Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #236
In the first story in this issue...
"A World Born Anew!"
Writers: Paul Levitz & Paul Kupperberg
Penciller: James Sherman
Inker: Bob McLeod
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Anthony Tollin
Cover: Mike Grell (pencils) and Joe Rubinstein (inks) (signed)
Editor: Allen Milgrom
Mission Monitor Board:
Brainiac 5, Superboy, Cosmic Boy, Princess Projectra, Element Lad, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy
Night Girl (of the Legion of Substitute Heroes); Pol Krinn (future Legionnaire)
At Legion Headquarters, Brainiac 5 is feeling down and inadequate because he's just the "smart guy" on the team, who always seems to get left behind on monitor duty. He and Superboy are observing Rokk Krin (Cosmic Boy) and Lydda Jath (Night Girl) on Braal where they are vacationing. Superboy tries to cheer him up, and tells him that he’s the most indispensable Legionnaire of all, and then tells him to smarten up. The two go off to play some three-dimensional chess, Brainy leaving the Monitor Board.
On Braal, Cosmic Boy is enjoying his leave on his home planet with his girlfriend, Lydda (Night Girl) and his younger brother, Pol. They are playing a game of magnoball with Pol's girlfriend, Polla, and the two girls are whipping the boys at the game, despite Rokk's having been a magnoball champion once for some time before he became a Legionnaire. Lydda is wearing magnetic field bracelets to play the game, since only native Braalians have the magnetic powers. The game is interrupted when the magnoball court turns to liquid and muck. Rokk and Lydda are able to save Pol and Polla, as they are wearing their flight rings, and then quickly go back to being heroes again. Cosmic Boy and Night Girl report to the President of Braal, who informs them that the entire planet has started to be transformed in places: new seas forming, mountains turning into plains, new mountains popping up inside cities. Cosmic Boy calls in the Legion, and then he and Night Girl head out into the field to investigate.
On the Legion cruiser heading for Braal, commanded by Element Lad, he tells Brainiac 5 that he is sorry the Coluan isn't coming with them, but someone has to mind the shop. As the ship goes into hyper-drive, Chameleon Boy comments how he can't believe that Brainy complains about his duties, as he's part of the team and they're all one happy family. Colossal Boy surprises Reep by saying that sometimes he wonders if they are.
Back on Braal, Cosmic Boy and Night Girl investigate the situation and come upon a series of bizarre alterations to the terrain, and come upon an alien machine with a lone occupant inside that is changing the terrain around them. Cosmic Boy attacks but the planetshaper operator repels him with a force beam. Night Girl attacks, but is repelled by a weapon's blast. The alien, called Wordsmith, is changing the surface of Braal as per his unnamed customer's request, and not wishing to abide delays, fires a deadly beam that hurls the two heroes towards space. They are snatched out of space by Superboy, and he heads back to the site of the planetshaper, where the rest of the Legionnaires have already landed. Per Element Lad's plan, Colossal Boy lifts the planetshaper off the ground and Superboy and Night Girl crash through it, destroying the massive machine. Worldsmith is furious at the heroes, and using his natural energies and powers grabs them, drawing the together, and then encases them in a massive stone bubble. When Superboy cannot crack the stone shell, Element Lad converts it to oxygen, and the heroes escape.
Princess Projectra has landed the Legion cruiser in the meantime, and tells the others that after observing what has occurred and the Legionnaires' interactions with Worldsmith, she thinks she knows how to beat him. Using Princess Projectra's illusions and some sleight of hand from Colossal Boy and Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy is able to convince Worldsmith that his powers don't work on Braal. Meanwhile, Superboy and Element Lad fix up some of the additional damage that Worldsmith is causing. Faced with too many cost overruns, Worldsmith gives up the job and leaves, warning the Legionnaires that if their paths ever cross again in the future, they will not be so fortunate. Once he leaves and Princess Projectra dispels her illusions, Superboy recognizes some of the changes on Braal as things he has seen on Earth, suggesting that Worldsmith visited Earth a long time ago.
