John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane

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Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #273

Time for today's classic Legion of Super-Heroes re-read. This time out: the truth behind Brainiac 5's madness. Enjoy! :)

Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #273
March, 1981
"A Murderer--Among Us?"
Writer: Gerry Conway
Penciller: Jimmy Janes
Inker: Frank Chiaramonte
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Bob Le Rose
Cover: Rich Buckler (pencils) & Steve Mitchell (inks) (signed)
Editor: Jack C. Harris

Mission Monitor Board:
Wildfire, Colossal Boy, Brainiac 5, Timber Wolf, Chameleon Boy, Karate Kid, Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl, Light Lass, Star Boy, Sun Boy, Shadow Lass, Mon-El, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Shrinking Violet

U.P. President Marte Allon; Bouncing Boy; Superboy, Dawnstar (flashback)

Pulsar Stargrave

On Earth, the Legion of Super-Heroes is called before the United Earth Council, where the newly elected Earth President Marte Allon tells them that according to their own by-laws, they must disband. When the Legion questions the reasons, President Allon tells them that their own by-laws state that no Legionnaire may kill - but Brainiac 5 did so, and remains unpunished. The Prosecutor General reminds the Legion of the facts regarding the murder of An Ryd of Rimbor. She was murdered in a complicated plot to destroy the Legion's credibility, first by accusing Ultra Boy and then by having it appear that Brainiac 5 was the real murderer. Although Brainiac 5 was found to be temporarily insane at the time and therefore not responsible, the Legion Constitution clearly states that no member can be guilty of taking another's life. Wildfire argues that Brainiac 5 never faced any specific charges, but Brainiac 5 actually agrees with the United Earth Council, and quietly resigns (once more). Chameleon Boy agrees with Wildfire that the situation does indeed stink.

Several minutes later, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Wildfire, and the majority of the Legionnaires decide to return to Legion Headquarters to discuss their plan of action. Ultra tells a small group of Legionnaires that he's just too mad to sit around and do nothing, and Chameleon Boy agrees, asking Ultra Boy and several other members of the Legion to help him track down the real killer of An Ryd. Nearby, Timber Wolf tells Light Lass that he won't be able to go with the others, due to the headaches that have been plaguing him of late. Brin is afraid that his time in civilization is coming to an end, and Ayla tells him that if he goes, so does she.

Meanwhile, Colossal Boy hangs back to talk to his mother, the new Earth President, as she emerges from the building. She strongly rebuffs his efforts to talk to her about Council business and the Legion. Gim takes umbrage at this, and storms off.

Meanwhile, Chameleon Boy, Phantom Girl, Ultra Boy and Star Boy arrive on Rimbor. Chameleon Boy and Star Boy go to the Orion Hotel, where An Ryd was murdered. Obtaining the key from the alien as the front desk by forceful means, they head up to her former room. Chameleon Boy admits that he wants to solve this murder because it was his initial investigation to prove Ultra Boy's innocence that laid the guilt at Brainiac 5's hands. Chameleon Boy turns into a Rigellian seeker-hound but can find no trace of Brainiac 5's scent, meaning he was never at the scene of the crime. Star Boy looks at the laser blast marks on the floor, and confirms that it was not from Ultra Boy's flash vision or from a Legion blaster. The two come under attack, as an energy blast rips through the window into the hotel room. Star Boy attempts to absorb it, since it seems to be stellar based, but is overloaded by the energy and collapses. Chameleon Boy changes form, but is blasted by energy that he seems to recognized. When the villain enters the room, Chameleon Boy recognizes him, saying that the Legionnaires thought he/she/it was dead, but that was "a fraud from a fraud" before he is blasted again in the eyes and also collapses.

