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Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #199





Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #199
November, 1973
“The Legionnaires Vs. The Gun That Mastered Men”
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Dave Cockrum
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Carl Gafford
Cover: Dave Cockrum and Nick Cardy
Editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:
Superboy, Brainiac 5, Princess Projectra, Star Boy, Dream Girl, Chameleon Boy, Saturn Girl (flashback), Timber Wolf (flashback).

Superboy and Brainiac 5 narrate the story of how Tyr and his mysterious, sentient weapon planned their revenge on the Legion after taking on the Legion in Superboy & the LSH Vol 1 #197. A couple of days after the Legionnaires defeated Tyr, and his gun-hand took off into space and Earth’s orbit, as Superboy departs after saying farewell to his friends, Tyr’s gun-hand fires at Earth, surrounding the Legion Headquarters in an impenetrable force-field. The five Legionnaires are the only ones at HQ, Mon-El having led the others away to a mission on his homeworld of Daxam. Brainiac 5 and Star Boy attempt to analyze the force-field, but it is an unknown energy type. They open up the Legion arsenal and try to break through the field, but the beam seems to have fortified the Legion HQ walls and made them impenetrable. Brainiac 5 points out that they’re trapped in their own headquarters, and he can’t help but think that Tyr and his gun have something to do with it. Meanwhile, Superboy sees the attack starting in the midst of his beginning to time travel back to 20th Century Smallville, and returns. However, he is unable to break trough the beam from outside either. He heads to the source, and discovers that it is Tyr’s computer gun-hand. He attempts to give it a crushing “hand shake” Superboy style and there is a massive explosion. Back inside, Dream Girl has a vision of Star Boy flying towards the ceiling with open arms, but she can’t figure out why. Brainiac 5 uses one of the weapons to blast the ceiling grate, and Tyr falls out after the grate turns red-hot and loosens. Star Boy flies up to the ceiling ad captures Tyr, restraining him with the help of Chameleon Boy. Tyr boasts that his weapon hand will not rest until he is free and the Legionnaires are dead. Princess Projectra has a minor meltdown, claiming that the five members are the weakest Legionnaires and have no chance, but Brainiac 5 says that’s right, but they do have their wits. Moments later, the force-field around Legion HQ drops away and Chameleon Boy determines that Superboy did not go back to his own time, and must have defeated the gun-hand. When Superbly arrives, however, the gun-hand reveals that it surprised the Boy of Steel with a cosmic blast and then adapted its circuits to plug into Superboy and take over his brain. The Boy of Steel strains to prevent it, but the gun-hand seemingly annihilates the five Legionnaires with a massive blast. In the aftermath of the attack, with Superboy bemoaning having killed his friends, Tyr attacks wearing a glove coated with artificial Green Kryptonite. With the gun-hand weakened, it releases Superboy since it no longer has the power as it was siphoning the Boy of Steel. When the gun-hand is grabbed by Tyr, the alien transforms into Chameleon Boy, who reveals that he was masquerading as Tyr (who has been re-imprisoned) and the Legionnaires are alive, Princess Projectra having cast an illusion of the group of heroes to make the gun-hand think it had killed them. Princess Projectra’s confidence is restored, and once Superboy has headed back for the 20th Century, she tells Brainiac 5 that working together they can defeat any enemy. Brainiac 5 tells her that’s right, since teamwork is what the Legion is all about.

Commentary:
This story is the sequel to that story about Timber Wolf and Tyr’s original attack on the Legion told in Superboy starring the LSH Vol 1 #197, and like that story, is enjoyable to read but isn’t a great tale. While the story is certainly dynamic and filled with action, it falls flat from two things. First, why doesn’t Tyr’s gun-hand attempt to take over Chameleon Boy when he grabs it, or (as the gun says) is it because it has been drained since it was relying on Superboy’s powers? Secondly, Princess Projectra’s lack of faith in herself and her four Legion friends is, frankly, not something that I expected of Orandoan royalty and I’m finding the number of Legionnaires questioning their worth and their powers’ usefulness to be somewhat tiring already. And I thought it was interesting that Projectra’s powers of illusion worked on the gun-hand (an artificial or robotic creature). I also found it hard to believe that the Legion just keeps an artificial Green Kryptonite glove on hand lying around for Chameleon Boy to use on his friend (though he did apologize for that near the end of the story. Tyr (and his gun-hand) make for an interesting adversary for the Legion, and it’s a sad thing that he did not return to the series for something like ten years or so to challenge them again. One highlight of the story is Dave Cockrum’s designs for the new costumes for Prinncess Projectra (though she may have worn this one in her most recent appearance), Dream Girl and the fabulous Star Boy. Just excellent artwork.

And then we have the issue’s second story...

“The Impossible Target!”
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Dave Cockrum
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Carl Gafford
Cover: na
Editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:
Bouncing Boy

Bouncing Boy is travelling on a one-man cruiser on his way back to Earth from checking a Legion tracking station on the rim of the solar system when he is captured by what appears to be a meteor storm but are actually man-made, controlled satellites. They surround his mini-cruiser, drain its energy, and then drag it off to a nearby semi-deserted planetoid. He discovers that he’s been captured by the son of Otto Orion, the famous hunter who tried to bag the greatest game of them all, the Legionnaires, but was killed through his own plan of evening the odds. Otto Orion’s son shows him his fate - to be tossed into a zero-gravity chamber and then shot in cold blood by the hunter. Otto Orion’s son gives Bouncing Boy a “fair chance” as he releases him onto the jungle-covered surface of the planetoid and gives him until he circles the asteroid once before coming after him. Bouncing Boy tries to hide, but not knowing the lay of the land appears helpless when Orion returns and quickly tracks him down. Thinking fast, Bouncing Boy jumps into an icy pool, but Orion fishes him out. As he does so, Orion’s son explains that Bouncing Boy was his first target because he was "the weakest, sorriest, most slow-witted Legionnaire of them all!”, though he does lament that he expected the Legionnaire to put up a better fight. Once Orion’s son places him in the zero-gravity chamber, Bouncing Boy puts his plan to work. Having caught cold in the icy water, he lets out an explosive sneeze and using his knowledge of the “angles”, ricochets off the wall and into Orion’s on, knocking him out. He tells the villain that he has to admit he was no match for a Legionnaire.

Commentary:
This story is a sort of sequel, as it brings back the son of the man that the Legionnaires faced in a take on Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” back in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #358, this time having the son of the original Otto Orion seeking revenge on the Legionnaires and starting with the one he perceives as the weakest of them all. Bouncing Boy has been a joke with the Legion of Super-Heroes for years, and has questioned his value and worth to the team over the years several times. In this story, Bouncing Boy convinces himself that he is a Legionnaire, but more importantly he shows that bouncing around and into objects not only isn’t a bad power to have, but it’s a worthwhile power in the right circumstances. Cary Bates’s story works much better here, as both tales in this issue have Legionnaires, Projectra in the first and Bouncing Boy in the second, doubting themselves. That said, Otto Orion’s son is, to put it bluntly, an idiot. He dresses like a bad imitation of Kraven the Hunter, and doesn’t realize that the “weakest” Legionnaire that he should have started with is likely Matter-Eater Lad. Dave Cockrum’s artwork in this story is stellar, with the space scenes, the building and jungles on the planetoid, all being quality work.
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, lll, lsh
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