Thursday, January 28, 2016

Superboy & The Legion #249

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #249 (March, 1979)
title: "Capital Crimes of the Chemical Conqueror!"
writer: Gerry Conway
penciller: Joe Staton
inker: Jack Abel
letterer: Ben Oda
colorist: Gene D'Angelo
editor: Jack C. Harris
cover: Joe Staton & Dick Giordano (signed)
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Sun Boy, Brainiac 5, Mon-El, Superboy, Phantom Girl, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl

RJ Brande

Mantis Morlo, the Chemical Conqueror

At Legion HQ, the sewer monster attacks Brainiac 5 and Sun Boy. Mon-El is watching over the unconscious Shadow Lass in the Medi-Lab, so does nothing to help his team-mates. After Sun Boy is unable to burn it again (as he did earlier in the day), it knocks him out cold. Brainiac 5 finally manages to crush the monster with his force-field belt.
At Brande Enterprises, the other five Legionnaires find another sewer monster in his office but no sign of Brande. Lightning Lad's blast destroys it. He then decides they should go into the sewer to investigate.
At Legion HQ, Brainiac 5 diagnoses that a chemical shock took down Shadow Lass and Sun Boy. He arms himself with a chemical de-synthesizer and decides to go into the sewers, too. He tells Mon-El to join him, but Mon-El refuses. Brainiac 5 angrily threatens to charge him with negligence of duty, then storms out.
In the sewers, the other Legionnaires are attacked. While they fight off the sewer monsters, Saturn Girl senses RJ Brande and goes to rescue him. She then finds Mantis Morlo hiding and controlling the creatures. Brainiac 5 arrives with his weapon, which he uses to destroy all the gunk. When his friends try to thank him, he walks away angrily from his stunned friends.
There is no nice way to say this: this is an awful story. Starting with the terrible characterizations of Mon-El and Brainiac 5, no one seems to be acting the way they should. For example, the idea that Mon-El is going to stand by while his team-mates are fighting for their lives---?! And Brainiac 5's characterization of arrogance and aloofness.....well, it becomes clearer next issue what is going on with him. Suffice it to say that in my opinion, this whole story arc was a huge mistake. Lightning Lad gets in a nice moment about the loneliness of leadership, but that is one panel in a 10 page story.
Besides the characterizations being "off," the danger of Mantis Morlo is created and dealt with way too quickly for me. Brainiac 5 just happened to have a gizmo that would destroy the sewer gunk (in the same way that Lightning Lad's lightning does: in one panel) while Sun Boy's heat, which worked last issue, no longer does?! The sewer monster touched Sun Boy and Shadow Lass and somehow gave their systems a chemical shock, but it touched RJ Brande and didn't hurt him at all? This is just stupid.

Also, it's a minor quibble compared to all the other big mistakes, but Brainiac 5 mentions in passing that dead Legionnaire Chemical King could animate chemicals; however, that was never one of his abilities.

And lastly, that cover is just plain ugly.

title: "The Arctoraan Jewel Case"
writer: Paul Kupperberg
artist: Joe Staton
letterer: Todd Klein
colorist: Adrienne Roy
editor: Jack C. Harris

Mission Monitor Board:  
Chameleon Boy

former SP officer turned black-mailer  

Chameleon Boy responds when the Legion is called in to help the Science Police capture a black-mailer. They know that he is an ex-SP Tech who stole enough computer tech to create a "listening" device. He has now used it to rob many diplomats of their secrets, then blackmail them to keep quiet. 

Using his unique abilities, Cham finds the black-mailer's secret hideout. Unfortunately, it is too well protected for him to get inside. He returns to the SP and convinces the current blackmail victim, Ambassador Dor Jeryl, to pay the ransom: the Arctoraan Jewel.

The blackmailer teleports the jewel case into his hideout, expecting Cham to be impersonating the jewel. Of course, Cham is the jewel *case*, so is able to surprise the bad guy and capture him.

This is the third Legion story written by Paul Kupperberg, and all three of them paint the Science Police in a less than stellar light. In this story surely they could have tracked the blackmailer to his hideout without Chameleon Boy's assistance? And they couldn't raid the place to break through the bad guy's protective shields? In fact, Chameleon Boy should have been able to crack through the shields himself, too, as a microbe or something. This is a very pedestrian adventure.

This is the only time Joe Staton inked himself on a Legion story, and it is probably his best work.

Science Police Notes:  
  • After trying something new last issue, Lighting Lad is parting his hair to his right again.
  • Mon-El has all the abilities of Superboy, but while he is in the Medi-Lab watching over Shadow Lass, he only *thinks* he hears his friends call for help. 
This issue has not yet been reprinted.


  1. Say what you will about the quality of this issue, but I think was never more excited to get a comic than I was to get this one. As I mentioned in a comment last week, I was terribly anxious I'd never find out how the story started in #248 ended, newsstand distribution being what it was. I remember this clearly: I was home sick, and when my dad said he was going to the drug store and asked me if he should bring back a comic book for me, I specifically asked him to look for this issue. And when he handed it to me, it was as thrilling as anything I'd ever experienced. (You're right about the cover, though. Who thought that shade of green was a good idea?)

    1. I'm glad your dad was able to find you a copy! Re-read it today, though, and I doubt it would get your heart pounding like it did when you were a kid. ;-)
      I actually had a similar experience with this issue (maybe this particular issue's distribution was bad?) and I remember thinking when I finally found it & read it, "Why isn't Mon-El helping Sun Boy and Brainy!?!!"
      Maybe that's one of the reasons I was so rough on it; I SO wanted it to be good.