John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane

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Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #259

Time to get back to the re-reads of some of the classic Legion of Super-Heroes comics once more. This time out, Superboy's final adventure with the Legion for a while... Enjoy! :)

Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #259
January, 1980
"Psycho War"
Writer: Gerry Conway
Penciller: Joe Staton
Inker: Dave Hunt
Letterer: Milt Snapinn
Colourist: Gene D'Angelo
Cover: Dick Giordano (signed)
Editor: Jack C. Harris

Mission Monitor Board:
Wildfire, Karate Kid, Superboy (resigns from the LSH), Chameleon Boy, Shadow Lass, Shrinking Violet, Lightning Lad, Sun Boy, Saturn Girl; Mon-El (cameo)

Guest Stars:
R.J. Brande; Ma & Pa Kent (robots)

Rejis Thomak, aka Psycho-Warrior

The story continues on from the previous issue. At the ruins of Legion Headquarters, ambulance workers are preparing to take Lightning Lad, Sun Boy and Saturn Girl away after they were attacked mentally and rendered catatonic by the Psycho-Warrior moments ago. Wildfire is so angry that he blasts some of the rubble with his powers, even as Superboy, Karate Kid, Shadow Lass and Chameleon Boy discuss what occurred. The Psycho-Warrior, watching from nearby, is about to make his attack on Superboy when an airship from the St. Croix Medical Center arrives, scaring him off. Medical staff from the psychological hospital approach the Legionnaires, and are able to cure the three catatonic Legionnaires using an electron disruptor, placing them into a deep sleep from which they'll recover in several hours. The lead doctor says they did not arrive on the scene by accident, as they were expecting something of the sort because they know who attacked the Legionnaires and why.

Twenty minutes later, at R.J. Brande's penthouse, the doctors explain to the Legionnaires that they expected the attack on the Legion by one of their patients from the Maximum Security area, Rejis Thomak. He had escaped from St. Croix earlier in the day, and they strongly suspected that he was after the Legion. The Legionnaires wonder what kind of threat Thomak can represent, now that they're aware of him, but the doctor says that Thomak is a dangerous man. The doctor explains that Thomak is from the planet Bunyon's World, a hellish colony where the animal and plant life are out to kill humanity, where life is hard, and where the tough survive. Thomak fell in love with his soul-mate, Matil, there. When he and Matil were travelling to Earth to study as part of the rituals on Bunyon's World, their ship navigation system failed and they fell into the gravity well of a star about to go nova. When Thomak turned to help Matil into the escape pod with him, he accidentally hit the automatic pod eject button. The escape pod blasted off without her, and he had to watch as Matil was vaporized, killing her. Eventually Thomak was found in space and brought to Earth and assigned to St. Croix. Once there, he saw Sun Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl and Superboy visiting the ill Brainiac 5. He then transferred his irrational hatred of himself to them, in particular Sun Boy. Thomak broke out of St. Croix, but before leaving the island he accessed and read the psychological profiles of the Legionnaires stored on the island's computer.

As the Legionnaires realize that Thomak knows all their psychological weaknesses, things that could terrify them while under stress, the Psycho-Warrior chooses that moment to strike, having made his way into Brande's penthouse while the doctors were talking to the Legionnaires and Brande. Thomak throws a concussion bomb whose force Chameleon Boy absorbs using his powers, but then Thomak unleashes the real threat - an optic detonator, that will paralyze the optic nerves in a manner similar to how his neural detonator paralyzed the brains of the three down Legionnaires - with only Superboy being unaffected. But that's the way Thomak wants it!

Superboy chases after the Psycho-Warrior, who blasts the Teen of Steel with Green Kryptonite radiation, weakening him momentarily. Superboy plunges to the ground, and finds himself at the graveside of Pa & Ma Kent. There, images (that are actually robots) of his foster parents tell him how they died/will die, and Superboy is overcome with grief and guilt. However, Superboy is able to shrug off the mental anguish of learning how they died, realizing what Thomak has done, and that he's at the Superman Museum and near the Smallville Cemetary where his foster parents are interred, and where he's just encountered robots. He also realizes that the way to defeat Thomak is to make *him* confront his own fears. Superboy takes Thomak to face his own enemy: the Sun! Thomak realizes that it was his carelessness that cost Matil her life, and while he doesn't regain his full rationality again, he begins the road to his own recovery.

Some time later, on R.J. Brande's balcony, Superboy tells the Legionnaires that he learned something the night before that upset him, and Chameleon Boy tells him that Thomak's doctors told them what he had done to the Teen of Steel. Superboy says that he will learn to live with the pain of the knowledge of his parents' deaths...somehow. However, the Legionnaires had conferred on the matter, and had agreed that Saturn Girl would give Superboy a subconscious mental command to stay in the past. While he would willingly do so every time he came into their future, they don't want him having to deal with the pain of losing his parents whenever he came to the 30th Century. Superboy flies off, telling the Legionnaires he needs to think, the Legionnaires think they will never seen him again.

This story is the second part of the tale begun last issue, and is an interesting tale in and of itself, as it deals with psychological attacks on the Legionnaires rather than just strictly physical ones. Of particular interest here is the effect that this has on Superboy (which I'll come back to), who was one of the Legionnaires targeted by the Psycho-Warrior.

The story itself is nicely structured and moves along at a decent pace, something that I appreciated about it. Once more, Gerry Conway engaged in a good deal of exposition in the story, notably about what happened to the three Legionnaires at the end of last issue and about Rejis Thomak's life story and the tragic end of his love affair with Matil. I thought the artwork in the issue was pretty decent, Joe Staton and Dave Hunt settling in to their Legion duties, and rather enjoyed the story moreso because of it. Joe Staton seems to be including more background details into his work these days on the title, and it showed this issue. Dave Hunt's inks are definitely influencing Staton's pencil work, and the story seemed less cartoonish in feel than some previous issues have. The two scenes on Bunyon's World on pages 5 and 6 were some of my favourites this issue, and definitely brought Harry Harrison's Deathworld stories to mind. I also loved the panel on page 13, where Superboy looks up to see the gravestone of his foster parents; it was eerie and creepy, and was lovely work.

As for the villain of the piece itself, Rejis Thomak is not a complicated bad guy, and his motivations are not clear through the first part of the story last issue. Even with the doctors' explanation for what happened to Thomak, he doesn't come across as evil though I'm not sure whether this was intentional or not on Gerry Conway's part. That said, Conway has had a villain or two since he took over writing duties on the Legion title who aren't truly evil (as with the League of Super-Assassins from Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #253-254), so have to wonder whether he will continue to throw the atypical villains at the readers. I had a bit of trouble with why Thomak hated the Legion in general and the five specific Legionnaires in particular. While his hatred of Sun Boy (at least symbolically) was the one that made sense, I can only figure that the others are an irrational hatred, perhaps mainly due to the fact that they came with Sun Boy perhaps the most regularly to see Brainiac 5. It should be noted, by the way, that the reader we never saw these particular five Legionnaires visiting Brainiac 5. We only saw the Legion visit St. Croix three times, and these five were part of a larger group in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #252, but that's it. I guess we can assume Thomak saw them in some visit which was never shown to us... Something else that I noticed during this re-read, though I'm not sure whether it struck me back when I first read it: On page 7, did the space accident that Thomak and Matil had happen because the two of them were distracted by having sex, and not actually paying attention to flying and navigating the spaceship? That's what it looks like to me.

The end of the issue and Superboy's condition at this point requires a bit of discussion. Superboy already has a hypnotic suggestion that was implanted by Saturn Girl way back in the Adventure Comics Vol 1 days such that anything he learns about his own future while in the 30th Century he completely forgets about while he's in the past; thus he doesn't have to deal with paradoxes and the like. However, the next time he comes to the 30th century, the second he gets there, he remembers it again, and in the case of the knowledge how his foster parents died, it wouldn't work to put him back in the same emotional place he is at the end of this issue - instead, it will leave him in the same place emotionally as when he first found out. This whole business isn't clearly explained in the story, though. And it's not just that they're dead, but that they're dead because of something that he might have been able to do something about but failed.

Thus, the Legion's decision and Saturn Girl's implanting a subconscious command for Superboy not to return to the 30th Century again makes sense, but... It's not like this 30th Century world is a future universe where nothing bad ever happens. Superboy, and every other Legionnaire featured in this story, has had to deal with the death of actual Legionnaires. Did Saturn Girl make any of them forget Chemical King or Invisible Kid? Of course not. In fact, Lightning Lad by this point had to deal with the deaths of *his* parents (see Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #207) but Saturn Girl didn't make him or Light Lass forget *their* pain. On the other hand, I don't disagree with the idea that Superboy should not be in every story of the Legion. However, the worst thing about this ending is that Superboy is well on his way to dealing with his loss in a mature and responsible way when his Legion friends literally sabotage him. I think that if he had just said, "I have some things to think about. I'll be back...someday" and flown off or some such thing, that would have worked much better.

And so a new era of Legion of Super-Heroes begin with this issue's end. It is certainly going to be an interesting, mixed bag of a ride.

Final Notes:
With this issue, the official title of the book becomes The Legion of Super-Heroes. The Legion's conquest of Superboy's book is now complete. It is listed here as Volume 2 due to the fact that Volume 1 of the comic consisted of four issues of reprint stories in February, March, May and August of 1973...

This issues features the debut of a brand-new Legion logo. It was used on this series for the next twenty issues...

It should be noted that the majority of the Legionnaires (Cosmic Boy, Timber Wolf, Princess Projectra!, Brainiac 5, Dawnstar, Colossal Boy and Phantom Girl) featured on the cover waving goodbye to Superboy do not appear in this issue...

Although Mon-El does not appear at any point during the course of this story, he is inexplicably present at the good-bye scene...

At the end of this story, Superboy returns to Smallville and a brand-new solo series called The New Adventures of Superboy Vol 1 #1. It would last for fifty-four issues.

Next Issue: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #260
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, lll, long live the legion!, lsh, review

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