Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #4

Legion of Super-Heroes (vol 3) #4 (Nov, 1984)
title: "Lest Villainy Triumph"
writer/plotter: Paul Levitz
plotter: Keith Giffen
penciller: Steve Lightle
inker: Larry Mahlstedt
letterer: John Costanza
colorist: Carl Gafford
editor: Karen Berger
cover: Keith Giffen & Larry Mahlstedt (signed)

Mission Monitor Board:  
Lightning Lass, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, Element Lad, Chameleon Boy, Phantom Girl, Ultra Boy, Shrinking Violet; cameos by Sun Boy, Dream Girl, White Witch, Brainiac Five, Star Boy, Colossal Boy, Mon-El, Dawnstar, Shadow Lass, Cosmic Boy, Bouncing Boy, Duo Damsel, and the Legion of Substitute Heroes.

Opponents: 
The Legion of Super-Villains, consisting of: Lightning Lord, Sun Emperor, Nemesis Kid, Chameleon Chief, Spider Girl, Magno Lad, Silver Slasher, Ol-Vir, Lazon, Radiation Roy, Mist Master, Hunter, Zymyr, Cosmic King, Terrus, Ron-Karr, Tyr, Esper Lass, and Titania.


Synopsis: 
The story begins in the castle of the LSV, which we now know is the castle of the Royal Family of Orando. Tyr is arguing with Nemesis Kid about triggering the warp of their kidnapped planet too quickly, as they only took eight Legionnaires with them when they vanished. Tyr wants more of the  the other ten or eleven who they were in the middle of battling. Nemesis Kid suggests that whoever wants to go back to go and try to kill or capture more Legionnaires. Tyr leads a group of four others away.
In the space where Orando used to be, the "left behind" Legionnaires can't do anything but wait and ponder their situation. Dream Girl contacts Cosmic Boy on Earth to let him know what is happening. To help him protect Earth he has called in the Substitute Heroes as well as the Legion Academy students.

Back on Orando, Light Lass realizes that she has regained her lightning abilities, probably from the power distorters she was wearing while her brother, Lightning Lord, blasted her (last issue). She escapes from her dungeon cell and finds the other captive Legionnaires. However, she is afraid that by freeing them she would somehow signal the LSV. Instead she creeps out to try to signal the rest of the Legion. Karate Kid wakes up and refuses to be held, straining against the machine incapacitating him until he can break free.

In the space between dimensions, Tyr and his gang are surprised by Light Lass, who smuggled aboard their ship to try to communicate with the Legion. She now fully embraces her previous identity of Lightning Lass, knocking out all five villains with her electrical blasts. However, she can't pilot the cruiser back to her dimension, so has no choice but to go back to Orando.

On Orando, Karate Kid succeeds in freeing his fellow Legionnaires. They rush out to stop the power spheres to halt Orando's trans-warp traveling. Karate Kid notices Nemesis Kid hanging back, overseeing all the villainy, so he decides to take out the leader. As the LSV battles the LSH, Karate Kid takes on Nemesis Kid. Nemesis Kid, whose power is to be able to adapt to battle any one adversary at a time, has no trouble matching, then besting, Karate Kid's best efforts. Karate Kid, knowing his time has come, flies off into the nearest power sphere like the suicidal kamikaze pilot of yore, causing the sphere to explode.
Commentary: 
Unless more Legionnaires are slated to die next issue, *this* is the "kicker" of this story arc. There isn't any blurb on the cover, but if there was it very well might say, "all out action issue!" The majority of the issue is taken up by the parallel Karate Kid-Nemesis Kid, Lightning Lass-LSV, and LSH-LSV battles, each staged to great effect. The lights and shadows are in play during Lightning Lass' showdowns, as she strikes from the darkness with her beautiful pink light. The Legions' battle is also neatly choreographed, just like last issue. This time, though, there are just too many villains for the heroes to stand a chance. And the Karate Kid fight sequence is probably the most realistic fighting I've ever seen portrayed in a comic. The fighting *looks* like fighting (no blasts or bolts here!), but the participants get bloody noses and black eyes, too. That's something you almost never see in comics. Well done, Steve Lightle and Larry Mahlstedt! You do another great job this time.

I do have a real problem with a few plot points in this issue, though. The first is Light(ning) Lass running off and leaving her friends. If she wanted to contact the rest of the Legion, shouldn't she have tried to use one of her friends' Flight Rings? That bit just seemed wrong to me, especially since Karate Kid breaks free on his own a few moments after she leaves, and the villains don't come running to stop them! (Which, when you think of it, is also somewhat odd.) Speaking of which, the machines set to keep the Legionnaires captive look pretty sturdy. Yes, Karate Kid breaks free from sheer force of will? Uh....just because he has absolute confidence in his own abilities doesn't mean he can crack steel! This seemed a bit odd to me. Later, during the Kids' fatal fight, as soon as Projectra shows up they should have been able to stop him! Nemesis Kid's power only works on *one* person at a time, so if she and her husband had teamed up against him they would have beaten him easily! This characterization of Karate Kid being a prideful idiot, and of Projectra as being a powerless damsel in distress who needs her husband to "save" her and her planet (she whines this a few times during the issue) was very annoying. Projectra was just as much a Legionnaire as her husband, and for her to just sit there as her husband is killed seems waaay out of character for her.
As for the colors, Carl Gafford is an unsung artist. Take a look at the shots of Light(ning) Lass attacking the LSV; yes, those scenes are drawn wonderfully, but the colors help both scenes really pop. Also the explosion and that whole last page: imagine it in black & white, and then maybe you can appreciate how beautiful it is colored by Mr. Gafford. Last but not least, I have read that the mark of a good letterer is that you don't notice him. If that is the case, John Costanza made the story flow, literally, and I thank him for his talent.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Although Blok and Timber Wolf were with the group of Legionnaires on Orando last issue, they are not shown in this issue. 
  • Esper Lass, Neutrax, and Micro Lad do not appear in the discussion scene between Nemesis Kid and Tyr. Esper Lass appears later helping to guard the power spheres, but Micro Lad and Neutrax do not appear in this issue.
  • The stone tapestry belonging to the villains, featuring each of the living Legionnaires' Monitor Board logos, is shown with the eight captive Legionnaires' icons broken off. 
  • In old-fashioned comic villainy stupidity, the LSV leaves their captive Legionnaires alone and unguarded. 
  • Titania angrily cuts Terrus off when he asks her origin. Although we know why Titania and the rest of the League of Assassins hates the LSH, we never learn who or what Terrus is. 
  • The weather on Orando is storming at the beginning of the story, clear during the middle of the story, and then storming again at the end. 
Status: 
Reprinted in the TPB Legion of Super-Heroes An Eye For An Eye


MILESTONE: Karate Kid dies in this issue. He is the fourth Legionnaire to die in action following Ferro Lad, Invisible Kid, and Chemical King.

2 comments:

  1. There are some things that I like about this issue.

    For one, Nemesis Kid's way of defeating Karate Kid's super-karate is even more super-karate. Not invulnerability or speed ... better Karate. Interesting.

    Next, we see that he does indeed develop a power to defeat Jeckie's power. In one panel we see him disperse her illusions. But when she kills him, she isn't using her 'powers'. She just straight up snaps his neck!

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  2. Ugh. I have mixed feelings about this sequence, and the bit where Jeckie kills Nemesis Kid. Even when I read it when it first came out, it all seemed like out-of-character beats meant to kill off Karate Kid and Nemesis Kid.

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