John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane

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Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #3

Time for today's classic Legion of Super-Heroes story re-read. This time out: the third part of the story to determine which Legionnaire is R.J. Brande's child. Enjoy! :)

Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #3
March, 1981
Plotter: E. Nelson Bridwell
Writer: Paul Kupperberg
Penciller: Jimmy Janes
Inker: Frank Chiaramonte
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Gene D'Angelo
Cover: Dick Giordano (signed)
Editor: Jack C. Harris

Mission Monitor Board:
Wildfire, Saturn Girl, Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Mon-El, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, Ultra Boy, Shadow Lass, Element Lad, Lightning Lad, Colossal Boy, Dream Girl, Cosmic Boy, Timber Wolf, Star Boy, Phantom Girl, Sun Boy, Light Lass; Dawnstar, Ferro Lad (deceased), Invisible Kid (Lyle Norg; deceased), Chemical King (deceased) (all flashbacks to their origin); Shrinking Violet (flashback)

Guest Stars:
Marla Latham; Tyroc (flashback to his origin); The Legion of Substitute Heroes (Polar Boy, Night Girl, Fire Lad, Chlorophyll Kid, Color Kid, Stone Boy) (flashbacks to their origins); Jimmy Olsen/Elasti-Lad, Pete Ross, Lana Lang/Insect Queen, Rond Vidar, Kid Psycho (flashbacks to their origins); Superboy (flashback)

Supporting Cast:

Universo (flashback) Evillo, The Fatal Five (all in flashback)

The story continues from the previous issue. After the revelation that one of them is the child of R.J. Brande, the Legionnaires find it very hard to believe. However, the doctor on the monitor tells them that the child is Brande's only chance of living. Yorggian Fever is extremely rare, and Brande contracted it years ago and it has lain dormant since then until now. The one possible cure is a blood transfusion, but R.J. Brande has a very rare blood type and only a child of his might be able to save him. Mon-El asks what they can do to help Marla Latham and Arlayn figure out who the child is, and Marla says they should just keep telling them about the Legionnaires and their origins.

Up next is Wildfire, aka Drake Burroughs. Born a normal human, Drake was an orphan raised by adoptive parents. Drake's interest in astrophysics led him to eventually be employed by Galactic Propulsions Inc. where he was caught in an anti-matter test, and his body destroyed, changing him into a being of pure anti-energy. He survived by being put into a special containment suit, and took the name Wildfire. Since he is composed of anti-energy and has no blood, he hopes he's not Brande's child. Wildfire then tells Marla the origin story of Tyroc (aka Troy Stewart), a Marzallian word that means "Scream of the devil." He tells Marla that Tyroc's home of Marzal is back in another dimension, though they can bring him to Earth once in a while, if he's really needed.

The Legionnaires are contacted by Commander Hagbard of the Science Police, who tells them they have a seriously hot emergency. He says that indications are that the Varltul XVI sun appears to be unstable and may go nova at any time. Since there are several inhabited planets that orbit the star, and there's not enough time to evacuate everyone, Hagbard asks the Legion to go there immediately. Wildfire takes Chameleon Boy with him, and then grabs Shadow Lass and Element Lad for the mission as well. They set off in a Legion cruiser at top speed for the mission.

While the Legionnaires, along with Marla and Arlayn, move to a conference room where they can also monitor the progress of Wildfire's mission, Brainiac 5 tells him the origin story of Dawnstar. A pureblood Amerind native to Starhaven, Dawnstar's mutant abilities give her an infallible navigation sense, a natural propulsion system faster than any starship, and the natural ability to survive in a vacuum. Next up, Brainiac 5 leads everyone to the Memorial Room, that holds the statues of three Legionnaires. The Legionnaires reluctantly talk about their three deceased members: Ferro Lad, aka Andrew Nolan; Invisible Kid, aka Lyle Norg; and Chemical King, aka Condo Arlik. All three died in the line of duty.

