Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #31

The Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #31 (Feb, 1987)
title: "Knights In Shining Armor"
writer: Paul Levitz
penciller: Greg LaRocque
inker: Mike DeCarlo
lettering: John Costanza
colorist: Carl Gafford
editor: Karen Berger 
cover: Steve Lightle
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Sensor Girl, Invisible Kid II; flashback of Princess Projectra, Karate Kid, Ferro Lad, Bouncing Boy, Invisible Kid (original)

Opponents: 
Black Mace, his partner in crime Gharf

Synopsis: 
On Earth, Projectra is in the Hall of Heroes conversing with her dead husband when Invisible Kid II joins her. They talk of ghosts and heroes and death. Invisible Kid is in awe of Projectra, so she offers to tell him a story of when she was a rookie Legionnaire.


Several years ago, after Nemesis Kid had been rejected after the Khund Invasion, Princess Projectra was sent on a mission as a courier for RJ Brande. However, she and her contact are attacked by Black Mace, who stops her easily, ridiculing her as a Legionnaire. He escapes with the message pouch, which is actually classified asteroid mine specifications.
Projectra reports to Legion HQ, but Karate Kid and Ferro Lad receive her message and tell her not to give up hope. They finagle past Bouncing Boy and rush to her side. They deduce that Black Mace has to get off Earth, so they stake out Spaceport. They run up against Black Mace's partner, Gharf. Karate Kid and Ferro Lad are about to defeat him when Black Mace appears, taking Projectra hostage.
Invisible Kid II finds the story riveting, and is shocked by Projectra's ineptitude.

Karate Kid frees Projectra and he and Ferro Lad continue the battle while Projectra tries to recuperate. When bystanders are in danger, the Legionnaires must save them; the two bad guys then escape.
At Legion HQ "the newbies" are noticed by Invible Kid (I) and Bouncing Boy. Bouncing Boy takes Projectra to dinner while the boys are stuck on monitor duty.

Later that night when Black Mace and Gharf return to RJ Brande's factory to steal the data, the three Legionnaires are there to catch them. Ferro Lad takes out Gharf while Projectra works with Karate Kid to take out Black Mace. The three team-mates then vow eternal friendship.
Projectra completes her story, only to find that Invisible Kid II is sleeping. She is overcome by drowsiness, too, and falls asleep beside him.

Commentary: 
This is a nice stand-alone issue featuring three of the great Jim Shooter creations. The sense of innocence is nicely handled here; the best parts of the story are definitely the scenes between the three doomed friends. It's nice also to have Invisible Kid II react to the story and have Projectra gently remind him, "Nothing happened. I'm still alive."
However, the way Princess Projectra is portrayed at the beginning of the flashback, while contrasting well to how she is shown at the end of the story, doesn't do her character much justice overall. She comes across as either lazy, stupid, or arrogant. And we all know that Princess Projectra was never portrayed as powerfully as she is shown here (or as she was shown in her first appearance). Still, this is a huge step forward to make Projectra/Sensor Girl more powerful, and it should be commended.

I do have a few specific questions or complaints, though. First, what happens to get the people off the space cruiser? It appears that Projectra has caused some sort of illusion, but the people "feel" the earth-quake. Did Karate Kid hit something to make the cruiser shake? Speaking of Karate Kid, how did he free Projectra? It appears he does a "super-stomp" to loosen Black Mace's grip on her. Huh? Also, how did the Legionnaires get the carrier pouch back? The last time we see it, Gharf has it. Then in a line of dialogue, Projectra tells us that they got it back. Huh? And lastly, how in the world did the Legionnaires know when and where Black Mace and Gharf would return? Talk about coincidental plot details.
How to make a dynamic scene in the future look dull. 
The art is, again, lackluster and somewhat dull. I hate to say that a story occurring in the 30th Century is drawn in a pedestrian way, but Mike DeCarlo shellacked when he should have fine-tuned. The lack of backgrounds is part of the problem, for sure. The lackluster layouts are another.
The worst example is the ending, where the inherent drama of "May it last a lifetime" is cut in half because the first panel doesn't feature Projectra with Ferro Lad and Karate Kid by her side; when we suddenly shift to the "now" and still see only Sensor Girl, the drama is half of what it could have been if we had gone from a more parallel resemblance of trio to solo. The empty white space next to her is not used to its full effect. And then we get a close-up of Projectra's eye...? This whole page (27) is a perfect example of how dull this book is laid out.

Speaking of the ending, I remember the first time I read this, I *hated* how it ended. I thought it was incredibly rude for Invisible Kid to fall asleep while listening to Projectra's story. Even now, re-reading it and knowing that this is a too-subtle connection to the next issue, I find myself angry at it. This is another instance where I was not on-board with what Paul Levitz was trying to do. Clearly, the Legionnaires were sleep-induced. Just as clearly, Levitz could have spelled that out better than he did.

Still, the action is exciting, and any chance to see Silver Age Legionnaires is a good thing. After so many "place-holders" and mini-movements in the long-winded Universo saga, it was nice to not see him featured in this story at all.

Science Police Notes:  
  • There is a Supergirl statue in the Hall of Heroes. 
  • Projectra's tale must occur sometime between Adventure Comics #351 (the return of Bouncing Boy to active duty) and Adventure Comics #352 (the debut of the Sun-Eater). 
  • Black Mace chronologically next appeared in Adventure Comics #374 as part of The Taurus Gang and then again in Superboy/Legion #213.  
Status: 
This story has not yet been reprinted.  

3 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree with you more. I was so happy to see the original Invisible Kid and Karate Kid in action (two of my favorite Legionnaires) and Jeckie as Projectra again. But the static art prevented this issue from being classified as a great one in my mind.

    I was glad that you mentioned how powerful Jeckie was in her first appearance. I never understood why 30 years' worth of writers just had her throw images of monsters at villains instead of tapping the potential her original story showed us.

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  2. Yes, Projectra was the victim of lazy writing on so many occasions.
    And I am so done with this art team. Static is a good word to describe them. (sigh)

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