Thursday, November 6, 2014

Superboy #193

Superboy #193 (February 1973)
A review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage
title: "War Between The Nights & The Days!"
writer: Cary Bates (with thanks to Nick Pascale for the idea)
artist: Dave Cockrum
letterer: Joe Letterese
editor: Murray Boltinoff
cover: Nick Cardy

Mission Monitor Board:  
Duo Damsel, Chameleon Boy, Brainiac 5, Karate Kid, Shrinking Violet, Matter-Eater Lad, Superboy (introduction only)

Opponents: 
misguided racism, nuclear annihilation

Synopsis: 
A space probe returns to Earth, bringing information on the situation on the planet Pasnic. Half of the planet lives in perpetual light, and the other half live in perpetual darkness. And of course, the two races who inhabit the planet are in a constant stage of bickering. They're called The Days and The Nights. (Cary Bates isn't known for subtlety, folks.) Now, however, because both races have developed nuclear weapons, Brainiac 5 is concerned that their local fighting will spill out into the whole system. He is afraid that if the planet Pasnic goes boom, the explosion will throw off the delicate gravitational balance of the four nearby planets, throwing them into their sun, dooming untold millions of innocent people.


So...Brainiac 5 sends Duo Damsel and Chameleon Boy to Pasnic. "A large group of us would attract attention," he says. A dejected Karate Kid mopes back to his dojo, and Matter-Eater Lad grabs something to eat.
Duo Damsel and Chameleon Boy land on Pasnic, where Duo Damsel splits up, leaving Cham to wait for her to return. A large bird grabs Orange Damsel, bringing her to King Jonn of The Days. Purple Damsel is welcomed by King Lillt, then shot in the back. Both Damsels successfully use a "hypno-flasher" to gain temporary control of the two leaders, then escorts them back to the Legion cruiser. Duo Damsel tells them they must fight, winner take all, in order to spare their planet the bloodshed and destruction. Both agree and start duking it out, as Chameleon Boy meanwhile has left on his own part of the mission, first visiting The Nights and then The Days.
The younger Lillt gains the upper hand until Jonn whips out a remote detonator switch for his nuclear arsenal. Although Duo Damsel tries to catch it, the detonator falls and goes off. Both Kings are suddenly sobered up by the idea that half of their planet has been destroyed. Luckily, Cham returns at this moment and reveals that he impersonated both Kings in order to disarm both arsenals. Lillt and Jonn promise to unite, just like the colors on Duo Damsel's uniform. 
Commentary: 
This is a fun little story with its heart in the right place. However, every time I re-read it I find something *else* about it that makes me realize how silly it is. First, of course, is the simple idea that war can be avoided by staging a fight between the two leaders. While I don't necessarily disagree with this idea, the ending where the Cosmic Hatfields and McCoys have seen the errors of their ways comes too quickly and too simply. Secondly, this story is a perfect example of why Cary Bates wasn't the right writer for the Legion. He teases us with scenes with several Legionnaires, then ends up only using one or two in the story! It is simpler story-telling for him, but it's frustrating for us. The example this time: instead of using Brainiac 5's "hypno flasher," Duo Damsel could have brought Shrinking Violet and Karate Kid with her to Pasnic. Both of them could have easily surprised the Kings and captured them. This would have made this more of a "Legion" story and less of a Duo Damsel story.

Still, the art is gorgeous! That Dave Cockrum kid was firing on all cylinders this time out. Just as a short, throw-away story, this tale helped build the excitement among fans, who in turned helped build the support for the Legion. Things were starting to happen quickly from here on out!

Science Police Notes:  
  • Superboy is back as "the host," introducing the story but not taking any part in it. 
  • Matter-Eater Lad is mis-colored in a red uniform instead of green and yellow. He looks good.
  • Duo Damsel wears a revised design of the costume originally presented in Adventure Comics #403. That uniform was designed by Nick Pascale, who has the planet named for him. 
  • Karate Kid, Chameleon Boy, and Shrinking Violet also get new uniforms in this issue, although Karate Kid goes back to his original beige uniform in his next appearance. 
  • Duo Damsel brings the King of the Days back to their Legion cruiser first, but Cham visits the Nights first. Shouldn't he have gone to The Days, where he knew the King was already out of the way?
Status: 
Reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archive Vol. 10

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