Superboy starring The Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #213
"The Jaws of Fear"
Writer: Jim Shooter
Penciller: Mike Grell
Inker: Mike Grell
Cover: Mike Grell (signed)
Editor: Murray Boltinoff
Mission Monitor Board:
Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet, Wildfire, Brainiac 5, Saturn Girl, Superboy, Chameleon Boy, Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, Sun Boy.
At Legion Headquarters, while the Legionnaires engage in a discussion about some matter or other, super-thief Benn Pares makes his way through the Legion’s iron-clad security using anti-grav boots and powers that seem to allow him to turn into a beam of light, a wisp of air in gas form, and teleportation. He enters the meeting room where they are present, teleporting in, but when Wildfire tackles and grabs him, he teleports away to stand nearby. When he tells them his name, Brainiac 5 says he has no knowledge of him from any criminal files. Pares says that he told them he was the best, and he says that he’s bored and needs a challenge. He tells the Legionnaires that he intends to steal the Miracle Machine within 48 hours, and dares them to stop him! Pares then leave the Legion HQ. With Brainiac 5 as acting leader, he has Superboy and Chameleon Boy go to check that the Miracle Machine is still where it’s supposed to be. Saturn Girl tells the others that she tried to read his mind, but that he was on his guard. She learned that he has a sixth sense that warns him of traps and alarms and some powers to overcome them. She also says that she got a vague thought of huge, jagged white gates somewhere in Space Sector 14. Superboy and Chameleon Boy return with the Miracle Machine, still encased in a cube of solid inertron. The Miracle Machine is a device given to the Legion by the Controllers that can make thoughts into reality. The Legion knows that they cannot allow it to fall into the wrong hands. After heated debate, the Legionnaires decide to destroy the device, but when Superboy and Ultra Boy attempt to do so and are unsuccessful, the rest of the Legionnaires present who can do so turn their powers on it. The Miracle Machine cannot be destroyed, so Superboy re-encases it in inertron, and the Legionnaires will stay with it and stand guard over it so that Pares cannot steal it. Brainiac 5 devises several new defenses that Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet and Chameleon Boy cannot break through, and the Legionnaires stand guard that night over the device. The next day dawns, however, to find the Legionnaires have been robbed - the wall clock in the room with the Miracle Machine has been stolen! Benn Pares is toying with them. The Legionnaires decide to do what they should have done earlier, and gone after Benn Pares. They head to Space Sector 14, where Saturn Girl’s telepathic clue indicated they should go, leaving Superboy to guard the Miracle Machine (literally sitting on it). Arriving in Sector 14, all they find is a lone mineral-eating space beast, a galactosaur. Saturn Girl realizes that the white gates that she saw in Pares’s mind are the teeth of the creature. Thinking that Pares is somehow living inside the animal, since he seems to specialize in the impossible, she commands the creature to open its mouth. However, Ultra Boy has a flashback to the time when the young Jo Nah was swallowed by a space dragon, which is how he gained his powers, and is overcome by fear. Telling the others to turn the ship around, he lashes out at his teammates, knocking Saturn Girl out in his frenzy. Without her awake to control the galactosaur, it begins to close its mouth and jaws on the Legion cruiser as Pares retakes control of the creature’s nerves. Back on Earth, a frustrated Superboy is watching what’s happening, knowing that he can’t reach them in time, and desperately wishes he had his hands on Benn Pares. In a flash of light and the blink of an eye, Pares appears in his arms. Superboy knocks Benn Pares out, saying that he’ll build a special cell for the super-thief that will defy his best escape tricks. Meanwhile, Ultra Boy has regained his senses. He’s sped out of the Legion cruiser and is using his super-strength to hold the galactosaur’s mouth open, keeping its terrible teeth from clamping down on the Legion cruiser. However, he can’t use his invulnerability while using his super-strength, so is about to die of exposure when a red and blue blur appears. It is Superboy, who saves them all. Later, back on Earth in a Medical Centre, Ultra Boy is admitted and will be fine in about a week’s time. Superboy explains that when they tried to destroy the Miracle Machine, it activated the device. It picked up on Superboy’s thoughts and reacted to them, capturing Benn Pares and then transporting the Boy of Steel to Space Sector 14 to help rescue Ultra Boy and the other Legionnaires. Shrinking Violet says that they could have used the Miracle Machine to capture Pares from the beginning, but Brainiac 5 reminds her and the others that is the true danger of the device: it would make the Legionnaires lazy.
