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October 15th, 2019

Time for another Legion of Super-Heroes classic re-read. Today, we start with something special...





DC Special Vol 1 #28
Earth Shattering Disasters!

July, 1977
"The City That Stopped —- Dead!"
Writer: Paul Levitz
Penciller: Arvell Jones
Inker: Bob Layton
Letterer: Bill Morse
Colourist: Liz Berube
Cover: Al Milgrom
Editor: Paul Levitz

Mission Monitor Board:
Phantom Girl, Brainiac 5, Ultra Boy, Timber Wolf, Chemical King

Opposition:
Fenton Pike

Synopsis:
On Earth, it’s midnight in the city of Metropolis, the city and its vehicles and everything else powered by broadcast power of the unlimited energy generated by the city’s fusion powersphere. Which suddenly goes dead, and chaos and havoc result.

Five Legionnaires enter the fray, and go to investigate. Brainiac 5 takes Phantom Girl and Chemical King with him to the power sphere, while Ultra Boy and Timber Wolf are on damage control and go to help as many people as they can. Ultra Boy and Timber Wolf halt a monorail running wild on momentum and diving down to rescue people trapped below the monorail, all the time wondering who could have done this to the city and why. The destruction of the city proceeds even as they watch, commenting that most of the Legion is on leave and even then they couldn’t handle it because they’re super-heroes, not gods. However, Timber Wolf is betting that if anyone can figure it out, it’s Brainiac 5. Meanwhile, at the fusion powersphere, a red-and-gold armoured figure wonders why the equipment that he stole from the Science Police hasn’t destroyed the powersphere yet, though even if it doesn’t, the radiation being generated will wipe out Metropolis regardless. The figure flees, and runs straight into Brainiac 5, Phantom Girl and Chemical King who have arrived at the powersphere. The three Legionnaires learn that it is Fenton Pike, whom they stopped once before, who is determined to get his revenge on the city of Metropolis. He has rigged the powersphere to stall, building up energy but not releasing it. Pike disappears through the floor, but when Phantom Girl attempts to pursue him, Brainiac 5 dissuades her as the radiation leakage from the damaged powersphere might be able to harm even her in phantom form. They realize that if they cannot turn off the powersphere's override, the powersphere will explode...destroying all of Metropolis.

Meanwhile, at Metropolis General Hospital, Ultra Boy is down on the bottom level of the facility, using his super-strength to spin the turbines stilled by the blackout. Timber Wolf meanwhile helps people trapped in burning buildings and witnesses from high overhead the the sight of the city dying of a man-made catastrophe. Back at the powersphere, Brainiac 5, knowing that Chemical King can slow down reactions, has him slow down the amount of radiation that the powersphere is giving off, thereby allowing Phantom Girl to enter the sphere itself to manually turn off the override mechanism. She enters the sphere and searches for the damage caused by Pike. Brainiac 5 figures out where the only place Fenton Pike could hide is, and sends Ultra Boy and Timber Wolf back to Legion Headquarters, guessing that the inertron-walled LSH HQ might be the only place to survive the fusion powersphere blast. They go to the sub-basement where Mordru was once imprisoned, which is completely radiation proof, and find Pike hiding there. The two Legionnaires take him down quickly, but Timber Wolf tells Ultra Boy that by knocking Pike out, he can’t tell them how the powersphere was sabotaged. It’s all up to Phantom Girl now.

Back at the powersphere, Chemical King can’t hold the radiation reaction and starts to collapse. Brainiac 5 shouts for Phantom Girl to get out of the reactor area, but she’s successful at fixing the damage caused by Pike, and hopes that it’s not too late. With Chemical King already down and unconscious, Phantom Girl’s form emerges from the reactor chamber, and she collapses into Brainiac 5’s arms. And the city is saved.

Commentary:
This is a really good story and one of my favourite Legion tales because it works on so many different levels. The group of Legionnaires that is used in this story (Phantom Girl, Brainiac 5, Ultra Boy, Timber Wolf and Chemical King) is a good mix of Legionnaires for the tale. When the alarm sounded, Jo and Tinya might have been about to go out on a date, and Timber Wolf and Chemical King were hanging out, since they are good buddies from their time in the Legion Academy. And Brainiac 5 would have been doing stuff down in the lab. Chemical King, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, became one of my favourite heroes, so his saving the city of Metropolis along with Phantom Girl doesn’t surprise me, though Tinya’s knowledge of powersphere science and physics did surprise me somewhat. In a future with more radiation and chemicals rather than less, Condo Arlik should have had a whole bunch of neat abilities in his arsenal. The use of his powers in this tale, mirroring what he did in a heroic, tragic cause in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #228, is fitting and if this issue had come out before that one, would have had a touch of irony and is another example of the selflessness of Condo Arlik.

