John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane

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DC Special Series Vol 1 #21 Super-Star Holiday Special

Time for another re-read of another classic Legion of Super-Heroes comic. This time out, one of my favourite Legion Christmas stories! Enjoy! :)

DC Special Series Vol 1 #21
Super-Star Holiday Special

Spring, 1980
"Star Light, Star Bright... Farthest Star I See Tonight!"
Writer: Paul Levitz
Penciller: Jose Luis Garcia Lopez
Inker: Dick Giordano
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Adrienne Roy
Issue Cover: Jose Luis Garcia Lopez (signed)
Editor: Len Wein

Mission Monitor Board:
Superboy, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Wildfire, Lightning Lad; brief appearances by Mon-El, Princess Projectra, Karate Kid, Sun Boy, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy

None, really

It's Christmas Eve in 2279, and Superboy arrives in the 30th Century to spend Christmas with his friends in the Legion. Mon-El is on guard duty (due to the recent destruction of Legion Headquarters, all of the security measures have not been fully re-installed) and he exchanges pleasantries with the Teen of Steel, who refers to himself as a "sentimental sucker." Descending into the lower levels, he comes upon some mistletoe and is surprised by Phantom Girl who phases through a nearby wall and kisses him on the cheek. She says they shouldn't delay, as the others will think she's hogging all his time. He finds that Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad have volunteered for monitor duty on Christmas Eve, something she explains to him by saying that she married a Legionnaire and that she and Garth think of the Legion as their home. With the others at Legion HQ taking some down time over Christmas, she uses the monitor to check out what some of the other Legionnaires are doing on Christmas Eve. Karate Kid, Princess Projectra and Sun Boy are shown in Japan, celebrating the holiday there with an ancient tea ritual only shared with close friends. Chameleon Boy is on patrol duty at his homeworld, since Durlans don't celebrate Christmas. Colossal Boy is spending the holidays with his family on Earth, but they are celebrating Chanukah instead of Christmas. Superboy bemoans the lack of tinsel and an "old-fashioned" Christmas, saying that he'd trade in all the star-spanning futuristic technology for a little tinsel, and then he hits on the idea of using the Legion's advanced technology to attempt to find the star that blazed over Bethlehem that first Christmas. Saturn Girl does not seem enthused.

Moments later, the five Legionnaires (Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Phantom Girl, Superboy and Wildfire) board a Legion cruiser and head off into deep space, leaving Mon-El to take care of Legion HQ and any matters that come up. Lightning Lad plots the course to where the star should be, projecting star patterns based on known history and the facts, but all the Legionnaires find is a "lonely little planet." Saturn Girl stays aboard the cruiser, while the other four go planet-side and check out the scenery of the world.

In the ocean of the planet, Wildfire finds a species that resemble humanoid pink dolphins that survive on plankton on the ocean's surface. However, due to the ever increasing cold, the plankton is frozen into the ice and the pink dolphins' flippers are useless to cut it out. Wildfire uses his energy powers to melt the largest blocks of ice for them, and takes the noises they make as thanks. Elsewhere on the world's landmass, Lightning Lad and Phantom Girl find blue land dwellers with purpleish hair and pointed ears burning their own crops to stay warm as the world's temperatures drop as it starts to enter an ice age. One of the females has wandered into the flames, and Phantom Girl phases through the flames to reach her side, and is then aided by Lightning Lad who uses his powers to carve an area of bare rock so that Phantom Girl can take the female to rejoin the other members of her family. However, they can't help to make the planet any warmer. And elsewhere again, in the forests that lie inland, Superboy helps the bird-people who are threatened by ice storms battering their tree homes. He ties their nests to their trees, using metallic ores from underground that he spins into cables to lash the nests to the trees. This will hopefully prevent the cold, icy winds from blowing them loose and destroying them.

Around moonrise, the four Legionnaires gather together and compare notes. They realize that the planet's ice age is dooming its inhabitants to certain death. Superboy has the idea to use the Legion telepathic plugs to allow all three races to communicate with each other. The Teen of Steel has Wildfire and Lightning Lad create a cave dwelling around a hot spring river near the shoreline. When Superboy returns, he brings the clan chiefs of all three of the races with him. The three races have agreed to work together for their mutual survival. The water dwellers will grow their plankton in the warmed area and share it with the land dwellers. The land dwellers will make new fires and keep them burning to keep the area warm. The bird-people will bring wood from their original forests to provide fuel for the fires. With warmth and shelter, the three races will survive until the United Planets can investigate and plan an actual evacuation. Phantom Girl muses on the fact that this all happened because they were there. Superboy says that that's what Christmas is all about - caring, helping, and maybe about a brightly shining star in the sky that science says is impossible.

Some time later, as the Legion cruiser heads back for Earth, the Legionnaires discuss whether The Star led them to this planet and the disaster that was unfolding or not. Wildfire doesn't want to believe, saying that it was nothing more than Lightning Lad and a bum navigation computer, but he also can't say that it wasn't. He cheerfully goes along with Superboy's belief as he helps the other decorate an old-fashioned Christmas tree with tinsel.

This is a fun story from the pen of Paul Levitz, the guru on the Legion over the decades, that also has a good deal of exuberance and sentimentality to it. The basic premise that Superboy shows up in the 30th Century to celebrate Christmas, but seeing no decorations, thinks that no one celebrates Christmas, is a wonderful one. It is marred only in a minor way by the fact that not everyone celebrates Christmas on Earth, let alone out among the planets of the U.P., and should have focused on characters from Earth who do celebrate the holiday. Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad and Phantom Girl come from three worlds that may or may not celebrate holiday, but this is never made clear. If all the Legionnaires featured in the story were from Earth, such as Karate Kid, Sun Boy and Colossal Boy (among others), perhaps the story would have held together a bit better from that perspective. As it was, the way Superboy "dragged" the other Legionnaires off on that "wild goose chase" only to have the Legion save the inhabitants of the planet was lovely touch and nice twist. And to be honest, this type of exuberance or innocence or whatever the reader wants to call it seems to have vanished when Superboy left the Legion (and always happens when he does). Which is a shame.

Paul Levitz's story shows an excellent understanding of the Legionnaires' characters and personalities. The story moves along at a good pace, has some action scenes to it, but also gives the reader some humourous moments among the more serious issues the story presents. It has to be mentioned that the artwork in this story is simply visually stunning. From the opening splash page to the stunning image from Japan of Karate Kid, Princess Projectra and Sun Boy engaging in a tea ritual to the three alien races on the planet to the panel of moonrise on the planet on page 9, to the final panel of the Legionnaires working with tinsel on the tree, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez's work here is very good. All of the characters in the story are very individual, and the Legionnaire ladies are damn fine to look at (and the male Legionnaires look pretty good, too)! Dick Giordano's inks in this story are very good, and sharpen the pencils while also making every panel crisp and clean. It's a terrible shame that Lopez never drew another Legion story (see the Final Notes, below).

This is one of my favourite Christmas comic book stories to read, and he fact that it's a Legion of Super-Heroes story makes it all the more special. I was thrilled to learn that Colossal Boy was Jewish (as enjoying the Hanukkah holiday was shown here), something I could associate with when I first read the story and even now with this re-read. The innocence and the wonder of this story is what makes it stand out for me, along with the Lopez artwork and Paul Levitz's savvy script. Spreading hope at Christmas time is what it's all about, and this tale delivers in spades.

Final Notes:
While the cover of this issue calls it the "Super-Star Holiday Special," the copyright notice on the splash page inside states that this comic is "DC Special Series Vol. 1, No. 21". I've chosen to reflect that in the header above that I've given this issue...

This issue also features a Jonah Hex story, a Batman story (with some of the first work that Frank Miller had done for the character), a tale of The House of Mystery, an army tale featuring Sgt. Rock of Easy Company, and the Legion of Super-Heroes story...

This story takes place between Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #251 (the destruction of the Legion HQ) and Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #259 (Superboy quits the Legion)...

This comic and the story was published between the two parts of the Circus of Death story in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #260 and #261. Despite the fact that the issue's cover shows an April date, I have placed it in the proper sequence of publication, even though it interrupts the flow of the two issues of the circus storyline...

This is the only Legion of Super-Heroes story ever illustrated by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez. Although he drew a Legion cameo in DC Comics Presents Vol 1 #2 and a Star Boy/Dream Girl back-up story in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 3 #55, this is the only full-blown Legion story he ever did...

This story clearly states and "outs" Colossal Boy as being Jewish. He is shown toasting with his family while a menorah is clearly shown in the foreground. Oddly, he is wearing his costume, but not a kippah. This scene made Colossal Boy the first Legionnaire to be directly linked to a specific religion.

Next Issue: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #261
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, lll, long live the legion!, lsh, review

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