Thursday, March 5, 2015

Superboy starring The Legion #209

Superboy starring The Legion of Super-Heroes #209 (June, 1975)
A Review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage
title: "Who Can Save The Princess?"
writer: Jim Shooter
artist: Mike Grell
editor: Murray Boltinoff
cover: Mike Grell (signed)

Mission Monitor Board:  
Karate Kid, Timber Wolf, Saturn Girl, Brainiac 5, Superboy, Duo Damsel, Princess Projectra

Opponents: 
The Pain Plague

Synopsis: 
Princess Projectra crash lands her cruiser with the help of Timber Wolf and a tow hook. He and Karate Kid tease her about her piloting skills, but as soon as she collapses they rush her to the medical lab. Saturn Girl calls Brainiac 5. Although he is not on Earth, he diagnoses her from afar using the Legion medical equipment. He tells them that she is suffering from Pain Plague, which is six hours of intense pain no one has ever survived. Brainiac 5 suggests using his Universal Adapter Circuits and an Encephalo Transceiver in order to divert Projecta's pain to the other Legionnaires. Superboy is with Brainiac 5, but will rush back to Earth in order to take the last hour.

Saturn Girl uses the Maximum Emergency Signal to call all Legionnaires, Substitutes, and Reserves, but no one is answering.
Timber Wolf takes the third hour's worth of pain, and working together Karate Kid and Saturn Girl are able to stop him after he goes pain-crazy. Timber Wolf rips Karate Kid's uniform, so he changes back to his Dave Cockrum designed version.
Saturn Girl comes up with an anti-encephalo helmet to stop her powers so she can't take control of Karate Kid in her pain and turn him into her slave. She then takes on the fourth hour of pain.
Karate Kid takes on the fifth hour of pain, then uses his zen training to reject the pain. Superboy arrives, but he finds that he cannot take on the pain due to his invulnerability. Karate Kid is going to take on the sixth and last hour of pain, killing himself, until he is stopped by someone....it's Duo Damsel, who absorbs the incredible pain and then splits into two women to control it. Princess Projectra is saved!
Commentary: 
This is Jim Shooter's first Legion story in more than five years, and it is a doozy! The drama is fantastic, and the science-fiction techno-babble is kept to a minimum. Princess Projectra has already endured more than two hours of incredible pain, which says more about her stamina and fortitude than most of her recent stories. The twist ending is handled wonderfully; I just wish there had been more time spent with Duo Damsel.

Mike Grell does another great job here. I think I read somewhere that he really liked the Karate Kid character, and wanted to put him back in this yellow-white-black uniform that Dave Cockrum had designed but then discarded. He also was behind the effort to make Karate Kid's features more Asian. That effort really stepped up in this story.

The one complaint I have is that there were NO other Legionnaires on Earth for this story? The Substitutes *and* the Reserves were called, but no one answered? I find that hard to believe. At the very least I would think Supergirl would time-travel to see what the problem was. And wasn't Kid Psycho or Rond Vidar living on Earth at this time? Can you imagine if the Substitute Heroes returned to their HQ and found that they had missed an urgent summons from the Legion!? Other than that petty gripe, I think this story is great.

title: "Hero For A Day"
writer: Cary Bates
artist: Mike Grell
editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:  
Sun Boy, Cosmic Boy, Wildfire, Shrinking Violet, Saturn Girl; cameos by Star Boy and Chemical King

Opponents: 
a Tulvanian Witch Wolf

Synopsis: 
The Legionnaires welcome the fan who raised the most money for the UP Charity Drive, Flynt Brojj, as "Guest of the Legion For the Day." The young teen-ager gets a Flight Ring to use while they take him around the Legion head-quarters. The Legionnaires joke that the ring is the smallest one they have, but it is still too big for the boy's finger.

They start a tour of the facilities at the Parcel Receiving Dock. Unfortunately, they see that they have somehow accepted a Tulvanian witch wolf, "the deadliest beast in the solar system." Cosmic Boy explains that the animal gives off an invisible poisonous radiation. The Legionnaires guess that somehow someone learned their teleportation wavelength and sent the animal to them. Because its radiation is spreading, someone has to go into the Receiving Dock and reset the teleportation controls to send the animal to a distant asteroid. However, the wolf is able to use an opponent's ability against him, so it will not be easy.
They decide to go in one at a time. Cosmic Boy tries to operate the teleportation control magnetically, but the wolf turns his magnetism against him, knocking him out. Wildfire tries to blast the animal, but it reflects his burst back at him. Shrinking Violet tries next but she enlarges at the wrong time, knocking herself out. Flynt tries to help by telling Sun Boy what he alone seems to see, but Sun Boy is too preoccupied to listen. Saturn Girl reads Flynt's mind, so she allows him to go into the Reception Dock and climb into the wolf's cage, breaking "the spell." There was a mass hypnotic spell tied to the flight rings, and when Flynt's ring dropped off his finger, he could no longer "see" the witch wolf. The hypnotic suggestion was so strong that it made the Legionnaires subconsciously back-fire their own powers.
Commentary: 
This is probably the oddest lead and back-up pairing you will ever find in Superboy/Legion. Where the lead story deals with serious drama and angst, the back-up is all smiles and imaginary menaces. While the idea of a bad guy somehow using the Legionnaires' flight rings as a weapon against them is a good one, this story is just silly. If they have to teleport the witch wolf away, why in the world would they go in one-by-one!?! I sincerely wish that Flynt could have been an astro-zoologist's son or a postal worker's son or something similar; a character who could have given the Legion a needed piece of information so that they could have saved themselves from the witch wolf without it turning out to be an illusion. As it is written...well....it's not very good.

Mike Grell probably meant stories like this when he referred to his break-out series as "the Legion of Stupid Heroes." Star Boy is in the first panel of the story, but never appears again. Chemical King is in the hallway on page two, but doesn't even manage to respond to the General Emergency two pages later. (Seems like he could have helped tone down the wolf's radiation, what with his abilities to control chemical reactions and all....!) Shrinking Violet and Wildfire appear and disappear between panels, as well.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Is Princess Projectra an Anti-Vaxxer? She was suffering from Rigel Fever last time she appeared, and here she is suffering from Pain Plague. 
  • If all Brainiac 5 needs to do to diagnose the Legionnaires is read a monitor, I don't know why they even called him. 
  • Karate Kid changes his uniform in this issue, returning to the costume first introduced in Superboy/Legion #191 but then discarded. Coincidentally, that story also featured Duo Damsel in a lead role. 
  • Karate Kid changes his uniform as he talks to Saturn Girl. The way this scene is staged, it appears that he drops his trousers while she is standing right there with him. 
  • Neither Duo Damsel is wearing a wedding ring. 
  • Sun Boy explains how the Legion receives mail. He does not, however, explain who actually receives it all in or answers it. 
  • Flynt Brojj, the super-Legion fan, is named after two real-life Legion fans, Mike Flynn and Harry Broertjes.  
  • The letter column in this issue explains where Jim Shooter has been and why he is back writing the Legion. The column ends with the quote, "My head is together now. There is much to be done."
Status: 
Reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives vol. 11 

Milestone: 
This is the first Legion of Super-Heroes story by Jim Shooter since Action Comics #384 (January, 1970).

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