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Time for another Legion of Super-Heroes classic re-read. Today, we start with something special...

DC Special Vol 1 #28
Earth Shattering Disasters!

July, 1977
"The City That Stopped —- Dead!"
Writer: Paul Levitz
Penciller: Arvell Jones
Inker: Bob Layton
Letterer: Bill Morse
Colourist: Liz Berube
Cover: Al Milgrom
Editor: Paul Levitz

Mission Monitor Board:
Phantom Girl, Brainiac 5, Ultra Boy, Timber Wolf, Chemical King

Fenton Pike

On Earth, it’s midnight in the city of Metropolis, the city and its vehicles and everything else powered by broadcast power of the unlimited energy generated by the city’s fusion powersphere. Which suddenly goes dead, and chaos and havoc result.

Five Legionnaires enter the fray, and go to investigate. Brainiac 5 takes Phantom Girl and Chemical King with him to the power sphere, while Ultra Boy and Timber Wolf are on damage control and go to help as many people as they can. Ultra Boy and Timber Wolf halt a monorail running wild on momentum and diving down to rescue people trapped below the monorail, all the time wondering who could have done this to the city and why. The destruction of the city proceeds even as they watch, commenting that most of the Legion is on leave and even then they couldn’t handle it because they’re super-heroes, not gods. However, Timber Wolf is betting that if anyone can figure it out, it’s Brainiac 5. Meanwhile, at the fusion powersphere, a red-and-gold armoured figure wonders why the equipment that he stole from the Science Police hasn’t destroyed the powersphere yet, though even if it doesn’t, the radiation being generated will wipe out Metropolis regardless. The figure flees, and runs straight into Brainiac 5, Phantom Girl and Chemical King who have arrived at the powersphere. The three Legionnaires learn that it is Fenton Pike, whom they stopped once before, who is determined to get his revenge on the city of Metropolis. He has rigged the powersphere to stall, building up energy but not releasing it. Pike disappears through the floor, but when Phantom Girl attempts to pursue him, Brainiac 5 dissuades her as the radiation leakage from the damaged powersphere might be able to harm even her in phantom form. They realize that if they cannot turn off the powersphere's override, the powersphere will explode...destroying all of Metropolis.

Meanwhile, at Metropolis General Hospital, Ultra Boy is down on the bottom level of the facility, using his super-strength to spin the turbines stilled by the blackout. Timber Wolf meanwhile helps people trapped in burning buildings and witnesses from high overhead the the sight of the city dying of a man-made catastrophe. Back at the powersphere, Brainiac 5, knowing that Chemical King can slow down reactions, has him slow down the amount of radiation that the powersphere is giving off, thereby allowing Phantom Girl to enter the sphere itself to manually turn off the override mechanism. She enters the sphere and searches for the damage caused by Pike. Brainiac 5 figures out where the only place Fenton Pike could hide is, and sends Ultra Boy and Timber Wolf back to Legion Headquarters, guessing that the inertron-walled LSH HQ might be the only place to survive the fusion powersphere blast. They go to the sub-basement where Mordru was once imprisoned, which is completely radiation proof, and find Pike hiding there. The two Legionnaires take him down quickly, but Timber Wolf tells Ultra Boy that by knocking Pike out, he can’t tell them how the powersphere was sabotaged. It’s all up to Phantom Girl now.

Back at the powersphere, Chemical King can’t hold the radiation reaction and starts to collapse. Brainiac 5 shouts for Phantom Girl to get out of the reactor area, but she’s successful at fixing the damage caused by Pike, and hopes that it’s not too late. With Chemical King already down and unconscious, Phantom Girl’s form emerges from the reactor chamber, and she collapses into Brainiac 5’s arms. And the city is saved.

This is a really good story and one of my favourite Legion tales because it works on so many different levels. The group of Legionnaires that is used in this story (Phantom Girl, Brainiac 5, Ultra Boy, Timber Wolf and Chemical King) is a good mix of Legionnaires for the tale. When the alarm sounded, Jo and Tinya might have been about to go out on a date, and Timber Wolf and Chemical King were hanging out, since they are good buddies from their time in the Legion Academy. And Brainiac 5 would have been doing stuff down in the lab. Chemical King, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, became one of my favourite heroes, so his saving the city of Metropolis along with Phantom Girl doesn’t surprise me, though Tinya’s knowledge of powersphere science and physics did surprise me somewhat. In a future with more radiation and chemicals rather than less, Condo Arlik should have had a whole bunch of neat abilities in his arsenal. The use of his powers in this tale, mirroring what he did in a heroic, tragic cause in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #228, is fitting and if this issue had come out before that one, would have had a touch of irony and is another example of the selflessness of Condo Arlik.

The action in the story is exciting and the scale of the disaster is well depicted. Penciller Arvell Jones does a good job conveying the amount of chaos and destruction in Metropolis that fateful night, and I have to wonder whether he had been to New York City during their blackouts. Bob Layton's inks add an almost metallic polish to the pencils, making them more futuristic and neat.

Final Notes:
This adventure occurs after the incidents shown in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #227, as Chemical King references that story by saying that both Brainiac 5 and Phantom Girl had just gotten back from Colu... This is the second appearance of Fenton Pike, who first appeared in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #222. It was weird seeing him doing an Iron Man interpretation. And Pike was right, shame that Tyroc wasn’t in this story... It’s ironic that Ultra Boy was the Legionnaire who originally captured Pike in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #222... Brainiac 5 is armed with a force-field, but does not enter the fusion powersphere to help Phantom Girl... Pike planned to hide in the bunker where the Legion had imprisoned Mordru... Jim Aparo drew the Table of Contents page featuring co-stars Batman, Aquaman, and the Legion... This is the first time that Arvell Jones drew a Legion of Super-Heroes story. He was never the official "regular" penciller, but he did quite a few "back-up" or "secondary" stories in the Giant Sized Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes books that were to come.

Next Issue: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #229


John Kahane

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