Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #208
“Vengeance of the Super-Villains”
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Mike Grell
Inker: Mike Grell
Letterer: Joe Letterese
Cover: Mike Grell; reprinted covers by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye and Curt Swan and George Klein
Editor: Murray Boltinoff
Mission Monitor Board:
Superboy, Mon-El, Ultra Boy, Brainiac 5, Saturn Girl, Timber Wolf, Sun Boy, Chameleon Boy, Princess Projectra, Lightning Lad, Star Boy, Karate Kid, Colossal Boy, Chemical King (cameo).
In the self-titled Part 1, several members of the Legion of Super-Heroes are on furlough. Mon-El is enjoying his vacation in Superboy’s era, staying over at Clark’s home with the Kents. Mom Martha Kent is bringing stacks of pancakes to the table for the boys, and can barely keep up with the demand. On Rimbor, Ultra Boy is enjoying his time off with his parents, Crav and Mytra, enjoying a vega-steak cooked by his dad. Back on 30th Century Earth, the Universal Trophy is delivered to Legion Headquarters for a ceremony the next day. It is to honour Dr. Larx Kenrik, who will be given the award by the Legionnaires, for negotiating the Federated Planets’ Treaty. Brainiac 5, a somewhat primping Saturn Girl (as Gaxax-TV is covering the event), and Timber Wolf examine the trophy and make sure it’s not booby trapped. Once they’ve taken the trophy inside their headquarters, they leave it in a specific spot while Sun Boy, temporary leader with Mon-El on furlough, has them check the security precautions again. Dr. Kenrik’s enemies mustn’t be allowed to get to them. Sun Boy is feeling the pressure of the responsibility, and can’t wait for Mon-El to return. 1,000 years earlier in Smallville, as Superboy and Mon-El prepare to head to the 30th Century, Jonathan Kent says they can’t go, and uses a futuristic weapon that causes the two Legionnaires to fight, knocking each other out. On 30th Century Rimbor, as Ultra Boy prepares to leave for Earth, the paralytic drug that his mother put in his drink takes him out of action; she used a double dose because, after all, he is Ultra Boy.
In Part 2, “The Night Before Doomsday”, outside Metropolis in a secret meeting place, Sun Emperor and several other members of the Legion of Super-Villains (Lightning Lord, Nemesis Kid, Spider Girl and Radiation Roy) are waiting to hear from their secret weapon, Chameleon Chief, as his role in the current operation is critical. At Legion HQ, Chameleon Boy replaces Chemical King as guard on the Universal Trophy in a Legion storage room. Meanwhile, Sun Boy and Saturn Girl realize that Mon-El, Superboy and Ultra Boy are all late reporting in. Sun Boy worries that it’s connected to the trophy ceremony that day. Meanwhile on Rimbor and in 20th Century Smallville, Ultra Boy, Mon-El and Superboy find themselves trapped in energy bubbles that even they can’t get out of. While Superboy's x-ray vision analysis indicates the bubble is impervious to their abilities and that he’s never seen anything like it, Mon-El tells him that he has: Radiation Roy, a Legion applicant, once boasted that no Legionnaire could break out of one of his bubbles. Both Legionnaires know that Radiation Roy is now a member of the Legion of Super-Villains. At least they know who’s responsible, though they don’t know why. Meanwhile, back at Legion HQ in the storeroom where the Universal Trophy is being kept, Chameleon Chief, who had been disguised as the stand the trophy was resting on, hits the trophy with a nitro-glyc beam that transforms it into a powerful touch explosive, then transmutes a discarded crate into a new stand for the trophy, and then arranges his way out of Legion HQ. When the Legion automated refuse disposal begins functioning again at 6:00am, Lightning Lord races in and snatches up one of the Department of Sanitation crates. After landing on a nearby roof-top, Chameleon Chief transforms to himself again, and tells Lightning Lord that the plan went off perfectly. Soon, the Legion of Super-Villains will rule the world.
In Part 3, “Villainaires vs. Legionnaires”, Ultra Boy’s parents release him from the energy bubble, having no memory of what has occurred, and he realizes that he can’t reach Earth in time for the ceremony. In 20th Century Smallville, Jonathan and Martha Kent release Superboy and Mon-El from the energy bubble, Clark’s father activating another square, futuristic device. The two head through time for the Legion’s period and the ceremony, but find themselves stuck in the time vortex, prevented from moving into the Legion’s period by sticky rope-like materials. The same morning, the Universal Trophy ceremony goes off without a hitch at Legion HQ, and back in the LSV hideout, Chameleon Chief is revealed to actually be Chameleon Boy, the real villain being locked away in the Legion’s brig all night long. Homing in on Chameleon Boy’s flight ring signal, a group of Legionnaires arrives. Princess Projectra uses her illusions to defeat Nemesis Kid with his one weakness - fear; Lightning Lad takes out his brother, Lightning Lord; Star Boy defeats Spider Girl; Karate Kid takes down Radiation Roy; and Colossal Boy defeats Sun Emperor. The Legionnaires discuss what has happened, how it was a good thing that Chameleon Boy was on watch at the storeroom the night before, and how it was Sun Boy’s idea to have him replace Chameleon Chief. Sun Boy’s doubts are seemingly erased, and he tells the others that he figured out what Superboy, Mon-El and Ultra Boy had in common - x-ray vision. They would have spotted the fact that the trophy was booby trapped. The three absent Legionnaires finally return, and the other heroes have to figure out how to tell them what they missed.
This was a pretty decent story, when all is said and done, and featured the return of the Legion of Super-Villains, their first since the clash in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #371-372 (August/September 1968). Yes, there are a few plot glitches in the story (if the LSVers could hypnotize the Legionnaires’ parents to capture them, why not take advantage of the situation to kill them outright? How convenient is it that Chameleon Boy is on guard duty at the storeroom when Chameleon Chief makes his move?), but I have come to expect this of Cary Bates’s writing. One of the disappointing things about this story is that the plot to assassinate the Henry Kissinger-look alike, Larx Kenrik, takes up all of eighteen pages while the final confrontation and battle with the Legion of Super-Villains takes up... one. To be honest, I was expecting the battle between the LSH and the LSV to be a bit more climactic than it was. When combined with Chameleon Boy being on guard duty at the storeroom the night before, it was still a pretty effective demonstration of the right Legionnaires being in the right place at the right time. While the details in the Legion HQ sequence and that of the LSV headquarters were the usual high quality, it was the details in the time stream, on Rimbor and in 20th Century Smallville that really stood out in the tale. That, and the individual faces and expressions of the various characters and villains. To other things of note... Sun Boy is shown to be Deputy Leader under Mon-El, but he chafes at the responsibility thrust on him here, so never stands in another election. This is the first time Princess Projectra faces Nemesis Kid... but it won't be the last. Overall, a very good story but one that didn’t have the sizzle and fire that I expected it to have.
This is the first and only “Giant Sized for 50c” issue of Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes, and has several reprints in it. These are:
“The Evil Hand of the Luck Lords!” from Adventure Comics Vol 1 #343 (April, 1966)
“Lana Lang’s Superboy Identity Detection Kit!” from Superboy Vol 1 #93.
The latter story also features a cameo/guest appearance by Chameleon Boy in it.
"The Legion Lore" section, though not labelled as such, profiled the members of the Legion of Substitute Heroes and the Legion Reserve by E. Nelson Bridwell, with stock art from Curt Swan.
This issue also had something else going for it. Up until this time, the Superboy comic was being published bi-monthly, six times a year. However, Legion fans spoke up and demanded more, and due to the popularity of the Legion, this issue marked the comic being published 8 times a year, rather than the 6. Issues were to come out regularly except for May, July, November and January.