December 24th, 2020

Ho! Ho! Ho!

'Tis the 24th of December, and thus 'tis Christmas time.

While I was born Jewish and am more pagan than anything else these days, I just want to wish all my LiveJournal, WordPress, and Twitter friends and those who read LJ from time to time a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hogswatch, and a Happy Holiday season.

Take care of yourselves, be good to yourselves, and remember, as a nice Jethro Tull song says: "The Christmas spirit is not what you drink."

Merry Christmas, everyone! :)

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #253

Time for another Legion of Super-Heroes classic re-read. This time out, the first appearance of the League of Super-Assassins! Enjoy! :)






Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #253
July, 1979
"Night of the Super-Assassins!"
Writer: Gerry Conway
Penciller: Joe Staton
Inker: Frank Chiaramonte
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Gene D'Angelo
Cover: Dick Giordano (signed)
Editor: Jack C. Harris


Mission Monitor Board:
Colossal Boy, Superboy, Ultra Boy, Timber Wolf, Light Lass, Phantom Girl; Lightning Lad, Shadow Lass, Mon-El, Wildfire, Saturn Girl, Dream Girl, Cosmic Boy, Princess Projectra,


Opposition:
The League of Super-Assassins (Silver Slasher, Titania, Neutrax, Lazon, Mist Master, Blok)


Synopsis:
Out in space, at the border of our solar system and interstellar space, a spaceship carrying six individuals heads towards Earth. Silver Slasher discusses with her cousin Blok how she is looking forward to facing six specific Legionnaires (Superboy, Phantom Girl, Ultra Boy, Light Lass, Colossal Boy and Timber Wolf) and killing them with her friends/cousins, using plasti-steel statues of the Legionnaires in question to show Blok what she intends to do. They seek revenge on the six Legionnaires who they believe were responsible for the destruction of their planet. Blok tells the Ki-Lan/Silver Slasher that he wants revenge on them, too, but not like an animal or beast. Lazon tells Silver Slasher and Blok there's no need to quarrel among themselves - they're heading for Earth with a purpose, and Titania says that she believes they will accomplish their goal.

On Earth, in the Council Chambers of the United Planets Headquarters, a delegation of Legionnaires led by Lightning Lad asks the Earth President for financial support. Since Legion HQ was recently destroyed by Omega and one of their last cruisers was destroyed during their fight with the Starburst Bandits, they need financial help to rebuild. Unfortunately, the President and his cabinet refuse to underwrite the Legion. He reminds them that they are currently occupied with rebuilding Earth after the war with the Khunds, a process that will take many years, and tells them that, "Simply put, Legionnaires...you're just not a very high priority on the agenda." Timber Wolf takes offense at these words, and hot-headedly says that perhaps the next time Earth needs help against some menace, they won't be a high priority on their agenda. Lightning Lad calms him down somewhat, and after the Legionnaires leave the U.P. Headquarters, says that he will take a delegation of Legionnaires to see their original benefactor, R.J. Brande; Garth hopes that he can pay for a new Legion HQ and new cruisers and equipment for the team. He leaves with the seven Legionnaires, leaving Superboy, Light Lass, Phantom Girl, Ultra Boy, Timber Wolf and Colossal Boy to handle matters on Earth. Timber Wolf says that at times like this, he wishes he were a lone wolf again, but Phantom Girl tells him to give the government and other channels a chance. Superboy says that since things are pretty much quiet at the moment, perhaps a night out would be a good idea, and the others agree (some grudgingly).

Meanwhile, near Jupiter, the spaceship carrying Silver Slasher, Blok, Lazon and the others is challenged by Science Police patrol vessel. Lazon exits their ship in the form of a beam of light and destroys the Science Police cruiser, killing most of those on board. When he re-enters their ship, Silver Slasher tells him that his light powers are magnificent, to which he says also so very deadly. That was just an example of what he plans to do to the Legionnaires.

In Metropolis, the six Legionnaires spend a bit of time watching construction-robs working, and then decide to go find some action. They start at the New Aquarius Niteclub, where partners Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl and Timber Wolf and Light Lass enjoy some dancing and romance. Colossal Boy laments that he and Superboy are almost fifth wheels, but when the group goes to a Holograph Show, Colossal Boy's thoughts turn to Salu (Digby aka Shrinking Violet) and how he regrets she went with Lightning Lad's team to see R.J. Brande. Eventually, the Legionnaires call it a night and prepare to head for home and the conclusion of their night.

At that moment, some 500 miles away on the outskirts of the sprawling nation-city, Titania guides the spaceship containing the six vengeful characters to the ground, where its repellers dig a hideout for the ship in the sprawling ruins. The Earth patrol ships fail to find them, and Blok tells the others they have been lucky thus far, but Lazon counters that Blok is a hopeless pessimist. He says they have more than luck to slay the Legionnaires - they have Blok's invulnerability, they have Neutrax with his strange power, they have Titania's super-strength, they have Silver Slasher, and they have Mist Master, perhaps the most powerful of them all. Titania asks if it is time, to which Lazon replies that it is. The largest among them will be the first to fall.

At a municipal terminal in the heart of the newly reconstructed downtown, the six Legionnaires part ways. As he watches Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl leave, Colossal Boy thinks to himself that Tinya has a really good effect on Jo, as while usually he's depressing as heck but this night he was as cheerful as Bouncing Boy. Gim asks Superboy if he wants to share a ride back to what's left of Legion HQ, but Superboy says that he can't; he promised Lightning Lad that he'd go to the hospital and visit Brainiac 5 and Matter-Eater Lad. Superboy takes off into the night, but pauses half a mile up, as if he's just remembered something.

On a side street down below, Colossal Boy walks along and ponders matters. His thoughts turn again to Shrinking Violet, but they are interrupted as he is surrounded with a greenish mist. It starts to choke the life out of him, and he attempts to grow and escape it, but it expands and strikes Colossal Boy down, seemingly killing him. Mist Master appears in the aftermath. He comments that a mere year ago, he and the others were normal humans. "but the Dark Man changed that, even as he changed us..." One Legionnaire down, five to go.

Elsewhere, in a spartan residence on the fortieth floor of a residential tower unscathed by the war, Timber Wolf takes Light Lass to his home. They talk and squabble over their relationship and whether he loves her, but before he can respond, Blok and Silver Slasher smash their way in through the exterior wall. Blok attacks Light Lass, telling her that this is revenge for what she and the others did to her homeworld, and then punches her seemingly to death. Timber Wolf holds his own against Silver Slasher, but the distraction of Light Lass's seeming demise allow Silver Slasher to tear him to bits and then thrown out the window to fall the forty floors to his seeming death.

At the ruins of Legion HQ, Ultra ponders whether it was such a good idea to go back there, but Phantom Girl phases into the rubble and comes out with Jo's old survival pouch from before he joined the Legion. Before they can talk much more, Tinya screams and collapses to the ground. Neutrax informs Ultra Boy that she is quite dead, and he responds by attacking and faces Titania. He weakens against her since he can only use one power at a time, and Titania strikes him seemingly dead with a girder when Neutrax neutralizes Ultra Boy's ability to switch powers. Titania and Neutrax congratulate each other, saying they both deserved vengeance for what the Legionnaires did, and that Neutrax killed Phantom Girl by neutralizing her brain waves.

Lazon, Silver Slasher, Blok, and Mist Master arrive with the bodies of the other Legionnaires they've taken down. The ecstatic Lazon says that within less than an hour their last target will die: Superboy! The story continues in the next issue.


Commentary:
This story by Gerry Conway has an interesting premise - six assassins with super-powers come after a group of Legionnaires, seeking revenge for the destruction of their homeworld. In many ways, the story lives up to the premise, but it fails on one level as well (see below).

One of the positive things in this story are the six "assassins" themselves. (They never call themselves that, for reasons I'll mention here.) The six characters hate the six specific Legionnaires enough to have themselves altered (there is the reference to the Dark Man here having changed them) so as to pursue their revenge against those they blame for the destruction of their homeworld. Titania and Silver Slasher call each other "sister" while Slasher and Blok call each other "cousin," and Neutrax refers to the all five of the others as his "cousins." The six of them appear to be one big, happy (??) family, although Blok seems to have a reluctance about the whole thing that is telling in itself, and has ramifications down the line. Aww, what the heck: Spoilers: He becomes a Legionnaire later on!

If there is a negative to the story it's this: The Legionnaire characterizations are a bit off. Timber Wolf comes across way over the top when he whines about being a Lone Wolf, but later on, he orders Light Lass to stand back and let him handle the two attackers. Really? And Light Lass has to tease Timber Wolf to the point where he's about to admit that he loves her? This doesn't ring true, as I've never envisioned Timber Wolf as being this shallow, let alone sexist. He tends to wear his emotions on his sleeve, a good example of this coming when the Legionnaires are asking the Earth President for financial backing to help rebuild and are told that they're not very high on the priority list. In the same vein, Colossal Boy spends most of the evening that he's missing Shrinking Violet...even though she isn't his girlfriend! She's still involved with Duplicatte Boy of Lallor. I think both of these examples show that neither writer Conway nor editor Harris have got the handle yet on the Legionnaires relationships.

The second negative of the story is one that prevented my sense a wonda from kicking in with the story: it's just too convenient that the six Legionnaires that Lazon and his friends are out to kill (which is given away in the first panel of the splash page) are the ones who just happen to be on Earth. The odds of that actually happening just seem a bit too astronomical to me.

The artwork this issue is pretty decent for the most part. Joe Staton's pencils continue to be too cartoony for my tastes, but Frank Chiaramonte's inks are more renaissance or sketch-like in feel, and give a decent balance to staton's pencils. The results still aren't pretty, but they're serviceable. That said, the panel on page 4 where the Legionnaires are taking off to visit R.J. Brande... there's a non-descript character between Princess Projectra and Cosmic Boy who looks like he's Chemical King (the dead Legionnaire, for those who don't remember!). So perhaps Staton and Chiaramonte don't have their character looks mastered yet, either.


Final Notes:
The cover of this issue is one that is at the top for being one of the silliest of all-time among Legion stories.

*****
The League of Super Assassin's burst through the wall of Legion H.Q.
"Are you newcomers here to join the Legion?" - Superboy
"No, Superboy -- We've not come to join -- we've come to destroy you all!" - Lazon
*****

This has got to be one of Superboy's most ridiculous reponses to a group of guys bursting into Legion HQ. Not to mention, pretty dumbass...

This issue marks the debut of The League of Super-Assassins. Comprising Lazon, Neutrax, Silver Slasher, Titania, Blok and Mist Master, the group will bother and antagonize the Legion over the next ten years...

Note that the name "League of Super-Assassins" is never actually used in this story...

The Silver Slasher's real name is Ki-Lan...

In the first panel on page 5, Timber Wolf makes a reference to his identity as Lone Wolf. Timber Wolf first appeared in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #327 as Lone Wolf, and was created by Edmond Hamilton and John Forte. He joined the Legion in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #372, where he took the new name of Timber Wolf...

This issue features the debut of Blok, who will end up joining the Legion in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #272...

This story continues in the next issue...






Next Issue: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #254