THIS REVIEW OF ‘LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: MILLENNIUM’ #1 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Brendan Hodgdon. The passage of time is often a cruel and uncompromising force. Truths taken for granted can fade into barely-remembered history, and structures that gave security and comfort can become prisons for one’s dreams. But while such changes can be scary and difficult, what’s worse is the ways that nothing changes at all. It’s that desperate struggle to overcome one’s recurring faults which lies at the heart of Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #1. Writer Brian Michael Bendis and the art team led by Jim Lee, Dustin Nguyen, Andrea Sorrentino & André Lima Araújo may be building to the gilded optimism of the Legion’s future, but along the way they are offering a sober-minded reflection of life and unyielding time.
The story focuses on the classic DC character(s) Rose & Thorn, and follows her across the impending centuries and the often-cataclysmic changes that take place along the way. Rose & Thorn is an atypical choice to anchor the prologue to a major team relaunch, but she’s also a ringer for a classic Bendis protagonist: a damaged, dangerous woman struggling with her demons and her power. And Bendis ensures that both Rose and Thorn are given equal weight and empathy in this story, as the fears of each side of our hero’s personality are given full voice and vigor across time.
While that false sense of change may be true on a long enough timeline (both within the DC Universe and throughout the history of comics publishing), that doesn’t stop each era that Millennium chronicles from feeling distinctive. Some of that is due to the drastically-different characters each era is built around, but a lot is due to the varied artistic styles which lend each segment a clear sense of identity and tone. Blended with Bendis’ wordy flair, we get a story that tells us so much about the arc of history yet to be while never losing sight of Rose & Thorn’s seemingly eternal struggle.
At the outset, a sequence featuring President Supergirl uses the artwork of Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair to establish a time not all that different or distant from the present built on the aesthetic template those titans helped establish. Then there’s Batman Beyond, comfortably rendered by Bat-veteran Dustin Nguyen and master colorist John Kalisz as an oppressive, claustrophobic atmosphere. That leads into Andrea Sorrentino and Dave Stewart’s exploration of the world after the Great Disaster, where everything is given the brutal, uncompromising edge one might expect from an anthropomorphic animal kingdom. But from there we leap to the era of Tom Tomorrow and the Planeteers, where André Lima Araújo and Jordie Bellaire’s European vibes offer an almost-antiseptic vision of a world on the mend. Through it all, Dave Stewart’s letters run the gamut from the comfortable patter of Bendisian dialogue to the dramatic sturm und drang of the apocalypse with thoughtful care.
Against these shifting backdrops, it’s Bendis’ exploration of Rose & Thorn that shines through. Live long enough and you can be almost every kind of person, as both Rose and Thorn each attempt to illustrate. But ultimately, Rose’s desperation and Thorn’s bitterness never seem to dissipate, even as years turn to decades and decades to centuries. Even with the drastic upheavals that the encroaching millennium will apparently bring, some natures just can’t change. But maybe, as Thorn herself laments, the times don’t really change all that much either. That can be a horrifying notion all its own, depending on your point of view.
Even so, the arc of the future’s history that’s chronicled in Millennium #1 seems a positive one. After all, just within these pages we’ve seen the world degrade into cyberpunk brutality, completely implode into a vicious wasteland, and rebuild itself into a society with a rediscovered zeal for exploration and hope. And as Rose herself seems to realize in the end, each change in the world brings new opportunities for change in yourself, even when faced with the oppressive nature of time itself. The sort of hope that lives at the heart of such opportunities feels just right for the Legion of Super-Heroes, and it’s what makes Millennium such a fitting prologue to their triumphant return.
DC / $4.99
Written by Brian Michael Bendis.
Pencils by Jim Lee, Dustin Nguyen, Andrea Sorrentino & André Lima Araújo.
Inks by Scott Williams, Dustin Nguyen, Andrea Sorrentino & André Lima Araújo.
Colors by Alex Sinclair, John Kalisz, Dave Stewart & Jordie Bellaire.
Letters by Dave Sharpe.
8 out of 10
Check out this 5-page preview of ‘Legion of Super-Heroes’ #1, courtesy of DC!
Variant cover by Bryan Hitch and Alex Sinclair.