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Time for today's entry of my Legion of Super-Heroes classic re-reads. Today, another classic story.

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #233
November, 1977
“The Attack of the Infinite Man!”
Writer: Paul Levitz
Penciller: James Sherman
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Liz Berube
Cover: Mike Grell (signed)
Editor: Dennis O'Neil

Mission Monitor Board:
Superboy, Star Boy, Lightning Lad, Brainiac 5, Dream Girl, Wildfire, Colossal Boy, Phantom Girl

Rond Vidar, Professor Jaxon Rugarth (Metropolis University Time Institute)

Sklarian Raiders; The Infinite Man

“The Infinite Man Who Conquered -Time- the Legion!”
On route back to Legion Headquarters on Earth with an experimental hyper-time drive, four Legionaires are ambushed by Sklarian raiders. They tell the Legionnaires that their homeworld needs the technology that Terra is denying them, and they will take it whatever the cost. The all-female attackers are more of a threat than expected, though Superboy, Star Boy and Lightning Lad deal with them relatively easily. Two of the raiders hiding in their downed hover-sled take down Lightning Lad and Star Boy, but Brainiac 5 delays them long enough for Superboy to return, and Lightning Lad recovers from the electro-shock attack quickly and the Sklarians are defeated. This only delays the Legionnaires’ schedule somewhat, and when they return to Legion HQ, Dream Girl is overjoyed to see them return, particularly Star Boy. She admits that she had foreseen the attack, but not its outcome, and it was too late to do anything by that time regardless. Wildfire is totally unsympathetic, but the other Legionnaires choose to ignore him.

Superboy delivers the hyper-time device to the Legion laboratory, where Brainiac 5 is waiting with their friend, Rond Vidar, the acknowledged leader in the field of temporal science. Rond works with Brainiac 5 to hook up the most powerful time machine he has ever created. He hopes to prove that time moves in a circular flow and is not linear. Phantom Girl enters the lab with Professor Jaxon Rugarth from Metropolis University’s Time Institute, the volunteer for the time travel experiment. He tells Brainiac 5 and Rond Vidar that he understands the risks as they were explained to him, and is eager to participate. With all the machinery functioning properly, the hyper-time device blinks out of existence, and then reappears immediately. Rond says it can’t have returned that soon, if his calculations were correct. But they weren’t. Time is circular, but it is infinite - and the device actually travelled through the circular time loop millions and billions of times in that second. The hyper-time travel machine explodes into fragments as Jaxon Rugarth emerges, now transformed into the impressive Infinite Man! He is there to punish Rond for making him suffer the agonizing tortures that he did during the experiment. Snatching up Rond Vidar, the Infinite Man breaks the time barrier, and brings a tyrannosaurus and a stegosaurus into the present to attack the Legionnaires and keep them busy. Star Boy takes down the stegosaurus with his powers, while Colossal Boy attacks the tyrannosaurus rex, Wildfire attacks the Infinite Man thus allowing Phantom Girl and Lightning Lad to grab Rond away from their titanic foe. Wildfire can’t harm him, but the Infinite Man brings an ancient battle wagon (a tank) for him to waste his energy on. When Superboy and Star Boy attack him, he uses his space/time powers to hurl Superboy to a distant dimensional plane and stops time for Star Boy. However, Superboy is no stranger to dimensional travel and is familiar with the multi-dimensions, and returns almost instantly, striking the Infinite Man a telling blow. Realizing that he has underestimate the Legion, the Infinite Man awards them the first round and and then vanishes to escape and re-plan and perfect his powers. With his departure, the dinosaurs and the tank are returned to their own times, and Star Boy enters time once more, to the crying Dream Girl’s relief.

Legion leader Wildfire tells Superboy to stick close to Rond, though he doubts that Rugarth will return too quickly as he wants Rond to suffer somewhat. He then plots three courses for missions for Brainiac 5, Dream Girl and Phantom Girl to find a way to destroy the Infinite Man; the three are all of limited use in a fight, so he figures this is the best way. While Star Boy doubts they can beat the Infinite Man, he is at least glad that Dream Girl is out of harm’s way. Meanwhile(?), the Infinite Man is in his own domain, somewhere beyond time and space, honing his powers and also trying to decide how and when to return to exact revenge on Rond. When he is prepared, the Infinite Man vanishes back into space and time to seek his revenge.

Elsewhere, on Naltor, Dream Girl receives little help from her former mentor, Beren, High Seer of Naltor, and answers that will be of little help to her comrades, and also knows that she will not be able to return in time to help her teammates. She communicates with Star Boy back at Legion HQ, and tells him what she knows. On his homeworld of Colu, Brainiac 5 gets no assistance or advice from his people. He tells them the reason for that is they spend too much time debating theory, asking questions and pondering the imponderable, when instead they should try doing something.

