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John Kahane
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Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #251

And here is today's classic Legion of Super-Heroes re-read post. This time out, the Legion has to take down Omega, the creation of the insane Brainiac 5! Enjoy! :)





Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #251
May, 1979
"The Man Who Destroyed The Universe!"
Story/Layouts: Steve Apollo (pseudonym for 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:
Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, Brainiac 5, Superboy, Ultra Boy, Dawnstar, Wildfire, Star Boy, Timber Wolf, Colossal Boy

Guest Star:
Matter-Eater Lad

Opposition:
Omega; Brainiac 5


Synopsis:
This story continues from the previous issue... At Legion Headquarters on Earth, Karate Kid and Princess Projectra are guarding Brainiac 5, and watching him as well. Karate Kid asks Brainiac 5 why he is doing this, what could make him do something so evil, so destructive (as Brainiac 5 puts it). Brainiac 5 tells them that he has the greatest intelligence in the Legion, on Earth, perhaps in the universe. They know how many times he's masterminded the Legion's success, how many lives he's saved, and he says that the cosmos owes him his just reward for doing so. He continues to rant for a few moments, and then faints. Karate Kid wonders if the others can hold Omega long enough for them to pry the secret of Omega from Brainiac 5.

Out in deep space, on one of the possible approaches to Earth, the team of Superboy, Ultra Boy and Dawnstar confronts Omega. Omega tells the heroes to leave him be, or their lives will be shortened significantly, but Superboy tells Omega that he fled last time to get Mon-El to medical help. This is a different story. Dawnstar's abilities allow her to find the asteroid that they loaded with a dimensional transport bomb, and she delivers it to Omega, but it is too fast for her and destroys the weapon, rendering Dawnstar unconscious. While Superboy gets Dawnstar to safety, Ultra Boy uses his speed and strength to attack Omega, but is shrugged off. He tries to use his flash-vision to destroy Omega, but Omega withstands even that. When Ultra Boy throws an asteroid at Omega, it uses its sheer power to destroy the asteroid and both Ultra Boy and Superboy are also rendered unconscious. Omega continues his walk among the stars heading for Earth and Legion HQ.

Back on Earth, Princess Projectra attempts to use her illusions to reach Brainiac 5's subconscious, to show him how much they need him, all the time lamenting "if only Saturn Girl were here." While Wildfire and Karate Kid watch, the latter suggests that they use the Miracle Machine to stop Omega, but Wildfire says that the risk to using it is just too great. Brainiac 5 wakes with a start, and agrees to stop Omega if he is given the universe to rule. When Wildfire agrees to Brainiac 5's demands, nothing that when it's all over they'll put him in a padded cell and somehow deal with his insanity. Brainiac 5 ignores his comments and says they must quickly send for Matter-Eater Lad.

Meanwhile, Omega arrives over Earth, where it easily deals with the defense of the Legionnaires, the United Planets Fleet, and the Science Police. It finds itself finally standing before Legion HQ. Before it can enter the HQ, Omega is attacked by Timber Wolf, but shrugs off the Legionnaire's attack easily, and throwing him into Star Boy, thus taking out that Legionnaire as well. Colossal Boy attempts to stop Omega, but as the creature points out even size does not always mean might. Omega heaves Colossal Boy's form off him, and the giant Legionnaire goes crashing to the ground and is rendered out of the fight. Omega crashes through the main doors of Legion HQ, and enters to complete its mission.

Meanwhile, in the Legion's Space Centre, Matter-Eater Lad arrives at the HQ, wondering why he's been summoned and what's going on. While Brainiac 5 leads Matter-Eater Lad away, Wildfire tells Karate Kid and Princess Projectra to take the outer chamber and do what they can to halt or slow Omega down. He's going to wait for Omega in the Space Centre, where Dream Girl foresaw that he would. He tells Karate Kid and Projectra to make sure they're out of of the building safely before Omega gets to him.

As Omega makes its way through the outermost chambers of the Legion complex, it encounters a duplicate of itself. This is an illusion created by Princess Projectra, but it momentarily stops his charge, and allows Karate Kid to break through the illusion and strike at Omega's "weak spot". The attack is useless, Omega takes the Legionnaire down, bypassing both of them while Projectra goes to help Karate Kid and get themselves out of the building.

Omega enters the Legion HQ proper, where he is met by Wildfire. Using his one-use power of exploding his anti-energy out in one massive blast, Wildfire opens his visor and the devastating energy strikes Omega. The entire Legion HQ is destroyed in the blast... but Omega still stands, Wildfire's now empty suit resting on the ground in the wreckage and rubble.

Making its way to the labs and storage facilities and the armoury of the Legion HQ, Omega gloats that it can now acquire the device that will allow it to destroy the Legionnaires and the universe - the Miracle Machine. There, it is confronted by its creator, Brainiac 5, who tells it that as he created it, so he has now destroyed it, since the Miracle Machine itself has been destroyed. Omega does not believe him, but then feels itself "dissolving - fading into the hundred billion trillion hatreds of all who live." With a scream of "NOOOOOooooo!" Omega vanishes in a massive burst of energy and light.

Timber Wolf and star Boy enter the HQ, and reach Brainiac 5. Brainiac 5 tells them that there was no known weapon they could destroy the Miracle Machine with, but that a living weapon could do. Hence why he summoned Matter-Eater Lad. He simply used his power to eat the Miracle Machine. However, leading the two Legionnaires into a chamber, they see Matter-Eater Lad, lying against a wall, now totally insane from the experience. Star Boy says he's not sure which one is more insane, but Timber Wolf tells him that he's sure it's Brainiac 5.

Some time later that evening, in the rubble that is left of Legion HQ, Wildfire and Superboy talk about what comes next. The psychomedics have figured out that it was the strain of the last few months that made Brainiac 5 flip out, losing the election being the last straw apparently. While no one was killed, the United Planets will be furious about all the damage inflicted, on top of the damage from the recent Khund invasion. Wildfire tells Superboy that when the next problem comes along, the Legionnaires will have no choice but to continue shouldering on. Superboy wraps things up saying, "You know, Wildfire, you're turning into one hell of a Legionnaire."


Commentary:
Two-part or multiple part story lines in the Legion of Super-Heroes comics up to this point are less of a rarity and more of a case of good story ideas that require multiple issues to tell. One only has to look at the the first story of Computo (Adventure Comics Vol 1 #340-341), the original tale with the Khunds and the debuts of Karate Kid, Princess Projectra and Ferro Lad (Adventure Comics Vol 1 #346-347), the first appearance of Mordru (Adventure Comics Vol 1 #369-370), the debut of the Fatal Five (Adventure Comics Vol 1 #352-353) and their return on Talok VIII (Adventure Comics Vol 1 #365-366), and the recent Earthwar Saga storyline (Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #241-245) to see how multiple part or two-part stories are done right. There are also a few lame tales that one could cite as well for not doing them right, but we'll let those stories rest where they are. The story presented in this issue seemed to have that potential, given a pretty good first part in the previous issue, but while the tale was interesting, it didn't live up to the hype.

After the first part of the Omega storyline in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #250 last issue, it seemed like this issue was going to be a knock down and drag them out fight between the entire roster of the Legion, minus Mon-El and Chameleon Boy who were both taken out of action in the previous issue, and Omega. I mean, come on!, the universe is in peril and Brainiac 5 appears to be crazy. That was a great hook for an epic struggle, right? However, what we got was a story that gave us only ten (!!) Legionnaires, including the insane Brainiac 5, that wasn't really about fighting Omega at all, but about what it is to be a Legionnaire and talking out the good stuff. There were several fight scenes with Omega, the Legionnaires losing each one to showcase how badass Omega really is, but the most effective face-off with Omega is actually the one where Projectra's illusions confuses the creature and actually slow it down momentarily! If nothing else, the ten Legionnaires in question this issue, with the exception of Dawnstar, do get the light shined on them quite nicely and there's a bit of character development. However, the story isn't epic in scope, despite the fact that the threat of Omega should have been one of an epic plot and finale to the story.

One of the story elements that I didn't enjoy was the sequence of foreshadowing, when Karate Kid and Wildfire discuss using the Miracle Machine to stop Omega near the middle of the tale. However, Wildfire tells Karate Kid that doing so is "too dangerous"... but compared to what? The end of the universe? Especially considering that Matter-Eater Lad, at Brainiac 5's instigation (which we don't even see), comes in and *eats* the Miracle Machine, thus putting an end to Omega anyway. I don't really know why Brainiac 5 didn't just use the Miracle Machine to destroy Omega the same way he'd used it to create Omega, or perhaps Brainy has a dislike on for Matter-Eater Lad? After all, eating the Miracle Machine left him insane as well after eating all those weird energies. I'm not sure if that whole business is just bad plotting or someone's idea of drama or what, but it was a lame way to get rid of Omega, but also eliminated the Miracle Machine as well. And perhaps that final bit was the whole purpose in this story's ending. As noted in the Final Notes from last issue, editor Jack C. Harris admitted in a later letter column that the story was originally 64 pages, but trimmed to 42 to run over the course of these two issues. 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...but I can't believe for a moment that the ending the readers got here was the ending of the story that was envisioned in that 64-page version of the tale. That said, I really have no idea why Legion writer Paul Levitz and Legion editor Jack C. Harris approved this version of the story and went this route.

Speaking of story endings, the final scene beween Superboy and Wildfire in the ruins of Legion Headquarters under the stars was...ironic. As most fans will recall from when Wildfire became leader of the Legion (Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #225), there was a disagreement between him and Superboy over matters (though Superboy was faking his reaction and all). However, a lot of the Legionnaires (perhaps echoing the fans?) didn't like Wildfire, considering him arrogant, a hot-head, and impulsive; all of which he was. Here, Superboy and Wildfire talk about the future, at the end of which Superboy says, "You know, Wildfire, you're turning into one hell of a Legionnaire." This seems to me pretty indicative of two things. First of all, this story was definitely meant be set during the time Wildfire was still Legion leader, despite the "evidence" to the contrary in the previous issue. Secondly, this sequence is a fitting end to Wildfire's time as Legion leader, and shows through his conversation with Superboy just how much Wildfire *has* changed since he became Legion leader. A fitting end to Wildfire's term.

Once more, Jim Starlin's artwork here (under the pseudonym of Steve Apollo) is stellar in the story, and Dave Hunt's finishes give the art a polished, solid lined look to it. Visually, Brainiac 5's facial expressions and body language convey his insanity perfectly here yet again, and the stars in Matter-Eater Lad's eyes after eating the Miracle Machine are superb. My favourite panels are the Omega/Colossal Boy fight sequence on pages 12-13, the top panel on page 19 of Omega standing amidst the ruins of Legion HQ, with Wildfire's forlorn uniform lying in said wreckage, and the final panel on page 23 with Superboy and Wildfire standing in the wreckage of Legion HQ at night. If I have a problem with the art though, it's that on several pages the Legionnaires look like they're posing dramatically.

Overall, despite some of my reservations about the issue, I enjoyed this story very much though I found that the second part this issue was a bit of a let-down from the first part of the story. At the end of the tale, we have Brainiac 5 certifiably insane, the former Matter-Eater Lad in a similar situation due to having eaten the Miracle Machine, Legion Headquarters destroyed, Earth an even bigger mess than it was after the war with the Khunds. And let's not forget that Legion financier R.J. Brande is bankrupt (as per Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #248)...so how are the Legion going to rebuild their HQ? Or will they, given the United Planets may not be all that happy about them in the aftermath of the Omega business. So many sub-plots to be dealt with, hopefully in future issues.


Final Notes:
This issue wraps up the story that started last issue, which continued the plot begun with the murder of An Ryd and the framing of Ultra Boy for that murder, first seen in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #239. Needless to say, the Brainiac 5 insanity plot has a few holes in it, but these will be addressed in future issues...

The cover of the issue is misleading. The second Omega in the story is an illusion created by Princess Projectra, not a second Omega created by Brainiac 5...

In the early part of the story, Princess Projectra wishes that Saturn Girl were there to read Brainiac 5's mind. One would think the possible destruction of the universe would have brought her back to Earth from wherever she went after the end of the last issue...

Princess Projectra's attempts to use her illusion powers to reach Brainiac 5's subconscious, to show him how much they need him, seems to be more something that the above-mentioned Saturn Girl would try, and never seemed to be part of Jeckie's illusion powers...

In the last scene with Brainiac 5, Karate Kid enters the Legion HQ lower levels with Timber Wolf on page 20, but as the scene continues on page 21, he has morphed into Star Boy! There is no sign of Colossal Boy or Princess Projectra, who is interestingly the only Legionnaire who wasn't injured fighting Omega...

Brainiac 5 and Matter-Eater Lad are both clinically insane after the events of this story...

Due to the sheer length of the story, a full 23 pages, there is no Legion Outpost letters column in this issue...

The second Legion Headquarters, which had made its debut in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #367 (April, 1968), is destroyed in this story. Ironically, the Miracle Machine made its debut in the same story, and was actually responsible for creating that new headquarters!






Next Issue: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #252
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, lll, long live the legion!, lsh, review
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