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John Kahane
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Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #211

Another day, another Legion of Super-Heroes re-read...





Superboy starring The Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #211
September, 1975
“The Ultimate Revenge”
Writer: Jim Shooter
Penciller: Mike Grell
Inker: Mike Grell
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Uncredited
Cover: Mike Grell (signed)
Editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:
Star Boy, Chemical King, Light Lass, Element Lad, Sun Boy, Superboy; Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, Brainiac 5 (all in flashback cameos).

Out in deep space, a spaceship floats waiting to try and find the haven that its occupant is seeking. A door in space opens, actually the entry to the Haven. The Haven is a hollow, man-made asteroid that is transparent to radar, a safehouse for dozens of the galaxy's most ruthless killers, including its latest arrival, Roxxas. Gorra, the Havenmaster, gives Roxxas a tour after learning that Roxxas escaped Takron-Galtos over a year ago and hid out in the place that was least expected. He explains that he faked an injury, then broken out of the facility and fled to the hills, where he escaped in a small ship he had hidden there for just such an eventuality. Just as his tour of the facility ends, the Legion of Super-Heroes raids it. They were able to find it by seeing the facility as a dark blot against the galaxy from the other side. Light Lass, Star Boy and Chemical King take care of the majority of the criminals. However, Element Lad is surprised to see Roxxas there, and that allows the criminal to escape from Haven. He tells Chemical King and Light Lass that one got away, but they dismiss the “one guy”, and Light Lass tells him that they’ve made quite a haul. After the Legionnaires return to Earth and LSH Headquarters, they drop off the auto-log tape of their mission with Sun Boy, who confirms they are now on vacation time. Star Boy asks Element Lad about his parents, and Jan [Arrah] tells him that his parents and all of the people of Trom were massacred by by the criminal Roxxas and his raiders, when the Trommites wouldn’t use their transmutation powers to make him and his men rich. Jan survived by escaping in a spaceship, which led him to the Legion of Super-Heroes. He helped them to capture Roxxas. Element Lad, shaken by Roxxas’s escape on Haven, excuses himself, saying he has a cruiser warming up. Meanwhile, in the computer room, Superboy arrives to have Sun Boy show him the tape of the Haven assignment, and that the escaping criminal is Roxxas! Sun Boy recognized him instantly, but the three Legionnaires who went to Haven with Element Lad wouldn’t have, since they weren’t involved in the original incident with Roxxas. Seeing that Element Lad checked out with no apparent destination, Sun Boy and Superboy jump to the conclusion that Jan has gone after Roxxas...alone. They gather up the other Legionnaires who were about to have a vacation, and go after Element Lad. Meanwhile, Captain Maltor of the Science Police contacts Element Lad, and informs him that they interrogated Gorra the Havenmaster under the hypo-prisms as requested. All he could tell them is that Roxxas’s hideout is the last place anyone would suspect. Element Lad says that piece of information may be enough. While the Legionnaires race towards Trom, where Superboy’s senses told him that Element Lad has landed, Element Lad moves cautiously through the ruins of Trom, seeking Roxxas. Element Lad confronts Roxxas, turning all his weapons and other metals on him to nitrogen, rendering him powerless. The Legionnaires arrive to find Element Lad holding a laser on Roxxas. Element Lad is so intent on vengeance that he insists on executing Roxxas. The Legionnaires try to talk Jan out of his actions, saying that if he breaks the Legion code against killing he’ll be finished. Star Boy uses his own trial for killing the brother of Dream Girl’s would-be lover as proof of how bad an idea it is. However, Element Lad’s obsession is strong, and even as Superboy goes to stop him he is prevented from doing so by Chemical King. As soon as Element Lad pulls the trigger, he has a change of heart, and is suddenly disgusted and saddened by what he did. Chemical King tells Superboy and the other Legionnaires that Roxxas is still alive; he used his chemical reaction power to decay the battery in Element Lad's laser and then to slow down Roxxas’s metabolism to knock him unconscious. Roxxas revives, begging to be killed because he is haunted by the ghosts of the Trommites he murdered. Element Lad realizes that letting Roxxas live is "the ultimate revenge."

Commentary:
This story has to be one of the most emotionally powerful Legion stories of all time. The story is extremely well plotted, the action flows naturally, and the emotions of the Legionnaires comes across in a natural, unforced way. This story has its origins in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #307, in which Element Lad joined the Legion to help them bring down Roxxas originally (and while Sun Boy was present in that tale, Superboy was not), but what makes this story so interesting is the fact that Element Lad (Jan Arrah) has deep, unresolved feelings about Roxxas and the slaughter of the his family and the rest of the Trommites that comes out in full fury here. It comes across as emotional, yes, but it’s a logical extension of that earlier story given years to ferment. Near the end, when Chemical King steps in and takes action, and then explains what he did to both Jan and the other Legionnaires, it is logical and makes sense in its own way. One thing I did find was that the anguish of Element Lad is somewhat over the top, but this is melodrama after all, and so can be excused in that context.