Marla is discouraged about his quest, since they have run out of Legionnaires to discuss. dream Girl then recounts the origin of the Legion of Substitute Heroes, and provides background on the members of the team: Polar Boy, aka Brek Bannin; Night Girl, aka Lydda Jath; Fire Lad, aka Staq Mavlen; Chlorophyll Kid, aka Ral Benem; Stone Boy, aka Dag Wentim; and Color Kid, aka Ulu Vaq. Phantom Girl then proceeds to talk about the Honourary Legionnaires. These include Jimmy Olsen in his guise as Elastic Lad; Pete Ross, who learned Superboy's secret identity but kept it secret, and aided the hero in various adventures; Lana Lang, who was rewarded by an alien with a bio-genetic ring that allowed her to take the form of various insects as Insect Queen; Rond Vidar, the son of Universo, who is immune to all forms of hypnotism, and helped the Legion defeat his father numerous times; and Kid Psycho, aka Gnill Opral, who developed mutant abilities to create impenetrable force fields at the cost of each use of the power taking a year off his life. With all the various Legionnaires and their allies covered, Marla exclaims that he's back to square one and doesn't know who the child of R.J. Brande could be.
Suddenly, Saturn Girl realizes that she can help find out who the Legionnaire child is, and rushes to the Medi-Center to get the information right from the source.

Meanwhile, Wildfire and his team arrive at Varltul XVI and prepare to analyze the star to figure out what's going on. The scanners immediately have trouble doing their job, and Shadow Lass warns the others they're too close to the star as it is. When a solar flare knocks out the ship sensors, a frustrated Element Lad says he now cannot determine which of the star's elements is out of whack. And to complicate matters, Chameleon Boy says that according to the records, Varltul XVI is a man-made star created by...R.J. Brande! That means their friend might know what the problem is, but he's as helpless to aid them as they are!

Back at the Medi-Center on Earth, Saturn Girl uses all her powers and her superb training to go into the mind of the feverish, comatose R.J. Brande to find the information that she needs - and she is successful! She races back to Legion HQ just in time to hear Marla, Arlayn and the others talking about some of the misconceptions they have. She tells them that she learned that Brande did have powers at one time but lost them long ago, and because of that has had to spend his life in the form of an Earthman. Using that information and comparing it with the races that have contracted Yorggian Fever with the membership of the Legion, by the process of elimination they realize that R.J. Brande's child has to be Chameleon Boy. Contacting Wildfire's team, Marla delivers the news and the shocked Chameleon Boy boards a small vessel and races for Earth, arriving in mere hours. Several hours later, his blood is successfully transfused into R.J. Brande, saving Brande's life.

While Brande will remain unconscious for a few days, Saturn Girl is able to read Brande's clear mind and gain the information they need to repair the sun. She transmits that information to Wildfire and his teammates orbiting Varltul XVI. With Shadow Lass's powers keeping her and Element Lad safe, Element Lad is able to use his powers to stabilized the star and thus the Legionnaires are successful on two fronts.

Later, at the Medi-Center, the recovered R.J. tells Chameleon Boy, who has doubts about the new relationship, that he, his wife, and cousin Theg contracted Yorggian Fever after Reep was born. Chameleon Boy's mother died of the disease, but Brande and Theg decided to leave Durla to avoid exposing more of their family to the disease. Leaving baby Reep in the care of his sister, Brande and Theg went to Earth, where they underwent their last shape-shift into human form, the Yorggian Fever having destroyed it forever. Brande and his cousin, now called Doyle, made their fortune on Earth creating suns. Deciding that the threat of the disease lying dormant was too much of a burden to lay on Cham, Brande kept quiet about their actual relationship. Cham's "mother," actually his aunt, arrives to share in the reunion.

And so we reach the conclusion of the three-issue mini-series that reveals the "dark secret" that the first issue of the story promised. I'll come back to that in a bit. In this third issue, the reader finally gets to the end of the membership list and the various hangers on and extras that make up a lot of Legion lore, and get to the nitty gritty of figuring out who Brande's son or daughter is. The story presents another extraneous, convenient drama element in terms of the unstable star, and that works somewhat to give us a bit of a plot device to get Brande's child out of Legion HQ and then having to be recalled quicky to save Brande's life.

The story reads well, and has decent pacing for the most part, and that's a credit to Paul Kupperberg and E. Nelson Bridwell. This third part continues having the Legionnaires recount their own stories, or tell those of the ones that are not present for whatever reason, rather than having the boring computer files method from the first installment, so that's a plus. The origins of Dawnstar and Wildfire here are interesting to read again, though nothing new is added to their origin stories for the most part. Treating the Legionnaires as "the help" the way Marla does throughout the story, but moreso in this third part, is and was absolutely the wrong way to go about the story for me. This should have been a tale with the Legion going over their glorious and infamous (at times) history and personal record, and Brande's dying of Yorggian Fever could have still played a role in this. That said, this third part of the story did entertain with the tales of the Legion of Substitute Heroes, the Honourary Legionnaires, and those who had died in battle. When all is said and done, other than the part of the story with Saturn Girl getting information from R.J. Brande himself and the business of the sun going nova, the story comes across a bit dull. It should not have been told as a history book, but as an adventure of some sort with a bit more action and conflict.

When it comes to the sun going nova plot, it's not clear when the Science Police call the Legion for "help" what they expect the Legionnaires to actually do. If they were supposed to re-start or stabilize the star, Wildfire's taking Chameleon Boy and Shadow Lass with him wasn't the right call, though Shady would be useful for sun blocking and the like. If it was a case of solar power, I would have thought common sense would have said that Sun Boy would have been a good choice, then Mon-El or even Light Lass. Either way, I was glad that Element Lad got in on that part of the story. I did find it awfully convenient that the star was man-made, created by R.J. Brande, and while it upped the stakes of curing Brande's condition, it felt like an artificial or imposed drama element to effectively kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.

And so the "dark secret" of the Legion is that R.J. Brande is actually Chameleon Boy's father. This makes as much sense as anything would, but there are a couple of problems with this revelation, or so I think. I'll give the writer and editor credit that it was a good suprise, definitely interesting, and should make for an interesting next chapter in the lives of Brande and Cham. I also found it interesting that, when push came to shove, all the background and history the Legionnaires could tell Marla and Arlayn would not have allowed them to figure out who Brande's son or daughter is/was. The missing information that Saturn Girl obtained from Brande's mind was the clue set needed to reveal who Brande's son was, and it took all of a page total to make the reveal once that information was at hand.

That said, I would have thought that the doctor's scans and analysis would have revealed that R.J. Brande wasn't an actual human. It's never been made clear whether or not a Durlan shape-shifted into another form assumes the biochemistry of the item, creature or being changed into, but it seems that Brande is clearly diagnosed as human. In that case, how can a transfusion of Durlan blood from Chameleon Boy save his Human seeming father? Anyway, there's something the readers can debate about until-- oh, that's right, this issue came out a looooong time ago. Guess it was never a problem for most Legion fans. I also don't understand why R.J. or Ren or whatever didn't ever tell his son the truth. It's said in the story there's the fear that he would have transmitted it to Reep, but if that's true, wouldn't the risk still be there every time R.J. was in Cham's presence in the same room? And what about infecting any of the other Legionnaires, or those he came in contact with? The conclusion is a bit of a belly flop for these reasons, but it still made for an interesting story twist.

Overall, this was a decent story and the third part brought the tale to a climax, albeit not an action-filled one. I don't know how effective the story was for long-time as opposed to first-time readers of the Legion, but when it came down to it, I found myself wanting a bit more. That said, it does make an excellent three-issue series for continuity fans to hold on to and perhaps for readers and writers of the Legion stories (hint! hint!) to have on their shelves for reference.

Final Notes:
This issue concludes the mini-series, and reveals which Legionnaire is the child of R.J. Brande...

Mike W. Barr has stated in a footnote in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #280, that this 3 issue mini-series takes place between Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #271-272...

Shadow Lass appears on the cover of the issue without her cape, as artist Dick Giordano was wont to draw her...

While recounting his origin story, Wildfire says that he an an orphan with adoptive parents. This refutes what he told the Legionnaires in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #263...

The story of how Tyroc joined the Legion can be found in Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #216. Tyroc's origin story can be found in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #265...

Commander Hagbard has appeared in several previous issues of the Legion titles as well. His most recent appearance was in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #267...

The story of how Dawnstar joined the Legion can be found in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #226...

The story of how Ferro Lad joined the Legion and a bit about his origin can be found in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #346. The death of Ferro lad story can be found in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #353...

The story of the death of Invisible Kid (Lyle Norg) can be found in Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #203...

The tale of the death of Chemical King can be found in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #228...

The various members of the Legion of Substitute Heroes first appeared in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #306...

Although she is not named in the story, as per Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #263, Chameleon Boy's "mother" (actually his aunt) is named Ji Daggle...

This issue reveals that Chameleon Boy's father is actually R.J. Brande, whose Durlan name is Ren Daggle...

The Legion Outpost letters column this issue is replaced with another page pertaining to Inside the Legion of Super-Heroes. This time out, the column provides a listing with basic information on some of the Legion foes, followed by a complete list of current Legionnaires. There are some typos in this material, but otherwise it's a good basic listing for future use.

Next Issue: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #273
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, lll, long live the legion!, lsh, review

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