John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane

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Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #237

Time for another re-read of a classic issue of the Legion of Super-Heroes...

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #237
March, 1978
"No Price Too High"
Writer: Paul Levitz
Penciller: Walt Simonson
Inker: Jack Abel
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Adrienne Roy
Cover: Mike Grell (pencils) and Joe Rubinstein (inks) (signed)
Editor: Allen Milgrom

Mission Monitor Board:
Cosmic Boy, Phantom Girl, Superboy, Colossal Boy, Dawnstar, Brainiac 5, Shrinking Violet, Ultra Boy, Mon-El, Dream Girl, Timber Wolf, Light Lass, Sun Boy, Star Boy, Shadow Lass, Chameleon Boy, Princess Projectra, Wildfire

Guest Stars:
Imra Ardeen Ranzz (Saturn Girl) and Garth Ranzz (Lightning Lad), RJ Brande

Arma Getten and his microdroids

The self-titled Chapter One begins on R.J. Brande’s private asteroid estate, with Cosmic Boy presiding over the official farewell ceremony for Imra Ardeen Ranzz (Saturn Girl and Garth Ranzz (Lighting Lad). He presents them with a memento of their Legion careers, a metallic globe made of a material developed by Brainiac 5 keyed to their biorhythms, that changes into a replica of the original Legion rocketship clubhouse. With hugs and laughter all around, the two newlyweds are off and on their way.

No sooner do the newlyweds leave on their honeymoon, when microdroids appear throughout the area while Brande is reminiscing about Garth and Imra, destroying the billionaire’s robot guardians before they can act. The Legionnaires spring into action, and Superboy notes the microdroids didn’t harm Brande at all. A figure teleports into the room behind Brande, stating that he wasn't planning to kill Brande...yet. The villain, Arma Getten, surrounds himself and Brande with an energy field, and warns the Legionnaires to stay away. Ultra Boy moves to strike the field, but is warned off by Brainiac 5, and he bounces off Superboy who had moved to intercept him. Superboy says he knows better than to argue with Brainiac 5. Brainiac 5 explains that he analyzed Arma Getten's field and that it is highly unstable. One touch, and both Brande and Arma Getten would be blown to bits. However, he adds that the field can't hold for more than a few more hours. Arma Getten tells the Legionnaires that to ransom Brande they have to collect three items for him. Several Legionnaires will go off in teams to collect the items, while others will remain as hostages along with Brande.

In Chapter Two, "The Heart of a Star," Mon-El, Superboy, Sun Boy and Dawnstar travel to the experimental star mine at Helios (where Mon-El recently helped the miners foil an attack by the Khunds). With repairs to their massive ship complete, the Khunds launch an attack to acquire the star core just as the Legionnaires arrive on the scene. Superboy and Mon-El are taken out by an energy weapon attack that uses red solar radiation, but Dawnstar avoids the blasts and Sun Boy is knocked out momentarily. Dawnstar weaves in and out of the attackers' firing, leading them to the nearby sun where the Khund ships are destroyed (but the pilots escape safely). Sun Boy has recovered by this time, and he blasts the Khund ships that remain with his solar powers. Mon-El and Superboy finally recover, and Dawnstar leads them to the mothership, the same vessel that Mon-El incapacitated before. This time around, Mon-El has Superboy with him, and the two of them toss the ship out of the star system. By the time it stabilizes, the U.P. will have established a cordon around the star mine. Director Vxeraz thanks the Legionnaires for their help, and is happy to lend them one of the star core samples, which is what Arma Getten sent them to acquire. Back on R.J. Brande's asteroid, Arma Getten teleports in manacles "designed specially for you." He orders the Legionnaires (Star Boy, Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy and Dream Girl) to put them on or Brande will suffer. The Legionnaires shackle themselves up. When asked by Dream Girl, Arma Getten reveals that he wants revenge on Brande because his Stellar Spice Company bankrupted his father. Brande doesn't even know or remember the incident.

In Chapter Three, "The Stolen Trophy," back on Earth at Legion Headquarters, Princess Projectra and Wildfire are arguing or debating about the Legion Constitution rule that states two Legionnaires must be on guard duty at the HQ at all times. Jeckie is peeved that they had to stay on Earth while all the other Legionnaires got to go to the reception on Brande's asteroid, but Wildfire points out that while he's Legion leader he's not a dictator, and even he can't change everything overnight, especially Unite Planets-instigated rules. They are interrupted when the intruder alert goes off in the Trophy Room, and Wildfire races there, firing a brilliant burst of explosive energy. Fortunately, Phantom Girl phases so it doesn't strike her, Shrinking Violet shrinks down to avoid the blast, and Shadow Lass flies above it so that it misses her. Shadow Lass pretends to flirt with Wildfire so as to conceal the empty case where the Quintile Crystal was stored while Phantom Girl races with it back to the speedy cruiser that brought the women there. Projectra arrives and realizes that Shadow Lass is up to something, and sees the empty display case. Shrinking Violet reveals herself, growing to full size, and opens Wildfire's visor, freeing his energy form. Shadow Lass blinds Princess Projectra with her darkness power and Violet knocks her out. They race back to the small cruiser, and the three head back for Brande's asteroid. Back on Brande's asteroid, Star Boy, Chameleon Boy and Dream Girl think that Arma Getten is stark raving mad, but he tells them that he will have his revenge. He allows them to see the massive machine that his microdroids are constructing, a device that will shake the solar system to bits, and all he needs to complete it are the power of the star core, the focus point of the Quintile Crystal, and the third component...

..."The Crown of the Graxls," Part Four, finds Cosmic Boy, Timber Wolf and Light Lass out in deep space arriving in the territory dominated by the alien race known as the Graxls. The Crown itself generates fiery trails of energy that creates a Sargasso of Space, the area filled with the twisted hulks of hundred of thousands of starships. The Graxl ships, a squadron of small vessels, approach the Legion cruiser and when they tractor beam it, Cosmic Boy's magnetic powers disable the tractor beams and Light Lass uses her powers to send the Graxls floating in their ship as the three Legionnaires burst in. Their powers convince the Graxls that these are the Bright Beings, the builders of the Crown, and the Legionnaires are taken to the Citadel of the Graxls. There, they discover the Crown of the Graxls is so large that it would fit a fully grown Colossal Boy! They bide their time, and make their plans. After night has fallen, Timber Wolf makes his way to the Crown Room, knocks out the guards there, and using his powers destroys the support chains that keep the Crown aloft. Cosmic Boy's magnetic powers snatch the Crown and the Legionnaires race away from Graxl territory, heading back to Brande's asteroid. Back on Brande’s asteroid, the Legionnaires have formulated a plan, but Arma Getten orders them to be quiet. Colossal Boy grows to full size, the chains he's tied with expanding with him, and since reason won't stop him, the microdroids do, bringing the giant Legionnaire down. It was a ruse, however, for it allowed Chameleon Boy to escape somehow, and Arma Getten takes it out on R.J. Brande. The microdroids find no trace of the Legion shapeshifter, and Arma Getten orders them back to construction duty on the doomsday machine.

In Chapter Five, "To Shake the Stars," the three Legion teams that were sent out return to the asteroid. Dawnstar senses that something is out of place with the asteroid, and Superboy's powers confirm that Brande's asteroid has a wobble, as if it had suddenly gotten heavier. The Legionnaires thought that Getten wanted the three items to restore the riches of his family he claimed Brande cost them, but now the wobble could destroy the asteroid, and perhaps the whole solar system in a chain reaction. The Legionnaires rush to the asteroid, minus the items he asked them to collect, to stop Arma Getten. However, the villain is still holding Brande hostage in the energy field, and so the Legionnaires back down. When Brande realizes what is going on, he charges Arma Getten, willing to sacrifice his life to stop him. The two strike the energy field, which explodes... But does not kill either of them. Arma Getten explains he is willing to die if the solar system were to be his funeral pyre, but drawing a knife he moves towards Brande. Superboy melts the knife with his heat vision, but Arma Getten tells the Teen of Steel not to approach or he will unleash the full power of the force arm that his father had created. When the Legionnaires don't retreat, he activates the device but the forces binding him are pulled apart and Arma Getton is atomized. Dawnstar can find no trace of him, and says he has either been dissolved or teleported away.