This is one of those Legion stories that, at first glance, appears to be pretty decent, but when all is said and done the story is a mishmash and all over the place. It starts off as a pretty lightweight story (Benn Pares as the thief) but then veers into melodrama as the story turns towards the attempt to capture Benn Pares who lives in a galactosaur and Ultra Boy’s phobia. However, that doesn’t last more than a page or so, and the tale ends with a deus ex machina and happy, smiling Legionnaires. While the story was written by Jim Shooter, I have to say that it reads a lot like a Cary Bates story, and have to wonder how much editing was done on the tale by editor Murray Boltinoff. There’s a lot of silliness in the story, to be honest. The Legionnaires can’t save themselves from a galactosaur? Really? They’ve got Wildfire, who doesn’t need a space suit to go out and take care of the galactosaur, the others could have gotten into their space suits. Brainiac 5 could have used his force-field belt to save them all. I mean, really? Speaking of Brainiac 5, I thought that in Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #208 it was established that Sun Boy was the Deputy Leader. Why is Brainy the acting leader in this story when Sun Boy is clearly present? Mike Grell’s artwork on the story is very good. Several of the panels are well executed, notably the one at the start of the story which seems to have a Legion as the disciples of the Christ-like Brainiac 5 (or am I making too much of this one?), and I love the images of Cosmic Boy piloting the Legion cruiser. The panels where Ultra Boy is losing it are also extremely well crafted, and I love the little touches like the sweat. The saddest thing about this story is that Benn Pares had some interesting abilities, and could have become an interesting Legion foil in smaller stories, but he never re-appeared. *sigh*
Then there’s the second story...
"Trapped To Live —- Free To Die!”
Writer: Jim Shooter
Penciller: Mike Grell
Inker: Bill Draut
Editor: Murray Boltinoff
Mission Monitor Board:
Timber Wolf travels to the barren planet Nolgar IV in the Talok sector in answer to a faint, automated distress signal. He lands the cruiser and sees the crash site. He checks the atmospheric readings before preparing to exit the cruiser, and nearly forgets to turn on the cruiser’s automated sentinel defense system. Emerging from the ship, Timber Wolf goes to the crashed ship and finds someone partially covered by ship rubble. As he helps to free the man, he is revealed to be Black Mace, a villain who has fought the Legion before. Black Mace attacks and overpowers the Legionnaire and takes his flight ring. Timber Wolf goads the villain into taking him with him, stating that the Legion cruisers has automatic defense systems, and Black Mace will need him. Once aboard the Legion cruiser, however, the vessel treats Timber Wolf as the intruder, surrounding him in a plasti-globe prison and shutting down all power on the cruiser. Realizing he’s been tricked, Black Mace attacks the plasti-globe prison with his mace, and while it doesn’t crack it, the blow weakens the prison globe enough for Timber Wolf to break free. In the fight that ensues, featuring Timber Wolf’s speed, athletics, and wits versus Black Mace’s physical toughness and strength, Timber Wolf manages to get hold of the villain’s mace, but finds that his clothes are insulated to protect him. With victory slipping away from him as Black Mace brings his weapon closer and closer, Timber Wolf manages to touch the flight ring on Black Mace’s hand. He wills it to fly up rapidly, and Black Mace is slammed into the cruiser’s ceiling, knocking him out. Timber Wolf is grateful for the fact that the sentinel system on board only allows someone wearing a flight ring to get in and fly the ship. Even a Legionnaire not wearing a flight ring gets caught - and that’s how he beat Black Mace in the end.
This second story of the issue could not be more different than the first tale. Featuring a single Legionnaire, a villain from a different period of the Legion’s history, and straightforward action sequences, it’s quite a different tale than the issue’s opener. The story features a Legionnaire in Timber Wolf who really is more suited to solo action than working as part of a Legion team, though those stories tend to emphasize just how different Brin is from the other Legionnaires. The story is very entertaining, the action sequences being well drawn by the artist, giving a sense of motion and the hurting power of the blows during the fights. Black Mace first appeared as part of the Taurus Gang in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #374, and while he was used effectively in that story, he is an excellent antagonist for Timber Wolf in this tale, as his abilities are a good match for Brin’s. Mike Grell’s artwork is very good in this issue, but given that the comic is now monthly, even Grell couldn’t be expected to keep up with his workload. Bill Draut’s inking of the story is pretty good, simplifying the pencil art somewhat, but it also added a layer of smoothness, for lack of a better word, that really made the story quite slick. It’s quite interesting to learn that another ability of the Legion flight rings is to allow entry and use of Legion cruisers.