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John Kahane

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Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #215

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

Superboy starring The Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #215
March, 1976
"The Final Eclipse of Sun Boy"
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Mike Grell
Inker: Mike Grell
Letterer: Uncredited
Colourist: Uncredited
Cover: Mike Grell (signed)
Editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:
Superboy, Sun Boy, Element Lad, Phantom Girl, Brainiac 5, Saturn Girl.

Unnamed would-be assassin.

A Legion cruiser is returning to Earth with Superboy, Sun Boy and Element Lad aboard. They detour using the Intra-Warp Adaptor to Bgztl, homeworld of Phantom Girl, to pick her up on the way to Earth. On Bgtzl, Phantom Girl’s brother, Gmya, worries about her safety. In a flashback, we learn that she witnessed an assassin killing someone using a weapon that fires phantom-energy bursts, but was able to captures the assassin using her smarts. The assassin's gang swears that she will not live long enough to testify against him, with the trial being in a month. Sun Boy, Element Lad and Superboy arrive to pick her up, and reminding Tinya to stay vigilant, Gmya disappears into the crowd. As the Legionnaire craft arrives back on Earth, Brainiac 5 and Saturn Girl watch as the ship is engulfed in flames and turns molten hot. The ship crashes, and the four Legionnaires minus Sun Boy emerge, his powers going wild as he seems “possessed” and almost a shadowy, eclipsed version of himself. Superboy attempts to stop him, but his super-energy only adds fuel to Sun Boy's fire. Element Lad, using his intelligence and powers, first changes his costume to asbestos and then turns the oxygen around Sun Boy to nitrogen, putting out his flames. This allows Element Lad to get close enough to knock him out. In the medical centre, after many exhaustive tests, Brainiac 5 admits that he has no diagnosis of what’s ailing Sun Boy. However, Superboy surmises that Sun Boy has been “eclipsed,” that there is another body blocking his. The others realize that it’s a phantom, the assassin, that’s present. However, he didn’t realize that the accident that gave Sun Boy his powers also drastically changed his molecular structure, and the phantom is unable to separate himself from Sun Boy’s body. Saturn Girl rushes in, and informs he others that her telepathy has determined that someone in the room is about to murder Phantom Girl. As Sun Boy’s body returns to normal, a phantom hand grasps the mega-blaster holstered on Brainiac 5’s belt. Before the Legionnaires can react, another phantom attacks the blaster wielding one, and takes him out. It’s Gmya. Gmya explains that he was the phantom trapped in Sun Boy’s body after he stowed away inside Sun Boy. The assassin was hiding himself inside Element Lad. When Gmya saw the assassin about to attack Phantom Girl, it gave him the adrenaline rush he needed to break free of Sun Boy and stop the assassin. The weakened Sun Boy wakes and asks what’s happened, and Element Lad tells him that they’ve got a story to tell him.

This is, at first glance, a fun story, but the more one looks at the various elements of the tale, the more one realizes that it’s another silly story from the mind of Cary Bates. The basic plot of sending an assassin after Phantom Girl is a good one, and it’s nice to see her brother, Gmya, here, but.. To start, I always assumed it was impossible for non-phantom folks to visit Bgtzl, as I thought it was a different dimension or plane that you can only access as a phantom. Phantom Girl has been established as being able to go back and forth between Bgtzl and Earth at will, so what the heck did she need a Legion cruiser to take her back to Earth for? And if she needed the ship to get back to Earth, how did she get to Bgztl in the first place? *sigh* Aside from that, a massive plot hole exists in the fact that it’s portrayed that phantoms from Bgztl are invisible. How did Gmya and the assassin get aboard the Legion cruiser? Even if they “possessed” Element Lad and Sun Boy while on Bgztl, how did they get to them and possess them in front of a crowd of dozens of people, and no one saw them? Riiiight! The fact that Sun Boy went wild when they reached Earth made no sense at all if it was the altered molecular structure of Sun Boy reacting with Gmya’s presence that caused him to “eclipse” and go wild. You’d have thought Gmya would have merged with him before they left Bgztl, so why only trigger the eclipse reaction when they reached Earth? And then the story’s climax... How could the assassin have hoped to kill Phantom Girl with the mega-blaster (whatever that is) when she could have just turned into a phantom???!!! And while Phantom Girl has displayed some tremendous control over her body parts when going phantom, how did the assassin fire the mega-blaster wildly when he was struggling with Gmya in phantom form? And the real question... Why the heck is Brainiac 5 carrying a mega-blaster in a holster on his shield belt to begin with? He’s never carried weapons that way before, and he doesn’t do so in the future. Ah, well... perhaps we should just read the story for what it is: another piece of inconsistent Legion writing from the pen of Cary Bates. A couple of final notes on the story... In the opening conversation between Tinya and Gmya, we learn that their father is dead. Gmya’s name is mis-spelled as “Gyma” on page 5. Finally, Saturn Girl appears at the space dock ready to go on furlough wearing the wrong boots.

