When Keith Giffen was announced as coming on board as co-writer and artist of "Legion of Super-Heroes" #17, I cheered. The book on the whole has been lackluster for the last two years, and when Giffen had done the same thing for the "Legion of Super-Heroes Annual" a couple years ago, it was the best Legion story in ages. Unfortunately, Giffen's second issue is probably his last with no explanation given, and readers are the poorer for it.
Giffen and long-time writer Paul Levitz serve up the second issue in a story that's been building for quite a while: the return of the Fatal Five. Giffen and Levitz present a huge catastrophe storyline, as the Fatal Five's attacks destroy the fabric of the 31st century, both figuratively and literally. It's a tense and slightly nasty sequence of events, with one Legion member killed in the first chapter, and many more put into precarious positions. For the first time in as long as I can remember, "Legion of Super-Heroes" feels dangerous and unpredictable. That's exactly what this book has needed for a while; it's been very staid, very by-the-numbers. I'm not saying there has to be death and destruction every month, but a story where anything can happen is actually a bit of a relief. It's exciting and fun again, and it's quickly turning into, "How can the writers get us out of this one? And will they instead just make matters worse?" I'm loving it.
Scott Kolins and Tom Denerick sub in on the art, instead of the originally-solicited Giffen and Scott Koblish. Their styles are different but they mesh surprisingly well. Denerick's art is smooth while Kolins is more blocky, but they both are coming from the same basic art structure. It's big, expansive storytelling when needed, but also not afraid to zoom into some smaller detail as necessary. And while both do a good job with showing the destruction everywhere, I feel like Kolins needs extra props for his work on that; it really feels like this is more than just an explosion or two, that this is apocalypse-level devastation with the way that he draws everything crashing down and crumbling.
It's a shame that Giffen is off to other pastures, because I'd have loved for him to even stay on board as a co-author, even if he doesn't have time to draw the book as planned. These two issues have been a blast, and knowing that things will probably settle down somewhat without his presence is a real disappointment. (Word is unclear if he'll be co-writing next month or not, but if so that will be it.) For a brief moment, "Legion of Super-Heroes" was doing what it should have been all along.