Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #245
"Mordru Master of Earth!"
Writer: Paul Levitz
Penciller: Joe Staton
Inker: Murphy Anderson
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Cory Adams
Cover: Allen Milgrom (pencils) and Joe Rubinstein (inks) (signed)
Editor: Allen Milgrom
Mission Monitor Board:
Superboy, Karate Kid, Wildfire, Mon-El, Element Lad, Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy; Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Star Boy, Ultra Boy, Dawnstar, Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet, Sun Boy, Dream Girl, Shadow Lass, Timber Wolf, Princess Projectra, Light Lass (see Final Note below)
Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad (both rejoin the Legion at the end of the story), Duo Damsel, Bouncing Boy
The Legion of Substitute Heroes (Polar Boy, Night Girl, Stone Boy, Fire Lad, Chlorophyll Kid, Color Kid)
Mordru the Merciless; The Khunds (as his servants)
In the self-titled Chapter One, on Earth, Mordru reveals himself to be the agent behind the Khund and Dark Circle invasion. Only two Legionnaires (Superboy and Karate Kid) and two former Legionnaires (Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad) are free and conscious. Mordru tells them that evidence of his magic has been around them the whole time, but before he can tell them more, the four heroes attack. Their attack fails, of course, and Mordru begins to crush them under intense gravity so that they will have an inkling of what it feels like to be buried alive. Saturn Girl plants a subliminal suggestion in his mind to lessen the gravity slightly, and Superboy and Karate Kid break the four heroes free. Lighting Lad blinds Mordru, albeit temporarily, and the four escape underground. When Superboy asks why she had him take the four of them underground and flee, Saturn Girl says that she saw Mordru's intense fear of being trapped underground would hinder his thinking that the Legionnaires would use it for their escape; Mordru's idea that he loses his powers when surrounded by earth would make him forget the Legionnaires don't share that weakness. Eventually, Superboy and the three heroes break the surface, and Lightning Lad tells them they arrived at one of the Legion "safe houses" in the Pacific somewhere.
Chapter Two, "The Legionnaire Hunt," as the Khundish soldiers search the globe for the four Legionnaires, Mordru revels in thoughts of how the Legion of super-Heroes has been a thorn in his side for many years, capturing him each time in earth, until the time whe the Dark Circle freed him thinking they could use him. He turned the tables on them, however, and controlled them instead. Using their plan to control the Resource Raiders and the Khunds, Mordru controlled the Dark Circle as well. His plan was to destroy Earth and the Legion in order to send a clear message to the rest of the galaxy that Mordru has returned to his full glory!
On the small island and safe house where the Legionnaires have taken sanctuary, the four heroes debate what to do. Superboy comments that only magic or dumb luck has saved the Legion from Mordru in the past, and he thinks they're out of both. But they're luck may have run out, as the Khunds even now are plundering Legion HQ and searching for the information that will reveal where the Legionnaires have gone.
His patience having worn thin, Mordru decides to find the hidden Legionnaires, first using his magic to "look" through the eyes of everyone on Earth, then using his magic directly to find them by having them reveal themselves.
On the island, Saturn Girl is able to hide herself, Lightning Lad and Karate Kid from him, but Superboy is more susceptible to magic and begins to respond to the "Master's" calls. Saturn Girl attempts to thwart his attempts to flee the island and go to Mordru and when that fails, Karate Kid has to act instead. He grabs Superboy and puts him in a Klenarian muscle lock and is barely able to keep the Teen of Steel from getting free until finally the magic wave passes the island by. After Superboy thanks Karate Kid for helping him out, since he couldn't control himself, Lightning Lad says they're going about this the wrong way. They need to go on the offensive. He has Superboy use his heat-vision to fuse together a travel bubble for the three Legionnaires, and then tells Superboy to head for the U.P. Presidential Palace. They have some Legionnaires to free...
In Chapter Three, "The End of the Hunt," Superboy tunnels through the globe in a matter of moments and bursts into the Presidential Palace. Mordru seems somewhat surprise, ut is not taken unawares this time. While Lightning Lad distracts him momentarily, Superboy expands the bubble to include all the hostage in a split second, and manages to fly off with it before Mordru's sorcerous blast can strike him. Mordru pursues the Teen of Steel and his fellow heroes, and Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl and Karate Kid start freeing the Legionnaires and Substitutes in the bubble. The sorceror blasts Superboy, and the Teen of Steel starts to fall. While Wildfire catches Superboy, Mon-El re-seals the bubble and the heroes make for space with Mordru in pursuit. Mordru vows to kill all the Legionnaires, and Wildfire tells him that if the Legion dies this day, they're taking Mordru with them, Legion code be damned, for what he did to Earth. With all the Legionnaires free, the entire team strikes at Mordru en masse in the upper atmosphere near space over Metropolis.
However, the combined might of the Legionnaires (and the Substitute Heroes) is not enough to stop him, and Mordru is more powerful than the entire Legion and it is almost a certainty that he will defeat them all. Saturn Girl desperately mind-links all of the members of the Legion for a last-minute strategy, but no one comes up with anything. When Saturn Girl mentions the only way to render Mordru powerless is to imprison him underground, Element Lad has the gleam of an idea and asks Brainiac 5 for help. However, Mordru shatters the bubble created by Superboy and entraps the entire group of heroes in a magical energy field/cage that not even they can escape. Saturn Girl links Element Lad mentally with Brainiac 5, and then with an understanding of the chemical formula for soil/earth, transmutes the free-standing hydrogen from space into soil - and re-imprisons Mordru!
In the "Epilogue," at a closed meeting of the entire Legion (except for Tyroc) the Legion votes to amend the Constitution, allowing married members to serve. Karate Kid rushes off to tell the four retired members the outcome of the vote, but Cosmic Boy says that right belongs to him. Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad immediately rejoin the Legion, feeling that they never should have had to leave, but Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy do not, stating they have a life to build, a family to start, and so will remain a part of the Legion's past.
As the Legionnaires head for the ceremony, they arrive to learn the U.P. has been told of all the events that occurred, and that the clean-up campaign to scour the United Planets and ridding the territory of all the Khunds and Dark Circle forces has succeeded. Finally, the real Ambassador Relnic, accompanied by the Dominators, announce the signing of a formal peace treaty, heralding peace for one thousand years.
And so the Earthwar Saga comes to its conclusion in this fifth issue of the story - and what a fabulous conclusion it was! Author Paul Levitz crafted a story in the Earthwar Saga that had a little bit of everything in it for the most part through the first four parts of the story, with the focus being the invasion of Earth seemingly spearheaded by first the Khunds and then the Dark Circle. The revelation that Mordru was behind it all at the end of the fourth issue set things up for a climactic battle with the master villain of the piece, and what a battle it proved to be. Making Mordru the main villain behind the Khund invasion and the Dark Circle "masterminding" it all tied both groups together neatly, but in the main, it also keeps the story from being "a small band of heroes battles against overwhelming invasion force odds" and that stereotype. While Mordru embodies evil in the same way that the Khunds and the Dark Circle do, he is a much more powerful foe on his own, and his weakness leads once again to his fall and the collapse of the invasion on the part of the Khunds and Dark Circle.
The real strength of this issue's story was the teamwork with which the Legionnaires functioned. Having two Legionnaires (Superboy and Karate Kid) and two former Legionnaires and fan favourites (Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad) as the central characters for much of the story was an interesting change, given that the reader knew it would be impossible for these four to defeat Mordru themselves. Saturn Girl's knowledge of Mordru's weakness and fear of earth and being trapped in it gave the Legionnaires a fighting chance, but it was Element Lad's ability to transmute elements (with Brainiac 5 providing the formula for the soil, all with Saturn Girl's telepathic mind-link) that gave the Legionnaires the win in the end. I loved Karate Kid's comment to Jan that it was the classiest last minute rescue that he's ever seen. The use of the four characters was well executed by Paul Levitz, and it gave each of them room to experience a bit of character development and for the personalities of these four Legionnaires to come through. It was also lovely to see another clash between Karate Kid and Superboy in this issue, and the stuff was definitely a homage to the previous ones we've seen (see the Final Comments below). Also good to see Karate Kid portrayed as the master of martial arts that he is, but not super-human as he's been portrayed in the recent past in his own cancelled comic series.
The artwork this issue was terrific, with the great Murphy Anderson's inks complementing Joe Staton's pencils (which I find cartoon-ish at times) and keeping him well leashed, with clear, clean lines. The artwork was reminiscent of the classic Legion work from Curt Swan and Dave Cockrum, and fit the story to a "t". The five lead characters (Superboy, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Karate Kid and Mordru) are all drawn very well, and of particular note was the fact that Mordru appears truly threatening and evil in the story. The various close-ups we get of Mordru reminded me a lot of the splash page close-up from Mordru's debut way back in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #369. I also feel that I need to commend colourist Cory Adams for doing a terrific job this issue, notably on the electrical, magic, night scenes, and the various special effects that are found in this issue. The colours really leap off the page, and she gets full credit for that. That said, there are several panels with mis-colourings of hair and a couple of costumes (see the Final Comments below for one example), but these are just minor flaws.
Overall, this issue was a terrific story and a fine climax for the Earthwar Saga. The return of Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad to the Legion roster at the end of the story is a nice touch, and should prove interesting as the Legion's tales progress. Once more, my only real regret with this story is that Tyroc does not appear in it at all.
This issue sees the fifth part of the Earthwar Saga, and the story reaches its conclusion...
Mordru's last appearance was in Justice League of America Vol 1 #147-148. No mention of that story is made here...
In the listing above of the Legionnaires, the first seven are the members who are active in the story, the rest being in the containment tubes that Mordru put them in until the final battle in the story...
The entire roster of the Legion is seen in this story, including the four retired Legionnaires, except for Tyroc. He does not appear in this issue (or the entire run of the Earthwar Saga) at all...
In the final panel on page 5, Saturn Girl's hair is coloured green, rather than blonde, and Lightning Lad's hair is coloured brown rather than orange-red...
When Karate Kid fights Superboy to prevent him leaving the island due to Mordru's spell, he notes that he did this with Superboy just a few weeks ago. This occurred in Karate Kid Vol 1 #12-13. However, Superboy also fought Karate Kid when the latter tried out to join the Legion way back in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #346...
Although Science Police Officer Shvaughn Erin was standing with the Legion at the end of last issue, she does not appear at all when the scene continues this issue...
At the end of this adventure, the Legion votes to amend their Constitution, re-writing it so that married members can continue to serve. Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad promptly rejoin, but Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy do not...
Paul Levitz admits in the Legion Outpost letters' page that the Earthwar Saga was initially intended to start in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #237, but deadline problems pushed it back to issue #241...
Paul Levitz also mentions a "Legion Spectacular" scheduled for the winter of 1978-1979. This story eventually appeared in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #250-251.
Next Issue: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #246