Thursday, January 7, 2016

Superboy & The Legion #246

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #246 (Dec, 1978)
title: "Will The Last One To Leave Mercury Please Close The Planet?"
script: Len Wein
plot: Paul Levitz
penciller: Joe Staton
inker: Dick Giordano
letterer: Ben Oda
colorist: Glynis Wein
editors: Al Milgrom & Jack C. Harris
cover: Mike Grell  (signed)
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Shadow Lass, Chameleon Boy, Sun Boy, Karate Kid

unknown menace killing staff & patients at Medivac-Lab

On Medivac-Lab on Mercury, Lightning Lad has led a team to check up on Karate Kid. He had left a vid-tape message at Legion HQ saying that he was heading there, the 30th Century version of Johns Hopkins.

When they meet up with him, though, Karate Kid tells them that there is nothing wrong with him; he came to cure Iris Jacobs from being Diamondeth. The five other Legionnaires are totally relieved, as Karate Kid excuses himself to bring Iris back to the 20th Century. After he leaves, Dr. Zebyx tells the others that staff and patients have been disappearing every night with no explanation. Although the Science Police have investigated, they could not find anything. So the Legion agrees to stay the night and see what they can find out.
That night, Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy are on guard duty when someone screams. They battle a robot, but it turns out to be an explorer droid. The Technician, however, has vanished.

The next day the Legion reports to the SP, which orders Mercury evacuated. As the Legionnaires are helping the staff to pack, Shadow Lass notices a disruption in the computerized climate control. Chameleon Boy has a theory, which he and Sun Boy investigate on the Legion Cruiser. Cham finds what he is looking for, but will not explain.
The Legion and Dr. Zebyx head towards the hottest part of the planet, where the hull breaks open due to the heat and the stress. The five abandon ship, and even their thermo-suits can't keep them comfortable in the extreme heat.

Finally, Sun Boy manages to communicate with the Thermoids, Mercury's native life-forms. They had been trying to communicate, but were inadvertently destroying people in their attempts. Due to his special physiology, he was able to withstand their heat communication.

Given the circumstances, Medivac-Lab decides to re-locate off Mercury after all.

This is an OK story with OK art. I don't believe that Joe Staton was the right artist for the Legion, but Dick Giordano's inks make Staton's pencils prettier and easier on the eyes. However, it is not very good science fiction. The hospital is set up on the hottest planet in the Solar System? Who would have approved that? And the heat damages the Legion Cruiser, but not the thermo suits? Uh....metal begins to melt at 1510 C, but cloth burns at 210 C. Obviously, we are not talking about steel and cotton here, but the idea is the same: if the Legion leaves their Cruiser, they should have been killed.

Besides the bad science, though, it's difficult to allow the bad characterization. I liked how the Legion rushed off to check on Karate Kid, but where is Princess Projectra? Or did she know what he was doing, and leave him to it? You would think that if you were concerned about a guy, you'd ask his girl-friend if she knew anything. If she didn't, she would have wanted to go with them.

Worse is the way Chameleon Boy kept the information about the Thermoids secret. There was absolutely no reason not to tell the others what he was investigating; in fact, he nearly killed them all by not talking. This type of "drama" is just silly. As it is, there is no explanation as to why the Thermoids just started trying to communicate now, after several years of ignoring the hospital completely.

And lastly, am I the only one who thinks Lightning Lad is acting like a leader in this adventure? Methinks this story was written after the new leader was decided, but was published before the election story (next issue).

title: "A World For the Winning!"
writer: Len Wein
penciller: Joe Staton
inker: Murphy Anderson
letterer: Todd Klein
colorist: Glynis Wein
editor: Jack C. Harris

Mission Monitor Board:  
Superboy, Element Lad, Colossal Boy

The Fatal Five

At Metropolis Space-port, Superboy, Element Lad, and Colossal Boy are on hand to greet new delegates from Corvan IV, a distant planet seeking to join the United Planets. When the ship arrives, however, Mano and The Persuader from the Fatal Five step out. The Legionnaires attack.
The President of Earth eventually gets a chance to explain that Mano and The Persuader ARE the delegates from Corvan IV. They swear that they have changed their ways and are sincerely interested in having their adopted planet join the United Planets. The President decides to send the three Legionnaires to Corvan IV to investigate. Mano and The Persuader remain on Earth as a token of good faith.
On Corvan IV, the three Legionnaires are met by Tharok, The Emerald Empress, and Validus. They show the Legionnaires around, but the Legion thinks that the Fatal Five is pushing the people too hard to modernize. Tharok loses his cool and orders the Legionnaires killed. They fight, but this time the Legionnaires are over-powered. Element Lad encases the Emerald Eye in inertron, giving Superboy a chance to escape and bring back reinforcements.

Unfortunately, the back-up story isn't any better than the lead. I like the idea of a mundane mission turning into a life-and-death situation, but that is about the only good thing about this story. If the Earth President knew that the delegates were going to be Mano and the Persuader, don't you think he should have told the Legion? If he didn't know (it's a bit unclear) then don't you think a quick "send the three Legionnaires I have on hand" seems a bit rushed. And the Legionnaires in question don't check in with the others before heading off? I find it hard to believe that the Fatal Five returns and nobody seems all that concerned!

The idea that the Fatal Five just wants to retire on Corvan IV is a good one, and harks back to their appearance in Superboy/Legion #219 where they just want to be left alone. But if that is really the case, why in the world do they call attention to themselves and ask to be investigated? Mano himself murdered millions of people, after all. Why not just stay quietly hidden on Corvan IV until they were ready to take over the galaxy?

Murphy Anderson all but takes over the pencils from Joe Staton, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Bad Murphy Anderson is still pretty damn good.

Unfortunately, this story (as well as the lead) gives this Legion fan the impression that the current creators have no real experience with the Legion. We shall see. 

Science Police Notes:  
  • This issue clears up the last plot-line left dangling from the Karate Kid series, namely the metamorphosis of Iris Jacobs into Diamondeth. She is cured in this story, and Karate Kid promises to return her to the 20th Century immediately.
  • There is no reason given why the planet Corvan IV would want (or need) to join the United Planets.
This issue has not yet been reprinted.

This is the last cover Mike Grell drew for Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. He returned as guest penciller only one more time.
This is the last issue edited by Al Milgrom. Because of the DC Implosion, he was let go and replaced by Jack C. Harris. 


  1. Technically, the Status here is wrong. This issue was reprinted under the Whitman label, the first Superboy & The Legion issue to get bundled into those three-packs. Which is how I got hold of it, back in the day.

    1. We don't consider those Whitman comics "reprints." More like additional printings. :-)

    2. Just be glad that there aren't any stories that made it into digests that weren't also covered in the Archives...

      (Actually, not sure if that's true. None of the legion digests went anywhere near that recent, but it's not impossible that a Legion story or two made a years best...)