2 out of 5
There’s a lot of appreciable energy running through the four issue Legion of Monsters revival – following a thread from the Punisher book at the time, which deposited the Morbius-led Legion in a subterranean, monster-populated city – but that butts up against a rawness of craft from (then) new-ish writer Dennis Hopeless, and rather overly stylized artwork from Juan Doe.
The four issue series purports to tell of a mystery involving the zombie-fication of “Monster City’s” dwellers, with a typical It Goes Right To The Top!! type of twist, but it’s rather stumblingly executed, with Hopeless relying on flashbacks and explain-it-all villain moments to deliver the story between chunks of witty banter, which is definitely more where the writer’s heart would seem to lie. This is clear from how things kick off: with our POV-ish character, Elsa Bloodstone, chasing a beasty on her bike and then stumbling into Monster City and the zombie mystery. With Elsa, Hopeless gets to snark and pose her heroically and badass-ly, getting a zing of pairing her with our spins on classic monsters – a wolfman, a zombie, a fish monster. The yuks during these interactions aren’t the most complex of affairs, but it creates a fun, flowing tone, and you get the appeal of just following these goofballs around.
But, y’know, there’s the story, which absolutely gums up that flowing tone with all of its rather obvious telegraphing, and some equally clumsy character “development” that occurs between panels, when Elsa and the wolfman become past friends.
Juan Doe’s designs are tons of fun, with super stylized Bruce Timm-like figures, and Will Quintana’s garishly poppy colors are a great match for this. But there’s not much of a sense of place – a shame, when Monster City should be an eye-popping locale – or followable choreography, which makes the frequent battles rather unimpactful: everyone just ports from panel to panel, and those panels might be all in the same location, or all in different locations.
Hopeless’ career would take off to a degree after this, and I’m glad for that – the enthusiasm of Legion of Monsters is clear, both in writing and art, but it’s definitely the work of someone still learning their craft, and how to tie story and character and comedy together. This lack of direction may also have fed into a dearth of guidance for Juan Doe’s artwork, leaving the book smacking of fun, but reading pretty clunkily.