Thursday, April 2, 2015

Superboy starring The Legion #213

Superboy starring The Legion of Super-Heroes #213 (Dec, 1975)
A Review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage
title: "The Jaws of Fear"
writer: Jim Shooter
artist: Mike Grell
editor: Murray Boltinoff
cover: Mike Grell (signed)

Mission Monitor Board:  
Superboy, Ultra Boy, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Phantom Girl, Wildfire, Shrinking Violet

Opponents: 
super-thief Benn Pares

Synopsis: 
At Legion HQ, super-thief Benn Pares walks into the meeting room. He claims to be bored and needing a challenge. He promises the Legion that he is going to steal the Miracle Machine within the next 48 hours, then promptly disappears. Saturn Girl had tried to read his mind, but could only get an image of white gates in space sector 14.


The Miracle Machine is a device given the Legion by the Controllers that can make thoughts turn into reality. The Legion know that they can not allow it to fall into the wrong hands. So they stand guard over it, even double-checking their own security measures. The next day, however, their wall clock has been stolen. Pares is toying with them.
So the Legion then decides to destroy the Miracle Machine, but that proves impossible. Therefore, they decide to head out to space sector 14 to try to capture Pares instead. Leaving Superboy behind to guard the Miracle Machine (literally sitting on it), they head out.
In space, all that they find in space sector 14 is a lone galactosaur. Saturn Girl realizes that the white gates that she saw in Pares' mind are the teeth of the creature. Thinking that Pares is somehow living inside the animal, she commands it to open its mouth. However, Ultra Boy flash-backs to the time when he was swallowed by a space dragon, and is overcome by fear. He accidentally knocks Saturn Girl out in his frenzy, and without her awake to control it, the galactosaur begins to close its mouth on the Legion cruiser.

Back on Earth, Superboy is watching the action and wishes he had his hands on Pares. Suddenly, Pares appears. Superboy knocks him out and speeds to his friends' rescue. Ultra Boy, meanwhile, has come to his senses. Using his super-strength he holds the animal's mouth open, keeping its teeth from clamping down on his friends. However, he can not use his invulnerability while using his super-strength, so he is about to die of exposure when Superboy arrives, saving them all.
Ultra Boy is admitted to the Med Center and will be fine after a few days rest. The Legionnaires realize that they could have used the Miracle Machine to capture Pares from the beginning, but Brainiac 5 reminds them that that is the true danger of the device: making the Legionnaires lazy.

Commentary: 
This is a story that is all over the place. When I first re-read it I had to go back and verify that Jim Shooter wrote it, because in many respects it "reads" like a Cary Bates story. I wonder if editor Murray Boltinoff had a strong hand in the editing of this adventure. It starts off as a light-weight story (Benn Pares is no Time Trapper), but then veers into melodrama with Ultra Boy's phobia. But then that doesn't last more than one page, and we get a literally deus ex machina ending, and smiling Legionnaires to wrap up the fun. It's an odd little story.
The art by Mike Grell is still good. Several panels are especially well-designed, such as the Legion as Christ and His disciples....? Not sure what that is about. Also a panel of Cosmic Boy driving the cruiser is excellent. It also features Ultra Boy getting more and more antsy.

Overall, however, this story is just silly. The Legionnaires couldn't have saved themselves from a galactosaur? Wildfire for one doesn't need a space suit, so he could have been out blasting the animal. The others could have jumped into their space suits while they were fretting over Ultra Boy or trying to revive Saturn Girl. Or Brainiac 5 could have used his force field belt to save all of them, duh. Speaking of Brainiac 5, he is called out as Deputy Leader in this story, even though in Superboy/Legion #208 the Deputy Leader was Sun Boy. Did Dirk hate the responsibilities so much that he gave it up to Brainy?
This was one of the earliest Legion issues I ever bought. I read and re-read this book so much that the spline is worn thin.  As a kid, I couldn't get enough.

title: "Trapped To Live, Free To Die"
writer: Jim Shooter
penciller: Mike Grell
inker: Bill Draut
editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:  
Timber Wolf

Opponents: 
Black Mace 


Synopsis: 
Timber Wolf flies his Legion cruiser to respond to an automated distress signal on the barren planet Nolgar IV. Before he heads out to check the crash site he makes a point to turn on the cruiser's automated security system. Then he finds Black Mace, a villain who has battled the Legion before. Playing possum, Black Mace attacks and overpowers Timber Wolf and steals his flight ring. Timber Wolf goads him into taking him along, telling him that the cruiser won't work for anyone but a Legionnaire. Once inside the ship, however, the automated security system reads Timber Wolf as the intruder. The ship surrounds Wolf with a poly-plastic shield, protecting him from Black Mace. The villain, angry at being out-thought, strikes the globe in anger. That is enough for Wolf to use his own super-strength to break free. During the re-match Wolf uses his mastery of the flight ring to control it. He orders it to fly up quickly, slamming Black Mace forcefully against the ceiling of the cruiser, knocking him out.

Commentary: 
Now this is more like it! A straight-forward action yarn with a bit of characterization and some nice trivia bits. Timber Wolf was never one of my favorites, but I do remember reading this and enjoying how he got himself out of his predicament. Although Jim Shooter did not create Timber Wolf, he did have the character join. Reading this story it feels like he was one of the writer's favorites. Mike Grell does straight-forward work here, and inker Bill Draut simplifies the pencils a bit, adding a layer of smoothness to Grell's work that hadn't been seen before.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Although Ben Pares had anti-gravity boots and could become light, gas, and invisible, he never re-appeared. 
  • Black Mace first appeared in Adventure Comics #374...in a story that did not feature Timber Wolf. 
  • Legion Cruisers are programmed to respond to Legion flight rings, not to actual Legionnaires. 
Status: 
Reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives vol. 12 

2 comments:

  1. I like that this issue, with its weird Last Supper parody, was featured on Maundy Thursday.

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  2. Looking back on the legion run #197 - #220 the art work by Dave Cockrum and Mike Grell made this book as the writing by Carey Bates really sucked!

    In retrospect, had Cockrum stayed on Nightcrawler and Storm would have become legionnaire's instead of X-Men !

    Anyway thanks to Dave & Mike for the great memories as I couldn't stand either Jimmy James or Jack Able's elementary school artwork and didn't pick up another copy of LSH's until Keith Giffen took over !

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