Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #241
"Prologue to Earthwar"
Writer: Paul Levitz
Penciller: James Sherman
Inker: Bob McLeod
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Cory Adams
Cover: James Sherman (pencils) and Joe Rubinstein (inks) (signed)
Editor: Allen Milgrom
Mission Monitor Board:
Wildfire, Ultra Boy, Dawnstar, Mon-El, Brainiac 5, Sun Boy, Element Lad, Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet, Chameleon Boy, Superboy
Resource Raiders and their leader, The Brain
The story begins with Wildfire, Dawnstar, Mon-El and Ultra Boy streaking skyward, Wildfire saying they have to hurry to prevent a galactic war. Wildfire is so focused on getting off Earth that he causes a Science Police cruiser to start plunging to the ground after it avoided him, due to an overload in the already strained engine. Mon-El saves the S.P. ship, but doesn't hang around to talk to the attractive redheaded officer inside. She's an S.P. officer with an urgent message for the Legion, direct from S.P. Chief Zendak. Mon-El catches up with the others, and gives Wildfire a piece of his mind for endangering the S.P. cruiser, but he brushes it off, saying their diplomatic mission is more important.
At Legion headquarters, Brainiac 5 is concerned about the lack of manpower available to the Legion at the moment, as "half of our fighting strength is on detached duty." Sun Boy tells him that they'll manage as they always do, and that Brainiac 5 just needs a vacation. Element Lad escorts the S.P. officer inside, but before she can relay her important message to the Legionnaires, the alarm goes off and Brainiac 5 orders everyone to scramble for the mission in space. Since they are undermanned, Brainiac 5 summons Superboy from the 20th Century to help them out. The Legionnaires depart, and this leaves a very flustered S.P. officer behind in their HQ.
On the Legion cruiser (where they're joined by Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet and Chameleon Boy), Element Lad reminds Brainiac 5 that he's the Deputy Leader, and that Brainiac 5 shouldn't have scrambled the team; the S.P. officer's message might have been important. He tells Brainy that next time they have an election, he should campaign harder and that way he can have the authority he wants and the responsibility that goes with it. Reaching space, they arrive at the site of a gigantic space tanker that's being attack by the Resource Raiders. Sun Boy, Phantom Girl and Element Lad take to space and attack the Raider ships, but have limited success until the arrival of Superboy. Eliminating one ship, Superboy then tosses a second ship out of the solar system back towards their own sector of space, and then Element Lad and the others take some prisoners. Element Lad says they can question the Raiders and go after them and their base, but Brainiac 5 questions their ability to take on the Raiders' base while half the Legion fighting strength is elsewhere on detached duty.
Meanwhile, the four Legionnaires arrive on Weber's World, an artificial planet where all the bureaucracy of the United Planets takes place. Wildfire's team meets with and talks to Earth Ambassador Relnic, who tells them they've been summoned to guard Earth's diplomats as well as the Dominators delegation. Relnic is afraid someone may try to stop the peace treaty by killing some of the diplomats. He introduces the Legionnaires to the head of U.P. Security, Ontiir of Tsuron (who is reptilian). With the aribal of the Legionnaires, Weber's World begins its journey towards the edge of the galaxy.
On Earth, Element Lad's team arrives at the Antarctic stockpile of rare earth elements in time to interrupt the Resource Raiders as they attempt to steal their target. The Legionnaires learned about this attempted raid, as well as one other target, to which Element Lad dispatched a second team to guard against. The Legionnaires have a bit more trouble with these Raiders, whose ships are somewhat heat-resistant and they use a four-dimensional grappler to snatch Brainiac 5 even though his force shield. The Legionnaires manage to prevail, and allow some of the Raiders to escape with some of the ore. Brainiac 5's plan worked; since Dawnstar was unavailable to track the Raiders' ships, Chameleon Boy is hidden in the shipment of ore at this location while Shrinking Violet is hidden in the ore at the location guarded by Superboy. Element Lad worries about Chameleon Boy, but the Durlan Legionnaire seems to be making things look easy. Having taken the form of a piece of ore, he turns into a slythscorpio and snatches one of the Raiders, takes his form, and moves about the ship. However, he can't find his way out of the ship and turns into a fremulshmat battle beast and attacks the Raiders. However, Cham is taken down by weapons fire and before going unconscious manages to signal the Legionnaires. Realizing that he is a Legionnaire, one of the Raiders orders the others to fire...