Back at Legion HQ, Lighting Lad tries to lighten the mood by saying that Rugarth won’t be back as he may have blown himself up with his powers. The Infinite Man chooses that exact moment to prove him wrong, blasting the Legionnaires once more. While Superboy helps his teammates, Colossal Boy engages the Infinite Man in hand-to-hand combat, but Rugarth summons up a pterodactyl or two to challenge him. Wildfire and Lightning Lad attack the Infinite Man, whose powers prove more than a match for them, but Star Boy momentarily buys them some time by collapsing the super-heavy roof on him. This stops him momentarily, and then Rugarth blasts Star Boy, telling the Legionnaires that if they do not hand over Rond Vidar immediately, they are doomed.

On the planet Gendyx, Phantom Girl attempts to communicate with the Timeless Ones, a race of immortal spirits, but they refuse to believe that someone else has survived eternity, and will not even listen to her.

Back on Earth, the Infinite Man closes in on Rond Vidar, who tries to explain that what happened was an accident, but the Infinite Man doesn’t buy this, his rage, pain and madness blinding him to the truth. The Legionnaires attack the Infinite Man again, but he swats them aside like flies and then proceeds to give them a taste of what he experienced in the time stream. With the Legionnaires now down, nothing stands between him and Rond - other than Brainiac 5’s force-shield belt, which the returned Legionnaire tosses to him. Brainiac 5 says that his trip to Colu did tell him how to defeat the Infinite Man - an overload... but before he can explain what he means, the Infinite Man strikes him down as well. Superboy and Wildfire figure that Brainiac meant to overload the hyper-time device, which Superboy does by destroying the fail-safe mechanism. While the Infinite Man attempts to delay the Legionnaires again by summoning creatures from the past to fight them, Rond is able to circuit the device (now that it’s been hyper-charged by Lightning Lad and Wildfire) and thus hurl the Infinite Man back into another circular time trip. As the Legionnaires start to clean up the mess, Rond hands Brainiac 5 his force-shield belt, and he and Brainiac 5 vow to work on a cure for the Infinite Man and bring him back.

This issue is one of my favourite Legion stories from this period and possibly my favourite Paul Levitz/James Sherman Legion story as well. The story has so many different dimensions (no pun intended) to it, has a marvellous concept behind it, and also deals with time travel from a unique perspective. The story begins so simply, with a somewhat bothersome attack by the Sklarian raiders (more on them in a minute), but it’s full of action and is illustrated in a fashion that there’s nothing dull about it. The story then segues into an adventure of time travel and time theory that, truthfully, boggled my mind at points. I will admit that I wondered why the Infinite Man was so (relatively) “easily” defeated here, but assumed that the character would be back within the next year or two to wage real revenge against the Legionnaires and Rond Vidar.

The issue introduces a new group of raiders, the all-female Sklarians, in a minor sub-plot that has some nice elements to it. I’m not sure if all Sklarians are female, as it’s not established here, but they are quite intriguing in their own way, especially with their comment that since the Terrans won’t share technology with them, they feel they have to take it. I suspect there’s more to that story here, but that will wait for future appearances by the Sklarians. It’s interesting that Paul Levitz introduces the Sklarians here, since he also introduced the Resource Raiders in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #225. This makes me wonder if one or both sets of raiders will return to plague the Legion (although I know that the Sklarians will be back).

The artwork in this story is just superb, with lush scenes, vibrant action scenes, and some truly alien scenes (such as on Gendyx and in the whole design of the Infinite Man). James Sherman’s pencil work is just brilliant here, and the inks by Bob Wiacek complement his work so, so well. The scene on page 4, with the reflections of the Legionnaires in the glass of their Headquarters is just stunning, and some of the hardest work for an artist to pull off in comics. So many artists hate having to draw stuff like that, but Sherman apparently enjoyed this sort of thing (though not too often!) and pulls it off magnificently here. Also of note in the issue is the sheer number of times Legionnaires are reflected on Wildfire’s faceplate. It’s that attention to detail that makes Sherman’s work so good on the Legion. Another small touch that stands out is on page 16, where Star Boy and Brainiac 5’s flight rings are used to switch the scenes. Amazing stuff. However, my favourite piece in the story is the full-page devoted to the first appearance of the Infinite Man on page 8. Just awesome, full of details, and showing us the sheer power of this individual in a single, large panel.

Just a magnificent, superb story in so many ways both on a writing level and an artistic level.

The second story in the issue is…

"The Final Illusion"
Writer: Paul Levitz (based on an idea by Mike Nasser)
Penciller: Mike Nasser
Inker: Bob Layton
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Liz Berube
Cover: na
Editor: Dennis O'Neil

Mission Monitor Board:
Princess Projectra, Saturn Girl, Chameleon Boy, Dream Girl; Karate Kid (cameo; in her dreams)

Loneliness; Universo (cameo; in her nightmares)

Dream Girl, Chameleon Boy and Saturn Girl have gathered around Princess Projectra, who has collapsed into a coma after Karate Kid left her to return to the 20th Century. The three Legionnaires discuss the situation, but the medicomps can find no physical problem and therefore it’s psychic. However, since Naltorians don’t even fully understand their own prophetic powers and Saturnian telepathy is based on science, Chameleon Boy suggests that the solution may very well lie in the chamber they’re in right now. In her dreams, Princess Projectra has retreated to an illusory, happy world where Karate Kid is with her in Galaxyland. Saturn Girl comes out of her mind, and tells the others that Projectra is so lonely without Karate Kid that she has "turned off" reality and retreated into her sub-conscious illusory world in order to be happy.

The doctor the Legionnaires have called in warns Saturn Girl that she should not intrude in Projectra's subconscious any longer or it could prove fatal. Dream Girl suggests that they find a way to make Projectra want to return to reality, and suggests that Saturn Girl give Projectra a nightmare, that will force Jeckie to want to escape her subconscious and return to reality. Saturn Girl proceeds to do so, changing Jeckie’s illusory world of Galaxyland into a nightmare of horror. When that doesn’t work, the Princess shoots out into space to an even greater horror - a giant version of Universo! However, in reply, Projectra merely retreats even deeper into her subconscious, further weakening her body, instead of facing the illusion of Universo.

Saturn Girl tells the others what has happened, and the doctor says there’s nothing that can be done. Chameleon Boy disagrees, saying they have to help Jeckie since no one else can, and suggests that perhaps they’ve been going about this the wrong way. Saturn Girl re-enters Projectra’s mind, gently this time. Karate Kid comes to Projectra’s rescue, defeating Universo. When the two embrace, Karate Kid fades away and disappears. Wanting more, this time of reality, Princess Projectra wakes herself up.

Chameleon Boy says that it was all a matter of understanding illusion, and with his powers he always has to. It wasn’t a case of showing Projectra how frightening fantasy is, but how empty it is compared to reality.

This story is another tale about Princess Projectra projecting herself into one of her illusions. This is the second time this happens to the Princess, the first being back in Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #206 when she was suffering the aftereffects of Rigellian fever. In this case, however, the being trapped in her own illusions is 1) in her mind; and 2) due to her loneliness after Karate Kid returned to the 20th Century following the events of their capture by the Fatal Five. This story is certainly more intriguing than the earlier tale, being about being trapped in one’s own psyche, but it portrays Princess Projectra as a bit of a weakling and as a coward. I didn’t like this story for that reason, to be honest, and it would be a long wait before Legion fans were going to see a strong Projectra emerge. The story’s only redeeming grace is that Saturn Girl is present in this one, the one Legionnaire actually qualified to help Projectra, but it does take Chameleon Boy’s insights into illusion to pull things off.

All of that aside, the story is actually quite delicious to look at. Mike Nasser’s pencil work is quite dynamic in the story, and they are inked by Bob Layton whose work here really works well with Nasser’s style. Chameleon Boy’s antennae take on a life of their own in this story, which was really intriguing and fun to look at, and the backgrounds also feature some detail and are interesting to look at. The only minor glitch is the topmost panel on page 2 of the story, where Saturn Girl’s costume is mis-coloured white, rather than the hot pink, and this seems to be almost a “blending in” effect with Dream Girl’s hair. Not major, but just a thing of note.

Final Notes:
Saturn Girl and Mon-El appear on the cover but do not appear in the lead story... The Infinite Man does not reappear until Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 3 #18... Although Denny O’Neil’s editor’s note on page 2 says that Karate Kid went back to the 20th Century "last issue," that scene was never actually shown. This is probably a reference to Karate Kid and Princess Projectra appearing in the Fatal Five story two issues ago, Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #231... In an odd coincidence, Dream Girl, Chameleon Boy and Saturn Girl are three of the main Legionnaires who battle the real Universo in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 3 #33 (not #233). Brainiac 5 should have been in this story instead of the nameless doctor, and then we would have had all four of the “Universo Project” Legionnaires here.

Next Issue: Justice League of America Vol 1 #148


John Kahane

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June 2023



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