Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #232
"The Disease That Wouldn't Die!"
Writer: Gerry Conway
Penciller: Ric Estrada
Inker: Jack Abel
Letterer: Clem Robins
Colourist: Liz Berube
Cover: Mike Grell (signed)
Editor: Dennis O'Neil
Mission Monitor Board:
Shrinking Violet, Superboy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Shadow Lass, Timber Wolf, Brainiac 5, Mon-El, Chameleon Boy, Sun Boy
The Immune; Dr. Regulus
In the self-titled Part One, in space, aboard the luxury liner “The Glory of Ganymede,” Superboy is experiencing his first Klordny Week with three of his Legionnaire friends. Oddly enough, they refuse to explain exactly what Klordny is or what they are celebrating, other than that it’s a festival of some sort. A blowhard United Planets unionist talks and then shouts at Shrinking Violet about her homeworld Imsk's request to extend the size of their space sector by two light-years. Violet doesn’t dignify his comments with a reply, but before Superboy can deal with the unionist, the liner shakes violently as space pirates attack. Saturn Girl determines where the pirates are telepathically and that they’re about to board. Superboy and Lightning Lad go and give them a Legionnaire style greeting, and after Lightning Lad fires a bolt after the pirates break in to the liner, with orders to loot the ship and leave no one alive, Superboy takes the fight to the pirates in space. While brutal, the fight is brief, and Superboy captures the pirates and their ship. Lightning Lad fixes the hole in the liner with several bolts of lightning, but there is extensive damage to the life support machinery in the wall. Shrinking Violet goes miniature and with the aid of her Legion emergency kit goes to work fixing the delicate wiring and circuitry. She thinks, for the reader’s benefit, that the Imskians merely want to protect their mining rights in their space sector as so many mining ships have been plundering the asteroids in their sector, as Imsk depends on the asteroids for trade. The threat to secede from the United Planets is merely a that, a threat of a political nature. Meanwhile, Saturn Girl interrogates the space pirates using her telepathy, and learns from one of them that they were told when and where to attack the luxury liner. They received a message and a bribe from person or persons unknown. They were only a diversion, but for whom and why remains a mystery.
Meanwhile, a space vessel that is concealed by the rings of Saturn begins to make its way towards Earth. On board, a figure in a gold coloured suit of some kind tells a green-clad, helmeted figure that the Legionnaires aboard the liner don’t even know they are there, and that’s as he/she wants it. The other figure says that he is ready to begin his sacred mission: to seek out Rene Brande, the benefactor of the Legion, and mete out justice for his crimes. As the first figure uses a teleportation beam on the second figure, he gloats that even if the other doesn’t succeed at this mission, he will have served his purpose to humiliate the Legion of Super-Heroes and to blackmail the solar system!
Elsewhere, aboard a United Planets Space Platform outside the orbit of Pluto, Cosmic Boy and Colossal Boy are celebrating Klordny Week with Gim’s cousin, Rogir, who is on duty there with his fellow crew. When the proximity alarms go off, everyone races to the duty stations, and find that a mysterious fog cloud is moving through space. It passes through the platform, encompassing all aboard and causes them to start shrinking.
As the Glory of Ganymede races through space, Lightning Lad receives a signal on the new Legion communicator from Colossal Boy. They were the closest vessel to Pluto. Colossal Boy tells him what has happened on the space platform. When the news of the space platform attack reaches the others aboard the luxury liner, the unionist accuses Shrinking Violet and the Imskians of the attack, claiming it is a weapon and that they should go to war with Imsk. Violet is shocked at the accusation, but before the unionist can say more, Superboy picks him up and then throws him into a set of tables. Shortly after, the four Legionnaires take command of the space pirate vessel, and start to travel to the space platform.
Meanwhile, on Earth, at Legion HQ, Shadow Lass is somewhat surprised during the night to find an intruder making his way through the Legion HQ. She attempts to talk to him but he attacks her, though Shady is able to defend herself with the Talokian martial art that she knows. She summons her fellow Legionnaires. Brainiac 5, Timber Wolf and Mon-El arrive on the scene. The intruder, the Immune, attacks Timber Wolf, ranting about trying to find their benefactor, R.J. Brande. When Mon-El uses his heat vision on him to get him to release Timber Wolf, he’s surprised to see that it has no effect on the intruder. Timber Wolf breaks free of the attacker and attacks, allowing the intruder to escape into the Legion complex. Mon-El is more puzzled as to why his heat vision attack didn’t work against the Immune. The intruder makes his way to the Central File Room, knocks out Chameleon Boy, and after finding what he wants to know, teleports away as the Legionnaires arrive in the room, alerted by the alarm system.