This is a pretty good story, that's entertaining and fun to read. The plotting by Levitz and Kupperberg (I don’t know who wrote what on this story) is pretty solid, mixing some Legionnaire time with the dealing with Worldsmith and the devastation that he wreaks on Braal. The revelation at the end of the Easter Island-like statues on Braal was a good twist for the tale, and gave it a bit more gravitas in some ways. Worldsmith is another truly alien looking alien, and the work of James Sherman shows in this tale, notably with some odd terrain alterations, Worldsmith’s appearance and the sheer size and beauty/functionality of the planetshaper before it is destroyed. Bob McLeod’s inks on the story are adequate, and allow Sherman's pencils to shine through and that made the story even more entertaining.
Worldsmith is an interesting alien, but he didn't seem to be much of an antagonist in the story. If he was so super strong with his own abilities, I’m not sure why he needed the planetchanger, or perhaps that was due to not having to use his own alien energies to undertake the planetary transformation.
The opening scene at Legion HQ between Superboy and Brainiac 5 was one that struck me as unique to the series when I read it, and of course can be interpreted by later events as being part of the set-up for Brainiac 5's later mental problems. The scene on the Legion cruiser heading for Braal was intriguing, and exactly what did Colossal Boy mean when he said to Chameleon Boy that he doesn’t think the Legion is a (happy) family?
I will say that I loved Princess Projectra's role in the story, but am still disappointed that she seems to come into Legion tales right now in the second-half or tail end of the stories. Her solution on how to deal with Worldsmith was excellent, and worked pretty well and she made good use in that part of the story of her illusions. Teamwork may have saved the day, but Jeckie was the catalyst for it.
The issue’s second story consists of...
"Mon-El's One-Man War!"
Writer: Paul Levitz
Penciller: Mike Nasser
Inkers: Joe Rubinstein and Rick Bryant
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Mike Nasser
Editor: Allen Milgrom
Mission Monitor Board:
While wandering through space on a bit of a vacation, Mon-El happens upon a Khundish attack upon an experimental star mine at the outer edge of the galaxy. He helps the miners destroy the initial wave of robot drone ships, and then lands on the star mine where he talks to the personnel there. He wonders why the Khunds are attacking the star mine, given there is no point in stealing a source of energy that no one can even use yet - unless the Khunds have figured out a way to do so. One of the technicians on the star mine comes up to him, and tells him they've detected the second wave of the Khund attack. There must be so many ships that it registers as one tightly massed attack. Mon-El races off into space to find them and stop them. When he comes upon them, it's a massive ship that has personnel aboard; it's a training flight to test the United Planets' perimeter defenses. He attempts to attack the ship using various tactics, but to no avail, and decides that rather than fighting a defensive fight against the ship, uses his wits. Finding where the power rods converge, Mon-El chops them up, except for the life support circuitry, and is pleased at the sound of the ship stopping as the engines fail. When he returns to Earth, he’ll have Wildfire arrange a U.P. Defense Council session to consider whether they are a threat. But first, he’s going to continue his vacation.
This is a terrific little story that focuses on a Legionnaire who, other than Timber Wolf, is capable of working on his own and is an explorer at heart - Mon-El. With no particular family other than the Legion, it makes sense that he would wander the galaxy, at home in the depths of space, and finding adventure from time to time. And he certainly does here. Placing Mon-El on the outer edge of the galaxy, where there's no one else to help him against the Khunds, is a good move. It allows our hero to cut loose somewhat, but at the same time the Khunds make for a good adversary. This is the first appearance of the Khunds since Adventure Comics Vol 1 #346-347. They'll be back shortly in an epic story. I'm of the opinion that this story is the lead-up to the Earth/Khund War.
Finally, the artwork in this story is superb. Mike Nasser does a fabulous job, both on pencils and colouring his own work, and Josef Rubinstein accents Nasser's designs very well. The space scenes are highly dynamic and the panels with Mon-El in flight are simply stunning to behold. The sheer breadth and detail of the Khundish massive vessel is also overwhelming, and the panels that feature it are well done as well.
And the third story in the issue...
"Words Never Spoken!”
Writer: Paul Levitz
Penciller: Jim Sherman
Inker: Joe Rubinstein
Letterer: Milton Snapinn
Colourist: Tony Tollin
Editor: Allen Milgrom
Mission Monitor Board:
Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad
Doubt, crossed wires
While on vacation on Titan, in the Star Gardens, Lightning Lad proposes to Saturn Girl, but she says they can't marry. The Legion Constitution doesn't allow for married members, and she can't see her life outside of the Legion.
Imra tells Garth that she doesn't know her own mind at the moment, let alone whether to marry him or not, but she knows how to decide. She takes them both to the Institute of Psychic Science to undergo compatibility tests. After greeting her old teacher, Vyndaar, Imra admits that she is scared because she doesn't want to leave the Legion, and if they do leave she's scared that she and Garth will turn out to be different people. Garth admits that he's scared, too, but he has faith in their love. Vyndaar suggests that they use the Sensacomp Stimulator, which will create artificial situations to test or enhance their mutual understanding. They enter the machine, but something goes wrong with the programming, and they are suddenly faced with a world gone mad. The two come under attack, fighting real threats, and when Imra is grabbed and threatened by three angry, diseased looking types and shouts for help, Lightning Lad uses his powers to strike them down. However, it was Garth's own unique electrical signature that cause the Sensacomp to malfunction and his use of the lightning disintegrates its governing circuit.
The illusion gives way to a new setting, somewhere in inter-dimensional space, where they wear spacesuits with helmets and have no communication devices. Imra is attacked by a six-armed robotic creature and Garth is attacked by an energy beam firing device. Both are temporarily overwhelmed. Imra uses the knowledge taught her by Karate Kid to throw the robot off, and Garth temporarily holds off the energy firing device. A third, tornado-like opponent materializes, and the situation looks helpless. However, they're so in love with each other they can almost read each others' minds, and know what the solution has to be. Driving all three of their opponents together, they are destroyed, and the simulation ends. They emerge from the Sensacomp and know what the answer is: Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad are getting married! This story continues in the Limited Collectors’ Edition #C-55.
One of the things that has always defined the Legion of Super-Heroes has been the three founders - Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad. This story explores the on-going relationship and love story between Saturn Girl (Imra Ardeen) and Lightning Lad (Garth Ranzz). Saturn Girl has always been considered the "cold" Legionnaire, not allowing her emotions to dominate, and with good reason too: as a Titanian telepath, one of the strongest in decades, the mental discipline required to do what she does requires the emotional detachment to handle the situations. This story is one that shows us what's underneath the Imra Ardeen we think we know, as well as what the glue is that bonds her to Garth Ranzz. Saturn Girl's reluctance to give herself to Lighting Lad (mentally, and it is also strongly suggested, physically) plays well, and Lightning Lad comes across not so much as a sex-starved young man ("I *need* you, Imra!") but as another good, clean soul... Witness his respect of her decision to go to the Institute, and his absolute trust in her ("I know that, my love"). It's easy to see that Lightning Lad really was the lynch pin between the "cold" Saturn Girl and the "dynamic" Cosmic Boy.
One thing that I did wonder about... On Titan, Saturn Girl meets one of her old professors, Vyndaar, but judging from the way he greets her they were much more than teacher and student. I'm a bit discomfited by this whole sequence, to be honest, as it spoils the story about Garth and Imra’s love.
The artwork on this story is quite good. James Sherman and Josef Rubinstein do another excellent job, though the art is a bit "trippy" (in an LSD sense) to go along with this story and marred my enjoyment of such a love based story and the seriousness of the decision that confronted Saturn Girl (and Lightning Lad, of course). Rubinstein’s inks were a bit harsh in places, I felt, however, but they don't make the tale any less visually powerful than it needs, nay demands, to be.
The cover of this issue has three sub-titles (and attendant panels) in the form of Action, Adventure and Young Romance, and each is rendered in the style of those comics. This is a good touch... While Shadow Lass is depicted on the cover, in the section for the story dealing with Worldsmith, she does not appear in the tale. Perhaps this was actually meant to have been Night Girl?... Each of the three stories in this issue feature Legionnaires who are on leave rather than on active duty... In the first story, Night Girl appears to be a Legionnaire in this story, much like Duplicate Boy was a few issues back, but she is not... In the second story, featuring Mon-El, Mike Nasser coloured his own pencils. The artwork is absolutely stunning... The second story is Mon-El's first ever solo adventure... The Khund Warlord is erroneously named as "Charlak" and "Gharlak" in the second story, but should be Warlord Garlak in any case... The third story marks the last appearance of Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad as full-time members, as they decide to leave the Legion in order to get married at the end of this issue... The third story in this issue continues in the Limited Collectors’ Edition #C-55, where the wedding of Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad takes place.
Next Issue: Limited Collector’s Edition #C-55 Presents Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes