others to essentially be “backup” features…if I counted correctly, we have 4 20-page stories in this issue, giving the thing excellent “value” for the content, if one is interested in or doesn’t mind what’s included (vs. say, wishing it was Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, or Green Lantern content).

Firestorm – United We Fall part 1
Writer: Gerry Conway
Penciller: Eduardo Pansica
Inker: Rob Hunter
Letterer: Corey Breen
Editor: Jessica Chen

I remember checking out Firestorm: The Nuclear Men title at the launch of the New 52, and it didn’t hold me enough to stick with it past a few months. I’ve never been a huge Firestorm fan, but I’d been loosely aware of the character at points–though mostly it was after the introduction of Jason as the new Firestorm and the apparent demise of Ronnie in Identity Crisis that the character was fully on my radar; and then the Deathstorm stuff around Blackest Night. Now there’s been a fair bit on the Flash tv show and Legends of Tomorrow, so this “lead” story was a good enticement for me to buy the issue.

We open on Ronnie and Jason testing their powers, with something going on with them, and then the two split, and we get a glimpse into their personal lives–individually, and at school with a mutual friend. We also have the introduction of a new/old villain, and come to see that there is something up with Jason, and with the Firestorm Matrix in general, which leads to a cliffhanger promising imminent destruction.

In addition to the above preamble, I think another draw to THIS take on Firestorm is that it’s written by the character’s co-creator, Gerry Conway…with the added element that I’ve attended a panel where he spoke several years ago, so there’s that quasi-personal-ish connection for me.

I like that the Jason/Ronnie mix has not been scrapped, and that along with both of them we also still have Professor Stein…indicating, for my limited experience with the character, a certain mix of original/classic and newer character elements and an observance of history for the characters. Yet, this also reads as a first issue, showing us bits of stuff with Firestorm and that it requires two people, and there’s this “matrix” thing that allows them to join AS (a) Firestorm; We’re “introduced to” Ronnie and Jason and see a bit about them–Ronnie’s into sports, Jason’s more into academics; We see a bit of “supporting cast” in Stein as well as the boys’ mutual friend; as well as a bit of rivalry between them. I’m familiar enough to simply enjoy the re-introduction/”confirmation” of stuff I figured I knew, and I’m interested in where this story goes.

I’m not sure if I’ve seen Pansica‘s art before or not…but I had no real expectation going into this. I was not disappointed by the art…it’s good, and worked for the story, avoiding random weirdness that’d put me off or have me wondering at anatomy and such; and I was never left trying to figure out WHAT happened or was going on. It’s a good match for the story itself.

I’m not sure exactly how this would rate for me as a first issue wholly on its own…though I probably would not have bought a Firestorm #1. But this was only the first quarter of the issue purchased…

Metamorpho – Two Worlds, One Destiny Part 1: Bound But Not Broken
Writer/Penciller: Aaron Lopresti
Inks: Matt Banning
Colors: Chris Sotomayor
Letters: Michael Heisler
Editor: Dave Wielgosz

I’ve never particularly been a FAN of Metamorpho, but I’ve never had a huge issue with the character. I’ve been aware of him, but never had much active interest in the character. I was turned a bit toward the negative after stuff with Indigo in the 2003 revamp of the Outsiders, but that’s a whole other matter.

Seeing the character here, I was wondering if he’d even shown up IN the New 52 continuity (and based on a headline I saw online, my guess is that this is his introduction into “current continuity”). As such, it’s sort of interesting to me to read the (re) introduction of the character, seeing how things are getting started for this present iteration.

Rex Mason is an adventurer for hire, and after an expedition to retrieve the Orb of Ra, something happened that’s left him in some sort of curious mixed state, made up of elements–earth/fire/water/air. His employer’s managed to contain and hold him with the power of the Orb…but the Orb is running out of power, and they’re not sure what to do with him. His employer’s daughter discovers that he still has sentience, though she’s not sure how since he’s no longer got human makeup or a physical brain and so on. She and Rex have a bit of a connection, and she seems ready to set him free when Java–an evolved caveman working with her father–bursts in ready to kill Mason on the spot.

This wasn’t the easiest story to follow, especially with initially consciously wondering if this was the character’s “introduction” or just some flashbacks; did I miss something in the last several years and have to play catch-up, or can I just settle in and see the entirety of the character unfold here? I’m also far less familiar with Metamorpho than I am a number of other characters. Still, the story worked well enough for what it is, and definitely carried the “feel” of a first issue, regardless of the character’s past (in the New 52 or otherwise).

The art was solid, getting stuff across well enough with no problems or leaving me trying to figure stuff out. It didn’t impress me, but it didn’t put me off, either. And having read the Firestorm story already and counted those pages to be 20 and realizing this was 20, I wasn’t as concerned with the art realizing even with a partial story I’d gotten some good value for the money I’d spent.

Sugar & Spike – Fashion Sense
Writer: Keith Giffen
Artist: Bilquis Evely
Colorist: Ivan Pascencia
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Editor: Amedeo Turturro

Quite a number of years ago–late 1980s or early 1990s–DC published a line of reprints…something like DC Silver Age Classics. They were reprints of “key” issues from the ‘Silver Age’ with certain first appearances or such (like an issue of Detective Comics with the first appearance of the Martian Manhunter or such). For whatever reason that I never figured out at the time, the line included some issue of something called Sugar & Spike, about these two young children. I vaguely recall the fact of having read the issue, though I don’t recall what the story itself was about…but it struck me as having been some DC version of something trying to mimic Archie comics or such, and not being at all tied into the (then-current) DC Universe that Superman and Batman existed in. At best/most it was an oddity from the past, from when continuity was less of a thing.

So come to 2016 and this issue, and we’re presented with adult Sugar & Spike…apparent siblings (if not twins), and they’re in Gotham City on a case…discretely tracking down some missing Batman costumes. They track the suits to a warehouse that’s doubling as an HQ for Batman villain Killer Moth. The villain has hench-people, who are fairly easily dispatched by the duo, leaving them free to retrieve the garments and get out. We see who hired them, and visual details place it within what I’m aware of for current continuity, and that’s that.

This is a one-off, done-in-one sort of story, yet fills the “standard” 20 pages or so of late, marking its contents as functionally a full issue…a one-shot with these characters, putting them into current New 52 continuity, and specifically operating in Gotham City (at least for this particular story). Other than the names, though, I get next to nothing from this…no particular nostalgia, and little sense in so few pages of these characters…especially as I feel like I’m supposed to get more from it, as an introduction of these characters into things. It’s not bad, but nothing I’m clamoring for; nor does it seem to be any sort of key “missing episode” in some other story. I also didn’t pick up on any obvious references to the characters’ times as kids, or past adventures, etc to place this as an update or such…it’s only tangentially (described above) that I even know THAT there is any significance to the names Sugar and Spike.

I’m not familiar with Evely as an artist, but had no problem here…no real expectation, so nothing to let me down on, and the art didn’t hit me in any bad way. It works, got the story across, and I’m good with that. I’m also amused at the fact that I’d swear Spike could be Archie’s brother.

I certainly would not have bought a random one-shot of Sugar & Spike if I saw it sitting out/available…but as a potentially “filler” full-length story dropped into a four-feature value “anthology,” I appreciate it and am left admittedly curious as to anything else that might be done with the characters.

Metal Men – Robots, Go Home!
Writer: Len Wein
Penciller: Yildiray Cinar
Inker: Trevor Scott
Colorist: Dean White
Leterer: Steve Wands
Editor: Andrew Marino

Probably my earliest memory of the Metal Men was one of those Amalgam issues around the DC vs Marvel thing: Magneto and the Magnetic Men. I’ve come across them several other times through my years being into comics, but never have been particularly fond of them…as with Metamorpho, more of a passive disinterest. Encountering them here, though, I’m willing to give ’em a read…it’s yet another full-length (20-page) feature in an issue I “only” paid $8 for.

We have a younger-than-I-recall Will Magnus…which I guess fits so much of the New 52: everyone is so darned YOUNG…as if there’s a PROBLEM with “age” and anyone BEING older than mid-20s. As an attack unfolds on the city, it’s his Metal Men that are able to save the day…though the city’s populace has been turned off to robots, not distinguishing his “good” ones from more sinister ones that would do everyone harm. After their latest defense of the city, Will begins reassembling his Metal Men…though others would see the program scrapped…and “help” may come from an unlikely source.

Visually, the thing works well for me…I like the character designs of the titular characters, and the action is conveyed quite well. The look is slick and quasi-realistic (for lack of better phrasing offhand) and totally embraces the “younger tone” for the character(s).

The story itself is by Len Wein, a name I have come to associate with old favorites, particularly from DC (but also a certain currently-dead-but-replaced-by-dopplegangers Marvel mutant). And I appreciate this as an introduction to the characters: it’s a bit of a reintroduction, a fresh story…and yet there’s a sense of “history” to it. Much like the Metamorpho piece, I almost get the sense of this being a latest issue of something or a bit of a flashback without necessarily being the current-continuity’s “first appearance.” (Though I suppose at this point that doesn’t even much matter…certainly not the way it did in the speculator boom of the early 1990s!)

While I don’t have much to say about this feature and it’s another I would not pick up by itself, I enjoyed it here and definitely will be glad to read the next chapter.

OVERALL

This issue as a whole was a long read. I’d hope so, for $8…but by comparison that’s only two “single issue format” comics…while this contains the equivalent of FOUR single issues. The only feature of the four that I’d really have any interest in on its own would be Firestorm, particularly with Conway on the writing. That said, I’m quite a fan of “value pricing,” and especially as a first issue to “check it out,” I quite enjoyed all four features as a singular large package. I’m not often a fan of “anthology” books, but this is one I can definitely get behind. Legends of Tomorrow–in comic form–may technically be an anthology of sorts, but it’s also exactly the sort of book (format-wise) I would love to see a lot more of! Rather than just having partial-issue snippets where three or four or more months’ worth of segments add up to one regular-sized issue, this is like buying a small tpb collecting four of the month’s books into one edition. (Imagine, say, “Batman Family” in this physical size/format, containing what otherwise might be Nightwing, Robin Son of Batman, Batgirl, and something like a one-shot. Or a “Superman Family” title that gives you a full-length/ongoing Superman story outside of Superman and Action Comics, but also allow a continuing series for Superboy, Supergirl, and something else (a Cadmus-related story?).

Value-wise, this is a great issue…four issues’ content for two issues’ price; it leads with Firestorm (which grabbed my attention the most) but includes other characters whose story I wouldn’t otherwise feel enough incentive to purchase…but enjoy as part of a package in this one book. And there’s enough content that I think I read the features in at least 3 sittings and might have been four…and even covering them this thoroughly, this review has been composed in at least three different sittings itself.

These features are four stories in a part of the DC Universe not typically touched on by Superman or Batman, and certainly are not up to the scale of a Justice League saga. While I’m sure there’s some bit of stuff from the New 52 Firestorm book’s impact on the character, I don’t get the feeling you need to know any of that series to enjoy this…and the other features are basically the introduction of the characters into this continuity, and thus allow plenty of content outside the Bat, Super, or Justice League side of things.

For $8, this is a strong value, and I highly recommend at least trying this first issue if its cover price isn’t too terribly off-putting for you.
I even got tired of writing this review, working on it in at least three different sittings.

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