Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #248
"Beneath The Streets Lurks...Death!"
Writer: Gerry Conway
Penciller: Joe Staton
Inker: David Hunt
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Gene D'Angelo
Cover: Joe Staton (pencils) & Dick Giordano (inks) (signed)
Editor: Jack C. Harris
Mission Monitor Board:
Sun Boy, Phantom Girl, Cosmic Boy, Shadow Lass, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Mon-El, Superboy, Brainiac 5; Light Lass, Colossal Boy (cameos)
Muck monsters in the sewers (and sinks) of Metropolis
While life continues and the recovery of Earth in the aftermath of the Earthwar continues apace, under the city of Metropolis, Sun Boy is leading a group of Legionnaires to investigate a problem with the city's sewer filtration system. Sun Boy says the Science Police has asked the Legion to help out. He tells them that the Tech Corps investigated, but the team that went farthest were scared by "things moving in the dark and the sewer water coming alive." Shadow Lass says it sounds like something out of a fright holo-picture plot. He tells Shadow Lass that they're probably dealing with a herd of blind albino alligators. As the Legionnaires move through the sewer tunnel, they are watched by a figure in the shadows...
Before they can talk more, Shadow Lass alerts the others to movement in the water, but before she can react, she is grabbed by a muck-like, massive tentacle, and slammed into one of the sewer walls. The sewers heave like a living volcano as a multi-headed, tentacled creature attacks the Science Police officers accompanying the Legionnaires in the sewers. The Legionnaires move in, and Phantom Girl attacks. She is momentarily paralyzed with fear, as there are no snakes on Bgztl, and is grabbed by one of the massive tentacles, but recovers in time to go intangible. Seemingly fleeing, she causes the monster to slam into the sewer wall as she phases through it. Cosmic Boy helps the Science Police, building them a ladder to the surface using rusty parts of the sewers. He then drops several tons of rusty pipes on it, hopefully burying it. Meanwhile, Sun Boy uses his abilities to bake the creature, the stench reminding him of boiled cabbage and rotten eggs combined; the creature slides beneath the water finally, and lies still. Turning their attention to Shadow Lass, they find that Tasmia is unconscious and seriously hurt, and Sun Boy blames himself for not having heard her cry out. They quickly head back to Legion Headquarters.
At Legion HQ, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl are enjoying dinner together. Lightning Lad is cooking for his wife, but she realizes it's his first time around a microstove. She praises him about the meal, but then "senses" that Shadow Lass has been seriously injured through a telepathic burst from Sun Boy. They rush to the Medi-Lab, overlooking a muck-like infiltration that has begun in their sink.
As Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad catch up with Sun Boy and his team, they learn what occurred. Superboy and Mon-El arrive on the scene. The latter is highly distraught at Shadow Lass's injuries and blames Sun Boy for what happened. Mon-El grabs shady and flies off at super-speed to Brainiac 5, where he is in the Legion laboratory. The others follow as quickly as they can. Brainiac 5 is annoyed that Mon-El is interrupting his work and says that he's too busy with his experiment on a chemical de-synthesizer. When Mon-El threatens him with bodily harm, a seriously annoyed and resentful Brainiac 5 runs tests on her for a quarter of an hour, and finally tells everyone that she will either live or die in the next five hours. Brainiac 5 then walks off to return to his work. This angers Mon-El, and he has to be held back by the other Legionnaires who are also shocked and surprised by Brainy's behaviour and attitude. However, there's nothing they can do.
Elsewhere, at Brande Enterprises main business tower in Metropolis, R.J. Brande hears the news that he is bankrupt. He refuses to believe it's not a plot against him, but ponders whether he's spent so little time overseeing his investments, devoted so much energy and resources to financing the Legion, that he let it all slip away without noticing it. As he goes near his bathroom sink, he is attacked by a slime-covered tentacle of a sewer monster that emerges from the sink. Brande manages to send out an emergency signal to the Legion before he is dragged away into the shadows.
The Legionnaires hear the emergency alarm from R.J. Brande while Cosmic Boy is helping Superboy try to distract himself from the problems with Shadow Lass and Mon-El in the gymnasium. Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, Superboy and Phantom Girl head off in response to the alarm, leaving Brainiac 5 and Sun Boy with the others at Legion HQ. Sun Boy reflects that he should have gone with the others, but he's feeling too guilty about what happened to Shadow Lass and is worried that Brainiac 5 has seemed too distant of late. Suddenly, the sewer monster that infiltrated Legion HQ through Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl's sink attacks, grabbing Brainiac 5 and Sun Boy in its massive tentacles! The story continues next issue.
And so a sort of new era begins for Legion fans with this story. Gerry Conway begins a run on the Legion of Super-Heroes title that, with just a couple of issues, will see him work the title for two years or so. This story starts off really well and is a horror story of sorts, with a handful of Legionnaires (that we've not seen a good deal of lately) being called to investigate odd occurrences in the Metropolis sewers. The Legion is happy to help, as Earth is cleaning up after the Earthwar. It's a promising start that becomes even better when the creature in the sewers attacks, first the Science Police accompanying the Legionnaires and then the Legionnaires themselves. The threat and the horror element is made more real when Shadow Lass is severely injured (not killed, as the cover of the comic would have the reader believe), and from there author Conway leads the reader back into the world of this Legion of Super-Heroes and some of the personalities of the team.
Speaking of those monsters, I realized quite early on in the story that they weren't some natural phenomenon or something left over from the Earthwar as Sun Boy theorized at one point. That figure watching from the shadows in the sewers on page 3 made it clear to me the first time I re-read the story that they were artificially created and perhaps deliberately targeting the Legionnaires. And also targeting R.J. Brande. Why? A new villain perhaps, or perhaps an old one?
And that's where the story fell apart for me a little bit. The use of the four Legionnaires in the sewer part of the story (Sun Boy, Cosmic Boy, Phantom Girl and Shadow Lass) was a welcome break, especially given all the heavy hitters and two of the three founders used during the Earthwar Saga (Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #241-245), and had some interesting character play between them. However, as the story continued, there were some...problems in characterization. Shadow Lass being caught so unawares is a bit at odds with this warrior from Talok VIII who is at home in the shadows, such as exist in the sewers. The revelation that there are no snakes on Phantom Girl's homeworld of Bgztl is fine, but why was she momentarily too frightened to use her powers? She has pretty much seen it all since she joined the Legion as the fifth member of the team. She lost her head, she thinks to herself, but that doesn't strike me as something that happens to Tinya Wazzo that often, and this was a strange circumstance for it, even if it fits within the horror context of the business at hand. Then there are the other Legionnaires who take part in this story. Mon-El has always struck me as a very rational, calming influence type of character in the Legion, especially when compared to Superboy and Ultra Boy, and while I understand his love and concern for Shadow Lass, threatening Brainiac 5 with violence just seemed way out of character. There was also Sun Boy's unwillingness to go on a mission after returning with the injured Shadow Lass, when the alarm from R.J. Brande's business office sounds. That doesn't strike me as in keeping with Sun Boy's personality, to be honest, other than it may be the guilt over Tasmia's injuries causing it, though I had thought that perhaps it tied in with the trauma that Sun Boy felt way back in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #318 during a rescue mission when he became a tyrant and the other Legionnaires at the time mutinied. Part of this whole characterization matter this issue may stem, and most likely does, from the newness of both writer Conway and editor Harris trying to get a handle on the characters, and being somewhat unfamiliar with the Legion. The good news is that this will improve dramatically by the end of Gerry Conway's tenure on the title.
A couple of things that I really liked in the story was the scene with Lightning Lad cooking supper for Saturn Girl as part of his new husbandly duties, and the fact that he worries a bit about Imra's reading his mind some/lots/all of the time. It's a touching scene, interrupted by the return of the Legion team led by Sun Boy with the injured Shadow Lass, and is a nice, light moment in a somewhat dark tale. Also intriguing was the sub-plot with R.J. Brande being informed that he is bankrupt. This reeks of something deeper, sinister going on, and it will interesting to see how that evolves, but it certainly seems headed towards being a game changer in the relationship between Brande and the Legion, whom he has coddled for many years.
And then there's Brainiac 5. Since when does Brainiac 5 put an experiment before the life of one of his Legion teammates? Sun Boy comments to himself that Brainy has seemed so distant of late, but this takes that to the next degree and almost (well, it actually does) makes Brainy seem bordering on sociopathy. This matter will be addressed in the story that starts with issue #250, but for the moment, it was a highly shocking sequence that this Legion fan was dismayed by the first time I read the story - but not as shocking as what would be revealed two issues hence.
The art this issue is by the newest "permanent" artist team of Joe Staton and Dave (David) Hunt. They now have two issues in a row to their credit. So far, so good. They are clearly trying to leave an individual stamp on the Legionnaires, giving them their own unique look. What impressed me more was the monsters in the sewer, Brande's office, and Legion HQ. They were sufficiently horrible and horrific, and I'll admit that when I first read the story, my 24-year-old self had bad nightmares about them! Brrr... :shudder:
This story continues in the next issue...
The cover to the issue features Mon-El threatening Sun Boy. However, in the story he actually threatens Brainiac 5...
On the cover of the issue, it is stated that Shadow Lass is "dead", but she is not in the story, merely seriously injured...
On the splash page, the date is referred to as 3078 A.D.. This should actually be 2978 A.D....
During the attack in the sewers, Sun Boy boasts that his body exudes wattage which will fry the sewer monsters. Wattage is actually a measurement of electricity (amperage times voltage). It is not a measurement of heat...
On page 11 of the story, Sun Boy is mistakenly referred to as Superboy...
Oddly enough, Lightning Lad parts his hair on the left side, rather than the right, for this one issue...
Gerry Conway becomes the regular writer of Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes with this issue. While he will miss the two-parter in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #250-251, he will then return with issue #252 and work on the title for approximately two years' worth of Legion stories.
Next Issue: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #249