John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane

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Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #247

Time for another classic Legion of Super-Heroes comic re-read, this time up the conclusion to a Fatal Five story and a celebration of the Legion's first appearance in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #247. Enjoy! :)

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #247
January, 1979
"Savage Sanctuary!"
Writer: Len Wein
Penciller: Joe Staton
Inker: Jack Abel
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Glynis Wein
Cover: Joe Staton (pencils) & Dick Giordano (inks) (signed)
Editor: Jack C. Harris

Mission Monitor Board:
Superboy, Element Lad, Colossal Boy

The Fatal Five (The Persuader, Mano, Tharok, The Emerald Empress, Tharok)

The story continues from the previous issue. In outer space, Superboy is flying away from Corvan IV, having fled at Element Lad's behest to seek out Legion reinforcements after the Fatal Five defeated him, Element Lad an Colossal Boy. He recalls the events of the previous issue, thus providing the reader with a recap.

On Earth, Mano complains to The Persuader that they they have to wait in a prison cell, after voluntarily turning themselves in to wait for the Legionnaires to report after their investigation on Corvan IV. He and The Persuader receive a telepathic message from Tharok, informing them that the Legion has betrayed them. The two escape the prison they are in, and head for space.

Back in space, Superboy has had no luck contacting any other Legionnaires. Realizing that by the time any of them respond and actually arrive, Element Lad and Colossal Boy could be dead, Superboy heads back to Corvan IV to rescue them on his own.

Back on Corvan IV, Element Lad and Colossal Boy are imprisoned in a stasis cell under the watchful eye of Tharok, The Emerald Empress and Validus in a secret location. The Emerald Empress and Validus want to kill the two captured Legionnaires now, but Tharok convinces them to wait until Mano and The Persuader return. He says he has a much more imaginative fate in store for the Legionnaires.

On his way back to Corvan IV, Superboy realizes that the Emerald Eye represents the greatest threat to him, and recalls when he first met the Emerald Empress the Eye was weakened by Green Kryptonite. Spying some of the Green Kryptonite in an asteroid field, he decides to use it against the Emerald Eye. In a complicated maneuver reminiscent of a pool table shot, he manages to strike the Emerald Eye a glancing blow, sending it fleeing into space and reducing the Emerald Empress to a heap in agonized pain. With Validus also buried beneath rubble due to the meteor crash, Superboy launches his attack and easily takes care of the rendered powerless with anger Emerald Empress. Validus, however, is another matter... As Superboy and Validus battle, the sound alerts Tharok, who leaves the two imprisoned Legionnaires. It also attracts the attention of the Corvanians, sending some of them to seek shelter, but others to go and see what is happening.

As Tharok goes to stop Validus from wreaking too much more havoc, it is already too late. The fight between Validus and Superboy has already caused the power systems of the Fatal Five's small base to fail, thus freeing Element Lad and Colossal Boy from the stasis cell they are in. The two promptly go to help their "reinforcements"...

...and the Teen of Steel definitely needs their help. With Validus threatening him with the Green Kryptonite rock, the Emerald Eye having recovered from its debilitation due to the Kryptonite and returning to the Empress's side, and Tharok's entry on the scene, Superboy is in deep trouble. And none of them notice the arrival of a sleek spacecraft, with Mano and The Persuader aboard.

Saving Superboy from the Emerald Eye's blast of energy with an iron shield and converting the Green K meteorite into water, Element Lad does his part. He and Colossal Boy engage the Fatal Five, Mano and The Persuader joining the battle, but the Legionnaires are fighting a losing battle against the Five that they cannot win. Before the fight goes any further, there is a shout of "ENOUGH!" and both the heroes and villains stop fighting, surprised. A small group of Corvanians is standing there, and the one who shouted explains to Tharok that the dream for Corvan IV joining the U.P. was Tharok's, not there. The Fatal Five say they only did what they have done for the Corvanians, but their representative says that his people are a simple, but happy, people who didn't understand the price they would have to pay for the gifts that Tharok and the otehrs gave them. He tells Tharok and the other members of the Five that the best way they can repay the Corvanians is to leave. Tharok nods his understanding, sorrowfully, and with a glance at the other members of the Fatal Five, the chastized villains vanish in a flash of light. The Legionnaires do not attempt to go after them, and leave the planet to the Corvanians, who hope that they will have the wisdom to seek their own path to the future.

