John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane

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Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #257

Time for today's first of two installments of classic Legion of Super-Heroes comic re-reads. First up, the consequences of returning Brainiac 5's sanity, and a tale of two former Legionnaires. Enjoy! :)

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #257
November, 1979
"Who Stole The Legion?"
Writer: Gerry Conway
Penciller: Joe Staton
Inker: Dave Hunt
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Gene D'Angelo
Cover: Dick Giordano (signed)
Editor: Jack C. Harris

Mission Monitor Board:
Chameleon Boy, Shrinking Violet, Mon-El, Shadow Lass, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Superboy, Cosmic Boy, Timber Wolf, Phantom Girl, Light Lass, Ultra Boy

Guest Stars:
Brainiac 5 (rejoins the LSH at the end of the story); R.J. Brande

The owner of Cosmic World; The Science Police (sort of); Unnamed extortionist of Brande's fortune

In an alleyway in Metropolis off the main thoroughfare, near R.J. Brande's corporate quarters Chameleon Boy, Shrinking Violet, Shadow Lass and Mon-El prepare to enact their plan. Shrinking Violet shrinks down and then sneaks past the Science Police guarding R.J. Brande's corporate tower to enter and de-activate the alarms so the others can join her. While Shadow Lass tells a seemingly concerned Mon-El that if she's caught she'll be charged with breaking and entering and interference with a government institution, Chameleon Boy says that Violet knows what she's doing and that when she signed up as a member of the Legion Espionage Squad she knew what she was getting herself into. However, unexpected situations can arise, and in this case they do... Shrinking Violet is almost sucked in by a robot mechani-vac, but she disables it with a piece of neo-abstract pewter art (which she doesn't like), and then avoids the Science Police officers who come to investigate.

Two thousand plus miles to the west, at Cosmic World, the Science Police led by S.P. Captain Trake are in the process of arresting Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy and Brainiac 5 for trespassing, commandeering the amusement park against the direct refusal of the park manager, and violating the by-laws of the Legion charter. Lightning Lad starts to explain why the Legionnaires did it, but Brainiac 5 stops him. When Saturn Girl wants to know why, Brainiac 5 says, "If you've ever trusted me, Saturn me now!" Saturn Girl tells the others that Brainiac 5 is quite sane and is acting rationally, but won't explain to the others, telling Lightning Lad that this is a chance for Brainiac 5 to prove himself. With no explanation forthcoming, Captain Trake is furious.

From his private asteroid, R.J. Brande contacts the four Legionnaires in the ruins of their HQ through a portable monitor, and informs them that Chameleon Boy and his team have returned to Earth and are investigating his bankruptcy. Seeing the condition of the Legion HQ and lamenting the Legion's (mis)fortunes, Brande talks to them about it, and Light Lass explains that most of the levels below ground (the atomic generators, arsenal, most of the dorms, Mon-El's vault) all survived, and they still have their Monitor room and most of their computer banks; it will be difficult, but they can rebuild. After Brande wishes them well and the line is disconnected, Phantom Girl explains to Light Lass that the government can't help Brande, not given their reaction to the Legion's attempts to secure financial aid earlier, and Earth is in the process of recovering from the Khund war. Brande's only hope of recovering his funds is with the Espionage Squad.

Meanwhile, Chameleon Boy disguises himself as an opaque cloud, and he, Mon-El and Shadow Lass make their way into Brande's corporate headquarters under the gaze of the Science Police, Shadow Lass providing additional cover, as Shrinking Violet opens a point of egress into the building for them.

Back at Cosmic World, the Science Police are about to take away the errant Legionnaires, much to the consternation of their Captain, who has a great deal of respect for the Legionnaires and their heroic deeds and is now being forced to take them away as criminals. Before that can happen, however, a massive earthquake strikes the Grand Canyon and the area below the hovering Cosmic World. The Legionnaires spring into action, only Brainiac 5 not surprised at what has happened. Jumping into action, the Legionnaires wonder how an earthquake could have occurred there, and Brainiac 5 says that it was predictable...assuming that one had a computer designed during his recent "indisposition." He explains it's the logical result of the ecological abuse by the owner of the floating amusement park. He tells them that he can't stop the quake, but that his fellow Legionnaires can. Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad use their magnetic and lightning powers to strike at a specific spot that Brainiac 5 indicates, and after a short time, the quakes subside. Shortly after, Brainiac 5 explains to the Science Police and the park manager that the geo-stratum below Cosmic World was disrupted by the constant use of the anti-gravity generators the park used. Captain Trake tells Superboy and the others that he doesn't believe for a moment the Legionnaires commandeered the park to save millions of lives, but says that he'll take it so he doesn't have to arrest them. Trake then says, "Now get out of here...friend" to Superboy.

However, back at R.J. Brande's corporate headquarters, the four Legionnaires discover the proof they need that Brande's fortune has been stolen, all right - and the culprit is the President of Earth! The story continues in the next issue.

This story is an entertaining story about the Legion, to be sure, but what a mess it feels like.

In the primary plot, four Legionnaires (Superboy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy) and Brainaic 5 are accused of commandeering an amusement park for their own purposes, and Brainiac 5 tells them not to explain why they did it, as things will become clear shortly. And yes, as the Science Police Captain says, the Legionnaires were caught for trespassing, commandeering the amusement park against the direct refusal of the park manager, and violating the by-laws of the Legion charter itself - so they are clearly guilty. And then, writer Gerry Conway introduces the menace of the earthquake and the Legionnaires and Brainy promptly go to the rescue and do their thing, saving Cosmic World presumably, and Brainiac 5 explains how he knew that it was going to happen. And even if the reader can suspend their disbelief in this one, there are just so many questions that crop up... How on Earth does Brainiac 5 know to investigate the anti-gravity generators? How was Brainy able to guess that they were about to cause an earthquake? Where did his computer appear from while Saturn Girl is carrying him through the air? How exactly did the combined use of magnetism and lightning stop the quake? Just...too much. And to make matters worse, the Legion lies about the whole commandeering the park part, thus allowing the Science Police to let them off the hook.

The second story focuses on the bankruptcy of R.J. Brande and who the perpetrator of the plot is. The revelation that it was the President of Earth who is responsible was a bit of a surprise, but to be honest, makes a lot of sense. Earth has been virtually destroyed by the war with the Khunds during the Earthwar Saga, and Brande's fortune will/would go a long way towards helping Earth re-build. One thing that I liked in this story was the spotlight that was given to Shrinking Violet in the story, and that coming in a mere three pages. She came across as the level-headed Legionnaire that she is, and effectively used her powers throughout. Despite the misgivings of Mon-El. That said, I only had one problem with this sub-plot, and that's this: Being bankrupt is not illegal, so why on Earth are the Science Police officers guarding R.J. Brande's corporate headquarters building? Or is this just one way for the Earth President to hide what he's done? And once more, this part of the story shows the lack of use of Princess Projectra once more; she would have been the perfect Legionnaire to have on the mission, concealing the presence of the Legionnaires with her illusions. But enough of that. All I can say about this sub-plot in the story was that it took the Legionnaires roughly 3 pages (!!) to gain entry into Brande's offices, determine that he was being robbed, and that the Earth President is the perpetrator. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of the goings-on with Chameleon Boy searching through the computers, and to be honest, the finding of the public relations photo of the President was a bit too...coincidental, for my taste.

The artwork in this story was decent, but nothing spectacular. Joe Staton and Dave Hunt are doing a decent job with the stories that they're pencilling and inking, and while the characters all come across as they should, I found the facial expression and the lips of Saturn Girl to be a this one. I did like the conflict scene between Violet and the robot mechani-vac, and the carnage from the earthquake as the Legionnaires tried to deal with it was well drawn as well.

Final Notes:
This story continues from the last issue... and continues into the next issue...

Dick Giordano's cover for this story is a bit mis-leading. The Legionnaires and Brainiac 5 are never actually put in chains in the story, and Shrinking Violet does appear in the story, but not in the Cosmic World plot...

The title of this story, "Who Stole the Legion?", has no real bearing on the actual events in the story...

The "Roll Call" on the splash page of the story is completely off. If features Shadow Lass, Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Lightning Lad, Timber Wolf, and Light Lass. At best, only three of those characters are actually the "stars" of the story...

The leader of the Science Police contingent at Cosmic World is Captain Trake, who was named in last issue's story, but he is never named in this story at all...

The caption on the splash page in one of the panels states that Shrinking Violet is reducing to "her smallest size" to gain access to the building. However, it has been clearly established in Legion lore that she can shrink down as small as a microbe and even to sub-atomic size (Adventure Comics Vol 1 #371, if I recall correctly)...

On page 5, in the fourth panel, Lightning Lad's hair is mis-coloured as blond...

On page 8, when the Legionnaires respond to the earthquake in the Grand Canyon, it can be seen that Brainiac 5 does not have his flight ring back. Thus, Saturn Girl is shown carrying him in the scene...

Brainiac 5 proves to the others that he is no longer insane and rejoins the Legion at the conclusion of this story.

Then there's the issue's second story...

"Once A Legionnaire...!"
Writer: Gerry Conway
Penciller: Steve Ditko
Inker: Dan Adkins
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Gene D'Angelo
Cover: na
Editor: Jack C. Harris

Luornu Durgo Taine (Duo Damsel), Chuck Taine (Bouncing Boy) (both retired from the LSH)

Unwanted attention; Harmless ice dragon

On the newly opened colony world of Wondil IX, Chuck Taine and Luornu Durgo Taine, formerly Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel of the Legion of Super-Heroes, have volunteered as colonists. When an automated delivery cargo sled carrying machinery and seeds among other items, goes awry on its arrival, they are forced to step forward to save the falling cargo and prevent the sled from crashing. Using her flight ring for assistance, Luornu splits in two and manages to snap the cargo, the impact against her partially negating the sheer weight and velocity of the cargo. Realizing the cold of the northern region froze the sled's moronic computer brain, Chuck inflates himself and prevents the cargo sled from crashing into a cliff, though he's slightly winded himself. When th colonists reach them, a blowhard among them named Norsk recognizes them and then lets everyone else know that the couple are Legionnaires. Norsk says that with two Legionnaires among them, they've got protection that will allow them to explore the northern ice caves where seismic reports claim there's crystalak ore.

That night, in the privacy of their own quarters, Chuck and Luornu discuss the situation. They came to Wondil IX for their privacy and to have their space, and now because of Norsk, they're celebrities again. Besides, Chuck says, the colonists shouldn't have to depend on them as it will be dangerous for them to do so. He wants a life of his own, for both himself and Luornu, but she tells him that she has a life of her own, as long as she's with him.

The next day, Norsk insists on leading a group of colonists on cargo sleds into the mountains in search of the crystalak ore, that would make them all rich. Interestingly, he has Chuck and Luornu in the lead sled with him. Norsk says there is a blip on the scanner screen, which he thinks is ore, but when Luornu asks if he's sure, thinking it's something else, Chuck tells her not to say another word. He says they have to not let the colonists become dependent on them, and asks Luornu to follow his lead. Reaching one of the ice caves in search of the ore, they find instead an ice dragon. Chuck and Luornu leap into action, and as expected, Norsk dumps the responsibility of facing the ice dragon on them. The fight does not go seemingly well. With Chuck supposedly having a twisted leg and Luornu stunned, it is up to Norsk to defeat the ice dragon with an ice axe, which he does, and he basks in the glory of it all.

While the colonists celebrate with Norsk, Luornu tells Chuck that he knew from the survey report on Wondil IX that it was an ice dragon, an animated ice form of pseudo-life, that was as dangerous as a crystal goblet. However, they both now hope that with Norsk having "defeated" the creature, it will take the spotlight off of them.

This is a nice, 7-page story that focuses on two former Legionnaires, the now-married Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy. Settling into life as new colonists on Wondil IX, the story hinges somewhat on the idea that the two are able to hide their identities until they demonstrate their abilities to Norsk and the other colonists. Needless to say, things go a bit awry on that front, but... Why didn't the colonists know who they were anyway, unless they used fake identities which makes no sense? The Legionnaires have never hidden their identities, but still there's the lack of rationale here.

That said, the story is simple and decently entertaining, and gives the reader a "slice of life" story about two former Legionnaires who can never outlive or outrun who they are and what they were. Neither Duo Damsel nor Bouncing Boy are particularly active in the story, and don't really come across as protagonists. The story is interesting in that it sheds a bit of light on what the two former Legionnaires have been up to since they left the Legion, but also is a good lesson thematically about heroes and what the perks and down sides are to being heroes. And *that*'s what this story is really all about.

The artwork in this story is a nice change of pace. Steve Ditko's pencils are lovely to look at, though a lot of Legion readers around this time were quite critical of his work here. Ditko's lines are clean, and definitely enhanced by Dan Adkins's inks, and there is a nice flow to the story's art and the character lines are tight as well. There is a lot of motion in this story, and it's very nicely portrayed and crafted here, notably the former Legionnaires flying (or bouncing, in Chuck's case) :). I also love the fact that pretty much every panel has ice in the background for Wondil IX, and the formations are notable for their distinguishing characteristics in the various panels. The ice dragon is also nicely done, and even though it's actually pretty harmless, comes across as mean and nasty until the reader learns the truth.

Final Notes:
On the opening page of the story, the narrator states, "many are the number of former Legionnaires..." However, at this point that number is actually six (Ferro Lad, Invisible Kid, Supergirl, Chemical King, and these two)...

Duo Damsel complains that Norsk has outed them by saying, "You heard him, Chuck. Once a Legionnaire...always a Legionnaire." However, Norsk never actually is shown saying that phrase or any words along those lines...

One thing that I found somewhat annoying this issue was that neither Chuck nor Luornu were wearing their wedding rings. What gives?...

This is the first issue of a Legion title featuring a story drawn by comic book legend Steve Ditko. He would eventually draw seven stories in total

Overall Final Notes:
The Legion Outpost letter column includes the announcement (reprinted below) that the next issue is the last issue of Superboy and The Legion of Super-Heroes. Here's the written extract:

Next Issue: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #258
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, lll, long live the legion!, lsh, review

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