The action in the story is exciting and the scale of the disaster is well depicted. Penciller Arvell Jones does a good job conveying the amount of chaos and destruction in Metropolis that fateful night, and I have to wonder whether he had been to New York City during their blackouts. Bob Layton's inks add an almost metallic polish to the pencils, making them more futuristic and neat.

Final Notes:
This adventure occurs after the incidents shown in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #227, as Chemical King references that story by saying that both Brainiac 5 and Phantom Girl had just gotten back from Colu... This is the second appearance of Fenton Pike, who first appeared in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #222. It was weird seeing him doing an Iron Man interpretation. And Pike was right, shame that Tyroc wasn’t in this story... It’s ironic that Ultra Boy was the Legionnaire who originally captured Pike in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #222... Brainiac 5 is armed with a force-field, but does not enter the fusion powersphere to help Phantom Girl... Pike planned to hide in the bunker where the Legion had imprisoned Mordru... Jim Aparo drew the Table of Contents page featuring co-stars Batman, Aquaman, and the Legion... This is the first time that Arvell Jones drew a Legion of Super-Heroes story. He was never the official "regular" penciller, but he did quite a few "back-up" or "secondary" stories in the Giant Sized Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes books that were to come.


Next Issue: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #229
As promised, today is "Two for Tuesday"... so here I present another classic Legion of Super-Heroes re-read. In this one, the Legion hunts for Chemical King's killer...





Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #229
July, 1977
“Hunt For a Hero Killer!”
Writer: Paul Levitz
Penciller: James Sherman
Inker: Jack Abel
Letterer: Bill Morse
Colourist: Liz Berube
Cover: Mike Grell (signed)
Editor: Dennis O’Neil

Mission Monitor Board:
Wildfire, Dawnstar, Superboy, Saturn Girl, Timber Wolf, Mon-El, Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, Light Lass; Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Shadow Lass (cameos)

Guest Star:
Night Girl

Opposition:
Deregon; The Dark Circle

Synopsis:
“Hunt For a Hero-Killer”
On the cemetery world of Shanghalla, the Legion of Super-Heroes holds the funeral for Chemical King. Timber Wolf recalls the events leading up to Chemical King’s death while preventing a cosmic energy sphere from exploding and starting World War VII. Immediately after the ceremony, Legion leader Wildfire uses the computer and Brownian motion to pick a team to go to the Dark Circle world to capture Deregon. Although every Legionnaire has volunteered to go on the mission, Wildfire picks only five as more would just get in the way. Saturn Girl argues with him, citing Legion traditions, but in the end agrees to Wildfire's decision though inwardly she’s still not pleased. Wildfire, Dawnstar, Timber Wolf, Superboy and Mon-El head off to the Dark Circle world, while the rest of the Legionnaires make their way back to Earth.

The five Legionnaires arrive in Dark Circle space, and start to make their way to the homeworld. They are forced to fight their way through Dark Circle forces. Superboy and Mon-El play pile-up with the robot drones, Wildfire holds off the space soldiers with free floating energy fields, Dawnstar guides Timber Wolf and the Legion cruiser through the increasing field of debris and hostile vessels. They reach the Dark Circle citadel that Superboy had spied on in the previous issue. Back on the other Legion cruiser, Cosmic Boy is annoyed at Wildfire’s limiting the Legion team tracking down Deregon, and Saturn Girl agrees with him and the fact that Wildfire does a lot of things that he’s not supposed to do, including influencing the Brownian motion that was used to choose the hunting team. But at least he chose a good team for the attack, and “we can deal with him when they get back!” In Dark Circle space, the Legionnaires are fighting their way towards the citadel. A laser cannon targets the Legion cruiser and destroys it, despite Timber Wolf’s warning to Superboy. Superboy does destroy the laser cannon, though, to prevent it being used to attack the Legionnaires. Wildfire leads the team to the Dark Circle Command building in search of Deregon.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, the three Legion founders and Night Girl are taking time off to relax, and have gone to Galaxyland in 30th Century Smallville to unwind. Light Lass contacts them and informs them that President Kandru has alerted them to the fact that Deregon is still on Earth and wonders why the Legion are leaving it in the Science Police’s hands. Light Lass says that Wildfire, Timber Wolf and the others are on a wild klanth chase. When Rokk (Krinn) suggests they go and warn them, Imra (Ardeen) counters that they can’t get there in time to do any good. She says that some subconscious impulse led her to come with the others to Galaxyland, and that Deregon is nearby.

