Thursday, December 11, 2014

Superboy starring The Legion #199

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #199 (Nov 1973)
review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage
title: "The Gun That Mastered Men"
writer: Cary Bates
artist: Dave Cockrum
colorist: Carl Gafford
editor: Murray Boltinoff
cover: Dave Cockrum and Nick Cardy (signed)

Mission Monitor Board:  
Superboy, Brainiac 5, Princess Projectra, Star Boy, Dream Girl, Chameleon Boy; flashback cameos of Saturn Girl and Timber Wolf

Opponents: 
Tyr and his unnamed gun  

Synopsis: 
Superboy and Brainiac 5 narrate the story of Tyr and how he and his marvelous mechanical weapon is on its way back to Earth for revenge, after fighting the Legion in Superboy/Legion #197. As Superboy heads back to his own time, the Legion HQ is surrounded by a force-field. Star Boy and Brainiac 5 try to analyze it, but it is totally unknown to both of them. Nothing in their arsenal can break through it, which means they and the other remaining members are trapped inside. Dream Girl foresees Tyr escaping, and they re-capture him. Tyr boasts that his weapon will not rest until he is freed and the Legion is dead. Princess Projectra has something similar to a breakdown until Brainiac 5 tells her to keep cool and to work as part of the team. Superboy sees the attack in the midst of his time travelling, so he comes back. However, he can't break through from the outside, either. He heads to the source, which is Tyr's robotic gun. Suddenly the field disappears as Superboy approaches, taken over by the gun. He blasts his friends, but Tyr is still free. The gun boasts that because it has taken over Superboy, it now has no need of Tyr. Tyr has a Kryptonite glove, which stops Superboy and therefore weakens the gun. Chameleon Boy reveals that he was impersonating Tyr and that Princess Projectra made the gun think that Superboy had killed his friends. Chameleon Boy grabs the gun and Projectra's confidence is restored.
Commentary: 
For the second issue in a row I say that it's a good thing the art is so beautiful, because the story is terrible! Star Boy and Dream Girl have absolutely nothing to do other than model their (fantastic) new uniforms. For the second issue in a row Chameleon Boy impersonates the bad guy. Speaking of Chamelon Boy, why doesn't the gun "possess" him when it lets go of Superboy? Seems like it would atleast give it a try. And why in the world does the Legion have a Kryptonite glove just lying around for Cham to use on his pal, anyway? Also, I'm sorry, but I fail to believe that a royal liege of the planet Orando is going to react like Projectra is shown doing here. Certainly she knows how powerful she is. Instead of having a fit, she should have asked what Brainiac 5 wanted her to "show" the enemy when it attacked. Another question, her illusion powers work on robots? Interesting to know. And lastly it seems like a lost opportunity with Timber Wolf and Saturn Girl to be absent from this adventure, as they were both involved the last time Tyr attacked.

Overall Tyr and his weapon would have made a great regular adversary for the Legion. I'm sorry that it took another ten years for him to re-appear. Even when he was given a Super Powers action figure in the early Eighties he didn't appear regularly at that time!

Dave Cockrum is still working on all cylinders here. His character designs, his Legion headquarters, his outer space scenes, and his future mechanical weaponry are all wonderful. The story LOOKS awesome, even though the story isn't up to par.

title: "The Impossible Target!"
writer: Cary Bates
artist: Dave Cockrum
letterer: Ben Oda
colorist: Carl Gafford
editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:  
Bouncing Boy

Opponents: 
Orion The Hunter  


Synopsis: 
Bouncing Boy in a one-member cruiser is on his way back to Earth when it is attacked by a meteor storm that turns out to be man-made (and controlled) satellites. They surround the cruiser and absorbs all of its powers, then drags it to a nearby semi-deserted planetoid. Otto Orion's son has kidnapped him and shows him that he intends to toss him into a zero gravity chamber and shoot him down in cold blood. Orion gives Bouncing Boy a chance to escape or hide on the planet's surface, dropping him off and then giving him a one-orbit rotational "lead." Bouncing Boy tries to hide, but not knowing the lay of the land appears helpless when Orion returns. Thinking fast, Bouncing Boy jumps into an icy pool. This causes Orion some level of trouble to fish him out. As he does so he explains that Bouncing Boy was his first target because he was "the weakest, sorriest, most slow-witted Legionnaire of them all!"but laments that he still expected him to put up a better fight. However, Bouncing Boy's plan is to sneeze once he is put in the zero gravity chamber, which causes him to ricochet off the walls and into Orion, knocking him out.

Commentary: 
Coincidentally (?), both the lead and the back-up stories in this issue feature Legionnaires questioning their worth. In the first story Princess Projectra had to be convinced by Brainiac 5 that she had what it takes. In this story, Bouncing Boy convinces himself that he is Legion material. This story works better. A joke for many years, Bouncing Boy shows once and for all that bouncing around and into objects is not necessarily a bad power to have. What is basically another version of The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell (or, conversely, a sequel to the first Orion story in Adventure Comics #358) is made special by having the "prey" be this Legionnaire.

Dave Cockrum pulls out all the stops on this story. The outer space scenes, the jungle scenes, and the planetoid scenes are all drawn beautifully. He really was a gifted talent.

Orion the Hunter is an idiot. He dresses like Kraven the Hunter and doesn't realize that if he was looking for the "weakest and sorriest" Legionnaire that he should have started with Matter-Eater Lad.

Science Police Notes:  
  • The cover is drawn by Dave Cockrum, but Superboy's face is obviously drawn (re-drawn?) by Nick Cardy. 
  • The back-up story could have played out differently if Bouncing Boy had worn his Legion Flight Ring. It is conspicuously absent from his hand throughout the story, even before he is kidnapped. 
  • Bouncing Boy is said to be flying back from the Legion's Tracking System on the rim of the Solar System when he is captured. Since when did the Legion run something like that? 

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