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Superboy starring The Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #217

Time for another re-read of a classic Legion of Super-Heroes comic...





Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #217
June, 1976
“Charge of the Doomed Legionnaires”
Writer: Jim Shooter
Penciller: Mike Grell
Inker: Mike Grell
Letterer: Uncredited
Colourist: Uncredited
Cover: Mike Grell (signed)
Editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:
Shadow Lass, Timber Wolf, Superboy, Brainiac 5, Colossal Boy

Opposition:
The Khunds; Field Marshal Lorca

Synopsis:
On the way to Thanagar for a Science Police convention with a group of Legionnaires, Superboy is called back to Earth by Mon-El via transceiver. Immediately after he leaves, a Khund raider attacks the Legionnaire cruiser. Brainiac 5 orders the engines to be cut and power diverted to the shields, and Colossal Boy is able to do both at once by growing to large size. The ship is saved, but there is still some damage to the Legion cruiser, including a minor fissure in the fusion tanks. In a show of strategy and mental toughness, the Legionnaires are able to outmaneuver Lorca's raider, which then retreats back to its own sector. The ship enters orbit around the planet Ruzicka, where they drop Brainiac 5 off for the 3-D Chess Tournament that he’s entered and is eager to participate in. The Legion cruiser then continues on towards Thanagar. Back in Khund space, Field Marshal Lorca is informed that the Legionnaires have dropped Brainiac 5 off at Ruzicka and are on course for Thanagar. He orders that the Khund squadron intercept the Legion craft. It proved superior to theirs, and they must capture it so as to dissemble, analyze and study the parts to learn what makes the ship so efficient. The Khund squadron attacks the Legion cruiser, and only Colossal Boy’s strength allows him to pilot the ship to a crash landing on the barren planet of Vanvlack IV. The three Legionnaires are okay, but even as they assess their situation, Colossal Boy activates his emergency signal. Khund soldiers arrive on the planet, and the cruiser still has a photon ray, with the last bit of juice in the quasi-batteries, so they take down the attacking Khunds. The Khunds scatter, except for one survivor, and Timber Wolf and Shadow Lass exit the cruiser to get to him and bring him back as their prisoner so they can interrogate him. As they race towards him, the voice of Brainiac 5 tells them to get down! They do so, and a massive energy blast would have hit them if they hadn’t ducked. Brainiac 5 has been monitoring their situation from Ruzicka’s communications centre since Colossal Boy sent out the emergency signal, and he starts giving the three Legionnaires remote advice. When Lorca sends tanks against them, Shadow Lass darkens the area so Colossal Boy can shoot them with the Legion cruiser’s photon ray. Meanwhile, Superboy speeds towards Vanvlack IV, having also received the emergency signal. When Lorca realizes that Brainiac 5 is communicating to his teammates, he has his men jam the sub-space frequency, cutting him off. Then, using voice duplication software, Lorca orders the Legionnaires to stage a frontal attack. The three Legionnaires think it’s a suicidal move, but since they believe the order is coming from Brainiac 5, they storm the Khunds' position. When Superboy arrives, he finds that the Legionnaires have defeated the Khund forces, though they have all been injured to some degree. They want to beat up on Brainiac 5, since his plan almost got them fried. Superboy explains that it was actually Lorca, as he had tricked them. When they wonder where Lorca is, the reader sees that he’s snuck off to the Legion cruiser. However, due to the leak in the fusion tanks, the vessel explodes. Thus, Lorca’s orders for the three Legionnaires to attack actually saved them.

Commentary:
This is a very interesting, tightly plotted story that has a good premise, though I wonder a bit about a couple of elements of the tale. The idea of Legionnaires going to a Science Police convention is a good one, and sets the stage for the real plot, the game of strategy played out between Lorca and Brainiac 5. I do have to wonder why some more cerebral members of the Legion, such as Dream Girl or Chameleon Boy, didn’t go and Timber Wolf did. That said, the choice of Legionnaires for this mission - Colossal Boy, Shadow Lass and Timber Wolf - makes for an intriguing group, and I was pretty much pleasantly surprised by how well the three Legionnaires worked together, albeit under Brainiac 5’s guidance, and used their powers effectively to deal with the Khunds. It was also interesting to see that Superboy basically is the narrator of the story, having started out with the Legionnaires but then being called away, and not returning until the end. Getting rid of the Boy of Steel was a good move, to be honest, and worked quite well for the sake of the story and its pacing. The one thing that I didn’t really like about the story was that Brainiac 5 made the other three Legionnaires look somewhat stupid. That tends to be problem with super-smart characters in comic books and the other characters around them. I mean really, does Brainiac 5 have to tell Shadow Lass to darken the area so that the tanks can’t see them? She doesn’t need to be told how to use her power, in my opinion. Besides, in the techno-savvy period of the 30th Century, shouldn’t the tanks had some sort of infra-vision or other equipment to seek them out in the darkness? Mike Grell’s artwork in the issue is very good (not surprising, right?), and the panels depicting ships in space were very nicely rendered, definitely giving the impression of movement. The sequence when the Legionnaires attack the Khunds is well executed and gives the impression of how desperate (or even gung-ho?) the Legionnaires are, even though they felt that Brainiac 5 gave them suicidal orders, and the sheer surprise on the part of the Khunds that the Legionnaires aren’t retreating. Another lovely bit is when the Legion cruiser explodes at the end with Lorca on board, and the explosion says, “Holy cow! Dig the fireworks!" That was fun, definitely clever, and very Silver Age. Overall, this was a fun, entertaining story that reads well, and focuses on the trust that the Legionnaires have in Brainiac 5 being so powerful that they even follow his advice when it is suicidal. Excellent story.


And the second story in the issue…

“Future Shock for Superboy”
Writer: Jim Shooter
Penciller: Mike Grell
Inker: Mike Grell
Letterer: Uncredited
Colourist: Uncredited
Cover: na
Editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:
Superboy, Wildfire; Colossal Boy, Mon-El, Light Lass (cameos)

Guest:
Laurel Kent

Opposition:
None

Synopsis:
In Smallville, several people point to the Boy of Steel as he flies through the sky, then breaks the time barrier, and travels to the 30th Century. He arrives just in time to find that someone has fallen into one of the magnetic canals, used by iron freight barges to carry cargo. Descending to the canal to help the victim, he finds a beautiful girl whom he is instantly attracted to. She seems to be taking things quite calmly, and he shows off by stopping the nearest barge with his hand. He takes the girl out of the channel and she introduces herself as Elna. She says she’s happy to meet a living legend. He tells her that he has time to talk before the Legion meeting and they wander around together, Superboy learning very little about her. When Wildfire shows up to take Superboy to the meeting, Elna runs away, much to Superboy’s consternation. After the Legion meeting, Superboy tells Wildfire that he’s going to stay in the 30th Century for a bit longer, as he wants to find the girl that he can’t get out of his mind. Wildfire says he’d help, but Mon-El has assigned him to work with the Legion Academy trainees that night. The Boy of Steel searches high and low but cannot find Elna. Realizing the only place he hasn’t searched is Legion Headquarters... When he heads that way, he sees a bright, reddish-orange light behind the HQ, and goes to investigate - only to find Wildfire blasting Elna with his energy, and believes that she was trying to break into the LSH HQ, and now he’s killed her! However, Elna is fine, tells him that it was a Legion training exercise, and that her real name is Laurel Kent. She is his 30th Century descendant. Wildfire says that when he becomes Superman, he’ll marry and have kids that will continue into the 30th Century. Laurel has inherited one of his super-powers, invulnerability. At Wildfire’s prodding, since Superboy won’t remember any knowledge of his own future due to the super-hypnosis that he’s been subjected to, Laurel tells him that she looks a lot like the woman that Superboy is destined to marry. When the Boy of Steel returns to the 20th Century, he doesn’t remember anything about it, and guesses that it was nothing important.

Commentary:
I rather enjoyed this story for the most part, as to be honest, it is a tale that sheds some light on Superboy’s (or should that be Superman’s?) future. Laurel Kent is a very neat character but her debut appearance leaves a lot to be desired in so many ways. For one thing, I don’t understand why she felt it was necessary to engage in the charade when she meets him, and let’s be honest, her dancing around telling him nothing about herself makes him even more curious - ‘cause that’s a trait we know Superman/Clark Kent has! I’m not sure why she didn’t use her real name when she met him, because then the circumstance or their meeting would have been more truthful and perhaps Superboy’s attraction to her would have died then when he knew who she really was. Yes, the fact is he liked her and she liked him, and it’s creepy. From his point of view this is reasonable (because she looks like the woman he’s destined to marry) but Laurel’s liking him is like falling in love with a cousin or something. Ugh!! The Legion Academy is mentioned in this story. It was first introduced in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #371, and it’s nice to see it mentioned again here.

Final Notes:
This is the first issue of Superboy starring the Legion if Super-Heroes with a bar code in the bottom left corner... Mon-El appears on the cover, but does not appear in the lead story. He is mentioned as being back on Earth... This story established that the Science Police headquarters are on Thanagar... The planetoid in the first story is VanVlack IV, named after Legion fan Mercy Van Vlack... The gas station in Smallville in the second story has a sign on it which says "Doc Dumpke, proprietor." I think that’s significant of something, but can’t remember what... As noted above, the second story marks Laurel Kent's first appearance in Legion continuity. She has a remarkable future in the comics, and turns out to be an unexpected foe later on... Laurel Kent’s uniform is strangely similar to Night Girl's costume. Coincidence?... In the second story, there are only six Legionnaires at the "regular" meeting. Six members make a quorum? Or was the meeting cancelled because there were not enough members attending?


Next Issue: Superboy starring The Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #218
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, lll, lsh
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