...and the explosion of the bomb at a meeting room on Weber's World goes off. Fortunately, Wildfire, Dawnstar and Mon-El manage to get several diplomats and others to safety just in time. Wildfire and Mon-El ask some pointed questions of Ambassador Relnic and Ontiir, practically accusing them of setting the bomb since they were the only ones who knew which room the diplomats would be in, but neither of them answer them in a straightforward manner. And Dawnstar asks Ontiir to explain a bomb fragment that she found in the debris, one clearly marked "U.P. Security Property."
On the Resource Raider ship, Chameleon Boy wakes to find himself chained down, his shapeshifting powers frozen by the weapon fired at him by the Raiders earlier, and about to be interrogated by the giant, disembodied Brain on anti-gravity pods. Chameleon Boy is surprised to see the Brain, as the other one they previously had fought turned out to be a robot, but the Brain says that he is, indeed, the leader of the Resource Raiders. Before he can be attacked by the surrounding Raiders' weaponry, Superboy arrives and protects him. Superboy takes the time to re-program the weapon that froze him in one form, and uses it on Chameleon Boy. The two continue to fight the Raiders, who keep coming at them in a seemingly inexhaustible supply, but the arrival of Sub Boy, Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet, Element Lad and Brainiac 5 turns the tide, and the Brain and all the Resource Raiders present are captured. Science Police cruisers arrive and mop up the rest of the Resource Raiders. Brainiac 5 probes the complex control circuitry of the Brain and its Resource Raiders, and learns a shocking secret: the Resource Raiders are actually the advanced guard of an invasion, as the Khunds are about to attack Earth and destroy it totally! Definitely to be continued!
The lead story this issue marks the start of the Earthwar Saga, and is one of my favourite story arcs in Legion history. This issue marks the start of what I consider to be a true effort at creating the "universe" around the Legion, with various supporting characters making their debuts (and in Relnic's case, return), but also offering up an interesting location in Weber's World. The Dominators, who first appeared in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #361, are also mentioned here as well, and will appear in future parts of this story arc.
Paul Levitz created a story here in which he took the time and effort to do a multi-part epic tale that will shake up the Legion, and it is masterfully crafted. As the story alludes, this is merely the prologue to what is to come, but it's a pretty decent tale. The story offers two seemingly unconnected plots, the attack by the Resource Raiders and the matters taking place on Weber's World (which were foretold in the previous tale in a hinted at manner), but both of these plots take or will take unexpected twists and turns, and the revelation at the end of the story about the truth of the Resource Raiders is an excellent hook into the next issue and provides a lovely cliffhanger. The story also makes good use of some Legionnaires that are lesser heroes in some ways (such as Chameleon Boy, Phantom Girl and Shrinking Violet), although Cham's infiltration of the Resource Raiders operation is one of true master work (planned by Brainiac 5?), even if it doesn't succeed all that well...or does it, given that Cham is able to signal his teammates. One thing I do remember thinking was when Brainiac 5 was lamenting about not having enough members on duty, is the fact that there are 20-plus Legionnaires. Where exactly are they all? We haven't seen Dream Girl, Star Boy, or Princess Projectra for a few months. And Shrinking Violet appears in this story, but doesn't actually do much. Aside from that, I want to know why Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad are still listed on the Mission Monitor Board...and when are we going to see Tyroc again?
