I have to hand it to Paul Levitz: when the new "Legion of Super-Heroes" debuted and one of his first acts was to add villain Earth-Man to the ranks, I wasn't convinced. It seemed like too easy a decision to create tension in the ranks and have the role of "outsider" added to the Legion.
Now that we're five issues in, though, Levitz is making it work in a way that I should have seen coming. Levitz isn't strictly going for the outsider tactic, he's also adding in another classic story trope: redemption. And while Earth-Man's path to righteousness is still a ways off from completion — rejecting his xenophobic compatriots may have happened last month, but his dialogue with Sun Boy this month shows that he's still all about Earth first — he's become a much more interesting character as his changes slowly play out.
It helps that Levitz is doing a good job of juggling plots here; with much of last issue devoted to the rescue of the twins, this month shifts back more towards the xenophobic attacks on aliens on Earth, as well as the search for a new Green Lantern. Plus, of course, Brainiac 5 continues to ignore everyone else's plotlines (as he should), and Shadow Lass' story from last issue continues to advance. And while some characters still have yet to enter the spotlight or do more than appear in backgrounds, with such a large cast one gets the impression that they'll get their chance to step forward before too long.
The joint pencil team of Yildiray Cinar and Francis Portela has settled in quite nicely. They've each got similarities and differences, but the book looks like a cohesive whole, a rarity in a multi-artist comic. I'm growing to love the way Portela's characters are a little more exaggerated and ballooned, coupled with sharp and slightly over the top facial features. It's fun, even as Cinar's pencils are slightly softer and tempered, smoothed out with Wayne Faucher's inks. Even characters not necessarily in the forefront of the issue bode well from Cinar, and his care goes a long way.
In a market where grim and dark is the order of the day, "Legion of Super-Heroes" still feels fresh and fun. Considering Levitz is able to slip in modern day topics of anti-immigration and racism into the comic and still let it feel light and upbeat, that's a nice feat. "Legion of Super-Heroes" has quickly settled into a fun niche of its own.