Aside from the flashback to the death of the Trommites at Roxxas’s hands, where we learn that Element Lad’s parents were Arn and Valla, there is a second flashback in this story, to Star Boy's expulsion from the Legion in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #342. Star Boy mentions his trial to Element Lad as he tries to convince his friend not to murder Roxxas, and I thought this was a good touch. Mike Grell does a masterful job with the artwork this issue, notably with body language, especially with Element Lad. His emotions run the gamut in this story, and they are plain as day on his face for the most part courtesy of the artistry of “Iron” Mike. Chemical King comes across quite well in the story, too, and is a hero who never seemed to have been done well in the series, but did what he did for all the right reasons in the story. Finally, the scene at the end with Roxxas being haunted by the Trommites he has killed is totally effective and the levels of creepiness in that imagery are still with me to this day. If I have any complaints about the story, it’s these: The conversation between Star Boy and Element Lad about the genocide of the Trommites was badly handled, I think. These two have been Legionnaires together for years, yet Star Boy never heard that Element Lad's world was destroyed? I find that hard to believe. The other complaint here is that this is the last time Chemical King will participate in a Legion story until Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #228. One of the most capable, most powerful of the Legionnaires but under- and ab-used for so long in the comics. *sigh*

The second story in this issue is as follows.

“The Legion's Lost Home"
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Mike Grell
Inker: Mike Grell
Letterer: Joe Letterese
Colourist: Uncredited
Cover: na
Editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:
Cosmic Boy, Brainiac 5, Superboy, Shadow Lass (all flashback cameos).

Guest Starring:
The Legion of Substitute Heroes (Stone Boy, Chlorophyll Kid, Fire Lad).

In a flashback to the epic events after the second confrontation between the Legion and the Fatal Five, Cosmic Boy, Superboy, Brainiac 5 and Shadow Lass watch as the old, yellow rocket-shaped Legion clubhouse, battered and beaten up, is removed from its site as the Legionnaires prepare to begin construction on their new HQ, though the Legionnaires wonder what fate will be in store for the old HQ building. Some years later, at the Canaveral Graveyard, two Legionnaires suddenly appear, looking for their former headquarters. Cosmic Boy and Shadow Lass tell the guard that there may be a missing weapon still hidden in the building, so he guides them to it. They go inside and head straight to the security cells. Cosmic Boy uncovers a flawless Pyram jewel that he stashed there years earlier while in Legion detention. Shadow Lass makes a romantic comment, but they are interrupted by Stone Boy. Cosmic Boy panics, blasting Stone Boy, who turns to his stone form to avoid injury. The two impostors, not Legionnaires at all, fly out but are captured by vines courtesy of Chlorophyll Kid. Cosmic Boy is about to shoot him, too, when Fire Lad disarms him with his fire breath. It turns out that these two are jewel thieves who stashed their loot in the Legion holding cells but then never had a chance to retrieve it. The three Substitute Heroes hand the couple off to the guard, and then tell him the real reason they’ve come to the old LSH clubhouse. They show him the deed given them by the Legionnaires, giving them possession of the old Legion headquarters as their new base.

Commentary:
This back-up story seems at first glance to be a poor tale to have as the aftermath of the opener in this issue dealing with Roxxas and Element Lad’s revenge on him, but it’s much more than that. This tale features a fun look at the Legion of Substitute Heroes, who to be honest, tended to be used as a humorous element in many of their original appearances. However, in this story, Stone Boy, Chlorophyll Kid and Fire Lad come across as confident, capable heroes, and get the job done. The fact that they are there for the old yellow, rocketship Legion clubhouse is a touch of lovely nostalgia, and it was great to see the old place once again. The two thieves made for an interesting twist, even if dressing up as Cosmic Boy and Shadow Lass seemed a bit of a dumb idea, but the basic story premise was sound. It was just a little bit of a coincidence for me that the thieves came to the old Legion clubhouse at the same time as the Substitute Legionnaires, but eh, nothing wrong with that, right? :)

Three things of note here... The flashback at the beginning of the story dates this tale quite nicely, and we know that it takes place just after the events of Adventure Comics Vol 1 #366 (March, 1968). Stone Boy and Chlorophyll Kid are wearing uniforms here that they will never wear again. Which is unfortunate for Chlorophyll Kid, as his is a green-and-yellow variation of the very sleek Kid Flash uniform. It was a vast improvement over the plain green jump-suit he wore prior to this story. The Canaveral Graveyard is an interesting places and has some interesting features. One can see such famous retired space vehicles as the Jupiter II, the USS Enterprise, and the Yellow Submarine, among others, scattered about the place.
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, lll, lsh
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