Superboy starring The Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #209
“Who Will Save the Princess?”
Writer: Jim Shooter
Penciller: Mike Grell
Inker: Mike Grell
Letterer: Ben Oda
Cover: Mike Grell (signed)
Editor: Murray Boltinoff
Mission Monitor Board:
Timber Wolf, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, Saturn Girl, Brainiac 5 (on monitor), Superboy.
Duo Damsel/Luornu Durgo (Legion Reservist).
“Who Can Save the Princess?”
Timber Wolf watches as Princess Projectra’s “space buggy” returns from space, but it’s coming in too fast and out of control. He uses a tow hook to lasso the ship and bring it down safely, though the strain on him is tremendous. As Karate Kid arrives on the scene, he and Timber Wolf tease her about her piloting skills when Princess Projectra emerges from the ship - and then collapses into Karate Kid’s arms. Rushing her to the medic-lab, Saturn Girl tells him that Brainiac 5 is only available on the monitor. Using the analyscope, Brainiac 5 determines that Projectra has the Pain Plague, which lasts for six hours and that no one has ever survived. The fever that it causes isn’t fatal, but the 6 hours of pain are. Brainiac 5 suggests using his universal adapter circuits and an encephalo transceiver in order to divert Projectra's pain to the other Legionnaires. Superboy is with Brainiac 5 on the planet Fangmar, but will rush back to Earth in order to take the last hour. Saturn Girl uses the Maximum Emergency Signal to call all or any Legionnaires, Substitutes and Reserves, but no one answers the call. Timber Wolf takes the third hour's worth of pain, which drives him into a super-frenzy and makes him quite insane to a point. Working together, Karate Kid and Saturn Girl are able to stop him. They put him in an inertron-walled cell, and Saturn Girl tells Karate Kid that she learned the pain grows constantly worse. During the fight, Timber Wolf ripped Karate Kid’s costume almost to shreds, so he changes into his new outfit. When Wolf’s hour expires, he collapses into exhaustion. Saturn Girl comes up with an anti-encephalo helmet to stop her powers so she can't take control of Karate Kid in her pain-induced state and turn him into her slave, or worse. She then takes on the fourth hour of pain. She stays alive, but is very weak. Karate Kid takes on the fifth hour of pain, then uses his meditation and zen training to reject the pain. Superboy arrives, bursting into the Legion HQ, but he finds that his invulnerability prevents him from taking on the pain. While Superboy goes off to search for some equipment that might work, Karate Kid slowly makes way over to the pain receivers to take a second bout of it, but before he can touch them, he is struck and knocked unconscious by a yellow-clad woman. She touches the two pain receivers, and then splits! It is Duo Damsel! As the two Luornus fight, Superboy returns and keeps them apart during the final hour of the pain. Once the hour is up, Duo Damsel returns to her normal self, and explains that since she and Chuck [formerly Bouncing Boy] are Reservists, she came as soon as she could. Projectra is saved, thanks to the Legion.
This is a decent story that focuses on a small group of Legionnaires, in which they need to find a way to keep Projectra alive through six hours of a Pain Plague that kills at the end of it. Interestingly, this is the first Legion story by Jim Shooter in more than five years (if I remember correctly), and it’s a good one. This is the first Legion of Super-Heroes story by Jim Shooter since Action Comics Vol 1 #384 (January, 1970). There’s a good amount of drama in the story, and while there is a lot of LSH techno-babble it is kept to a minimum. A lot of folks at the time seemed to think that Projectra was one of the weaker characters physically, but her stamina and fortitude cannot be questioned after what she experienced here. The end of the story has a nice surprise twist to it, that I didn’t expect, but it’s always good to see Luornu again after she became a Legion Reservist after marrying Chuck Taine in Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #200. The artwork by Mike Grell is pretty good this story, and the fight between Karate Kid and the pain-induced insane Timber Wolf was terrific, and full of action. If I recall correctly, Mike Grell really liked Karate Kid and the character and wanted to get him back in the outfit designed by Dave Cockrum, which had been discarded for reasons that I’ve never understood. He got him back into it here, and the uniform looks great! Also of note was Mike Grell’s effort to make Karate Kid more Asian, and that was really on point in this story. The tale is only marred by the fact that there weren’t any other Legionnaires, Substitutes or Reservists on Earth (other than perhaps Luornu). That bit was somewhat unbelievable, but the story itself worked for me in a good way, so other than that gripe, readers can just take this story for what it is. A great tale.
Final thoughts... I guess Princess Projectra is an anti-vaccination type. Last time she appeared, she’s suffering from Rigel Fever (Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #206) and this time out it’s the Pain Plague. Really, Jeckie? This issue, Karate Kid changes his uniform and returns to the costume first introduced in Superboy Vol 1 #191 by Dave Cockrum, but then discarded. Interesting coincidence is that that story featured Duo Damsel in a leading role. As an interesting side note, Karate Kid changes his uniform as he talks to Saturn Girl. The way the scene in the comic is set up, it appears that he changes clothes and drops his trousers while she is standing right there with him. Also of note is that neither of the Duo Damsels is wearing their wedding ring. What does that mean?