Elsewhere at Rimbor Space Control, Phantom Girl and Ultra Boy use some bribery and are able to learn that no ships arrived either just before or just after An Ryd's murder carrying anyone matching Brainiac 5's description. Ultra Boy realizes that Brainiac 5 was never there, and that someone drove him to insanity after making Brainy appear to be the murderer. He remembers Karate Kid's words when it was all happening: "It must have been some kind of fever that's driven him to this madness." They realize they have two clues: the real killer knows how to operate the Legion's highly advanced computer systems, and was able to reach Rimbor without a spacecraft, under his/her own power. The villain of the piece attempts to kill the Space Port controller who helped the two Legionnaires, his scream alerting them. Phantom Girl reaches his side first, and discovers he's injured but still breathing. Phantom Girl suddenly comes face to face with Pulsar Stargrave, aka the original Brainiac, who attacks her, without being able to affect her intangible body. Ultra Boy arrives on the scene, but his ultra vision is no match for Pulsar Stargrave. When Phantom Girl attempts to use the distraction to attack their enemy, she doesn't reckon with his body's constant high-energy force field and is rendered unconscious. Rushing to her side, Ultra Boy lets his defense down and Pulsar Stargrave's nova blast strikes, blasting him to seemingly nothingness. Gloating somewhat, Pulsar Stargrave leaves the unconscious Phantom Girl where she is and departs Rimbor for one of its moons.

Meanwhile, in Earth orbit, Brainiac 5 uses his intellect and realizes that even if he was insane at the time due to various factors, he would have have ignored his strong, moral code to become a murderer as the evidence seemed to indicate. He talks to several fellow Legionnaires and learns that four Legionnaires have gone to Rimbor to try and prove his innocence. He travels there to join them, and finds on the space-plotter that there is one other there as well. Some time later, Brainiac 5 arrives at Rimbor and goes to help his friends. Phantom Girl, Chameleon Boy and Star Boy have been seriously wounded, but Brainiac 5 assists in their treatment. He tells them that he's going to take on Pulsar Stargrave; he realized who their foe was when he entered the Rimbor system, and found two sources of stellar-level energy, one of them being Rimbor's star. Brainiac 5 leaves. Phantom Girl realizes that there's one empty bed, and when she asks is horrified to learn that they believe Ultra Boy is dead.

On one of the moons of Rimbor, Brainiac 5 confronts Pulsar Stargrave. The original Brainiac admits that all of his recent actions the last few months have been to discredit and destroy Brainiac 5. Pulsar Stargrave attempts to destroy Brainiac 5 with his nova blast, but is blocked by Brainiac 5's force-field which the Legionnaire than expands to engulf them both. Caring nothing for his own life, as his hatred for Brainiac 5 is all-consuming, Pulsar Stargrave unleashes a massive nova energy blast. When the shockwaves abate and vision clears, the force-field still stands. Inside it is the only survivor, Brainiac 5, who had erected a second, personal field around himself. Pulsar Stargrave is destroyed. Brainiac 5 posits the notion that the original Brainiac had been destroyed long before this event, as his coming into the 30th Century seemed to have changed him from a finely tuned logical android who replaced that with emotion and ruled by his hatred.

This story concludes the plot begun in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #239 about the murder of An Ryd and the framing of Ultra Boy that also led to the storyline involving Brainiac 5's insanity (Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #250-251) and his eventually being cured (Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #256). Granted, the notion that Brainiac 5 had committed murder and had gotten away with it was never a good plot, so writer Gerry Conway and editor Jack C. Harris have to be congratulated for finally clearing up the murder of An Ryd and revealing the real killer. Brainiac 5 never struck me as the type to be a cold-blooded murderer, and even during the whole business of his insanity, even at the height of the Omega situation, nobody actually died, despite his having the opportunity to do so on multiple occasions. I thought it was pretty inspired that the true killer of An Ryd was actually Pulsar Stargrave, aka the original Brainiac, whom they had faced originally back in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #224, but there were a couple of issues with Pulsar Stargrave and the plot here.

Aside from the fact that it seems that no one had been to An Ryd's hotel room in the months after her murder and the room had never been cleaned up... I find it hard to believe that it would take the Legion, especially Chameleon Boy with his detective suitable mind, so long to verify that Brainiac 5 had never been in the room - and why the Legion blaster supposedly used to kill An Ryd seems to have left a very similar trace and pattern to that of Stargrave's energy blasts, and no one spotted this until Star Boy checked it out. Are we supposed to believe that Pulsar Stargrave just sat around on the moon of Rimbor all this time, waiting to kill the space port authority fella? And why kill *him*, when Phantom Girl had already checked the arrivals and departures information? The other thing that made no sense is that Pulsar Stargrave attacked three Legionnaires and lets them live. He gloats when he believes he's killed Ultra Boy, but doesn't go that extra mile to kill the others? Why not? Didn't strike me as being all that sociopathic after all.

I also felt there was something...lacking...with the ending of the story. From what happens, Brainiac 5 hoped to keep Stargrave trapped on Rimbor's moon forever. Faced with permanent incarceration, Stargrave blows himself up, though he believes it will take Brainiac 5 with him. Since Brainiac 5's force-field belt is based on the original Brainiac's force-field, why does Stargrave not see what's coming and that Brainiac 5 has tricked him? Furthermore, why not wrestle Brainiac 5 and force him to turn off the field, or better yet, grab the belt for himself? I guess the reader is expected to assume that Stargrave is purely irrational, filled with hatred for Brainiac 5 to the points of being governed by emotions (Brainy even says something to that effect at the end of the story), but still... In their final confrontation, Brainiac 5 and Stargrave say it's been "months ago" since they met. The storyline had such starts and stops for various reasons in real time that it took years to tell the tale, bu it only lasted say six months in Legion time. That lessens the problems with the Stargrave elements of the story marginally.

That said, the story reads pretty well (aside from the problems noted above) and has good pacing. The main story's beats worked well for the most part, with the scenes being relatively seamless. There were also other things going on in this issue that peaked my interest. First off, there's the relationship between Colossal Boy and his mother, the new President of Earth, that's going through a rough patch. How that shakes out is a matter of time, but it will be interesting to see what the Legion's relationship with the President will be as well. Then there's the business with Timber Wolf suffering headaches, and the potential that he may leave the Legion, and if he does, Light Lass will go with him. I have to wonder what's causing Brin's headaches, and whether this has something to do with the manner in which he got his powers, perhaps something to do with the fact that Brin seems better in natural, rather than urban, environs. Perhaps a return to his Lone Wolf days and ways? Finally, there's the matter of Ultra Boy. What happened to him when he was blasted by Stargrave's nova energy blast? Is he dead, or did something else happen to him? Given my love of Phantom Girl, this was a devastating incident for her in the story that was glossed over almost completely. The one thing that irritated me this issue was the fact that Wildfire comes across as forceful and still the leader of the Legion, even though Lightning Lad's had the reins for a while now. Part of me thinks that the story was meant to take place during the end of Wildfire's terms as Legion leader, but there could be other reasons for Lightning Lad's taking a low-key role in the story, such as letting Wildfire resolve a matter that started during his term as leader.

In terms of the artwork this issue, I thought that the job done by Jimmy Janes and Frank Chiaramonte was adequate to the job. I will say that I've actually come to like Janes's work, though not to the degree I liked the work of Grell, Cockrum, and Swan. Janes's work is definitely more realistic than that of Steve Ditko, something that I think needs to be present in artwork in the Legion title, and Frank Chiaramonte's inks are starting to gel pretty well with Janes's pencils. The page with Colossal Boy on page 6 reminded me a lot of Romeo Tanghal's work, and I also thought that the page (18) where Stargrave blasted Ultra Boy had a very Mike Grell feel to it. This leads me to believe that Janes is actually improving as an artist on the title.

Final Notes:
Shadow Lass is drawn on the cover without her cape again. This time out it's Buckler and Mitchell who got it wrong...

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...

Earth President Marte Allon's middle name is Ida...

The murder of An Ryd and Ultra Boy's implication in that murder occurred in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #239...

On page 5, Timber Wolf is clearly standing with Chameleon Boy's group as someone drawn and colored as Timber Wolf flies away with Lighting Lad's group. I suspect the person flying away was meant to be Wildfire...

The words that Ultra Boy says Karate Kid told them about Brainy's madness occurred in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #251, page 3...

Pulsar Stargrave first appeared in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #223, with issue #224 being his official entry to villain status. He then appeared in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #226, when he had Brainiac 5 try to steal the Star-Stone from Xerox, and where Brainy learned that Stargrave was actually the original Brainiac. In Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #227, Stargrave was seemingly destroyed by Superboy and Wildfire...

When Phantom Girl faces Pulsar Stargrave, she tells him that she thought he died when Superboy and Wildfire knocked him into Earth's sun. It was actually Colu's sun, as they faced him down on Colu...

There is no mention made in the story of Pulsar Stargrave's previous associates, Quicksand and Holdur.

Next Issue: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #274
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, lll, long live the legion!, lsh, review

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