Author Levitz's writing this issue is very good, with the plot moving along quite nicely, the scenes cutting back between the Legionnaires in space and Weber's World and those on Earth. The characterizations here are also very good, and the discussion of Legion leader and Deputy leader responsibilities between Element Lad and Brainiac 5 was good to see. This is a theme that will be re-visited throughout the next few issues of this story, and somewhat beyond.
The artwork this issue is cracking good work from the pencils of James Sherman to the inks of Bob McLeod, and features some stellar stuff, from the beginning of the story with Ultra Boy, Wildfire, Mon-El and Dawnstar flying off to Weber's World to the marvellous full-page panel on page 20 as the Legionnaires fight the Resource Raiders. Just beautiful stuff, with McLeod's inks understated enough to give Sherman's pencils the chance to really shine. One of the highlights of the story was the transition from Chameleon Boy getting blasted by the Resource Raiders leading right into Wildfire rescuing the diplomats from the bomb blast on Weber's World. Lovely stuff.
This tale, as the title suggests, is the start of the Earthwar Saga, which will run for five issues in the comic, and will have so many plot twists and turns that it will make readers' heads spin. It's got excellent writing, and will be deemed a classic by fans of the series over the years...
The Resource Raiders first appeared to take on the Legion in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #225-226. The Raiders have three legs...
The Resource Raiders are coloured brown on the cover of the issue, but green in the story. The are coloured an orange-brown shade in their original appearance, noted above...
This story introduces the character of Science Police officer Shvaughn Erin (who is not named in this story), who will become a mainstay figure in the future, but whose role in this story was only hinted at in this first part of the Earthwar story...
This story marks the first mention of Science Police Chief Zendak...
Ambassador Relnic was first introduced in the back-up story in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #225. He was acting as ambassador to the Dominators there as well, so it should come as no surprise as to what happens with Relnic down the road. But that’s another story...
The story also marks the first appearance of Ontiir of Tsuron. He will appear at various times in the Legion stories for the next ten years or so, and will have a major role to play in unfolding events in the Legion tales of the future...
And the second story for the issue...
"My Brother's Keeper"
Writer: Paul Kupperberg
Plot: Paul Levitz
Penciller: Arvell Jones
Inker: Danny Bulanadi
Letterer: Shelly Leferman
Colourist: Cory Adams
Editor: Allen Milgrom
Mission Monitor Board:
Light Lass, Timber Wolf
Lightning Lord and his thugs; Winathian Science Police commissioner
In response to a call for help from Winath, home planet of Legionnaires Lightning Lad and Light Lass, the latter and Timber Wolf arrive on Winath only to find the Science Police Commissioner not overly appreciative, as he feels the Legion sent two second-stringers. Light Lass tells him that the Legion is very busy and would not have responded at this time, except that it is her homeworld and the problem is Lightning Lord, her other brother, who broke out of Takron-Galtos and returned to Winath. The Commissioner tells them that they're off the case, as Ayla is too close to the villain, and orders them off-planet. If they attempt anything, he'll have them both jailed.
The two Legionaires leave the S.P. offices and while Light Lass remembers how she, Garth and Mekt acquired their lightning powers on the world of Korbal, Timber Wolf leads her to a bar. He tells her that the best place to look up information is to dig, and the best place to do that is in the dirt. Lightning Lord's spies, who are keeping an eye out for them since they arrived on the planet, alert their master to the Legionnaires' presence in the bar. He sends some of his men there to capture his sister, Ayla, and that if they harm her they'll face his wrath. While Timber Wolf attempts to get some information, Lightning Lord's goons arrive and knocking Ayla out, escape with her through a wall via a molecular scrambler. The enraged Timber Wolf, determined to learn where they've taken Ayla, goes into a frenzy of an attack, fighting the patrons of the bar in his efforts to get to the bartender. During the fracas, the local S.P. authorities arrive and bust the place, and Timber Wolf is imprisoned by the Commissioner, as promised. The Commissioner talks to the jailed Tmber Wolf, telling him that he and the S.P. officers of Winath will find Light Lass, but that's not good enough for Timber Wolf. He tears his way out of the cell, and makes a...deal with the Commissioner.
In his base of operations, Lightning Lord has Light Lass imprisoned in a force cage, one that also nullifies her anti-gravity powers. The base is a haven for what appears to be the most wanted criminals in the civilized galaxy. Lightning Lord tells her that he'll be the most powerful criminal mastermind in the galaxy, thanks to a device that will allow him to broadcast across the cosmos, and invite every criminal in known space to join his army. Light Lass tells him that she'll fight him on this. When one of the criminals suggests that Light Lass and her comrades are too dangerous, and perhaps she should be killed, Mekt turns on him, and strikes him with lightning for suggesting that he kill his own sister. He tells Ayla that since she won't work with him willingly, all she has to do is submit to a mind-wipe and then take her place at his side.
Before anything else can happen, Timber Wolf and the S.P. officers arrive on the scene. While the Science Police deal with his thugs and criminals, Timber Wolf attacks Lightning Lord and takes him down after the two exchange verbal jabs. He then frees Light Lass, who asks how he found her. He replies that he remembered that Winath has total world weather control. When he got them to shut down all the lightning on the planet, they used a weather watch circuit to pinpoint the first lightning flash that it detected. The trail led them straight to Mekt's base. While the S.P. officers take the crooks and Lightning Lord into custody, Ayla tells Brin that he never needed a computer to track her down before.
This story is a pretty good one in its premise, but the execution of the tale is something of a mess. Calling in the Legionnaires to deal with Lightning Lord is a smart move on the part of the Winathian S.P. Commissioner, but to call one of the planet's native super-heroines a second-stringer seems a bit much. Light Lass has never been that, but given that she doesnt really do anything in the story other than get kidnapped by Lightning Lord, perhaps she's not all that she's cracked up to be. Timber Wolf, on the other hand, comes across as very hot-headed in this story, perhaps some of the more animalistic traits of the character (starting to) coming out, and possibly beginning a "lone wolf!" sort of period as well. While Lightning Lord came across as menacing, it's interesting to note that he wasn't about to kill his sister here. This would change in time.
The writing on the story is adequate, but the plot definitely doesn’t show Ayla in a good light or as being useful. It does give the reader some decent fight scenes, notably the bar scene and at the base of operations that Lightning Lord is using. That said, I thought that Lightning Lord went down to Timber Wolf's (admittedly) ferocious attack too easily, but that seems to be more a sign of a rushed plot at the end rather than due to anything else. The artwork by Arvell Jones and Danny Bulanadi (who I seem to recall was working on the Kamandi title at this time) was all right, but nothing special. I don't know what it was, perhaps the printing process?, but the details in the panels seem to have been a bit washed out (for lack of a better term).
Winath is shown to be a technical world with no specific twin "culture" in this issue. This differs dramatically from later stories about the planet...
Light Lass returns to being a blonde from this issue forward. After starting out as a redhead for the entire Adventure Comics Vol 1 run, she was made blonde for several Superboy stories (most famously Vol 1 #207) before reverting back to being a ginger (like her twin brother). From this issue forward, she will be consistently coloured as a blonde for the next several years...
This story marks the first appearance again of Lightning Lord since the Legion's last encounter with the Super-Villains in Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #208.
Overall Final Notes:
The lead story is the start of the Earthwar Saga, which will run for five issues in the comic series, and will have so many plot twists and turns that it will make readers' heads spin. It’s got excellent writing, and will be deemed a classic by fans of the series over the years...
The second page of the letters column features the first part of an article by Len Rosenberg, “Magic and the Legion,” and definitely contains some interesting thoughts on the subject.
Next Issue: Karate Kid Vol 1 #15