The second story in the issue is as follows…
"Hero For A Day"
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Mike Grell
Inker: Mike Grell
Letterer: Joe Letterese
Editor: Murray Boltinoff
Mission Monitor Board:
Sun Boy, Shrinking Violet, Cosmic Boy, Wildfire, Saturn Girl; Star Boy, Chemical King (cameos).
The Legionnaires welcome Flynt Brojj, the Legion fan who raised the most money for the United Planets Charity Drive, as their honoured "Guest of the Legion For the Day." Cosmic Boy and Sun Boy usher Flynt in Legionnaire style (flying him into the building), where the teenager’s first surprise is being given a Legion flight ring as a memento as his time with them. The Legionnaires joke that the ring is the smallest one they have, but it is still too big for the teen’s finger. They ask him what part of Legion HQ he’d like to see first, and he says all of them. So they start the tour of the Legion HQ with the facilities at the Parcel Receiving Dock. Sun Boy explains how the Legion receives parcels, but Cosmic Boy says that unfortunately, the system has somehow accepted a Tulvanian witch wolf, "the deadliest beast in the solar system." As they trigger the alarm, Sun Boy and Cosmic Boy grab Flynt and get him out of there as quickly as possible, though it’s probably too late for the three of them. Cosmic Boy starts to explain what’s happening, but Flynt tells them that the animal gives off an invisible poisonous radiation. He learned all about it last term in school. The Legionnaires guess that somehow someone learned their teleportation wavelength and sent the animal to them. Since its radiation is spreading, someone has to go into the Receiving Dock and reset the teleportation controls to send the animal to a distant asteroid. However, the wolf is able to use an opponent's ability against them, so it will not be easy. The Legionnaires decide to go into the room one at a time, Cosmic Boy being the first. Cosmic Boy tries to operate the teleportation control magnetically, but the wolf turns his magnetism against him, knocking him out. Wildfire is next, and tries to blast the animal, but it reflects his energy burst at him taking him down as well. Meanwhile, the horrified Flynt is too pre-occupied to notice the flight ring that slips off his finger... He sees something and tries to explain to the Legionnaires, but Sun Boy and Shrinking Violet ignore him. Violet goes into the room next, but the wolf causes her to enlarge at the wrong time, knocking her out. Saturn Girl arrives, after having first summoned Mon-El and some of the other Legionnaires. Sun Boy is about to go in next, but Saturn Girl reads Flynt’s mind and stops Sun Boy from letting him go in, as Flynt enters the room. Flynt dashes up to the cage and climbs into it, breaking the “spell.” The cage is empty. As the others return to the room, Saturn Girl finds Flynt’s ring on the floor of the outer chamber, and says she suspects there was a mass hypnotic spell tied to the flight rings. When Flynt's ring dropped off his finger, he could no longer "see" the witch wolf. The hypnotic suggestion was such that it made the Legionnaires subconsciously backfire with their own powers. The Legionnaires would have been out of luck if not for Flynt, but Cosmic Boy points out that Flynt’s luck is just beginning as he receives simultaneous kisses from Shrinking Violet and Saturn Girl.
I’ll be honest when I say that the two stories in this issue are a strange pairing. The lead story is serious and dramatic with a lethal condition to be avoided, while the second tale is all about Legion super-fans and smiles and imaginary menaces. This second story isn’t very good to be honest, as while the Legionnaire flight rings being turned into a weapon against them is a good one, the rest of the story has a silliness to it. If the idea is to attempt to teleport the witch wolf away, why go and fight it one-on-one? Flynt Brojj is fine as a character, but he brings nothing to the story other than an element of Legion fandom (see below). If he had been someone who could have contributed some information to the Legionnaires about the situation, that would have been fine, but it’s the serendipity of his flight ring falling off his hand that gives him a means to solve the problem. But why not just get a Legionnaire to take off the flight ring and go into the Parcel Receiving Room and get rid of the empty cage? I’ve heard Mike Grell referred to his break-out time on the series as “The Legion of Stupid Heroes,” and this is a prime example of what he may have meant.
Some observations, first... Star Boy is in the first panel of the story, but never appears again. Chemical King is in the hallway on page two, but doesn't even manage to respond to the General Emergency two pages later. Shrinking Violet and Wildfire appear and disappear between panels, as well.
And some final thoughts on matters... Sun Boy explains to Flynt (and the readers) how the Legion receives mail. He does not, however, explain who actually receives it or who answers it. Flynt Brojj, the super Legion fan, is named after two real-life Legion fans, Mike Flynn and Harry Broertjes. Finally, the letter column of this issue explains where Jim Shooter has been and why he’s back writing the Legion.