What can I say about this story? The first part of this story was weak in a lot of ways, and while I was happy to see the Fatal Five again, the story doesn't use them very well, and the second part is no exception to that rule.

This story is first and foremost, a Superboy story. Element Lad and Colossal Boy are relegated pretty much to the final third of the tale, and there is much agonizing on Superboy's part (feelings of guilt and cowardice, perhaps?) in the early part before he decides to return to Corvan IV and help free his fellow Legionnaires alone. The manner in which he took out the Emerald Eye for a short time - playing pool with an asteroid field with one large Green Kryptonite piece - was a bit contrived, but accomplished its goal, Though of course, the three Legionnaires were no match for Tharok, The Emerald Empress and Validus - and that was before the return of Mano and The Persuader. The surprise ending, with the Corvanian(s) stopping the fight between the Legionnaires and the Fatal Five was...not how the story should have ended, but... *sigh*

To say the Fatal Five weren't acting like themselves in this entire story would be a gross understatement. Their ineptitude in failing to defeat three Legionnaires, two of whom were tied up for the lion's share of the story, was downright embarrassing, as well as the fact that they let themselves be pushed around by the inhabitants of the world they were trying to make their home. And there's the inconsistencies with the Fatal Five as well. Tharok contacts Mano and The Persuader on Earth telepathically, millions of miles away, even though Tharok has never had any telepathic powers. One could argue that this was actually done by the Emerald Eye, but there's no real indication of that. Although he did have the ability to telepathically communicate with and control Validus in earlier stories, and seemed to somehow telepathically control the Talokians of Talok VIII when the Fatal Five invaded there back in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #365-366. Mano is shown using his powers to blast objects and through blasts at the Legionnaires. This rings false, as his power has always been shown to be through touch alone. There's also the fact that Validus actually talks in short sentences! here, though mostly it's angry stuff. Even the villains of the piece seem surprised at his ability to articulate, and I'm not sure why writer Len Wein and editor Jack C. Harris did this, though I think again it shows a bit of their lack of familiarity and understanding of the universe of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Validus has always come across in the past as being child-like, and his desire to kill the captive Legionnaires belies that notion.

However, that's nothing compared to the ending of the story. The Corvanians stop the fight between the Five and the Legionnaires, complaining about what the Tharok and the others have done to them and their planet, and then the Fatal Five, these cut-throat and vicious criminals, the same villains who went to Shadow Lass's homeworld of Talok VIII and subjugated it back in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #365-366...up and leave? Really? Throw in the events of Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #231, and the inconsistency in the "villain"-ness of the Fatal Five comes into question. The implication by the omniscient writer at the end is that Tharok and the others feel shame and have an understanding of what they did to the Corvanians, though they did so out of the goodness they felt for what the Corvanians did for them, but this is just not the Fatal Five that we've come to know and love/hate.

Joe Staton's pencils once more proved to be rendered bland and boring in this tale, and the inking by Jack Abel did not help the story in that cause. A good example of this is that during the fight between Superboy and Validus, there are no backgrounds to show the devastation that their fighting is having on the environment. That, at least, would have made the Corvanian intervening in the fight make a bit more sense. Staton's space scenes with Superboy were nicely done, but it felt a lot of that time that Superboy was posing, for lack of another term. Oh, well...

Final Notes:
This story continues from the previous issue of the title...

Superboy makes reference to the fact that the first time he encountered the Emerald Empress and the Eye of Ekron, it was weakened by Green Kryptonite. This first encounter was in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #352.

And then there's the second story...

