Thursday, November 12, 2015

Superboy & The Legion #241

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #241 (July, 1978)
title: "Prologue to Earthwar"
writer: Paul Levitz
penciller: Jim Sherman
inker: Bob McLeod
letterer: Ben Oda
colorist: Cory Adams
editor: Al Milgrom
cover: Jim Sherman & Joe Rubinstein (signed)
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Wildfire, Dawnstar, Ultra Boy, Mon-El, Sun Boy, Brainiac 5, Element Lad, Shrinking Violet, Phantom Girl, Colossal Boy, Superboy

Opponents: 
Resource Raiders, their leader The Brain, unknown terrorists



Synopsis: 
The story begins as Wildfire leads three other Legionnaires out into space for a rendezvous with the diplomatic world, Weber's World. They are in such a hurry that they cause an SP ship to go into a tailspin. Mon-El takes the time to save the ship and we meet SP officer Shvaughn Erin for the first time. We also learn that Wildfire is a jerk.
The debut of SP Officer Shvaughn Erin
Inside Legion HQ, Brainiac 5 is concerned with manpower, as "half of our fighting strength is on detached duty." Just as Element Lad escorts Officer Erin inside there is an emergency alert. Brainiac 5 orders all members to respond, leaving Erin alone. They also alert Superboy to join them. Element Lad is angry that Brainiac 5 usurped his authority as Deputy Leader.
Check out what Wildfire is saying. He's a jerk. 
Out in space the Legion battles the Resource Raiders. They then break up to catch more individual Raiders. Sun Boy, Element Lad, and Brainiac 5 stop some of the Raiders at the Antarctic, allowing the one ship with Chameleon Boy stowed away on to escape.
An example of gentle Element Lad 
However, Chameleon Boy is quickly captured and interrogated by the leader of the Raiders, a bodiless Brain. Superboy and the others arrive to save him, then capture all of the remaining Raiders. Brainiac 5 accesses the Raiders' master computer and learns that the Resource Raiders are just an advance guard of an invasion of Earth by the Khunds!
On Weber's World, Wildfire's team arrives to guard the peace conference as the United Planets negotiates with the Dominators. A bomb explodes in the conference room, and the Legionnaires question Ambassador Relnic and chief of security Ontiir.
Commentary: 
The Earthwar Saga is one of my favorite story arcs. At the time I read it and for several years after, it was THE Legion epic. If you have never read this five part story, you owe it to yourself to read it. Not only does it feature the best Jim Sherman Legion art we ever got, it also includes appearances by the Substitute Heroes as well as....well, you'll see. I hate to spoil it for those of you who haven't read it. So go to your local Comic Book Shop and if you happen to find these issues, buy them! You won't regret it.

One of the reasons this series is so good is because Paul Levitz really took the time and effort to begin to create a "real" universe around the Legionnaires. This issue we see the debut of various supporting characters that would play important parts in many, many future Legion stories. We also see the Dominators for the first time since their debut in Adventure Comics #231 (Oct 1967), and learn of the all-administrative planet Weber's World. These types of touches only add to the matrix that is the Legion's universe.

This issue starts the story off right, with beautiful shots by Jim Sherman and Bob McLeod of Ultra Boy, Mon-El, Dawnstar, and Wildfire flying off to Weber's World. Finally, Sherman's pencils get a chance to shine under McLeod's inks. We get this art team again next issue and boy do I miss them after that...! But I'm getting ahead of myself again....

I remember thinking when I read Brainiac 5's whining about not having enough members on duty, "There are 20 plus Legionnaires. Where the hell are they all?!" For example, we haven't seen Dream Girl, Star Boy, or Princess Projectra for a few months. And Shrinking Violet appears in this story but doesn't do anything! Besides that, why in the world are Saturn Girl and Lighting Lad still listed on the Mission Monitor Board?

