John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane

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Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #240

Here's another re-read of the classic Legion of Super-Heroes tales from the team's heyday, featuring the return of Grimbor the Chainsman and a moment that previews the upcoming Earthwar. Enjoy! :)

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #240
June, 1978
“The Man Who Manacled the Legion”
Plot: Paul Levitz
Dialogue: Jack C. Harris
Penciller: Howard Chaykin
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Shelly Leferman
Colourist: Cory Adams
Cover: Mike Grell (pencils) and Joe Rubinstein (inks) (signed)
Editor: Allen Milgrom

Mission Monitor Board:
Colossal Boy, Sun Boy, Superboy, Cosmic Boy, Phantom Girl

Grimbor the Chainsman; Charma (flashback only)

Somewhere on Earth, Grimbor the Chainsman contemplates chaining up Superboy, but realizes that in order to do so and keep him chained up, he will have to deal with the Legion of Super-Heroes as well. He formulates a plan.

Elsewhere, on the east coast of the North American continent, five Legionnaires are working to repair the Atlantic Highway until the repair crew shows up. While Colossal Boy supports the span, so that Superboy and Cosmic Boy can repair the support that a ship hit, Sun Boy alerts the drivers on the bridge to stay still while Phantom Girl goes about helping to evacuate the people on the affected section. Once the new titanium support is in place, Superboy uses his heat vision to fuse it solid until the repair team arrives. The Earth Emergency Service team arrives, led by Zall Morgan, the EES team leader who called them in. Superboy is impressed with the fact that the team arrived from the North Pole cities in around 20 minutes, but Zall tells him not to be so surprised. He know the speeds 30th Century vessels are capable of reaching.

Afterwards, as the Legionnaires return to Legion HQ, Cosmic Boy admits to Superboy that he misses Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad. He understands their departure, but as long as the Legion Constitution does not permit married members, he won’t even considering marrying Lydda Jath (Night Girl); nothing is more important than being a Legionnaire. Once back at home, Cosmic Boy mans the mission monitor board. He learns that Wildfire has taken the rest of the Earth-based members to Pluto, at the request of the United Planets. Colossal Boy and Sun Boy visit Phantom Girl's quarters, as she's received a package from her folks on Bgztl. They share with her some Roklar punch and Shorma fruit, but she's still surly around Colossal Boy after the way he treated Ultra Boy when he was a suspected murderer.

Late that night, the Legion receives an emergency alert, summoning them to the EarthGov Presidential Palace in the residential section. On arriving there, they find that President Kandru is shackled in a massive device that is impervious to Superboy's blows, Sun Boy's radiated heat, and Cosmic Boy's magnetism. Phantom Girl feels inside but the tumblers are beyond her understanding. Superboy and the others realize that only one man alive could have made the device - Grimbor the Chainsman. And it is indeed a trap for the Legionnaires. Grimbor arrives on a rocket sled, capturing Superboy in Green Kryptonite, heat vision-proof chains, Sun Boy in absorbing chains, Colossal Boy in extremely tight chains that would cut him in two if he enlarged, Cosmic Boy in non-metallic chains, and Phantom Girl in chains that match her in a intangential state. He admits that he used the President as bait, and leaving him still in chains, drags the Legionnaires back to his hideout.

Once back at his citadel base, Grimbor explains to the Legionnaires that after he and Charma were captured in their first attempt to kill the Legionnaires, Charma was sent to a women's prison. When she freed herself from the power-restraining shackles the Legionnaires had placed her in, her mutant power that compelled men to love and protect her but made women insanely jealous and hate her caused the female inmates to kill Charma. Now, in order to avenge Charma's death, Grimbor plans to kill every member of the Legion. Making her move, Phantom Girl escapes her chains by going "solid," then frees the male Legionnaires. Grimbor now believes that she played him for the fool, as the chains took her intangibility into account, but not her going physically solid. Unfortunately, when Colossal Boy tells Phantom Girl to grab the chainsman in a tone towards her that sounds like he's ordering her around, which she doesn't like, this gives Grimbor the chance to act. He is able to pull a switch that activates seemingly mediaeval knights that decorate the citadel, but are actually robotic guards. Colossal Boy, Sun Boy, Cosmic Boy and the apologetic Phantom Girl fight the robots, while Superboy goes after the fleeing Grimbor. The Teen of Steel catches up with Grimbor on his rocket sled, but as he does so, Grimbor explodes, revealing himself to be a robot as well.

The Legionnaires talk, and Colossal Boy still believes that Grimbor intends to destroy the Legion. Superboy says that he examined Grimbor's control board, and that it will take the simultaneous use of all their powers to free the President. Sun Boy is suspicious, and the group of Legionnaires head back to the Presidential Palace. When the President doesn't react quite the proper way, their suspicions that "The President" is another trap is revealed. The Legionnaires manage to get everyone out before the President explodes - he is a robot trap, too! With an electronic device they brought from Grimbor's citadel, they track the signal that triggered the Presidential bomb, and find Grimbor and the real President Kandru. Without his chains, Grimbor is little threat to the Legionnaires and they capture him easily.