Writer: Paul Levitz
Penciller: Joe Staton
Inker: Dave Hunt
Letterer: Mike Stevens
Colourist: Cory Adams
Cover: na
Editor: Jack C. Harris

Mission Monitor Board:
Shadow Lass, Brainiac 5, Element Lad, Wildfire, Ultra Boy, Chameleon Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Mon-El, Cosmic Boy, Dawnstar, Superboy (all active in the story); Sun Boy, Shrinking Violet, Princess Projectra, Karate Kid, Phantom Girl, Colossal Boy, Light Lass, Timber Wolf, Dream Girl (seen but not active); Tyroc (cameo only)

A "jinx" preventing the Legion leadership election

At Legion Headquarters, it is election day. Shadow Lass steps up to the voting console and tells Brainiac 5 that she's casting her vote for him, and hopes he wins. Brainiac 5 tells her that it's only logical that he wins the election due to his computer mind. Element Lad is also a candidate in the election, and he tells Brainiac 5 that he hopes that it's his time to win it. Brainiac 5 peevishly says that Element Lad has been Deputy Leader for some time now, and that should be enough. As Wildfire steps up to cast his vote, Element Lad asks Brainiac 5 why he's taking the election so seriously. Wildfire goes up to the console and prepares to cast his vote, hoping to be re-elected Legion leader. Before he can do so and Brainiac 5 can answer Element Lad, the console explodes in pyrotechnic fury, short circuiting. Brainiac 5 contains the explosion with a force field, and then accuses Wildfire of sabotaging the computer so that he could defeat Brainy and win the Legion leadership again. Wildfire is prevented from coming to blows with Brainiac 5 by Shadow Lass and Ultra Boy, and after Brainiac 5 storms off, Wildfire says that Brainy needs to take a long vacation.

Wildfire tells his teammates that the election must go on, and since Superboy and Tyroc have hyper-beamed their votes in, it's time to head back to the old Legion voting computer. He leads the team to the Trophy Room, where it is being kept. Chameleon Boy stays behind, wanting to check matters out, and determines that the computer was sabotaged - by x-rays. But there are four Legionnaires, including Wildfire, who are capable of producing x-rays.

In the Trophy Room, Wildfire uncovers the old voting computer and prepares to activate it but before he can do so, the voting computer plunges through the floor. Lightning Lad and Wildfire pursue it down a tunnel created by the computer descending, but fall into an underground lake. Wildfire retrieves the sodden voting computer, which is now useless. Saturn Girl says that they must have the election, but Element Lad comments that someone doesn't want them to. When asked what he thinks, Chameleon Boy says that they can find the answer to the conundrum if they look hard enough.

While Wildfire and the Election Committee go off to make alternate arrangements, the other Legionnaires congregate in the Lounge Area. One of them is Brainiac 5, who gazes into a fire. However, the fire suddenly flares upward and out beyond the stone fireplace. Mon-El douses the fire with his super-breath while Lightning Lad gets Brainiac 5 out of the danger zone. At Chameleon Boy's suggestion, the Legionnaries assemble on one of their cruisers in space to complete the vote.

As Dawnstar casts the last vote for the election, the emergency alarm sounds as the Legion cruiser starts leaking fuel. Wildfire races with the others to find out what's going on, and comes upon Chameleon Boy who has managed to catch the "jinx": it's Superboy! Superboy tells them that it was fair play, and Brainiac 5 realizes that this is the anniversary of the day that Superboy was inducted into the Legion. At that time, Superboy had to endure four pranks pulled on him by the founding Legionnaires (Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy): a short-circuited robot, a sunken statue, a fire, and leaking fuel from a ship. He was just getting back at them by pranking them! Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy say that he sure paid them back, but that it took him long enough!

Everyone appreciates the practical joke, but Wildfire and Brainiac 5 want to know who won the election. The computer finally spits out the results. In a total surprise, while Wildfire and Brainiac 5 were so busy campaigning, they forgot about the other candidate. The winner of the Legion election is Lightning Lad!

This story is a wondefully insightful story that has a cuteness and a bit of an edge to it, that is fitting as a celebratory tale for the Legion and the anniversary of Superboy's joining the team. Some would argue that it's not a true "celebration" of the Legion, of course, but since issue #247 of both titles is being used here for this purpose, I won't quibble with that.

What this story does do, however, is show how much Paul Levitz knew/knows about the Legion of Super-Heroes. Paul Levitz's script also has a perverse humour to it that was strangely appealing. Levitz seems to be saying that the very first Legion story might not have been very good - it was, when all is said and done, pretty bad - but it's the only reason we're still here arguing what's good and bad about the Legion here some four decades later (as I write this). And the story is full of tongue-in-cheek moments...a few of which could have possibly saved the Fatal Five story in this issue. There's not a lot of this story, since it's a mere 9 pages long, but it has the entire Legion present in one capacity or the other (see the Mission Monitor list above), with the exception of Tyroc yet again (though he is mentioned in it as having cast his vote). There is only some minor characterization here, though Wildfire and Element Lad get a bit of screen time, but the story does show more of Brainiac 5's irrationality (his wanting to be Legion leader, his being scared when the fire catches him off guard, his annoyance at Element Lad and his anger at Wildfire). This is material that is leading up to the shocking Brainiac 5 story that is in the near future (in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #250-251). This character development just goes to show how well Levitz knows the Legionnaires, and makes the story even more special for a variety of reasons. And then there's the Trophy Room scene on page 4, which I'll discuss below.

While Joe Staton pencils this issue with a modicum of skill, it is inker Dave Hunt (who is paired with him for the first time) who makes the pencil work seem less cartoonish, though some of the expressions on several of the Legionnaires' faces is cute at times. The cast of the Legion is huge, and to be honest, Staton does a good job rendering the Legionnaires and making them each relatively unique and distinguishable in this story. The top left-most panel on page 4 of the story is a good example of this.

One of my favourite panels of this story happens to be the Trophy Room sequence on page 4. There are a vast number of trophies from the Legion's storied past here. These include a mock-up of Computo the Conqueror from Adventure Comics Vol 1 #340-341; the flag of Krypton from when the Legionnaires encountered them in Earth's past in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #333; the commemorative statue of Ferro Lad, the first Legionnaire to die, in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #353 (and the statue appeared in the very next issue); a copy of the quintile crystal fragment that first appeared in one of the Legion's untold cases in DC Super-Stars Vol 1 #17 and then was used to help create a new star in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #237; the Vanguard-1 satellite from a Legion tale that I don't remember; a small replica of a silver spacecraft from a Legion story that I don't recognize; a replica of the Concentrator weapon that the Legion used in a scheme by the Time Trapper in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #321; the metallic arm that Lightning Lad acquired after his was removed after dealing with the Moby Dick of Space in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #332; an old Legion jetpack which debuted in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #247, and lasted until...; and an old flight belt from the very early stories of the Legion, that debuted around Adventure Comics Vol 1 #306. Just lovely stuff! :)

Overall, an entertaining story with hints of what's to come. And Lightning Lad as the new Legion leader. The only founding Legionnaire who was never the team leader before, replacing one of the newest, less experienced members of the team in Wildfire, who grew into his own as a character when he became leader. Lightning Lad's reign should be an interesting, if perhaps, rocky one.

Final Notes:
This story is dedicated to Mort Weisinger, the editor who commissioned the very first Legion story in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #247...

The pranks referred to when Superboy first joined the Legion and that he re-creates here (sort of) occurred in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #247, the Legion's first appearance and the story when they inducted Superboy...

Tyroc sends in his vote via hyper-beam, but is not present during the election story at all (again)...

Chameleon Boy shows the Legion fans yet again that he a capable detective by realizing that the "jinx" was Superboy, and then baiting him with the Legion cruiser's fuel...

Lightning Lad won the election by a wide margin, and Element Lad came in second in the voting and becomes his Deputy Leader (serving for a fourth time!). Below is the official announcement from The Legion Outpost letters column.

Overall Final Notes:
With the second story, Wildfire is denied a second term as leader; Lightning Lad is elected as the Legion's 13th leader. Officially, Wildfire's term lasted for 22 issues, from Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #225 thru this issue. Although the letter column announces that the next election will be held "in a few months," Lightning Lad will not be replaced until Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #291, a span of nearly four years...

In the Legion Outpost letters column, it's announced that Gerry Conway will be taking over the writing with the next issue, while Paul Levitz moves over to the writing duties on the Wonder Woman title. Jack C. Harris takes over full time as the editor of the title starting next issue, though he has shared editorial duties with Allen Milgrom for the last few issues...

Next Issue: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #248
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, lll, long live the legion!, lsh, review

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