Legion of Super-Heroes: Enemy Rising by Jim Shooter, Francis Manapul, Livesay and others

Posted by on February 18th, 2010 at 9:00 AM

DC Comics; 192 pp.; $ 19.99; Color, Hardcover; ISBN: 9781401219932

©2008 DC Comics.

Throughout his long and varied career in the industry, Jim Shooter has always worked to advance ownership interests. He reaffirms that calling in Enemy Rising, a slender hardcover reprinting the first eight issues #37- 44) of his return to writing the adventures of the Legion of Super-Heroes after many years.

In delivering solid genre fare, Shooter betrays no greater creative fire (nor grander professional ambitions) than that of a highly reliable caretaker. For this venerable title crowded with characters, his sure story sense and mastery of narrative mechanics, including effective dialogue, prove a good match. Moreover his return can be seen as a PR flourish and shot in the arm for a franchise with longstanding devotees.

Attentive to the market and fandom expectations, Shooter maps past patterns of commercial success onto the more fluid vagaries of today’s mass culture. Thus, in deference to modern attention spans, rapid cuts are made between short scenes glimpsed in a variety of venues. The more rapid the cuts, the more fraught the action. Such a narrative structure fits well with the Legion’s ungainly membership, allowing assorted and shifting aggregates of characters to be shuffled through crisply, preventing any reader’s favorite from being slighted. With this staccato delivery, mandatory fights can be prolonged over issues, spliced and dropped in to punctuate more pedestrian stretches. Intrusions of meretricious sexuality are parceled out for similar effect.

The visuals do their level best to keep up. Six of the issues are rendered by penciler Francis Manapul with inks by Livesay. Art is solid, better-than-average genre fare with an eye toward varied composition of pages and within panels. Still, any recourse to sympathetic realism is made difficult by sheer 31st Century marvelousness and incomprehensibly cataclysmic conflict.

©2008 DC Comics.

Oddly enough, realism intrudes most pointedly in the overarching threat to the Legion. Shooter skillfully integrates conflicts of long, medium and short-range duration. With all due respect to the space monsters, the group’s most pressing issue is its crisis in leadership. Problems with financing, personnel, governmental antagonism, resource allocation and bureaucratic intractability beset the super-club. The bit of hard-won breathing room that closes the book is gained thanks to the ingenuity of an accountant.

Enemy Rising begins very much in medias res and ends to be continued, all of which gives every indication that its author is settling in for a long stay. Physically, the volume exemplifies the current “rush to hardcover” trend of the major publishers: It feels bare-boned and flimsy. Slick paper is especially thin with two pages sticking together just as likely as three.

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