Back at the Dark Circle citadel, Dawnstar leads the Legionnaires through the maze of the building, sensing a living presence. As Wildfire and Timber Wolf charge with her through a massive door, Superboy and Mon-El vanish in the middle of fighting Dark Circle forces off. The leader of the Dark Circle welcomes Timber Wolf, Dawnstar and Wildfire to the Dark Circle council’s innermost chambers, and grabber cables reach out and grasp each Legionnaire. As Wildfire frees himself, Timber Wolf and Dawnstar from the cables, Timber Wolf lunges in fury at the Dark Circle leader, anxious to get the truth of where Deregon is from him. The three Legionnaires vanish!

Back on Earth, a furious Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl confront SP Officer Mvar about knowing that Deregon was on Earth and didn’t think to tell the Legion. Since his beat includes Smallville, where the Legion started, he should know better. Saturn Girl asks if he noticed that Night Girl left them a short time ago and wonders why. It’s because she understands that this is Legion business, and the Legionnaires and no one else will bring Deregon in. Probing the area for a moment, Saturn Girl then takes off with her two fellow Legionnaires and heads into the amusement park’s Tunnel of Fear. Saturn Girl tracks him telepathically, registering his terror at being found by either the Legion or the Dark Circle. When they find him, he unleashes some robotic creatures from the amusement park on them; while Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad deal with them, Saturn Girl goes in pursuit of Deregon. When she corners him, Deregon lashes out at her, surprising her, and knocking her unconscious. Deregon runs further away, but is suddenly scared as Lightning Lad unleashes a series of lightning bolts, and disoriented, falls into a vat of chemical waste.

In “Epilogue 1,” Mon-El, Superboy, Timber Wolf, Wildfire and Dawnstar reappear in Legion HQ thanks to Ayla/Light Lass using the experimental warp transport to bring them home, and tells them that Deregon is already in captivity, taken down by Lightning Lad and the others.

In “Epilogue 2,” as the Science Police take Deregon away, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad talk about various revisions they would make to the Legion Constitution, given some of what’s happened the last few years and with the Deregon case, including revisions about killing…and as Garth hints, married members…

Commentary:
This issue concludes the story that began last time, that dealt with the death of Chemical King. Paul Levitz does a skillful job telling the story of the hunt for Deregon, Chemical King’s killer, and the fact that the Legion ends up partially on a wild klanth chase searching for him in the heart of the Dark Circle’s sphere of influence. The delicious irony and one of my favourite sequences in the story is when Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad (the three Legion founders) are the ones to capture Deregon back on Earth. Very fitting. One of the things I really loved in the story was the two panels near the end of the story that juxtapose Deregon’s fear versus Chemical King’s lack thereof. Brilliant stuff.

I have to admit that I was somewhat turned off by the whole sequence with Wildfire, Saturn Girl and Dawnstar near the beginning of the story. It seemed odd to me that only five Legionnaires would be chosen to attack an entire planet. Doesn’t seem that smart to me, and, if you’re going to the Dark Circle’s homeworld, why bring Dawnstar?, since they already know where they’re going. I would have thought an Ultra Boy or Element Lad would have made a better choice. Furthermore, Saturn Girl cites "Legion tradition" in her argument here but there have only been two other murdered Legionnaires, and in neither case did the Legion go after their murderers. Thus, the tradition argument doesn’t really work here.

The artwork in this story is passable. There are some decent flashes of James Sherman’s brilliance in the story, but they are pretty much buried beneath Jack Abel’s heavy inking style. Sherman’s robots and mechanical stuff are very nicely rendered and show the artistic skill that he has with the Legion quite nicely. The combat scenes are well rendered, and show the frenetic nature of the fighting in Dark Circle space. Sherman’s artistic take on the hunt for Deregon in the amusement park was very well done, and rendered the story even more gravitas than it has because of the basic plot of the story.

Final Notes:
Shanghalla is described as the cemetery of heroes, including Ferro Lad and Invisible Kid. However, because Ferro Lad's body was atomized by the Sun-Eater, he is actually not buried there (or anywhere). He has only a memorial there to represent his sacrifice... Shanghalla first appeared in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #341, when one of Triplicate Girl’s ashes were sent here... Superboy's "S" is reflected incorrectly in Wildfire's visor on page four... The text on page five tells us that Mon-El joins up with the team en route to the Dark Circle world, but he is clearly standing with the others on board the Legion cruiser on page 3... At the Galaxyland amusement park in Smallville, there are three "rides" visible: Temple of Bosch, House of Zendlida, and Salem House... The Legion received the experimental warp transport way back in Action Comics Vol 1 #387... The letter column also makes the announcement that on June 21st, the magazine becomes Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes officially and that starting that issue will become a monthly 48-page giant issue with some 30 pages of new Legion content every month.


Next Issue: Karate Kid Vol 1 #9

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