And then the issue’s second tale…

“The Hero Who Wouldn't Fight"
Writer: Jim Shooter
Penciller: Mike Grell
Inker: Bill Draut
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Uncredited
Cover: na
Editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:
Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Colossal Boy, Shadow Lass, Light Lass, Ultra Boy, Sun Boy.

Emerald Empress and her army of criminals.

On the obscure, out-of-the-way planetoid Kar Zagas, Chameleon Boy attempts to infiltrate an army of criminals in the guise of Radako, a marksman and assassin for hire, so as to learn who they are and what they are up to. However, he is caught by the Emerald Empress, who tells him that she’s gone her own way from the Fatal Five as she’s tired of Tharok's waiting and planning. Once she has an army of criminals, she plans to take over her homeworld of Vengar. Using his flight ring, she sets a trap for the Legionnaires that she assumes must be nearby. The Legionnaires in orbit receive the signal from Chameleon Boy, as the Emerald Empress planned, and walk into a trap. Cosmic Boy remains aboard the Legion cruiser, as he is useless this day (Ultra Boy’s words). Light Lass manages to escape the trap, since she was in the centre of the group of Legionnaires when they were attacked and blasted by the rays, and teleports back up to the Legion cruiser. She warns Cosmic Boy of what happened and begs him to save their friends. She is able to goad him into attempting a rescue, even though it is a holy day on his home planet of Braal and he is forbidden to use his magnetic powers, or face dishonour and shaming not just of himself but his family. Cosmic Boy transports down to the surface and manages to sneak into the army camp and finds his fellow Legionnaires. The weird crystal cells they are contained in drain their powers, and thus they can’t escape. With the enemies closing in on them, Cosmic Boy frees Ultra Boy using his flight ring to cause an iron quadrostat to smash the cell he’s imprisoned in. He then blocks a shock cell meant for Ultra Boy, who then frees the other Legionnaires. The fighting mad Legionnaires take on the Empress’s army and they are no match for the heroes. They rush to escape the Legionnaires, and one of them strikes the Empress who goes down, allowing the Legion to capture her. Shadow Lass cradles Cosmic Boy and tells Ultra Boy and the others that he’s dying. Ultra Boy makes a deal with the Emerald Empress so that she will go free in exchange for the Emerald Eye healing Cosmic Boy. Cosmic Boy awakens. Lightning Lad didn’t believe that she’d keep her bargain, but Ultra Boy says that he hoped that even she might respect his great courage.

This is just a terrific story that really focuses on one Legionnaire and tells a story of his courage and his truly heroic nature. Cosmic Boy is not allowed to use his powers on this one day of the year, else it will bring dishonour to both him and his family. The confrontation between Light Lass and Cosmic Boy after she escapes the Empress’s trap is one full of energy and moral codes clashing. I wasn’t fond of the bit where Cos slaps her pretty hard, but part of me argues that it’s about calming the distraught Ayla down as well, and the strong emotions during the scene made it work. The panel where Cosmic Boy calmly walks to the teleporter pad saying to Ayla, “I—I can’t use my powers...but I’ll fight and die a Legionnaire!” is absolutely magnificent and shows the true heroic nature and courage of Rokk Krinn. I have to admit that I have always liked Cosmic Boy, and this is one of his truly shining moments at this time in Legion continuity. I wasn’t fond of Light Lass for some time after this for what she did to Cosmic Boy, but... well, it’s water under the bridge, isn’t it? But this does raise the question of why the Legion would take a powerless member with them to raid an army of criminals. Cosmic Boy should never have gone on that mission in the first place. If he hadn't been there, Light Lass might have had to step up and earn her keep. Adding insult to injury, why in the world didn't Ayla go down to the planet with Cosmic BoY??!! A minor quibble is why Cosmic Boy felt the need to step forward and block the shock shell aimed at Ultra Boy. After all, he does have invulnerability. The presence of the Emerald Empress in the story is a pleasant surprise, though we don’t see a whole bunch of her. The fact that she has some decency, and makes the deal with Ultra Boy, is a bit of a surprise to me, but it was also motivated by her desire for freedom. Finally, a couple of notes... Cosmic Boy and Colossal Boy both debut their new costumes in this issue. Both characters were famous for showing much more skin than was normal for male Legionnaires. When asked about the matter, Mike Grell said that Cosmic Boy himself keeps the costume up using his magnetic powers. And lastly, this is the third and final Bill Draut inked back-up story.

Next up, Karate Kid gets his own solo comic...!
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, lll, lsh

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