In Part Two, “A Short Way to Die,” Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Superboy and Shrinking Violet arrive at the Space Platform to see the shocking case of shrinking of Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy and the crew of the platform. When Gim asks Violet if she can shed any light on the situation, she reacts badly to his implication, but realizes that’s not really what he meant. She knows nothing, of course. The Legionnaires receive a communication on the platform from the United Planets military, ordering them to travel to Imsk to learn the source of the shrinking germ cloud and to find its antidote - and are authorized to use maximum force if the Imskians resist. The Legionnaires are horrified, and Violet starts to cry before she runs out of the chamber, upset that everyone seems so willing to believe that Imsk is behind the disease.
The team being led by Brainiac 5 arrives at R.J. Brande’s planetoid near the orbit of Mercury to find the Immune is already there. He has knocked out Brande’s security system and turned it against the Legionnaires and their ship, the laser torpedoes barely missing the ship or the Legionnaires. Mon-El spots the Immune with his telescopic vision, and infuriated at the Immune’s seeming immunity to all his powers, lashes out at the villain with full fury. Mon-El’s attack leaves the Immune unhurt, much to the Legionnaire’s surprise. The Immune explains that his body has a biological immunity as do most beings, but that his are cosmically charged. They repair his body instantly, protecting him from death forever. He explains that a group of military industrialists led by Brande sold a biological weapon to his government to aid in the war of their planet, Xorma, with their enemy of another world. The spore bomb was experimental, however, and the testing went off as scheduled but not as planned. The spore fog escaped the test area and slaughtered the three billion people of Xorma, causing them to shrink until they were dead. Only the Immune survived, somehow, his body adapting to the effects though he was deathly ill for over a year. So he has come for vengeance on R.J. Brande! The Legionnaires all move in to the attack against the Immune!
Near the planet Imsk, the Legionnaires in the pirate ship are attacked by what Superboy takes for an Imskian war craft, but Shrinking Violet states that it’s not. She recognizes it as similar to the battle boat of Dr. Regulus! The energy weapons aren't laser beams, they’re heat rays. The pirate vessel is no match for Regulus’s weapons, and the ship is penetrated easily. The four Legionnaires are rendered unconscious, even Superboy, who falls victim to red sun energy. Shrinking Violet comes to trapped in a pneumatically sealed tube, and sees that Superboy is being kept under red sun energy, Saturn Girl is hypnotically neutralized, and Lightning Lad is wired to a lightning rod. She also sees that he has captured Sun Boy, whom Regulus captured days ago and has kept unconscious since then.
Back on Brande’s planetoid, the Legionnaires there are unable to bring the Immune down, but Brainiac 5 realizes that his immunity may well be his actual weakness. He thinks he knows how to defeat the Immune, and places a call for one special Legionnaire to come as quickly as they can.
On Dr. Regulus’s ship, the villain gloats to the reader that Brande is innocent of the crime the Immune believes him responsible for, since he sent the Immune after Brande knowing the Legion would go to his aid. The irony is that the Legionnaires have the cure for the spore bomb disease right under their noses, but don’t even know it. Sun Boy wakes, and turns the heat up to free himself, and then turns it on Regulus, easily defeating the villain, after Saturn Girl woke him up, despite Regulus believing that to be impossible. With Regulus defeated, the Legionnaires congratulate themselves and it is revealed that Saturn Girl and Shrinking Violet switched identities at Superboy’s suggestion, so as to protect Violet in case of violence against her on Imsk. Thus, the traps meant for them were ineffective. Violet is still very annoyed at matters, and if Imra wants to know what’s wrong she should read her mind.
On R.J. Brande's asteroid, the Immune is tricked by Brainiac 5 into believing that he is not immune to the shrinking disease of the spore bomb, as he is attacked by a larger-than-life Brainiac 5. The Immune goes unconscious as his mind shuts down in self-defense. In actual fact, it is a very weak Colossal Boy pretending to be a larger-than-life Brainiac 5. Brainiac 5 also tells the others that he has a good idea of how to cure the shrinking disease with the help of the Immune.
