Thursday, March 19, 2015

Superboy starring The Legion #211

Superboy starring The Legion of Super-Heroes #211 (Sept, 1975)
A Review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage
title: "The Ultimate Revenge"
writer: Jim Shooter
artist: Mike Grell
editor: Murray Boltinoff
cover: Mike Grell (signed)

Mission Monitor Board:  
Element Lad, Star Boy, Light Lass, Chemical King, Sun Boy, Superboy; cameos by Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy, and Saturn Girl in flashbacks

Opponents: 
Roxxas

Synopsis: 
Out in space, the Haven is a hollow, man-made asteroid that is transparent to radar. It is a safe-house for dozens of the galaxy's most ruthless killers, including Roxxas, who is arriving as our story opens. Just as his tour of the facility ends,  the Legion raids it. Light Lass, Star Boy, and Chemical King take care of most of the criminals. Element Lad sees Roxxas, but is too shocked to capture him.

After the Legionnaires return to Earth, Star Boy asks Element Lad about his parents. Element Lad tells him that his parents and all of the people on his home planet, Trom, were massacred by Roxxas and his raiders, and that is what drove Element Lad to join the Legion in the first place. Element Lad, visually shaken up, excuses himself and leaves.
Later, Superboy arrives just as Sun Boy is reviewing the recent mission at the Haven. They both recognize the escapee as Roxxas. They get together with the others and follow Element Lad, who has deduced that Roxxas is hiding on Trom. Element Lad arrives and confronts Roxxas, turning all of his weapons to nitrogen. The Legionnaires arrive to find Element Lad holding a laser on Roxxas. He is so intent on vengeance that he insists on executing Roxxas. Superboy is about to stop him, but Chemical King prevents Superboy from doing so. As soon as Element Lad pulls the trigger, he has a change of heart. He is suddenly disgusted and saddened by what he did. Chemical King steps forward to explain that Roxxas is still alive; Chem used his chemical reaction power to decay the battery in Element Lad's laser, and to knock Roxxas unconscious. Roxxas revives, begging to be killed because he is haunted by the ghosts of the Trommites he murdered. Element Lad realizes that letting Roxxas live is "the ultimate revenge."
Commentary: 
This is probably one of the most emotionally powerful Legion stories of all time. The story is well-plotted and the action flows naturally. Each Legionnaire explains their power(s) to the bad guys (and thusly, to the reader) in a natural way. So later, when Chemical King steps up and explains what he has done, it is logical and not absolutely unexpected. The pain and anguish of Element Lad is played a little bit over the top, sure, but this is a melodrama, after all.

Mike Grell does a wonderful job with body language....especially with Element Lad, who is in a constant state of attack mode until suddenly he is struck by what he thinks he has done, and his body goes limp. The shot of him dropping the laser is fantastic. Likewise, Chemical King knows what he is doing, and he alone has a strong posture during the tense stand-off. As an adult I am prepared to admit that Chemical King is not a great character, but you sure couldn't tell that to the teen-ager who read this story over and over again, enthralled.

And lastly, that scene with Roxxas haunted by ghosts is also very well done. Grell really layers on the creepiness there. A dozen words of praise to the colorist, whoever it may have been, for going above and beyond with this story. The subtle light of the laser and the pale faces of the ghosts, among other things, add exponentially to the story.
My only complaint? The conversation between Star Boy and Element Lad about the genocide of Trom seems badly done. These two have been Legionnaires together for years; yet Star Boy never heard that Element Lad's world was destroyed? I find that hard to believe. I wish their conversation had been re-done somewhat, but other than that this is a great story. It chokes me up every time I read it.

title: "The Legion's Lost Home"
writer: Cary Bates
penciller: Mike Grell
editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:  
Stone Boy, Chlorophyll Kid, Fire Lad; cameos by Cosmic Boy, Shadow Lass, Brainiac 5, Superboy

Opponents: 
husband-wife jewel thieves  


Synopsis: 
At the Canaveral Graveyard, two Legionnaires suddenly appear, looking for their former head-quarters. Cosmic Boy and Shadow Lass tell the guard that there may be a missing weapon still hidden in the building, so he guides them to it. They go inside and head straight to the security cells. Cosmic Boy uncovers a flawless Pyram Jewel that he stashed there years earlier. Shadow Lass makes a romantic comment, but they are interrupted by Stone Boy. Cosmic Boy panics, blasting Stone Boy, who turns to rock to avoid injury. The two impostors fly out, but are captured by vines courtesy of Chlorophyll Kid. Cosmic Boy is about to shoot him, too, when Fire Lad disarms him with his fire breath. It turns out that these two are jewel thieves who stashed their loot in the Legion holding cells but then never had a chance to retrieve it. The three Legion of Substitute Heroes hand the couple off to the guard, and then take possession of the old Legion head-quarters as their new base.
Commentary: 
While this back-up does not have the same emotional punch that the lead story does, it is still a fun look at the Legion of Substitute Heroes. This was my first time meeting these characters, and, like I did with Chemical King in the lead story, I thought these guys were great. There really are not bad characters, just bad stories (or bad writers). After all, Stone Boy was similar to Marvel's The Thing (or so I thought at the time), Fire Lad was the Human Torch, and Chlorophyll Kid was like Poison Ivy or The Plant-Master. What made them ridiculous? Sure, the idea of dressing up as Cosmic Boy and Shadow Lass (especially) seems stupid, but the basic plot of the story was sound. It's only a little bit of a coincidence that the thieves would show up at the same day as the Subs.

Science Police Notes:  
  • The lead story features a flashback to Adventure Comics #307, the debut appearance of Element Lad. That mission did in fact feature Sun Boy, but not Superboy
  • Element Lad's parents are named in this story: Arn and Valla. 
  • There is another flashback in this story, to Star Boy's expulsion from the Legion, from Adventure Comics #342. Star Boy mentions his trial to Element Lad as he tries to convince his friend not to murder Roxxas.  
  • This is the last time Chemical King will participate in a Superboy/Legion story until Superboy/Legion #228.  
  • Stone Boy and Chlorophyll Kid are wearing uniforms here that they will never wear again. That is unfortunate, especially for Chlorophyll Kid, as his is a green-and-yellow variation of the very sleek Kid Flash uniform. It is a vast improvement over this plain green jump-suit. 
  • The Canaveral Graveyard features such famous retired space vehicles as the Jupiter II, the USS Enterprise, and the Yellow Submarine, among others. 
Status: 
Reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives vol. 11 

2 comments:

  1. This is one of my favorite issues ever and I count it as my 'first comic'. In fact I have written about it elsewhere: http://dcbloodlines.blogspot.com/2011/09/comic-resume-anjs-origins.html

    It was this time period ... the Bates/Grell books ... that got me into comics. They will always be remembered fondly

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  2. I remember reading this one. Could never quite figure out why Element Lad needed to use a gun to kill Roxxas (I mean, other than the obvious "because otherwise Chemical King couldn't render the gun harmless" reason, of course).

    I was also amused by the way the Legion found Haven at the beginning of the story. Haven was colored black so it couldn't be seen against the darkness of space. So how did the Legion find it? They went to the other side and looked where it was blocking the stars. They went to the other side of a place whose location they didn't know. That... doesn't seem to quite add up there, does it?

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