It was also nice to see Element Lad and Brainiac 5 discussing the responsibilities of the Legion Leader (and Deputy Leader). This is a theme that will be re-visited throughout the next few issues.

title: "My Brother's Keeper"
writer: Paul Kupperberg
plot: Paul Levitz
penciller: Arvell Jones
inker: Danny Bulanadi
letterer: Shelly Leferman
colorist: Cory Adams
editor: Al Milgrom

Mission Monitor Board:  
Light Lass, Timber Wolf

Opponents: 
Lightning Lord, stuck-up Science Police commissioners  


Synopsis: 
Light Lass and Timber Wolf arrive on Winath in response to a summons from the local police commissioner because Lightning Lord is free. The commissioner is angry that the Legion only sent these two, calling them "second stringers." He orders them off of the planet, so they decide to try to find Lightning Lord on their own. They go to a bar to try to dig up information.
Lighting Lord's spies sees them and alerts him. He then orders his goons to kidnap his sister. Timber Wolf fights to try to find her, but ends up getting arrested. He escapes from the commissioner and convinces the weather control station to home-in on Lightning Lord's lightning. He then leads the police to Lightning Lord's hidden base and captures him, freeing Light Lass.
Commentary: 
This is a great story in theory, but as executed it's just a mess. The police commissioner on Winath considers one of his planet's native super-heroines a second stringer!? On the other hand, Light Lass does not actually do anything in this story except get kidnapped, so maybe she is not all that after all. Timber Wolf is more of a hot-head than he had been shown to be before, too. Maybe this is the beginning of his "I walk alone!" period.
The art by two relative newcomers, Arvell Jones and Danny Bulanadi, is serviceable, but the printing process looks like it takes quite a bit away from the details. Lightning Lord looks appropriately menacing, although when faced with the idea of killing his sister, he dramatically declines. That would change with time.

Science Police Notes:  
  • The Resource Raiders have three legs, which I never noticed in their initial appearances (S/LSH #225 and 226). 
  • The Resource Raiders are colored brown on the cover but green in the story. 
  • Winath is shown to be a technical world with no specific twin "culture" in this issue. This differs dramatically from later stories about the planet. 
  • Light Lass is back to being a blonde from this issue. After starting out as a red-head for the entire Adventure Comics run, she was colored as a blonde for several Superboy stories (most famously #207) before reverting back to being a ginger (like her twin brother). From this issue she will be consistently colored as a blonde for the next several years. 
Status: 
Sadly, this issue (and story arc) has not yet been reprinted.

Milestone: 
This is the first part of the classic Earthwar Saga. It also features the debut appearances of several concepts and supporting characters who would appear for the next ten plus years: SP Officer Shvaughn Erin, Weber's World, Ambassador Relnic, and Ontiir of Tsuron. This issue also features the first mention of SP Chief Zendak.

9 comments:

  1. It's a shame Jim Sherman didn't stick around comics long. This artwork is GORGEOUS!!! And given the time period, no doubt outclasses 95% of DC's other output at the time. WOW!!!

    Chris

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    1. He did really REALLY beautiful stuff if he had the right inker. (sigh)

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  2. What is the collection status on Earthwar these days? I mean, I'd buy an appropriately-priced standalone trade of the story in a heartbeat, but I've been in that condition for about 30 years. I sort of think that at least one out of the too-pricy Archives and the too-black-and-white Showcases made it this far, but don't know which or if both, or if the issues are on sale digitally for that matter.

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    1. The next Archive should include it. As of this writing, the 13th Archive ended with S/LSH #233.
      There was never a trade paperback collection of this story arc, probably because of the numerous artists who were involved.

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    2. Not sure that's the only reason. I mean, it came out a good long time before the idea of putting recent stories into trade paperbacks first arose, but too late to ever be old enough to put into a Digest. Then, when DC first started putting much older stories into trades like the Zatanna's Search and Crisis on Multiple Earths books, the Legion's popularity happened to be at a fairly low ebb.

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    3. Unfortunately, the last I heard was that Archive 13 will be the last of the series. I hope that news is now old hat and they'll keep putting them out for the LSH if nothing else.

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    4. What I meant by citing the numerous artists is actually the lack of quality we end up getting with Jack Abel and Joe Giella....

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  3. I might be wrong but I think that the Dominators first appeared in Adventure Comics 361 (Oct 67). It was the first legion comic I ever bought.

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    Replies
    1. You are correct, sir! I have amended my post.

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