Some time later, after the disease is cured by Brainiac 5, Rene Jacques Brande thanks the Legionnaires for saving him and the solar system. Colossal Boy goes to talk with the down, and angry, Shrinking Violet. She is still angry that her friends thought that Imsk was somehow responsible for the shrinking disease, and tells him that she has some thinking to do...
This issue’s story attempts to tell an interesting tale that involves a somewhat effective villain in the Immune, who shouldn’t be, the return of Dr. Regulus, a shrinking disease, and a plot about Imsk that strikes close to home for one Legionnaire. It should be a really great story, but it’s not, let down by the characterization, the art, and some parts of the plot.
Right from the start, the characterization of the Legionnaires is off. The Legionnaires aboard the luxury liner refuse to tell Superboy (and the reader) what Klordny is. This may seem like a silly point, but the Legionnaires have always been shown (kindly) explaining to Superboy (and the readers) the more exotic, future cultural information about the 30th Century. The fact that they refuse to do so here just strikes me as wrong. Later in the issue, Shadow Lass approaches an intruder in LSH headquarters as a rank amateur, allowing him to attack her. Speaking of which, how exactly did the Immune manage to get into Legion HQ in the first place? Furthermore, Superboy and Mon-El are both characterized as hot heads in the story, as the former wants to give the unionist "a fat lip" and the latter attacks the Immune without any plan. Timber Wolf shouts "I fight alone!" for the first time since joining the Legion, and Lightning Lad uncharacteristically asks Superboy "What do we do?!" (Long-time Legion fans know he always asks Saturn Girl for orders.)
One thing that was difficult to believe... If Brainiac 5 wanted to convince the Immune that something had happened that actually hadn't, why didn't he call in Princess Projectra? Furthermore, Dr. Regulus is not a biologist, so I found it hard to believe that he was the one who created the shrinking disease. However, then I realized that Regulus obviously stole the disease. I also can’t say that the idea that Colossal Boy could simply dress up as Brainiac 5 or that Violet could put on pink panties and pretend to be Saturn Girl was all that bright, either.
The most intriguing part of this story was the idea of planetary/stellar system politics, with the Imskians threatening to secede from the United Planets if their boundaries are not increased somewhat and the problem they are having with mining the asteroids and the like. The fact that this hit home for Shrinking Violet was terrific and added depth to the character, who definitely did not come across as the wallflower in the story. There will be further repercussions of this matter that affect not just Imsk but other UP members, and that’s a strong part of the story upcoming to watch for. However, I have a hard time understanding why Salu was so upset with her friends. None of the Legionnaires ever said anything that could be construed as believing Imsk is guilty of anything, yet she was ready to bite everyone's head off. That was just not good writing, unless there’s something else going on here that we don’t know about.
I’ve already mentioned in my reviews of the Karate Kid Vol 1 comics that I’m not thrilled with the artwork of Ric Estrada and Jack Abel. They bring their artwork to this issue of the Legion title, and it’s...not good. The backgrounds are somewhat dull, with virtually no detail work, the bad guys don’t look all that great, and the Legionnaires seem to be interchangeable from an art point of view. The biggest problem that artists have had with the Legion is the sheer size of the membership. While there are only 12 Legionnaires in this story, it shows in Estrada and Abel’s art.
To be honest, this struck me as a fill-in issue, but it did have some intriguing elements to it and a somewhat convoluted, twisty plot that gave itself away throughout. Hopefully, the stories that follow are better than this one.
The issue’s cover mixes the teams of Legionnaires, although none of these members actually become infected by the shrinking disease during the story... The luxury liner the Legionnaires are partying on at the beginning of the story is called "The Glory of Ganymede”... The "traditional" toast for Klordny is "To freedom, friendship, and frunt." Whatever “frunt” is... Lighting Lad boasts that they are using a "new" communicator to receive communication from Colossal Boy. What exactly did they use before to communicate with each other?... R.J. Brande does not look anything like the way he has been portrayed in stories previous to this tale... The final page of the issue, The Legion Outpost Extra, featured a listing of the Legionnaires from Princess Projectra through Wildfire (11 in all) with a listing of the Legion Reservists as well, with their full names, powers, and a bit of information on each of them. This listing, as noted in the bottom of the page material, states that this is the active Legion roster, making it some 23 members in all.
Next Issue: Justice League of America Vol 1 #147