Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #270
"Who Is The Dark Man?"
Writer: Gerry Conway
Penciller: Jimmy Janes
Inker: Frank Chiaramonte
Letterer: Milt Snapinn
Colourist: Gene D'Angelo
Cover: Dick Giordano
Editor: Jack C. Harris
Mission Monitor Board:
Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, Shadow Lass, Mon-El, Wildfire, Princess Projectra, Timber Wolf, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Light Lass
Marte Allon; Blok
The Fatal Five (The Emerald Empress, Mano, The Persuader, Validus, Tharok); The Dark Man; The League of Super-Assassins (Silver Slasher, Titania, Lazon, Mist Master)
The story continues from the previous issue. On Earth, seven miles down in the Atlantic Ocean in what is known as the Atlantean Gap, Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, Mon-El, Shadow Lass, Wildfire and Princess Projectra are imprisoned in a sphere of pure neutron energy. Shadow Lass uses her natural ability to see in the dark to gaze into the murky depths outside their prison. She is horrified to see huge krakens, octopi, and sea serpents surrounding them. Mon-El attempts to punch his way out of the neutronian energy sphere, but merely succeeds in giving himself a headache. Wildfire attempts to blast it with his powers, but it merely throws the energy back at him. The two Legionnaires feel demoralized, but Shrinking Violet reminds them they have to perk up and keep fighting. The six Legionnaires recall how they got to where they are, remembering how Validus, the Persuader and the Emerald Empress captured Shadow Lass and Mon-El and how Mano and Tharok captured Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, Princess Projectra and Wildfire at the Allon home during the election day celebrations. Projectra can't figure out why Gim's parents weren't harmed or why the Fatal Five attacked the Legionnaires, other than out of their natural hostility towards them. The Legionnaires console themselves that at least the creatures outside the sphere can't get in at them.
At Metropolis Beach, Timber Wolf is investigating the emergency signal call from Shadow Lass, and finds signs of a major struggle. Reluctantly, he calls Legion HQ and tells Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl what he has found, though Lightning Lad takes umbrage at Brin's going out on the call himself, a flagrant violation of Legion rules. Timber Wolf says he doesn't care about rules, he was a lone wolf before he joined the Legion, and he can be a loner again. He gives Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad his report, and at the latter's suggestion, goes to seek out the Legionnaires who were at Colossal Boy's parents home. Lightning Lad is not happy about Timber Wolf's activity, and when Brin's girlfriend, Light Lass (his sister, Ayla), enters to find out what the shouting is all about, the two of them have a yelling match. Garth tells Ayla that he's sent Timber Wolf to the Allon residence, and says she should go there while he and Saturn Girl head to Metropolis Beach. As Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad head out, Garth tells Imra that the stress of the leadership has been getting to him and Brin's actions were the last straw as he feels he's losing control of the Legion. he understands why she never ran for Legion leader twice. The two fly straight into a trap set for them by the Emerald Empress and Mano. Saturn Girl picks up the Empress's thoughts and learns of how the other Legionnaires have been captured and the name of Tharok's new "partner," The Dark Man. Before the two are shocked into unconsciousness, Saturn Girl, thinking fast (literally!) telepathically calls Light Lass and warns her of what's happened. This gives Ayla just enough time to prepare herself before the Persuader and Validus break into her quarters. She uses her powers, tossing the Persuader into Validus, who attacks his villainous ally, thus giving Light Lass time to escape. She narrowly avoids several proton blasts from Tharok outside, and flies off into the night.
Timber Wolf has arrived at the Allon residence, where he finds the place a shambles and Science Police on the case. He hears Marte Allon say that the Fatal Five attacked, and that there was reference to someone called the Dark Man. Marte also says that she thought Tharok was acting strangely, but before she can continue that thought, Light Lass arrives.
Meanwhile, several thousand kilometres eastward over the ocean where the Dragonbane is being tossed about somewhat, the Dark Man congratulates the Fatal Five on having captured 8 Legionnaires in less than ten hours. Tharok says that the Dark Man offered them profits in return, and asks when they will get paid. The Dark Man uses his mental abilities to inflict pain on Tharok, and says they will be paid when the time comes, but for now, he and the others will obey the Dark Man.
Having recognized the Dark Man's name as being that of the leader who sent the six would-be assassins after the Legion, Timber Wolf and Light Lass arrive at the Everest Planetary Prison to speak to the members of the so-called League of Super-Assassins to ask for their help. The response is pretty much as expected, Silver Slasher, Titania, Mist Master and Lazon all reacting violently, but to no effect. As the would-be assassins are led away, however, Blok turns back. He says he will help them, though whether they can trust him is up to them. Light Lass and Timber Wolf take up his offer to help them find the Dark Man.
Meanwhile, back in the ocean in the Atlantean Gap, Colossal Boy has attempted to grow and break out of the neutron energy sphere, but to no effect. Princess Projectra comes up with the idea that the globe is set to prevent escape from within, but what if the creatures from outside te globe attack it? She uses her illusion powers to create a duplicate of one of the sea serpents, which seeing it (actually the globe) as a rival snake, squeezes the neutron sphere and cracks it, freeing the Legionnaires. As the Legionnaires head to the surface, the sea serpent attempts to attack them, but is struck by Colossal Boy's giant form, and he then joins his fellow Legionnaires.
In space, orbiting Earth in one of the Legion cruisers, Blok tells Light Lass and Timber Wolf about the ultra-high frequency band that the Dark Man used to contact the six would-be assassins (and presumably with Tharok as well). They finally find the signal, as it's not coming from a landmass but from the North Atlantic Ocean. Timber Wolf and Light Lass take the cruiser down.
Aboard the Dragonbane, Mano and the others discuss the fact that they don't like what's going on, especially what hold that the Dark Man has over Tharok, but before they can discuss it any more, Light Lass uses her powers on the spaceship to soften up the Fatal Five and the Dark Man. Saturn Girl makes telepathic contact with her, and Light Lass tells Timber Wolf that she knows where Imra and Garth are being kept. The two Legionnaires and Blok descend and attack the Dark Man's ship. Stating there may be booby traps and the like, Timber Wolf takes the lead and with his speed and acrobatic skills he avoids several traps, and enters the central chamber full of various controls. He sees the opaque sphere, the only thing in the chamber, and as it clears, Timber Wolf comes face-to-face with the Dark Man - a whole, non-cybernetic Tharok??!!
The story definitely continues in the next issue!
I mentioned that last issue was probably the best story and writing that Gerry Conway had done on the Legion to this point, but I have to say that this time out, the flaws in Conway's writing and the plot crept in once more. That doesn't mean that it wasn't an entertaining and exciting issue in its own way, but it didn't live up to the first part of the story.
Let's start with the good stuff about the tale. The story itself this issue is pretty decent, having some good scenes, notably among the six Legionnaires trapped in the neutron sphere at the bottom of the ocean; the scene at Legion HQ when Light Lass tricks Validus into attacking the Persuader, thus letting her escape; the scene between Tharok and the Dark Man; and the quick 3-panel scene when Blok talks to Light Lass and Timber Wolf. The rest of the tale features what one would expect from Conway at this point, but to be honest the tale flows smoothly and cuts between scenes at logical intervals, no scene going on longer than it should. I was somewhat baffled as to why the reader got two separate flashback scenes to the activities of the previous issue, one told from the Legionnaires' viewpoint and one from the Fatal Five's viewpoint.
The characterization of the female Legionnaires is terrific this issue. In the neutron sphere, when Wildfire and Mon-El are unable to break out and morale reaches an all-time (??) low, it's Shrinking Violet who boosts the team's morale and to buckle down. Similarly, later on, it is Princess Projectra who is directly responsible for freeing them from the neutron sphere, using her brains instead of any brawn. When the Fatal Five attack at Legion HQ, it is Saturn Girl and Light Lass who outwit them, even though the former is captured.
I do have a few problems with the story. First of all, why did the Fatal Five "bury" the six Legionnaires at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean? Surely it would have been more logical on their part to have killed them why they had their chance. Of course, the first part of the story made it clear that Tharok has/had plans for the Legionnaires, though whether those are at the behest of the Dark Man or not isn't clear here. Furthermore, there's never any reason given for the Fatal Five's actions in the story so far. While they complain that they are following the orders of the Dark Man, and don't actually like it, they're as confused about what's going on as the reader is! The universe's most feared and dangerous villains...not really. But there's obviously more going on here with Tharok, especially as the end sequence reveals.
Secondly, the "Lone Wolf" attitude and schtick on Timber Wolf's part is getting tired already after only two stories. It's like Brin doesn't remember or know there are 20-plus members of the Legion. And let's face it, a guy who wants to work alone doesn't move to Metropolis. Likewise, Lightning Lad's temper tantrum reaction to Timber Wolf's actions and all is somewhat inane; yelling at his sister, Ayla, Brin's girlfriend, is somewhat stupid and doesn't seem in character for Garth. Saturn Girl was right to chastise him and tell him to postpone the tantrum, given that six Legionnaires are missing, and the two get captured because of it - though at least Saturn Girl is able to warn Light Lass so she can get away. The scene had a falseness to it that I didn't buy, but have to wonder if this is a set-up for Lightning Lad's decaying mental state that is to come. Speaking of terribe dialogue, the Dark Man sounds like belongs in a musical opera or some such. Calling his hideout a "sanctum sanctorum" was a bit much, even if he's as bright as the half-man, half-robot Tharok. Or perhaps it's just an attempt to make him seem more human in emotion.
Then there's the whole bit about the ease with which the Fatal Five just walk into Legion HQ and capture two members. There's no security at the new HQ at all? Timber Wolf hinted at this last issue, with the comment about the Legion rebuilding their headquarters but forgetting to triple-check the equipment, but still... Heck, one previous encounter with the Fatal Five (Adventure Comics Vol 1 #365-366) consisted entirely of the Legion having trouble keeping the bad guys out of the HQ, and this time they just waltzed in. Uh, no... Even if the reader can imagine that the Fatal Five somehow stopped the headquarters' alarms, wouldn't somebody or something have alerted other Legionnaires? After Light Lass verifies that they are in fact up against the Fatal Five, then finds Timber Wolf, wouldn't their first thought have been to call in other Legionnaires? This wasn't even mentioned or considered, as instead, instead Light Lass goes to seek out Timber Wolf, and then they go to a prison on Mount Everest. While this is a good idea to go get some information, I just don't like the direction this is headed in. (Spoiler: Blok is going to be joining the Legion soon.)
The artwork this issue by Jimmy Janes and Frank Chiaramonte was fine and adequate for the story, but compared to the previous issue, felt a bit rushed in a couple of places. The lack of backgrounds and details that I've grown accustomed to with Jimmy Janes's artwork wasn't there this issue, which contributed to this feeling of being rushed. The scene where Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl got captured the Empress and Mano had a distinct Rich Buckler feel to it, and came across as if it had been drawn by a different artist. I definitely think the sea creatures in the Atlantean Gap were definitely strange and weird and distinct enough, though, some of the best artwork in the issue. But this issue is not Janes's best work.
That said, the revelation on the last page of the story was a *huge* surprise to me the first time I read the story, and even gave me tingles up and down my spine during this re-read of the tale. I remember wishing that the next issue would be out sooner than a month, and hoped that it would give the reader a satisfying conclusion. You, the reader, will have to be the judge of that. :)
This story continues in the next issue...
This story does not feature a Roll Call on the front cover as the previous two issues have. Shame, that...
On the cover, Shadow Lass is shown once more without a cape. Shame on you, Dick Giordano!...
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...
In a strange decision on the part of the editor, the story gives us two separate flashbacks to the activities of the previous issue, one with the Legionnaires and one with the Fatal Five...
On page 7, in the final panel, the text lists Colossal Boy's father as "Tal Allon" when it should correctly be "Wynn Allon."...
The so-called "League of Super-Assassins" (Blok, Lazon, Mist Master, Neutrax, Silver Slasher, and Titania) first appeared in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #253-254. They were never referred to or since by that name, other than by Brainiac 5 in that story and here by both Timber Wolf and Light Lass, but I'm not using that moniker for them here...
Neutrax, one of the members of the so-called League of Super-Assassins, does not appear in this story, and no reason is given for his absence...
Saturn Girl is shown telepathically communicating with her husband, even though she is tied up and a prisoner of the Fatal Five.
Next Issue: Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #1