I have a feeling DC wants Legion to be their next big thing. Not only are there three Legion titles in the DCnU- four if you count the Star Trek crossover- but there's a ring promotion in the works. I've never been a Legionarre myself, but I can see where DC's coming from. In recent years, they've had a massive amount of success with their other cosmic franchise, Green Lantern, and the Legion was hugely popular prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths. It's the perfect time for DC to draw in new readers and return the Legion to its former glory.
Unfortunately, I don't think Legion Lost is going to do the trick. It's far away the least accessible series of the DCnU so far, and I don't think it'll inspire new readers to do anything besides crack jokes about the second half of its name. Even as someone who's somewhat familiar with most of the series main characters, it was a tricky comic to follow, and I imagine more than a few would-be-Legion-fans couldn't make it through the issue. It's mind boggling to me that DC would not only release something so challenging to understand, but choose it as their leading Legion title. Since I've read it, I've been trying my best to figure out what went wrong.
The writer, Fabian Nicieza, has been working in the comics business since the 80's, and has proven many times that he can write a good title that's friendly to new readers. During his time with the X-Men, I've seen him make use of shortcuts like boxes that provide readers with the character's name, powers, and general history, and for the life of me I don't get why he didn't do that here. I cringed the moment I saw characters reference the Flashpoint Breakwall- that's exactly the sort of thing that's going to get people to give up on this title and assume that they're never going to get into it. This series seems to presume that everyone reading it is familiar with everything that came before. If I hadn't read enough interviews to know better, I would have thought this was intended to be a backup story in the main Legion title, and was never meant for new readers at all.
Similarly, artist Pete Woods is usually much better than he is here. While the art isn't terrible, it's inconsistent and lacks the expressive faces and body language that made his recent work on Action Comics shine. A lot of the backgrounds and even some entire panels look really rushed, which takes away from the comic's stronger pages. There are several panels where I think Nicieza was relying on the art to convey important information to the readers, and it failed him. It's a shame to see Woods go from some of the strongest work of his career to this, and I really hope he ups his game for the issues to come.
Legion Lost had a huge advantage over the other Legion titles in that it was set in the present. There are plenty of familiar faces and settings to take advantage of. Why not introduce a "fourth ghostbuster" type character to ask necessary questions in the place of the reader? There are dozens of Titans available to use, not the mention the younger cast of the JSA. I realize the title is only one issue in, and that there's plenty of time for this later, but something like this was needed right from the start. With so many comics are both easier to follow, and feature better known characters, I can't see this title catching on with anyone but the die-hard Legion fans.
What makes me the saddest is that I don't think this is a bad comic. The premise, dialogue, and basic story are all fine. With just a bit extra effort, I think a lot of people might have enjoyed this. I strongly suspect that the deaths in this issue are a fakeout, but pushing them back just one issue could've given them some real emotional punch. As is, the deaths felt pointless, and seemed to rely entirely on the affections longtime readers already had for the characters. This title was a huge step back for the would-be Legion renaissance, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was the first canceled out of the 52.
In spite of all my criticisms, I'm sticking with this one. I've been determined to crack the Legion since the DC relaunch was announced, and I feel like Nicieza's past work was good enough to earn my trust. I don't recommend this comic to anyone but Legion fans, but I'll keep my eye out for a jumping on point and will definitely let people know if this series becomes more accessible in the issues to come. The Legion is one of the most diverse corners of the DCU, and I hope that these characters will eventually be able to be appreciated by a much wider audience. Legion of Superheroes #1 comes out later this week, and if that title's an easier read, Legion Lost may find an audience yet.