Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #32

The Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #32 (March, 1987)
title: "The Universo Project Chapter 1: Forgotten Heroes!"
writer: Paul Levitz
penciller: Greg LaRocque
inker: Mike DeCarlo
ink assist: Arne Starr
lettering: John Costanza
colorist: Carl Gafford
editor: Karen Berger 
cover: Steve Lightle
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Saturn Girl, Dream Girl, Mon-El, Ultra Boy, Blok, Tellus, Wildfire, White Witch, Quislet, Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy

Opponents: 
Universo, Zymyr

Synopsis: 
On some unnamed planet, Saturn Girl suddenly wakes up, both physically and mentally. She finds herself in a barricade, surrounded by other mind-controlled prisoners. She encounters Dream Girl, who is still mind-blocked. She doesn't recognize any one else she meets. She has no idea what is going on. She observes spy-cameras as she works the fields and otherwise pretends to still be a mental slave. She verifies that they are on an island, surrounded by a sea of sulfur.


On Earth, the Science Police is tearing down the Legion head-quarters.

On their unnamed prison planet, Saturn Girl sees Brainiac 5 and Chameleon Boy, but they, too, are still mind-controlled. She find no other Legionnaires. She realizes that the fountain with drinkable water might be the way out. She dives, but can not get deep enough to find anything.

In Dominator territory, Mon-El, Ultra Boy, and Blok are with Ambassador Relnic, waiting impatiently for the Dominators to arrive.

On their unnamed prison planet, Saturn Girl decides that because she could not dive down far enough in the fountain, that she has done all that she could do alone. She continues to pretend to be a mental slave as she plans her escape.

On Hykraius, Tellus and his team arrive at the Valley of the Peaks in an attempt to find clues for the missing Science Police officers. They are ambushed by Zymyr.

On Earth, Universo is gloating that he is ruling Earth, safe behind his mental slave of President Desai.

On their unnamed prison planet, Saturn Girl carries her three team-mates to a secluded area in order to break through their mental blocks. She apologizes to them for the intrusion, then dives in.
Dream Girl's mind is already working to escape; Saturn Girl just gives her a gentle nudge.

Brainiac 5's self-image is so strong that Saturn Girl cannot even "see" herself in him. She is only an energy pulse.

Saturn Girl can not comprehend Chameleon Boy's reality, so she has no choice but to break him free from his mental blocks violently. She brings them all back to consciousness, promising to bring them up to speed on their predicament and to get them off their prison.

Commentary: 
After nearly a year of planning and plotting, Universo has made his move, and it looks like he has thought of everything!

This story is plotted extremely well. Right off the bat we readers have no choice but to identify with Saturn Girl and her confusion. In fact, when this story first came out, I initially thought I had missed the previous issue; that is how confused I was. It is telling that in this issue we get no scenes of the Legionnaires on Earth. We have no choice but to use our imagination as to what might really be happening there....just like Saturn Girl. Of course, the ambush attack on Tellus' team doesn't bode well for Mon-El's team.

My description of the story does not do it justice. The story ratchets up the tension every time we see Saturn Girl, giving us only bits and pieces of information until we get to the inevitable end: four very angry Legionnaires vowing justice.

The only complaint I have about this issue is the art. I just don't like it. When I studied human anatomy I was told that the basic rule for drawing someone's face is that when drawing their eyes, there should be space for a "third eye" between them. However, most of Saturn Girl's face doesn't follow this basic rule. Chameleon Boy looks especially odd. This is probably a personal thing, but I just don't like how Mike DeCarlo inks these pages.

And take a look at the backgrounds. They are so dull! Why in the world is there a 2-page spread on pages 2-3 of...nothing?! Even on Hykraius, which should be illustrated as a rich, vibrant, dynamic undersea world, we get....lines representing waves, I guess? When Saturn Girl dives into the fountain we get...her floating there? And the mental representations of the three Legionnaires could have been psychedelic or groovy or...something. So what do we get? Lots of little circles and a jewel. Talk about a let-down. Even the cover, by the great Steve Lightle, is dull. I do like the Project Universo cover format, though. Saturn Girl looks very tough.

Science Police Notes:  
  • For the first time since these reviews started, there are no Science Police Notes. 
Status: 
Oddly enough, this story-line has not yet been reprinted.  

3 comments:

  1. Personally, I liked the depictions of the Legionnaires' subconscious minds and, if I remember correctly, this was my favorite chapter of the Universo arc. (I also remember pouring over every background image in the hopes of spotting Nardo of the last Prison Planet the Legionnaires were trapped on back in their Adventure Comics days. He does not appear...)

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  2. This is by far my favorite part of this story arc.
    I guess as a would-be artist myself, I'm a little bit harsh when I see what I think is lazy work. The depictions of their sub-conscious isn't bad, I guess, but it could have been so much more interesting.

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  3. One of my favorite arcs and a story that solidified my love of Saturn Girl. I love that Dream Girl's ego is so strong she reshaped the psychic blocks into a jeweled cage, that Brainy's brain was going to burn through the blocks (I also love that image of Jeckie floating around in there). I think that the mindscape of Cham was a huge cheat though.

    I agree the art isn't great in places (and downright lazy in others) but I still enjoyed the storyline overall.

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