This story is one of the better tales from the recent batch of Legion stories, and brings back Grimbor, this time without his love, Charma. Grimbor first appeared in Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #221, and was an impressive villain in his first appearance, but that was more due to Charma's influence than any desire to be a villain. In this story, Grimbor is motivated by revenge on the Legionnaires due to the death of Charma, for which he blames them. The character of the villain comes across well in the story, and to be honest, he’s got a lot more character and sense of personality than he had in his first appearance, which was dominated by Charma for the most part (in every sense of the word). And he's still dominated by Charma, at least avenging her, and this comes across in the story very nicely, although there are moments where you have to wonder about the chainsman at times.

The writing on the story is very good, and the Levitz influence can be seen throughout. Jack C. Harris's dialogue on the story is also excellent, and he has a good feel for the various Legionnaires right off the bat. The conversation while the Legionnaires are repairing the Atlantic Highway at the beginning of the story is excellent, and there are some nice bits of characterization, ranging from Cosmic Boy missing Garth and Imra, his best friends, and Phantom Girl still angry with Colossal Boy about his fight with Ultra Boy in the previous issue, but then regretting it when it causes problems during the mission. And I loved the fact that Tinya gets (food) packages from her parents!

That said, there are a few issues with this story. How did Grimbor know which Legionnaires would arrive to the summons at the Presidential Palace and thus have the right chains for them? This was also one of the questions that came up in the original story, so it's not a new one at all. How could Grimbor know enough about Phantom Girl's powers to make a "phasing" manacle, and yet not compensate for the fact that she might turn solid as well? Poor planning or poor understanding, methinks, but it does ruin the story somewhat. And makes the Legionnaires' escapes from Grimbor's manacles too pre-calculated. According to page 11, Grimbor has waited several hours with the captured Legionnaires. Why? More importantly, if Phantom Girl could get away in a moment, why did she wait? And as for waiting, if the plan was to kill the Legionnaires all along, what was robot Grimbor waiting for in the first place?

The artwork on the story is simply superb. Howard Chaykin pencilled this one, and this is the only time that he has drawn the Legion tales. The lines of the panels are clean and crisp, there is a functionality that works really well, and Chaykin's showing the reader motion comes across in a good fashion as well. Bob Wiacek does an excellent job inking Chaykin's pencils, and it's a shame that he didn't stay on the title for longer than he does.

All in all, a terrific story with a couple of mistakes, but hey, I liked it.

Final Notes:
The Legion first faced Grimbor the Chainsman and his attractive girlfriend Charma back in Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #221. We learn here that Grimbor's revenge is motivated by the fact that Charma died as a result of being in the power-restraining chains that they put her in, and then went to prison...

Phantom Girl's homeworld of Bgztl is referred to as “Bztgl” on page 6 of the story...

Phantom Girl is still annoyed at Colossal Boy for his treatment of Ultra Boy when he was thought to be a murderer recently. This occurred in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #239...

The President of Earth is still called "President Kandru" in this story, when it should be President "Kandro Boltax", of course. Unless someone else named Kandru took over as President in the meantime...

When Cosmic Boy and the others return to Legion HQ, they see from the Mission Monitor board that Wildfire has taken the other members out to Pluto at the request of the United Planets. This is the lead-in to the Earthwar, of course...

Although Grimbor used specific bonds to hold Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, and Superboy in his original appearance in Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #221, he has chosen new methods for each of them this time...

In his initial appearance, Grimbor showed no talent at robotics. Yet in this story, he boasts robots that are so life-like that they even fool Superboy...

And the second story for the issue…

"Dawnstar Rising"
Plot: Paul Levitz
Writer: Paul Kupperberg
Penciller: James Sherman
Inker: Bob McLeod
Letterer: Shelly Leferman
Colourist: Adrienne Roy
Editor: Allen Milgrom

Mission Monitor Board:
Dawnstar, Wildfire

Guest Stars:
Legion Academy members Jed Rikane (later known as Power Boy), Shadow Kid (here called Shadow Lad) and Laurel Kent; R.J. Brande (cameo flashback)

Giant robot; Arcturian ape; Graanian deathbeast; arrogance and vanity

In an untold tale of the Legion...

At the Legion Academy, Wildfire observes as Dawnstar and three Legion Academy trainees (Jed Rikane, Shadow Kid and Laurel Kent) attempt to stop a robot during a training exercise. The kids are having a difficult time of it, but when Dawnstar gets the idea from Laurel and uses Jed to take out the robot's most vulnerable spot - the faceplate - the four trainees bring the robot down. When they finish, Wildfire criticizes them for their lack of teamwork and taking double the time that would be normal to deal with the robot. He dismisses the trainees, but asks Dawnstar to stay, and proceeds to ask her for a date. Dawnstar rudely declines the offer and leaves.

Back in the dorms, Laurel is waiting up for Dawnstar when she arrives. She asks why Dawnstar is giving Wildfire the cold shoulder, and Dawnstar doesn't really understand why other than to say the customs of her people are different. She tells Laurel her origins: Dawnstar grew up a mutant on the planet Starhaven, an Amerind (descendant of Native Americans) with the natural ability to fly and to track anyone and anything. She started working as a youngster and by the age of 13, she was already being hired to guide ships, giving her salary back to her planet to help fund their defense forces. After completing a job for R.J. Brande, the Legion's financial backer, he summoned her to his asteroid and asked her to join the Legion, guaranteeing her a handsome income. She considers the others in the Legion and at the Academy to be playing a game, but to her it's not. That offer from Brande is why she is training at the Academy.

The next day at the Pennsylvania Spaceport, Wildfire brings the four potential heroes to help capture some dangerous, escaped animals. This is their last session, and they'll be graded on it for a whole bunch of elements. Laurel and Jed team up to find the beasts, while Shadow Kid turns to Dawnstar, but she flies off on her own as she feels she has the best chance of finding the creatures. And find them she does: an Arcturian ape and a Graanian deathbeast! Dawnstar grabs a hefty storage container as a shield, but it is destroyed by the Graanian death beast's eye projected force rays. As the volatile contents of the storage container explode, Dawnstar is knocked out and falls to the ground. Just as the Arcturian ape is about to step on Dawnstar, crushing her, the two creatures are blinded by Shadow Kid's attack. Using the invulnerable Laurel as a shield against the death beast's beams, Jed uses his great strength after launching himself at the two beasts, and takes them down with one humungous punch!

Wildfire praises the three heroes for their work, and they acknowledge that they took to heart what he said about teamwork, and kept in touch and coordinated their efforts to arrive and attack simultaneously. Dawnstar realizes that she's been a fool and full of vanity, thinking she was too good for the Academy and too powerful to need help from anyone. She admits that she was wrong, and wants to stay with the Legion and with her...friends.

This story is an interesting story, but it's confusing in whether the story takes place before Dawnstar was introduced as a member in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #225 or whether it occurs after Dawnstar is already a Legionnaire. Her arrogance in the first story, compared to her later appearances, leads me to believe that it takes place *after* she's become a Legionnaire. This would be nothing but awesome, as other stories later on have shown Legionnaires such as the White Witch and Invisible Kid II spend time at the Academy learning skills they don't have and honing those that they do.

The story features another appearance of the Legion Academy and goings on there, their first appearance coming in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #371-372. While Laurel Kent appeared previously in Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #217, this story introduces Jed Rikane (who will later become known as Power Boy) and Shadow Lass's younger brother, Shadow Kid (Grev, called Shadow Lad here). Together, the four would-be-Legionnaires in the story make for a good team, learning about teamwork, though for Dawnstar the lessons come harder.

There's nothing stellar in this tale, and nothing truly memorable, except for two things. The first is the attraction that Wildfire has for Dawnstar, prompting him to ask her out on a date. She rejects him rather rudely, showing her arrogance at the time, and that's a far cry from the Dawnstar we know in her later appearances. The second thing is the terrific artwork by penciller James Sherman and inker Bob McLeod. The panels have a sharpness and crispness that shows the two artists complement each other well, but there is a lack of background in some panels that I found disturbing. That said, they pull the story off very well, and the two creatures of the story (the Arcturian ape and the Graanian deathbeast) are rendered extremely well and definitely invoked fear when I first read the tale.

A solid story, a solid effort, and a good back-up tale to the lead in this issue.

Final Notes:
This story is considered a "flashback" to before Dawnstar joined the Legion (in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #226). However, if Wildfire's actions are considered, too, it is likely that this story would have occurred before he was elected Legion Leader (Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #225). Coincidentally, this is roughly the same time as the debut of Grimbor and Charma...

This story features the debut of Legion Academy student Jed Rikane, who later took the code-name Power Boy...

Shadow Kid is erroneously called Shadow Lad in this story. He is also mistakenly referred to as being Shadow Lass's brother, rather than her cousin...

This is the first time Wildfire asks Dawnstar out on a date...

Overall Final Notes:
Between Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #237-#240, the Legion had several "filler" stories with a revolving door of artists involved. For example, this issue's main story is a "filler" with several "uncredited" artists helping out. The second story here is an "Untold Tale of the Legion" that was intended as a back-up for Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #237...

The letter column notes that as of issue #242, the series will have a regular team handing the creative duties. Paul Levitz, Joe Staton and Jack Abel will be the regular staff...

The last page of the issue presents another Legion Outpost Extra, this time with a piece entitled "The Age of Heroes", presenting the Wanderers, the Heroes of Lallor, and a few other characters of note.

Next Issue: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #241
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, lll, long live the legion!, lsh, review

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