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John Kahane

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Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes #197

Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #197
September, 1973
“Timber Wolf: Dead Hero, Live Executioner!”
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Dave Cockrum
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Uncredited
Cover: Nick Cardy and Dave Cockrum
Editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:
Superboy, Timber Wolf, Mon-El, Lightning Lad, Brainiac 5, Saturn Girl; Ultra Boy, Duo Damsel, Shrinking Violet, Bouncing Boy, Chameleon Boy, Chemical King, Matter-Eater Lad, Cosmic Boy, Phantom Girl, Sun Boy and Karate Kid all appear in cameos.

In the self-titled Part 1 of the story... One spring afternoon, Clark Kent is sitting under an apple tree with Lana Lang, who has romance on her mind. He receives an urgent call from the Legion of Super-Heroes. Using his heat-vision, he contrives to get a pair of apples to strike Lana, temporarily knocking her unconscious. Quickly revealing his Superboy togs, he breaks the time barrier to the 30th Century and joins his LSH friends. He is surprised and shocked to find that Timber Wolf is alive. In flashback, we learn that Superboy and Timber Wolf were on Asteroid X52 tracking down a fierce Astral Vulture when the asteroid suddenly exploded, killing the vulture and Timber Wolf. Superboy reported to the Legion that he’d been killed in action, but now he’s back. Timber Wolf doesn’t remember what happened the last six months, his memory is blank - but someone who *does* now what happened during that time is travelling towards Earth in a spaceship! That night, Mon-El observes Timber Wolf sleeping. He tells Superboy that he’s afraid some drastic event must have occurred to Brin (Londo) to cause such a memory loss. Superboy says that he’s sleeping like a baby, not a care in the world. The next day, the President of Earth arrives to award Timber Wolf the Valor Star as a commendation for actually still being alive. Timber Wolf has the sudden, irresistible urge to kill the President! When Timber Wolf snatches up the President and whirls him around, threatening to let go, Mon-El grabs Superboy’s infinitely stretchable cape to catch him when Timber Wolf hurls him away, and then Mon-El grabs Timber Wolf in his own cape; Brin is now a snarling madman. In Part 2, "The Sinister Secret of Timber Wolf!”, it is the next day, and Brainiac 5 subjects Timber Wolf to the Mento-Rehabilitator, (supposedly) curing him of his brainwashing. Timber Wolf remembers being transported to another dimension before the blast on the asteroid. He also remembers an alien that towered over him, but remembers nothing else. Feeling matters are wrapped up, Superboy bids his Legion friends farewell and returns to the 20th Century and a Lana Lang who should be recovering about now. That night, Timber Wolf sneaks around Legion HQ but Saturn Girl senses he’s up to something and follows him into the main hall of the HQ. It turns out Timber Wolf has deactivated the HQ’s defenses, allowing the alien’s vessel to land without triggering the alarms. Saturn Girl follows Timber Wolf as he goes to the central Control Complex, and activates the secret self-destruct timer. The HQ will be destroyed in 90 seconds. The alien warrior, who calls himself Tyr, attacks, shooting Saturn Girl, though she partially avoids it, and then ricochets and strikes Timber Wolf. Tyr admits to Saturn Girl that he is the one who destroyed the asteroid and saved Timber Wolf, protecting them both with his dimensional shield, in order to brainwash him into destroying Legion Headquarters. He concealed that plan behind another brainwashing plot to kill the President. As Tyr looms over her, Timber Wolf attacks the alien, knocking Tyr out. He then quickly switches off the self-destruct mechanism with only 5 “ticks” remaining. Turning their attention back to Tyr, however, they notice that his gun-hand is missing, and has launched itself into orbit...

Before commenting on the story, I just want to say: This is the first issue of Superboy Vol 1 that features the Legion of Super-Heroes in the main title on the cover of the book. While the Legion has certainly come a long way from their back-up days starting in Action Comics Vol 1 #378 and then into the Superboy Vol 1 run starting with #172 in March of 1971, I personally think that artist Dave Cockrum had a lot to do with this. While the title of the book is still officially “Superboy”, and would remain so for several more years, it’s important to note that from this issue onward the Legion as a series would be published continuously for some 40 years or so. As a group, they will be published every month from this issue until the seventh volume of their own title was cancelled in 2013. Now, as for the story...

This issue features the debut of the super-villain Tyr, who will return numerous times to battle the Legion over the next decades or so. The story, however, while enjoyable as a read, does have a few gaping plot holes. I mean, let’s face it, Saturn Girl should have been a dominant figure in this tale. After all, a Legionnaire goes missing, presumed dead, for six months and then returns, but can't remember anything about the missing time - and you don’t ask your resident telepath for help? With Timber Wolf as a focus character, Cary Bates uses quite a few other Legionnaires in this tale, but where’s Brin’s love interest, Light Lass/Ayla Ranzz in all this? Nowhere to be found. Sheesh! Also since Timber Wolf hasn’t been seen since the Doctor Regulus story in Superboy Vol 1 #191, it would have been nice somewhere in the stories in between if it had been mentioned that Timber Wolf was missing, presumed dead, since six months had gone by. Hmmm... were the Legionnaires looking for his replacement when they interviewed Drake Burroughs/Wildire back in Superboy Vol 1 #195? The other real plot hole is the mission that Timber Wolf and Superboy had gone on. Since Superboy is a Legion Reservist, why send him on the mission? Perhaps this story was a last minute tale of sorts, and it had originally meant to have Mon-El or Ultra Boy in that position, but with the new prominence of the Legion and their taking over the comic, Superboy was “plugged in” to that slot. Hmmm... So, overall, a bit of a clunker in places, but a story that brings the Legion of Super-Heroes into the forefront of a DC Comics title that was about to reach its (first) stride in LSH history. Costume-wise, there are some interesting aspects to this story. First of all, Dave Cockrum seems to have decided to postpone new costumes for most of the Legionnaires. Although Timber Wolf's new look and costume are spotlighted here, he actually has a more feral look back in Superboy Vol 1 #191. Karate Kid is back in his orange/beige jump-suit, discarding his high-collared yellow, white and black uniform that he wore in Superboy Vol 1 #193. Dave Cockrum apparently changed his mind about using that costume and discarded it. Lighting Lad's classic Bronze Age (if memory serves me right) costume quietly makes its debut in this issue. Oh, and Element Lad is shown on the cover (complete with flying belt from the old days before the flight rings), but he does not appear in the story.
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, lll, lsh

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