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Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #269

Here's today's re-read of a classic Legion of Super-Heroes story. This time out, the start of the epic Dark Man tale... Enjoy! :)

Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #269
November, 1980
"Who Shall Name the Dark Man?"
Writer: Gerry Conway
Penciller: Jimmy Janes
Inker: Frank Chiaramonte
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Gene D'Angelo
Cover: Dick Giordano (signed)
Editor: Jack C. Harris

Mission Monitor Board:
Princess Projectra, Shadow Lass, Mon-El, Shrinking Violet, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Wildfire, Timber Wolf, Colossal Boy, Light Lass

Guest Stars:
Wynn and Marte Allon (Colossal Boy's parents)

The Fatal Five (Validus, the Persuader, the Emerald Empress, Mano and Tharok); The Dark Man (seen only in shadow)

On Earth, a large group of Legionnaires are mulling about in Metropolis during Earth's Election Day for the new President of the planet. Colossal Boy and Shrinking Violet discuss the merits of the Earth political process, which sees the World Computer Bank choose the candidates on the basis of skill, competence and decency, and then after a full day of campaigning, the people of Earth choose a President from the three most deserving candidates. Timber Wolf is bothered by the sheer number of people present, that he feels he needs to get away. Mon-El gives Shadow Lass and Princess Projectra a bird's eye view of the proceedings. As Colossal Boy finishes explaining the voting procedure, he is surprised to see his mother, the Dean of Metropolis University, is one of the three finalists! In a somewhat romantic mood and preoccupied with one another, Shadow Lass and Mon-El decide to head for the beach, and leave Projectra hanging on to a pole in mid-air. Saturn Girl calms Colossal Boy down, and explains to the Legionnaires that one of the three candidates for President of Earth is his mother. This leaves the Legionnaires also somewhat surprised and shocked.

Out in space, half a light-year from the edge of the Solar system, two crooked United Planets border patrol guards arrive at a massive starship, the Dragonbane, to make a delivery to a client who turns out to be the Dark Man. One of the patrol guards takes the merchandise, stolen security bypass system, into the ship to a rendezvous, leaving the other one at the docking bay, and arrives in a seemingly empty room containing only a large, opaque circular globe in the air. The villain uses mental powers to make the arrogant, insubordinate guard kneel and kowtow before him as he delivers the goods. The guard does not like this, however, and vows to himself to someday strike back at the Dark Man. However, the Dark Man admits that his abilities are also telepathic in nature and allow him to "hear" the guard's thoughts. When the guard goes to fetch his reward, he is tricked by an illusion and falls into a tank filled with Sirian sea-apes that tear him apart. After making a deal with the other guard a short time later, the Dark Man installs the device and with the Dragonbane now undetectable, heads into the Sol system: destination Earth.

Some time that evening, on a beach under the moonlight, Mon-El and Shadow Lass are enjoying their time together and having a romantic interlude when they see what they take at first for a meteorite come crashing down into the ocean. Mon-El thinks there's something odd about it, and knowing that the romantic mood will be lost if he doesn't indulge his curiousity, Shadow Lass accompanies him to check it out. Suddenly, when they arrive near the area where the meteorite went down, they are taken by surprise when Validus rises to the surface and attacks them. After Validus grabs Shadow Lass, Mon-El attempts to free her but is truck a glancing blow to the head by the atomic axe of the Persuader, sending him flying and ploughing a trough through the rocky shoreline, leaving him dazed and barely conscious. Shadow Lass strikes the pressure piints in Validus's hand, causing him to release her, but she won't leave Mon-El there alone. Racing to Mon-El's side, she grabs him, and flying with him activates her emergency signal for help. She runs smack into a field of green energy that encircles her and Mon-El - created by the Emerald Empress. Validus wishes to kill the two Legionnaires, but the Emerald Empress says they must not, as she's been told by Tharok that he has plans for all the Legionnaires. The Persuader is angered by this, but after making her own threat, the Empress tells them to come as they have much more to do this night.

At Legion Headquarters, Timber Wolf is checking out the monitor duty system, when Shadow Lass's emergency signal comes in, about an hour after she sent it. The Legionnaires were so busy rebuilding their headquarters that they failed to triple-check the equipment. He finds Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad in a romantic moment and chooses not to interfere and also decides to let Light Lass sleep. He sets off on his own to answer the signal, being the lone wolf once more.

At the Allons' apartment in a tower in Metropolis, Wildfire, Princess Projectra and Shrinking Violet are with Colossal Boy and his parents as they await the election results. Projectra still doesn't understand why Earth doesn't take its politics more seriously, like they do on Orando, but Wildfire says that if his next leader were to look like Princess Projectra, he'd be willing to give monarchy a try. Wynn Allon takes his son out onto a balcony to talk to Gim about what his mother's becoming President would mean to the Legion. The are interrupted by Mano, who tries to attack Colossal Boy's father but fortunately does not succeed, Colossal Boy knocking Mano will a girder straight into the Allon living room. Wildfire counters Mano's attempt to attack, while Princess Projectra creates an illusion to distract Mano while Shrinking Violet gets the Allons to safety. However, the arrival of Tharok on the scene prevents that, as he uses stun bubbles to subdue Projectra, thus dispelling the illusion, and capturing her and Shrinking Violet. Tharok is incapacitated momentarily by a mental blast from the Dark Man. He then tells Marte Allon that he and the others have not come for her and Wynn, that they have what he came for - the Legionnaires. Mano confronts both Colossal Boy and Wildfire and makes quick work of the apartment floor, crushing the other Legionnaires in the rubble. As the Dragonbane arrives above the apartment tower complex and they cart the Legionnaires away, Mano still doesn't understand the connection between Tharok and the Fatal Five. But Tharok is their leader, and who is he to question Tharok's partnership with the Dark Man. The story continues in the next issue.

I have to say that I think this the best issue of the Legion title and the best Gerry Conway story the reader has gotten in the last six months' worth of the comic, to be honest.

The opening scene, with the Legionnaires hanging out in Metropolis as the last day of campaigning to be President of Earth goes on around them is a terrific, heart-warming scene that gives the reader a good deal of characterization and is the first time that I've felt that Conway had an idea of how to write these characters. These characters know each other, they like each other. When Colossal Boy starts explaining the Earth election process to the rest of the non-Earther Legionnaires, it seems what a "local" guy would do. Princess Projectra's not understanding how the Earthers can treat the election so unseriously is a fun bit, too. The bit when Mon-El and Shady leave Jeckie stranded on a flagpole for a bit more "private" time is neat and funny, even if the writer forgot that Jeckie has a flight ring. Editor Jack C. Harris should have known this, however, if nothing else. If I have one caveat here it's that I didn't like the fact that Timber Wolf was played here as a pseudo-"Wolverine" or a true lone wolf. The idea that Brin would not share Shadow Lass's emergency signal with anyone else was just...silly. This was a bit of artificial drama here created by writer Conway, and it wasn't necessary here (or in this story, for that matter).

The extended sequence where the reader meets the Dark Man, when he deals with the corrupt United Planets border patrol guards, shows us just how powerful the Dark Man is as well as how evil he is. While the scene goes a bit longer than I would have thought necessary, it does show us that he's someone the reader should fear. That said, I'm not sure about this villain flying around in space with a tank full of Sirian sea-apes. That said, I do love the look of his ship, the Dragonbane, and the interior is nicely rendered with some detail.

And then there's the Fatal Five. After their last appearance in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #247, this is a breath of fresh air and a clue that Gerry Conway knows how dangerous they should be. While I think that some of the adversaries the Legion has faced of late have been a bit dull and non-descript, the panel of Validus erupting from the ocean before Mon-El and Shadow Lass showed the reader they are a real threat. While we don't get the fight that the cover promises, Shadow Lass in the grip of Validus is a pretty solid hook to me. I was a little disappointed that editor Harris failed to note the long-established relationship she has with the Five - they tried and nearly succeeded in taking over Shady's planet Talok VIII back in their second appearance in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #365. My one quibble comes at the end of the issue, when Mano destroys the floor of the Allon apartment... why don't any of the Legionnaires think to use their flight rings to stay airborne? Again, it's like the writer and editor forgot that all the Legionnaires can fly! That said, however, I really liked how Mano is shown to be a real threat this time, as opposed to his last two appearances, and I like how Projectra's illusions stop him until Tharok knocks her out. A lot of the time, Projectra comes across as a light-weight, but this time she came across as completely professional.

The artwork in this issue is very good, with Jimmy Janes's pencils and Frank Chiaramonte's inks being solid and sharp. There's a good deal of background material in the panels for the most part, which I liked, and the two-page spread on pages 2 and 3 is a delightful scene. The panel with Validus erupting from the ocean on page 13 is just priceless. However, I have to wonder who drew the face of the Emerald Empress on page 17, though it did remind me of John Calnan's work somewhat. Overall, I think I prefer Dave Hunt's inking of Janes's pencils over that of Frank Chiaramonte. Chiaramonte's inks seem more...messy, but perhaps that's just me.

As noted, the story continues in the next issue, and to be honest, I have to say that when I read the issue when it came out, it was a long month to wait for the next part of the story!

Final Notes:
This story continues in the next issue...

This issue's cover features a Roll Call once more with the Legionnaires present in it. (See the notes below on Shadow Lass and Light Lass being absent from said Roll Call). In addition, the right-hand side of the cover features the Roll Call of The Fatal Five, and their mysterious new leader...

Shadow Lass is present in the story and gets the lion's share of the action, but she is not listed in the Roll Call on the issue's cover...

Light Lass is not mentioned in the Roll Call on the cover, nor in the scroll Roll Call on the splash page, but is clearly shown in the crowd scene and has a minor bit of dialogue as well as being shown later at Legion HQ...

The Legion last fought the Fatal Five in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #247, when the Fatal Five were trying to gain respectability. Colossal Boy was the only Legionnaire present who fought the Fatal Five, Superboy having resigned and Element Lad nowhere to be found (as usual these days)...

Colossal Boy's parents, Wynn and Marte Allon, first appeared in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #371.

Shadow Lass is consistently mis-coloured in the story, as if her mid-riff is dark blue or it's a different coloured part of her costume, and not her skin as it should be...

On page 18, Lightning Lad is drawn as if he is wearing a cape...

On page 23, Tharok uses stun bubbles against Shrinking Violet and Princess Projectra. Tharok first used the stun bubbles against Mon-El in Superboy Vol 1 #190 when he attempted to kill the Legionnaire who would be the next Legion leader...

Next Issue: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #270


John Kahane

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