Today, a Legion of Super-Heroes with a special guest star!
Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #205
November-December (December), 1974
"The Legion of Super-Executioners"
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Mike Grell
Inker: Mike Grell
Letterer: Joe Letterese
Cover: Nick Cardy
Editor: Murray Boltinoff
Mission Monitor Board:
Superboy, Shrinking Violet, Karate Kid, Wildfire, Ultra Boy, Brainiac 5, Mon-El, Shadow Lass, Phantom Girl (cameo).
Lana Lang/Insect Queen (Legion Reservist)
In the self-titled Part 1, one evening, Superboy arrives at Lana Lang’s house after her birthday party to escort her to the future and the time period of the Legion of Super-Heroes as his birthday present to her. However, when they arrive a glum-looking Shrinking Violet, Karate Kid and Wildfire tell them that they’ve come at a bad time. Taking them through the Communications room, which is a complete wreck, they show Superboy the culprit - a restrained, seemingly insane Ultra Boy! In the briefing room, Mon-El and Brainiac 5 tell Superboy they don’t know what has driven Ultra Boy insane, but that his powers have also increased; he’s now even stronger than Superboy is. The Boy of Steel convinces them to allow him into the cell to see Ultra Boy. However, once inside, Ultra Boy breaks free of his bonds and attacks Superboy, tying him up in his invulnerable cape with enough pressure to knock him out. Outside the cell, Mon-El accepts Lana’s intuition that something is wrong inside the cell.
In Chapter 2, “The Legionnaire Firing Squad”, Superboy comes to to find Lana, Mon-El and Shadow Lass around him. Thanks to Lana’s intuition, Mon-El and Brainiac 5 were able to get him out of the cell in time. They were able to slip his cape off him, but couldn’t untie the knot. Superboy does so, telling them it’s easy if you know how and that Ultra Boy taught it to him. Brainiac 5 races into the chamber, saying he’s figured out why Ultra Boy has gone insane. He tells the Legionnaires and Lana that Ultra Boy is “possessed” through a virus, but that the cure can only be found on an oddly ringed planet some thousands of light-years away. Superboy volunteers to go, saying that Mon-El can’t go as the Legion shouldn’t be without its leader at a time like this, and departs. Once Superboy has left, Mon-El grabs Lana, Shadow Lass saying that they’re going to take care of her. However, it turns out that Brainiac 5 has been administering a madness drug to Ultra Boy, and that he’s the only sane Legionnaire. Now that they’ve sent Superboy off on a wild goose chase, they can proceed with their real plans. Ultra Boy attempts to escape, but is stopped by Karate Kid... And Ultra Boy wakes to the pleas of Lana Lang, and finds they are both tied to pole and are about to be executed. He is to die because he is immune to the “Master’s” control and Lana because she is not a true Legionnaire. Ultra Boy is forced to wear special glasses that will make him use his ultra-vision so the he cannot use his invulnerability or use his powers to escape. Shadow Lass, Karate Kid, Brainiac 5 and Wildire are to be their executioners, and aim their energy pistols and fire, on Mon-El’s command.
In Chapter 3, “The Army of Super-Slaves”, Ultra Boy and Lana are seemingly left for dead, unburied by the Legionnaires, who go back to doing their Master’s bidding. Ultra Boy and Lana recover and are surprised to find themselves alive. It was Superboy’s doing, and the Boy of Steel explains that he suspected something was wrong when Ultra Boy tied his cape during the fight into a “hoax knot”. Superboy doubled back immediately to find that things were a complete mess indeed. Superboy and Ultra Boy decide to investigate the situation more, and Lana switches into her Insect Queen identity, having brought the bio-mimetic ring and her costume with her. Superboy leads them down into the underground chamber of the Legion Headquarters, where they find the whole Legion is working on the Master’s orders to build what Superboy believes is a space-ark. Wherever the Master plans to go, he plans to take the Legion with him. Before they can act, Lana falls under the Master’s control. She stops Ultra Boy from attacking the Master by trapping him in a super-strong web as a spider woman and before he can break out, she stings him as a wasp woman. The Master, the last of a race of beings who are virtually immortal, explains his plan to Superboy: to breed an army of Legion slaves that will conquer the galaxy. However, Superboy has acted as a diversion for Ultra Boy, so snatches the Master’s mind-melter helmet and destroys it. Lana explains that she couldn’t resist the Master’s orders to change into a wasp woman and poison Ultra Boy, but she changed into a non-poisonous wasp that allowed Ultra Boy to survive her sting. As Mon-El and other Legionnaires summoned by the Master to attack Superboy arrive, no longer under the Master’s control but with no memory of the past few days, Superboy raises “the Master” up high and says they have an incredible story to tell them.
This is a story that I thoroughly enjoyed reading, as it has an excellent plot at first glance and the pacing is quite good. One totally believes in the early going that Ultra Boy is insane and that his Legion friends are concerned for him. The scene where Ultra Boy and Lana Lang are facing the Legion firing squad is one of the bravest moments that I remember from reading the story back in 1974. But when I re-read the story, I noticed a few plot holes. Why is Ultra Boy the only Legionnaire immune to the Master’s control? If Superboy is also immune to the Master’s control, why isn’t Mon-El also immune? And why isn’t Wildfire immune to the control, since he’s anti-energy and doesn’t really have a mind? And we won’t even talk about the Master’s plan, having the Legionnaire guys and girls all having sex, and then their kids having sex, and *then* having an army. Talk about long-term planning. I also think that the Master was taken out rather easily in the story by the unaffected Legionnaires (Superboy and Ultra Boy) but perhaps that was the whole point - that he wasn’t really all that powerful a foe, other than the mind-melter helmet that Ultra Boy destroyed. Some odd tidbits... This is the second, and last, “100 Pages for 60c” issues of Superboy starring the Legion. Issue #208 will actually be a Superboy Giant issue for 50c. While Lana mentions there are 25 members of the Legion of Super-Heroes in the tale, at the time this story is set there are actually only 23 members. I guess she didn’t know that Invisible Kid had died and that Supergirl had resigned. This is Lana Lang/Insect Queen’s first appearance since “The Devil’s Jury!” in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #370 from July, 1968. I can’t even remember when she’ll appear next in her Insect Queen guise, but I think it will be in the Reflecto story some 6 or so years from now. Long time for a Reservist not to be seen.
Aside from the new story in this issue, there is a “Meet “Iron Mike” Grell” page by the artist himself, and reprints of the following stories:
“The Outcast Super-Heroes from Adventure Comics Vol 1 #350 (November, 1966),
“The Forgotten Legion from Adventure Comics Vol 1 #351 (December, 1966)
A Solo Superboy story from Superboy Vol 1 #88 (April, 1961).
The issue also includes a “Lore of the Legion” featurette that continues from Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #202, including profiles of the remaining 9 Legionnaires by Nelson Bridwell and Dave Cockrum, plus a featurette on Ferro Lad and the 5 Legion Reservists with stock art from Curt Swan.