Sometime later, as the Legion cruiser heads for Graxl space, the Legionnaires tell Brande that it was not Chameleon Boy who had escaped, but Star Boy. Chameleon Boy took his place, and this allowed Star Boy to use his mass powers on the asteroid, thus alerting the Legionnaires in space to what was going on. The Legion cruiser arrives in Graxl space, and using Arma Getten's world-destroying machine, the Crown, and the Quintile Crystal, and R.J. Brande’s knowledge (since his first business venture was making stars!), creates a brand new star for the Graxls, and thus re-heating their section of space. A star is born!

This is a pretty entertaining story, but comes off as being somewhat rushed. I suspect this is so because of all the work that Paul Levitz and the artwork guys did for the wedding of Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad tale in the Limited Collectors' Edition #C-55. The issue starts off very nicely, a fitting ending for the Lightning Lad/Saturn Girl membership in the Legion, with a ceremony that offers a genuinely moving display of affection for Garth and Imra, both in the everyday and code-name lives, as they leave the Legion. The gift that Cosmic Boy presents them with on behalf of the Legion is so fitting and actually brought a tear to my eye.

The switch as the story goes from that moment of joy/sadness/celebration for the Legionnaires to the attack of the microdroids and the arrival of Arma Getten (really? That name for a villain goes down as one of the worst) is one that changes the tone of the story completely, and offers some promise. Sure, the revenge story has been done a thousand times, but this version of it offers something different, namely that the Legion's friend, founder and mentor is the one being threatened for acts that he didn't even seemingly know about. However, Arma Getten never becomes a three-dimensional character, there's never any real motivation established for his actions or an explanation as to who or what he is. I was curious as to where he got his various "toys" from, but we never find out. And I'm not even sure that he really is powerful enough to hold off sixteen Legionnaires to begin with. The story does have good pacing, but for me there were just two problems with it. First, red sun radiation should not have stopped Mon-El, given that this is part of what his anti-lead serum does for him. And secondly, why did Brande and the Legion create a new sun for the Graxls, rather than just returning the Crown back to them? Or perhaps that makes as much sense as anything else, given that it will completely revitalize Graxl space.

The artwork from the dynamic, exciting Walt Simonson is tremendous, but once again it is somewhat muted by the inking of Jack Abel. That said, Simonson's detail and love of machines and aliens comes to the fore here, even with Abel's inks on them. I would have loved to have seen more pencil work from him on Legion stories, but alas such was not to be.

Final Notes:
Between Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 issues #237-#240, the Legion had several "filler" stories with a revolving door of artists involved. For example, this issue is a "filler" issue. The first chapter of the "Earthwar Saga," Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #241, and The "Dawnstar Rising" back-up story in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #240, were intended for this issue...

Although Princess Projectra is shown on the cover, she was on Earth when Brande was taken prisoner...

Cosmic Boy is inexplicably wearing a cape during the Saturn Girl/Lightning Lad retirement ceremony, then ditches it when he goes into action...

Star Boy is back in his non V-neck uniform in this story, although that is what he was just shown wearing at Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad's wedding...

Mon-El visited the Helios mining station in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #236, though it was not named as such...

Although Ultra Boy attacks Arma Getten at the outset of the adventure, he is not seen in the story again...

The spaceship in which Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl take off has tin cans tied behind it. I guess some traditions never die...

I’m not sure why Shrinking Violet and the others didn't just tell Wildfire and Princess Projectra why they needed the Quintile Crystal; it would’ve saved a lot of messing around... If Arma Getten's shackles were specially adapted for each Legionnaire, I'm not sure how Chameleon Boy and Star Boy got out of theirs. Maybe he bought inferior versions of chains from Grimbor the Chainsman? Nah...

Although Phantom Girl is on the asteroid and even pilots the ship back to Earth to steal the Quintile Crystal, she does not have any dialogue in this story...

The Quintile Crystal first appeared in DC Super-Stars Vol 1 #17, the "secret origin" of the first Legion of Super-Heroes adventure...

The end of the story has R.J. Brande and the Legion giving birth to a new sun for the Graxls. It was never even established in the story itself that the Graxls had no sun!...

This story takes place after the events in Limited Collectors' Edition #C-55, the wedding of Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad...

Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad officially resign from the Legion in this story.

Next Issue: Karate Kid Vol 1 #13
Tags: #c, comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, lll, long live the legion!, lsh

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