John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane

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Superboy starring The Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #220

Here's today's blog entry of a classic Legion of Super-Heroes comic...

Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #220
October, 1976
“Super Soldiers of the Slave-Maker!"
Writer: Jim Shooter
Penciller: Mike Grell
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Uncredited
Colourist: Uncredited
Cover: Mike Grell (signed)
Editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:
Lightning Lad, Element Lad, Mon-El, Ultra Boy, Wildfire, Superboy, Phantom Girl

The dictator of Tharrg and his war-loving race; cowardice

"The Super-Soldiers of the Slave-Maker”
On the world of Murgador, a once pleasant and prosperous world now suffers under the yoke of slavery, with everyone working the mines. One of the slaves, a young man named Pollor, has summoned the Legion of Super-Heroes for help, and they have finally arrived. When the Legionnaires exit their ship, they come under attack from a lot of the people; Wildfire takes a brick to the head that would have hurt if he’d had a physical head. The Legionnaires defend themselves effectively, though Ultra Boy gets a bit violent when Phantom Girl (who phases and is unharmed) is attacked by a miner with a pickaxe. Lightning Lad quiets the mob with a blast of lightning into the sky, and the Legionnaires learn what is happening on Murgador. While some of the inhabitants, such as Pollor, would rather die than live enslaved, the majority of the people want the Legion to go. Dinda, their leader, demands that they leave. Legion leader Mon-El counters with a demand for an explanation before agreeing to do so. Dinda explains that the warrior race that inhabits the largest planet that orbits their sun, Tharrg, planted a bomb with seismic sensors in Murgador's core that will be detonated if the people disobey Tharrg's commands. Phantom Girl insists that she can dismantle the bomb, but Dinda says the risk is too great, and again demands that the Legion depart. Once aboard the Legion cruiser, the team discusses what to do next while Phantom Girl confronts Ultra Boy about whether he has faith in her. He replies that if anything were to happen to her... The others continue to debate what to do about the situation on Murgador, Element Lad telling Wildfire they can’t risk the lives of the 2 billion people for the Legion ideals. Phantom Girl takes matters into her own hands, diving through the ship’s floor and heads for the planet’s core to dismantle the bomb. An angry Mon-El tells the rest of the team to blast off, and the Legionnaires head for Tharrg. However, Dinda has seen Phantom Girl plunge into the ground, and decides that she won’t trust in faith but will attempt to save everyone.

The Legionnaires arrive at Thargg and, leaving their ship in orbit, go down to the surface using their flight rings to distract the dictator in order to give Phantom Girl a chance to disarm the bomb. The Legionnaires attack, wreaking plenty of damage, but the Tharrg soldiers drop their weapons and tell Mon-El they have orders to take them to the citadel and their leader. When they arrive, they see a large monitor behind his throne that shows the bomb area on Murgador. The dictator explains about the bomb on Murgador, thinking they are unfamiliar with the situation. Superboy and Mon-El notice that Phantom Girl has arrived in the bomb chamber, and realize they have to keep him distracted from her. When an underling arrives with a message about Phantom Girl’s attempts, Superboy steps forward and shuts him up. The dictator is pleased that someone obeys him quickly. When Phantom Girl solidifies her hands inside the bomb, triggering an alarm, the dictator turns, sees her, and triggers the bomb before Superboy can stop him. When the monitor screen goes blank, everyone thinks that Murgador and Phantom Girl have been destroyed. Ultra Boy in particular goes crazy, thinking he has lost his girlfriend, and attacks the dictator, but is hauled off him by Superboy and Mon-El. However, Superboy’s belt alarm receives a flight ring emergency signal, and the Boy of Steel races off to Murgador! He returns to Tharrg shortly, with Phantom Girl alive and well. The monitor was on the same circuit as the bomb, and when Phantom Girl pulled out the wires, the screen simultaneously went blank. Ultra Boy is more than relieved that Tinya is all right. Some time later back on Murgador, Dinda thanks the Legionnaires for freeing them, saying that Pollor was right - it does take courage to be free - and humbly apologizes to the Legionnaires.

The first tale in this issue is one that has a plot that is somewhat full of holes (I’ll get to that momentarily), but is overall a very strong story in featuring Phantom Girl and offers us a view of the Legionnaires that is not to be expected. First and foremost, this is an interesting character study of the various Legionnaires. It’s particularly of note to witness the relationship between Tinya and Jo (Phantom Girl and Ultra Boy) in this story. Phantom Girl is particularly strong and Ultra Boy is notably “weak” in the tale. Phantom Girl is absolutely confident in her own abilities, and knows she can disarm the bomb and render it useless, yet Ultra Boy doesn't trust her to get the job done. What’s even more odd about the story is that Element Lad and Wildfire agree with each other that the Legion should leave the people of Murgador enslaved. This is not something I would have thought they would have agreed on, particularly Jan (Arrah), as his entire race was slaughtered by those who wanted to use their element changing powers for their own benefit. Not something I would have thought that Wildfire would have agreed with, either.

