Didn't post up a classic Legion of Super-Heroes
re-read yesterday, so figured I'd take care of that this evening.
DC Super-Stars Presents Vol 1 #17
(November-December) December, 1977
“The Secret of the Quintile Crystal!”
Writer: Jack C. Harris
Penciller: Juan Ortiz
Inker: Bob Smith
Letterer: Ben Oda(?)
Colourist: Liz Berube
Cover: Joe Staton (pencils), Bob Layton (inks) and Tatjana Wood (letters)
Editor: Paul Levitz
Mission Monitor Board:
Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Superboy
In 30th Century Metropolis, at the Fusion Powersphere, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl and Superboy are in attendance as a Science Police officer tells the Legionnaires that the object before them, the Quintile Crystal, which supplies the Metropolis powersphere with its energy is exhausted and about to be replaced. Superboy wonders why the Legionnaires have been called in, as it seems a bit routine. Saturn Girl tells him that he doesn’t know the story of the crystals - that the Quintile Crystal was instrumental in the Legion’s very first case some ten years ago. He hasn’t come across the casebook file in the Legion archives because they never recorded the full details. While the Science Police officer removes the crystal and tells the Legionnaires they must wait for it to cool, Cosmic Boy tells Superboy the story of the Legion’s first case...
Cosmic Boy starts by telling Superboy what he already knows about the founding of the Legion: Rokk Krinn, Garth Ranzz and Imra Ardeen were travelling to Earth aboard the same ship with R.J. Brande and when they landed, an assassin tried to kill Brande. The three youths stopped the assassination attempt, and Brande rewarded them by starting the Legion of Super-Heroes and giving them their code-names of Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl. It was Brande who gave them their first assignment. The Quintile Crystal that had recently been discovered by famed star explorer Floyd Marr has been stolen. Earth officials suspect they know who took it, but the situation is complicated for diplomatic reasons. Brande has learned that someone will be smuggling the crystal through the space customs station, Z-7, and Brande thinks the Legionnaires have the best chance of stopping the thief. When Cosmic Boy asks how they will get to the station, Brande takes them to the roof of his complex, where he gave them their very first Legion cruiser as a gift.
The Legionnaires rocket off and arrive on Space Station Z-7. They don’t know how to find the smuggler that Brande had mentioned, but Cosmic Boy suggests they use their abilities, starting with Imra (Saturn Girl). She senses that someone is thinking of the Quintile Crystal, and homes in on a figure clad in voluminous purple robes. Cosmic Boy magnetically turns off the artificial gravity in the station, and when everyone is floating in the air, Lightning Lad zaps the culprit and Cosmic Boy magnetically relieves him of the container that holds the crystal. As the gravity returns to normal, the Legionnaires attempt to hand the alien culprit over to the Science Police. One of the officers strides over to them and arrests them! The man in question is his Lordship Lorval, the Ambassador of the planet Oianus, and has diplomatic immunity. He tells the three Legion founders they have no legal right or authority to make an arrest, let alone a seizure. Lord Lorval magnanimously prefers to press no charges against the three, and goes free. The Science Police officer tells Saturn Girl that they know he stole the crystal, but the diplomatic situation prevents them from taking him in and recovering the crystal. The Earth government plans to buy the crystal back at a secret meeting, but the Legionnaires almost fouled up the whole works. Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad head back to Earth, and Cosmic Boy says he has a plan since Saturn Girl’s reading of Lorval’s mind has given them all the information they require.
Some time later, back on Earth, Lord Lorval sneakily makes his way through the lowest levels of Metropolis and, at a secret meeting location, gives the mysterious signal “Five...Cinque...Quint...Pentao...Quinti
le," and is allowed to enter. Facing various buyers, Lorval opens the bidding but is insulted at the bids in the low millions of credits. He says they are wasting his time, and that he will take the crystal to the Khunds, but when he attempts to lift it, finds it magnetized to the table. The bidders are revealed to be the Legionnaires! Once Cosmic Boy demagnetizes the case carrying the crystal, Saturn Girl snatches it up. She tells Lorval that they have what they came for, and intend to let him go. Since he stole the crystal in the first place, he can’t accuse them of stealing the crystal for fear of the conspiracy being revealed. The Legionnaires dapart, and race to get the crystal to R.J. Brande, as he’ll know how to get it back to the government. Once Brande does so, he lets the story out of the fact that the fledgling Legion recovered the crystal, and the Legionnaires begin to gain large groups of admirers. The Legion gets another reward, however, as one day Brande leads them to Science Police Headquarters. The Legionnaires are granted membership on all United Planets worlds, and are deputized as full-fledged officers of the Science Police with the authority to make arrests.
...and back in the present, with the old Quintile Crystal cooled, the Science Police officer hands to Cosmic Boy. He says that it’s appropriate that he does so with the three founders of the Legion and Superboy, their inspiration, present, as it redeems him. When asked what he means by that, the blond-haired SP officer removes his helmet and says that he was the SP officer who tried to arrest the Legion of Super-Heroes on their very first case!Commentary:
This is one of those Legion stories that you just have to love. It’s an origin story of sorts, though we’ve seen that story told already in Superboy
Vol 1 #147, but this time about the very first case the Legion was involved with. When Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad were the only Legionnaires. The story actually appears to take place before Rokk Krinn was named the first Legion leader, and as the story itself mentions, there are no Legion flight belts and no flight rings yet. Heck, they only get their first Legion cruiser in this story!
It’s a simple story, about recovering the Quintile Crystal from the thief who took it, who just happens to be a Lord and ambassador from another world. The three Legionnaires use their wits, more than their powers, to get the crystal back and prove that teamwork is what makes the Legion click and that they are worthy to be the heroes that they will evolve into. The villain of the story, Lord Lorval, is portrayed as nasty and sly and slimy, right down to an almost demonic-like face, and while he’s never appeared again in a Legion tale, I found him an effective foe for a group of Legionnaires who really were still learning the ropes.
The framing story of the tale, with the Legion being given the old Quintile Crystal that is to be replaced for their Trophy Room, is quite good though Superboy’s presence here at first feels like merely a means for Cosmic Boy and the other two founders to tell the Teen of Steel (and the readers) about a Legion case of which he knows nothing. However, the surprise reveal made by the Science Police officer makes it only fitting that Superboy be present.
The writing by Jack C. Harris (who is also about to take over writing duties on Karate Kid’s comic) and the artwork in the story by Juan Ortiz and Bob Smith are pretty decent, though the Legionnaires look a bit too old school in some panels, but there are decent backgrounds to most of the panels, the characterization is good, and R.J. Brande is portrayed once again as the somewhat portly, moustachioed figure that I have grown to love in his (not recent) appearances.
Overall, this is a very good story with a decent plot and good artwork that sheds some light on the Legion founders and their becoming deputized Science Police officers able to make arrests.
This story establishes clearly that the Legion of Super-Heroes has been around for 10 years...
The story also provides the first (timeline-wise) glimpse of the original Legion cruiser, a gift from R.J. Brande, and establishes that they did not have flight belts or flight rings as of yet.
Next Issue: Karate Kid
Vol 1 #11