John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane
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Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #201

The start of the new week, means the start of another bunch of blogs about my Legion rereads...





Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #201
March-April (April), 1974

“The Betrayer From Beyond”
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Dave Cockrum
Letterer: Joe Letterese
Colourist: Uncredited
Cover: Nick Cardy
Editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:
Shrinking Violet, Superboy, Star Boy, Shadow Lass, Phantom Girl, Cosmic Boy, Colossal Boy, ERG-1, Chemical King (flashback); Invisible Kid, Ultra Boy, Chameleon Boy, Karate Kid, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Element Lad (all in cameos)

Guests:
Porcupine Pete, Infectious Lass (both applicants, both rejected)

The Legionnaires are holding an open call to replace Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy. Three applicants - Infectious Lass, Porcupine Pete and Molecule Master - are anxious to impress the Legionnaires. Superboy shows them a visitape of the recent applicant, ERG-1, who ultimately sacrificed himself to save Colossal Boy on a recent mission to Manna-5 (see below). However, as the applicants leave the chamber, ERG-1 reveals to the reader that he is actually still alive. His energy form was dissipated, not destroyed, on Manna-5, and after pulling himself together and travelling for over a year back to Earth, he’s ready to re-enter his containment suit. However, there is a force-field around the containment suit in the Memorial Room that keeps him out. In the main Legion hall, Porcupine Pete demonstrates his power to the Legionnaires, but because he can’t control the aim of his quills, is rejected for membership.
ERG-1 comes across Cosmic Boy and tries to communicate with him somehow. When he attempts to take over Cosmic Boy’s mind however, he finds the flight rings use the same frequency as the force field, and ERG-1 is stymied once more. When applicant Infectious Lass hits Star Boy with a cold and follows it up with a too strong bout of the flu, Superboy rejects her for membership since she could put the entire Legion on the sick list. The final applicant, Molecule Master, demonstrates his power by enlarging the free-flowing atoms in the air and harnessing their atomic power. Superboy declares he’s passed the first test, but there are others to follow. ERG-1 realizes he can use the applicant to gain access to his uniform, since he doesn’t have a flight ring and thus is not immune to him. But when he does so, ERG-1 realizes that Molecule Master is an android, and learns it has been programmed to steal the Miracle Machine. The Legionnaires won’t be able to stop it, as they’ll all be dead from the toxic gas it has been emitting since it arrived in Legion HQ, one that even Superboy won’t be able to resist. Shadow Lass leads Molecule Master to his next set of tests, and then succumbs to the poisonous gas, followed by the remainder of the Legionnaires. As the android attempts to steal the Miracle Machine, it is attacked by ERG-1! Molecule Master attacks him with his atom energy ad power, but instead of being absorbed by the giant atom, ERG-1 actually feeds on it, gaining enough power to destroy Molecule Master. ERG-1 reveals that he finally realized he could use the Miracle Machine and did so, first using it to remove the effects of the poison from the Legionnaires and putting them into a deep sleep and then using it go gain access to his uniform. The revived Legionnaires are shocked and surprised to see him once more.

Commentary:
This story is a sequel, even though it is set a year later (as per the story itself), to the tale of the Legion’s pyrrhic victory on Manna-5; we even get the flashback to the events of Superboy Vol 1 #195 here as well). The story features the return of ERG-1 and also introduces the Molecule Master. Long-time Legion fans will recognize the name of the super-villain as being the one who supposedly will kill future Legionnaire Reflecto, as told in the “Adult Legion” story from Adventure Comics Vol 1 #354. The story is quite enjoyable, but as with all of Cary Bates’s work to this point, has a couple of flaws to it. Primary among them is why ERG-1 chose not to face the Molecule Master with the Legion, but perhaps this is part of ERG-1’s (later Wildfire) personality; he’s going to be something of a jerk and a risk taker later on. That said, the story is an enjoyable read, and the artwork by Dave Cockrum on the “erg energy vs. atom energy” fight scenes was stunning. In addition, the many scenes showing various parts of Legion HQ are delightful and give the reader a good idea of what some the Legion's base of operations is like. Lovely story.

The issue’s second story is…

“The Silent Death”
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Dave Cockrum
Letterer: Joe Letterese
Colourist: Uncredited
Cover: na
Editor: Murray Boltinoff


Mission Monitor Board:
Dream Girl, Karate Kid, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Brainiac 5.

While on their way to Legion HQ, Karate Kid and Dream Girl are attacked by a pair of muggers. Karate Kid dispatches the two muggers easily before Dream Girl can lift a finger, and she begins to feel sorry for herself and doubts herself. Karate Kid tells her that her unique power is important, and makes her a valuable Legionnaire. That night, Dream Girl has a dream that someone in the Mission Monitor room will die. She rushes there, but finds Karate Kid with his feet up, eating some fruit. They conclude that the dream must have involved someone on the Mission Monitor board, and the board shows them Phantom Girl and Lightning Lad on a mission in the radically different Sahara Desert of Earth. They’re fetching some curative vurxa weeds for someone who needs them. A sudden fallout twister appears in their path, but Lightning Lad takes care of it by using his lightning against the radioactive particles, while Phantom Girl merged with him in dispersed form for her own protection. With the two Legionnaires fine, Karate Kid concludes that this means Nura saw herself in the vision...just as Karate Kid collapses. Karate Kid awakes some time later in the medico centre, after Brainiac 5 has operated on him. It turns out that he was knifed with a laser knife during the mugging, and due to his rigid discipline training him to shut out the pain, he never felt a thing. Karate Kid points out again how important Nura is, since if Dream Girl hadn’t rushed to the Mission Monitor board because of her dream, he, Val, would have died.

Commentary:
Cary Bates seems to have felt the need during his early career writing Legion stories of tales about Legionnaires who doubt themselves. He did it in Superboy starring the LSH Vol 1 #199 with both Princess Projectra and Bouncing Boy having their doubts, and does it again here with Dream Girl doubting herself and her powers. With all that said, however, this story is a pretty good one that shows that Dream Girl’s powers aren’t just about predicting catastrophic, galactic events, but also the more simple, day-to-day ones such as a fellow Legionnaire dying from a knife wound inflicted by a mugger. No wonder he later insisted that all Legionnaires receive basic hand-to-hand combat training. And the shame of it all... Karate Kid takes a serious wound from a mugger, but still manages to take on the whole Fatal Five in a story that is still infamous for that, Adventure Comics Vol 1 #378, “Twelve Hours to Live!”. The addition of Phantom Girl and Lightning Lad is a nice touch here, and both were quite effective in their “lesser” roles. Dave Cockrum was the first artist to portray Karate Kid as more of an Asian character, and Val Armorr comes across this way very nicely. Mike Grell will develop this even more, but Cockrum started it here. Oh, and I’m really hoping that the lumpy figure in the bed with Dream Girl when she woke from the nightmare (and why doesn’t he stir??) is Star Boy!
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, lll, lsh
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