The basic plot of the story, with the Legion summoned to free the Murgador people from enslavement, with the bomb being held over their heads (so to speak), was quite solid, I thought. The differing opinions of Dinda’s and Pollor’s people was reflected in the Legionnaires attitudes as well, paralleling them, and made for an interesting side plot by itself. However, this whole “get rid of the bomb” plot should or perhaps could have been solved relatively easily by some of the Legionnaires present, given the power on this team (see the Mission Monitor Board above). The melodrama of the bomb serves as almost a story McGuffin in some ways, though it’s a more clear and present danger kind of threat, and some would argue that it’s far-fetched. Why couldn’t Superboy, Ultra Boy, or Mon-El have destroyed the detonator with their various vision powers? Element Lad could have changed the elements in the bomb itself to something less explosive. If Chemical King had been there he could have changed something in the components. My whole point being it should have been easy for the Legion to have put the Tharrgian dictator out of business.

The fight scenes in this story were all pretty decent, first with the Legionnaires against the Murgador slaves and then against the Tharggs on their home planet. The latter especially were dynamic and showed Grell and Wiacek’s skills at this. Watching Element Lad changing a tank to gas was priceless, and the other Legionnaires that accompanied Mon-El on this mission got to let loose a little bit. I was a little bit shocked at the violence of the act when Superboy slapped the Thargg messenger, as I didn’t expect it. It made sense at the time, of course, as they needed to shut him up, but the strike also served to make the dictator was on their side. Another highlight of the story was the seriousness of the expressions on Mon-El’s face during the crisis, notably the rage and annoyance that you could see when Phantom Girl took it upon herself to help the population of Murgador. Superb stuff, again.

Then there’s the second story of the issue...

"Dream Girl's Living Nightmare”
writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Mike Grell
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Uncredited
Colourist: Uncredited
Cover: na
Editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:
Brainiac 5, Dream Girl, Chameleon Boy

Unnamed assassin on Demros II; lack of faith

En route back to Earth in Legion cruiser LX-811 after a mission to another galaxy, Chameleon Boy and Brainiac 5 are stopped dead in their tracks when Dream Girl wakes and shouts they must go no further. She tells them in her dream she saw the Primor of Demros II being blasted and killed. While she saw the murder weapon, all she can recall about it was three circles. Brainiac 5 trusts Dream Girl's abilities - it’s why she was admitted to the Legion, after all! - so doesn't want to do anything to try to prevent this prediction from coming true. Chameleon Boy, on the other hand, determines to do something, especially after learning from the ship’s computers banks that Primor Nryd Gordor is a great leader, and insists on trying to save him.

Chameleon Boy borrows Brainiac 5's force-field belt, and altering his form to that of the Primor, heads for Demros II, intending to impersonate Primor Gordor. When he arrives on the planet, however, the leader’s security forces will not allow him close to the broadcasting station, especially given the form he’s taken. Seeing the film camera that is aimed at the Primor, Chameleon Boy understands what Dream Girl’s vision of the murder weapon having “three circles” meant: the three camera lenses. Much to Chameleon Boy's horror, the Primor is assassinated right before his eyes. However, much to his surprise, it turns out not to be Primor Nyrd Gordor who was killed, but a ruthless usurper who had tried to take his position from him by locking him away. Switching to his own form, Chameleon Boy explains to the rightful Primor what has happened. Once he’s been freed, Chameleon Boy heads back to the Legion cruiser. He decides that Brainiac 5 was right: trust Dream Girl's predictions.

This is another fascinating story, and one of Cary Bates’s better tales to this point, that examines the belief in the visions that Dream Girl has. It’s also about destiny, and whether it can be altered or not, but once again, that’s not what the story is actually about. It’s an interesting character study of three Legionnaires. Dream Girl is very much a "passive" character, in that she has visions of the future, though in this case hasn’t really got a reaction to them. Brainiac 5 is the ultimate scientist: he knows that Dream Girl's predictions are never wrong, therefore it is inefficient to try to prevent them. And finally, Chameleon Boy is very much the optimist, intent on using his abilities to try to save people, even when faced with destiny (or should that be Destiny?). However, when it comes down to it, the story has a simple moral: Dream Girl's dreams always come true. That's why she is a Legionnaire.

Final Notes:
First off, there is no scene in the lead story that resembles the image that is presented on the cover... This is the last issue to feature the Mike Grell illustrated "head shots" across the top of the cover... Coincidentally perhaps, both the lead and back-up stories feature disagreements between the Legion members regarding their missions... Both stories also hinge on broadcasting: the scene of the bomb in the lead, and the leader's speech in the back-up... In the second story, although Chameleon Boy supposedly borrowed Brainiac 5's force-field belt, he is not shown wearing it at the end of the story as he heads back for the Legion cruiser... Finally, in the Super-Talk letters column, the announcement is made at the top of the letter column that effective with this issue, the comic is going monthly thanks to the readers snapping up the comic at the nation’s newsstands. A fine feat, in and of itself!

Next Issue: Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #221
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, lll, long live the legion!, lsh

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