John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane

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Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #250

Time or another re-read of a classic Legion of Super-Heroes story. This time out, the murderer of An Ryd is finally revealed, and the Legionnaires grapple with madness amongst their own! Enjoy! :)

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #250
April, 1979
"This Is The Day The Universe Dies!"
Story & Layouts: Steve Apollo (actually Jim Starlin)
Words: Paul Levitz
Finished Art: Dave Hunt
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Gene D'Angelo
Cover: Joe Staton (pencils) & Dick Giordano (inks) (signed)
Editor: Jack C. Harris

Mission Monitor Board:
Chameleon Boy, Wildfire, Tyroc, Karate Kid, Timber Wolf, Brainiac 5, Superboy, Mon-El, Dream Girl, Ultra Boy (all with speaking parts); Shadow Lass, Lightning Lad, Sun Boy, Cosmic Boy, Shrinking Violet, Element Lad, Colossal Boy, Sun Boy, Star Boy, Saturn Girl, Dawnstar, Princess Projectra (mentioned but not actually shown)

Omega and his mysterious creator revealed

The self-titled Chapter One begins at Legion Headquarters, where Chameleon Boy is sitting alone, pondering and considering what he's learned: One of the Legionnaires is crazy, and worse, a murderer. As Cham ponders matters, a masked man shows up and confronts him. He tells Chameleon Boy that he has been monitoring him, and when Chameleon Boy ran a program on the more recent activities the masked figure has undertaken, he knew that he had been discovered. Chameleon Boy tells him that he doesn't know how he could have hidden his madness for so long and why he wants to destroy the universe, but he knows who he is! He unmasks the figure, who the coldly blasts Chameleon Boy with a pistol and walks off, leaving him for dead.

Several hours later, Wildfire shows up and after verifying that Chameleon Boy is not dead, takes his flight ring. Chameleon Boy was supposed to have made a coded duplicate tape of what he learned and put it in te flight ring. He then proceeds to call all Legionnaires back to headquarters as it is a Class One emergency.

When all of the Legionnaires (?) have arrived, Wildfire briefs the entire team on what has occurred and Chameleon Boy's investigation. It all started when Ultra Boy was framed for the murder of An Ryd months ago [see the Final Note on this]. After a lengthy chase, Chameleon Boy proved that Ultra Boy had been set up by a Wildfire robot and manged to clear him, but the mystery remained of who had killed An Ryd. After a couple of weeks, Cham told Wildfire, the team leader at the time, that he was sure who was behind it all, but wouldn't say until he had more proof. Wildfire says he doesn't know what they should do next, but before they have time to debate more, the hologram of the masked man appears among the Legionnaires heralded by insane laughter. He tells the Legionnaires that the girl's death was the first move in a "game" of universal proportions, that the Legionnaires are mere pawns, and that they will face the ultimate evil and will fall before it. He tells Wildfire that if they don't play the game, they lose, but that they will lose either way. Before they can question him further, the Deep Space alarm goes off, which is only supposed to trigger if a danger along the lines of a Sun-Eater were to occur again. Superboy can find nothing with his super-vision, but the masked figure says that would be too easy. Superboy says he's got a bead on the signal, and say they should follow it up. In his capacity as acting Deputy Leader in Lightning Lad's absence, Element Lad says he wants to keep Dawnstar's tracking powers in reserve until they're sure it's the real thing, and dispatches the two most powerful Legionnaires, Superboy and Mon-El, to check things out.

Superboy and Mon-El fly off to investigate, and as they travel the two talk about the situation and how dire it really is if Wildfire is right about one of the Legionnaires being the traitor. Superboy finds something shimmering in the depths of intergalactic space, and tells Mon-El that he can even feel the hatred of whatever it is this far away. They eventually find a monstrous creature, who tells them that it is called Omega: "I am death...destruction...the end of everything you know and love in the universe! I am the sum total - the very living embodiment - of all the hate that has ever existed!" And Omega hates the Legionnaires most of all. Mon-El attempts to take down Omega with one punch, and the creature proves even tougher than Validus and is unfazed. Omega punches Mon-El with enough force to give the indestructible hero a concussion. Realizing that he can't take on Omega himself, Superboy takes the moral ground, grabs the unconscious Mon-El, and races back to Legion HQ after telling Omega that it has won the first round.

Chapter Two, "Madman in Our Midst!", begins at Legion HQ where Brainiac 5 confirms Superboy's diagnosis that Mon-El is suffering a concussion and is out of action for the duration. Wildfire laments this fact, and decides that the Legion will deploy teams to various routes that Omega might take in the hope that one of them can stop it. What he doesn't understand is why Omega, who is so seemingly powerful, is coming to Legion HQ to destroy the universe. At Ultra Boy's suggestion, and since he has decoded the information from Chameleon Boy's flight ring, Wildfire demands to know what's going on from the traitor: Brainiac 5! To the Legionnaires shock and horror, Brainiac 5 says he's not mad - "My time has come. After all these years of solving the universe's problems, I'm collecting my due reward! I'm taking the universe's life in trade!" Brainiac 5 tells them it's not madness that drives him, it's hatred - the hatred of them, of the universe, that gave birth to Omega. He tells the Legionnaires that Omega is coming to Earth to get the last thing he needs, and will then destroy the universe. It's clear to the Legionnaires that Brainiac 5 is clearly insane.

Wildfire tells Karate Kid and Princess Projectra to get Brainiac 5 to a detention centre where he can be psychoanalyzed later, and orders the other Legionnaires to organize according to Defense Beta Two. As the other Legionnaires scatter, Dream Girl remains behind and tells Wildfire that she had a vision of Wildfire facing Omega all alone, and then the world exploded. As the other Legionnaires head out in teams in various spacecraft, Wildfire says that's all they can do...and that he'll have to try to get Brainiac 5 to tell him the secret of what Omega is coming to get so that they can stop it. The story continues in the next issue.

This issue marks the start of the story that has been hinted at since the murder of An Ryd and the framing of Ultra Boy for said murder back in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #239. I remember being so psyched for this story and the issue when I first read it that I devoured it as quickly as I could because it is so exciting. And needless to say, I couldn't wait 'til the next month so that the second part of the story would come out! That said, re-reading the story didn't make the tale any less enjoyable or the impact of the story any less favourable, but did expose a few holes that didn't really mar my enjoyment of the story.

In many ways, the story is a set-up for the climax of the tale next issue, but I have to admit that there was a lot to like about the tale. Chameleon Boy's detective skills are nicely highlighted here yet again, despite his being out of the story after the third page. The back-up plan that Chameleon Boy and Wildfire came up with so as not to lose the entire investigation's worth of material in case the killer struck closer to home was a nice touch. Speaking of Wildfire... Reading this story, it is obvious that it was written and drawn for when Wildfire was still the leader. While Lightning Lad is mentioned as being the leader, it is a throw-away line; Wildfire is clearly in charge. Also, see the Final Note below on this subject.

Omega is very impressive and clearly formidable as a menace, and the rationale for the creature that it tells Superboy and Mon-El about, as well as Brainiac 5's rant about hatred later on, makes it clear what and who Omega is all about. I'll admit that I was shocked to learn that Brainiac 5 was An Ryd's murderer and was insane (!) when I read the issue for the first time. Re-reading the Legion stories for that year or so perhaps shows very clearly the lead-in to what happened with Brainiac 5, and to be honest, his insanity plotline makes a lot of sense when taken as a whole. I do have to wonder whether Brainiac 5 instilled a special hatred in Omega for Mon-El. That goes back to Brainy's angry comments to Mon-El during the latter's vigil over Shadow Lass in the previous issue. Guess the only folks who might know the answer to that are the writers and editors for the stories...

That said, however, there are a few holes in the story as well. First up, Chameleon Boy suspects Brainiac 5, but when the masked man arrives, Cham simply lets himself get shot? And why does the would-be murderer, whom the reader later learns is Brainiac 5, not make sure that Chameleon Boy is dead? And what about Wildfire? First, he doesn't rush Chameleon Boy to the Medic Centre or wherever, and then he calls an emergency meeting without actually reading Chameleon Boy's report? We learn later that he only reads the material on the flight ring during the sequence when Superboy and Mon-El are fighting Omega.

Secondly, and going back to the beginning of the issue... If the masked man who shoots Chameleon Boy is supposed to be Brainiac 5, why in the universe would he dress like a hooded murderer? That's bound to draw attention to himself! Having read a lot of mysteries in my time, the best thing Brainiac 5 could have done would have been to walk in to the room where Cham was as himself, calm as can be, and shoot his buddy. Thus, if anybody had seen him after he had tried to kill his friend, he's just Brainiac 5 talking to Chameleon Boy, or he could have claimed that he had just found Chameleon Boy after he'd been shot. With the hood business, how does he explain that? And another thing... if Chameleon Boy suspected a lone murderer and who it was by this time and had the proof, why would he sit in an isolated room away from help? Not sure what Jim Starlin's problem was with this business, but perhaps he's just not read enough mystery novels? :)

Wildfire's plan to defeat Omega is to have several different teams fight him at different times, in the hopes that one of them might win out. This is very much a plot point that's right out of a Cary Bates's script, but is oddly fitting with the Legion as it has been used at various times (especially during the old Adventure Comics Vol 1 days). If Omega took Mon-El down with one punch and Superboy chose discretion at the time, what makes Wildfire think that Element Lad, Sun Boy, Cosmic Boy, Ultra Boy and Dream Girl are going to fare any better against Omega? Umm, no.

Needless to say, the artwork in this issue by Jim Starlin is absolutely gorgeous. Although he chose to publish this work under the "Steve Apollo" pseudonym for reasons that I'm not clear on, but will come back to in a moment, the Legion Outpost from last issue made it clear that this issue would see Jim Starlin's return, so... To be honest, while I've come to accept Joe Staton's pencil work on the title, the Legion hasn't looked this good in some time...well, since Starlin's last work in issue #239. :) Dave Hunt does a good job handling the finishing art touches (whatever that means) on the story, and I have to say that the Legionnaires look particularly good this issue, notably Chameleon Boy with his large ears (!), the menacing look of Omega itself, the facial expression on Mon-El's face when he is knocked for a loop by Omega, and the insanity on the face of Brainiac 5 in the later panels of the issue. The scenes in space are also well rendered, and I love the scenes with Omega walking among the stars and just how natural that looks. Just stunning artwork.

Overall, this issue was a highly enjoyable read that maintained the sense of foreboding as well as a feeling of tension/suspense throughout. The shocking revelation of who the murderer of An Ryd was and the Legion traitor only led to even bigger questions. What does Omega want at Legion HQ to bring about the destruction of the universe? Can the Legion stop Omega? And What to do with Brainiac 5 afterwards?...if the Legion survives, at all. So tune in for the next issue to learn the answers!

Final Notes:
This is the 250th issue of Superboy, which had made its publishing debut in January, 1949 before morphing into Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes...

The cover features Superboy and the Legion bursting through nine previous Superboy covers: Superboy Vol 1 #96, Superboy Vol 1 #86, Superboy Vol 1 #1, Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #198, unrecognizable, Superboy Vol 1 #125, Superboy Vol 1 #157, Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #197, and Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #202...

This story finally picks up the threads of the story in which Ultra Boy was set up for the murder of An Ryd back in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #239...

Brainiac 5 is revealed to have been the murderer of An Ryd and set up Ultra Boy in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #239, and to have been criminally insane since at least that time...

Phantom Girl and Light Lass do not appear in this issue...

Tyroc makes one of his rare Legion appearances with actual dialogue. He doesn't actually use his powers, but he does a tad more than just stand around...

Although the implication is that Wildfire says that he is acting leader in Lightning Lad's absence, Lighting Lad is clearly shown in two group shots. And the attribution of the statement by Wildfire is wrong, in that it was actually said by Element Lad, Lightning Lad's Deputy, as Mon-El says in the top panel of page 9...

This story was originally mentioned in a Legion Outpost letter column as to be published as a "Special," not broken up over two regular issues. In the Legion Outpost for Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #255, editor Jack C. Harris admits that the story was originally 64 pages, but trimmed to 42 to run over this and the next issue. With nearly 20 pages to cut from the story, one would have thought it would have just been stretched out to three issues instead. It makes this reader wonder what was cut and omitted from the story...

Next Issue: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #251
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, lll, long live the legion!, lsh, review

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