Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #1
"The Past Seen Darkly"
Plotter: E. Nelson Bridwell
Writer: Paul Kupperberg
Penciller: Jimmy Janes
Inker: Frank Chiaramonte
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Gene D'Angelo
Cover: Jimmy Janes (pencils) & Dick Giordano (inks) (signed)
Editor: Jack C. Harris
Mission Monitor Board:
Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, Wildfire, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, Shadow Lass, Mon-El, Sun Boy, Element Lad, Dawnstar, Star Boy, Dream Girl, Chameleon Boy, Karate Kid, Light Lass, Brainiac 5, Phantom Girl, Ultra Boy, Timber Wolf, Princess Projectra, Supergirl, Superboy, Tyroc
R.J. Brande; Duo Damsel, Bouncing Boy; Marla Latham; Invisible Kid (Lyle Norg) (flashback)
Mekt Ranzz (flashback), Arlayn
Magnetic beasts of Braal, Lightning beasts of Korval, Would-be Brande assassins, Alien ambassador, Lucifer Seven and his robot hounds (all in flashback)
On Earth, the entire membership of the Legion of Super-Heroes have shown up at the medi-center, where the doctor tells them that R.J. Brande, lying unconscious in a medical pod, is dying. Mon-El says that he has never felt so helpless, and the doctor says that he and his team feel the same way. Brande has Yorggian fever, the first known case of the disease on Earth and only the second Earthman to ever contract and suffer the disease - and the doctors don't know how to treat it. Wildfire and Saturn Girl tell the doctor to do what they can, for R.J. Brande is much more than the Legion's benefactor, he's also their dear, dear friend.
With all the Legionnaires at R.J. Brande's bedside, this means that Legion Headquarters is deserted and unguarded. And it is there that a man and woman all dressed in black "break in" using a key to bypass the defensive and security systems and be recognized as friends and allies of the Legionnaires. Instead of going after the various riches and equipment in the Headquarters, they head straight for the computer banks. There, they start to review the secret origins of all the Legionnaires, beginning with Rokk Krinn, aka Cosmic Boy. After reviewing Rokk's file, they move on to that of Imra Ardeen, aka Saturn Girl. Still not finding what they're looking for, they move on to the file on Garth Ranzz, aka Lightning Lad. The file on Garth leads into a re-telling of the fateful meeting with R.J. Brande and how they came to form the Legion. The two figures realize that the person they're searching for can't be Doyle, R.J. Brande's brother, as he's been dead for a while.
They continue to watch the old archive files, and a re-telling of the Legion's first big case, when they solved the theft of the Quintile Crystal, and were granted deputized Science Police status as a reward. The two strangers then watch as Luornu Durgo aka Triplicate Girl then Duo Damsel and Tinya Wazzo aka Phantom Girl become the first two new members of the Legion. It was a good thing too, since the next archival record shows how the five Legionnaires fought a mass-murderer named Lucifer seven, who used a power-dampening device called the Concentrator to destroy the Eyth system. R.J. Brande offers the Legionnaires the aid of his assistant, Marla Latham, and this is a goo thing. With some inspiration from a record showing Superboy in action in the 20th Century, Phantom Girl comes up with a plan to take down Lucifer Seven. The Legionnaires travel to Lucifer Seven's world, where he uses the Concentrator to destroy their ship, but before the blast destroys the vessel, the five Legionnaires escaped in escape pods. Lucifer Seven is aware of their presence, however, and prepares to hunt down the Legionnaires with the aid of some robotic dogs. Saturn Girl is telepathically aware of the plan, having spied on Lucifer Seven, and when he emerges from his fortress building, Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy deal with the robot hounds, and Triplicate Girl takes out Lucifer Seven. The key was Phantom Girl, who slipped from the Legion vessel in orbit and went down to spy on Lucifer Seven and see how he engineered the destruction using the Concentrator. Lucifer Seven was convicted for the mass destruction of Eyth. In the aftermath of the business, the Concentrator was never to be mentioned, and the device was stored in the Legion Clubhouse.
The Legion was gifted a newly fashioned time bubble by R.J. Brande, created by his research lab, as he suggested that they go and recruit first Supergirl and then Superboy. When Supergirl came to the future to be recruited by the Legion, exposure to Red Kryptonite turned her into an adult, and she could not join the Legion. Reep Daggle, aka Chameleon Boy, was inducted in her place. The next to be inducted into the Legion was Lyle Norg, aka Invisible Kid, but he died in an attack by Validus on Legion Headquarters. The next Legionnaire to be inducted was Gim Allon, aka Colossal Boy, who gained his powers while on vacation on Mars and being exposed to its vapours or other properties. The next computer file is on Thom Kallor, aka Star Boy, whose mother's exposure to stellar radiation in an orbiting lab while pregnant with him gave him super-powers affecting mass. However, he joined the Legion due to a freak accident sometime later that made him a veritable modern-day Superboy. However, those powers eventually faded, but his natural super-power was enough to keep him in the Legion.
The male figure orders the computer to stop, as it doesn't seem to be any help to him or the woman. At that moment, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Wildfire and Brainiac 5 enter to confront them, saying they could have asked them. It turns out the male intruder is Marla Latham, the executive assistant to R.J. Brande, and the female is Arlayn, an associate of R.J. Brande's. The Legionnaires demand to know what they're doing there, and Marla says they would not have come to this, but he and Arlayn had to get a look at the Legion files because one of them could hold the key that will save Brande's life. A worried Brainiac 5 wonders if perhaps one of the Legionnaires is suspected of trying to kill R.J. Brande... The story continues in the next issue.
When I originally read in The Legion Outpost letter column of Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #263 that there was going to be a mini-series called Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes, I remember being both excited about what secrets could be revealed that we, the readers, didn't know about and trepidatious at the same time. The reason for the trepidation was that I wasn't confident that Gerry Conway and Jack C. Harris had a good feel for the Legion and its continuity yet. That said, I was intrigued by the basic question of "What could the Legion's darkest secret possibly be?"
The fact that E. Nelson Bridwell and Paul Kupperberg are actually behind this story in terms of the plot and script, respectively made me breathe a bit easier. Bridwell is an expert on Legion lore at DC Comics and Paul Kupperberg's stories for the Legion thus far, while not having been stellar, have been above average in some ways. That having been said, based on the first issue alone, this mini-series could have been a really great, straightforward review of the Legion's stellar history to this point, as narrated by any or all of the twenty-plus members of the Legion. What we end up with in this first issue is what might be termed an artificial drama about a "secret" that can't be shared, or so Marla Latham states. By the end of the first issue, we don't even know what Marla and Arlayn are looking for. Why Brainiac 5 decides that they must think someone tried to murder R.J. Brande is beyond me.
That said, the first issue of the mini-series starts on a very nice dramatic note. The entire Legion is gathered around the isolation bed of R.J. Brande, the Legion's financial backer and friend, and the reader is told that Brande is dying! The "secrets" of the title of the mini-series are obviously something to do with Brande dying, perhaps a clue to his would-be killer, although we quickly learn that he is dying of a rare, deadly fever. What could have been an interesting tale, with the various Legionnaires going over their own histories and backgrounds, perhaps throwing in some information about themselves or their cases that the readers don't know, ends up being about the two strangers, whom we learn near the end are Marla Latham and Arlayn, an associate of Brande's, going through the computer files dealing with the Legion and their history. The story is entertaining in its own right, but comes across as somewhat dull, and has Marla commenting after each record file to the extent of, "No, that's not what we're looking for." Aside from the untold story about the mission against Lucifer Seven, there's no real action in the 25 pages of this issue. I'm not really sure in a "history of the Legion" story for the readers, and future writers, of the series that it could have been made more active and exciting, but I have to think that something could have been done in this regard.
On a very positive note, this first issue of the mini-series provides us with origin stories for quite a few Legionnaires that have never been revealed. Too often, Legionnaires appeared for the first time in stories back in the original days of Legion stories, and no real story of their history or origin was offered. That is changed here, and as a result, the issue is well worth the read from that perspective.
Perhaps part of the problem with the issue is that the artwork by Jimmy Janes and Frank Chiaramonte may be some of the worst work they've done since assuming the artistic duties on the Legion title. There are very few backgrounds on most of the pages here, with a few notable exceptions. Frank Chiaramonte's inks on page 13 are particularly poor to me, and poor Phantom Girl comes across as a bit of a caricature of herself. Sadly, since Tinya is my favourite female Legionnaire.
That said, the first issue of the mini-series shows that it does have potential, but the second and third issues of the series have a lot to live up to. Hopefully the writer and plotter of the series come up with a way to make the issues more exciting and have a bit more action in them. The end of the story this issue is a bit anti-climactic, to be honest, but the hook of the "secret" is what made me want to find out more. And to be honest, it was also good getting the Legionnaires' origins in one place.
The story continues in the next issue...
This mini-series is set before Blok joins the Legion in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #272, and since both Superboy and Supergirl are present at Brande's bedside on the splash page, it is safe to assume that the story also takes place before the events of Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #259. I can't remember when Supergirl's most recent story with the Legion occurred, so it would also have to be before that event as well. As Editor Mike W. Barr states in a footnote in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #280, the 3 issue mini-series takes place between Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #271-272...
Tyroc, Superboy, and Supergirl appear at the medi-center at the start of this issue, in the scene at R.J. Brande's bedside, even though Tyroc is in another dimension, Superboy has a mental command not to return to the future, and Supergirl does not reappear. Wildfire tells the reader that Tyroc managed to stop by, but this goes against the story as told in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #265...
The "narrator" in this issue starts out as the computer, but eventually shares information that it would be impossible for the computer to know...
The story of the formation of the Legion of Super-Heroes and the tales of its three founding members (Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad) can be found in various early issue of the series but mainly in Superboy Vol 1 #147...
On page 6, in the fourth panel, the planet Korbal is referred to as "Kobal". This is an error, of course...
The Legion's first case, the theft of the Quintile Crystal, was chronicled in DC Super-Stars Presents Vol 1 #17...
On page 12, Triplicate Girl is from a world with three suns, but only two suns are shown...
The first appearance of the Concentrator weapon was in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #321, when the Time Trapper tried to get its secret from the Legionnaires. How the Legion acquired the Concentrator device and its blueprints is told for the first time here...
On page 15, Marla is shown to be on the Legion cruiser during their approach to attack Lucifer Seven, but is not shown to have escaped its explosion. However, he must have done so as he's shown in the scene on page 19...
Supergirl's first application to the Legion of Super-Heroes can be found in Action Comics Vol 1 #267...
The story of Star Boy's origin and his joining the Legion of Super-Heroes can be found in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #282...
There is a jarring mistake in this issue. The narrative tells us that Star Boy joined the Legion "shortly after Colossal Boy." Chronologically, he did *appear* next, but in the stories it was usually explained that Star Boy joined *after* Colossal Boy, Invisible Kid, Supergirl, Brainiac 5, Superboy and Ultra Boy, but before Shrinking Violet. The section on "Inside the Legion of super-Heroes" has a listing of the members' induction into the Legion, and they are listed in that order!...
There is no explanation provided as to who Arlayn is until the last page of the story...
The Legion Outpost letters column this issue is replaced with a page called Inside the Legion of Super-Heroes. The first section is an explanation by the creative team for why they have written and drawn and edited this three-issue mini-series and also includes a listing of each Legionnaire's first appearance in comics. It's pretty bare-bones, but serves its purpose.
Next Issue: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #271