Thursday, February 11, 2016

Superboy & The Legion #251

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #251 (May, 1979)
title: "The Man Who Destroyed The Universe!"
story/layouts: Jim Starlin (using the pseudonym Steve Apollo)
words: Paul Levitz
finished art: Dave Hunt
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:  
Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, Brainiac 5, Superboy, Ultra Boy, Dawnstar, Wildfire, Star Boy, Timber Wolf, Colossal Boy

Matter-Eater Lad

Omega, Brainiac 5

At Legion HQ on Earth, Karate Kid and Princess Projectra are watching slash guarding Brainiac 5. They ask him why he created Omega to destroy the universe, and he answers that he wants his just reward for saving the galaxy so many times. He begins ranting, then faints.
Out in space, the team of Superboy, Ultra Boy, and Dawnstar confronts Omega. Dawnstar tries to trip an explosive device to blow-up Omega, but he is too fast for her. Ultra Boy attacks, but Omega shrugs him off.
Back on Earth, Princess Projectra tries to reach Brainiac 5's sub-conscious, lamenting "if only Saturn Girl were here." Karate Kid suggests using the Miracle Machine to stop Omega, but Wildfire says it is too risky. Brainiac 5 wakes up, agreeing to stop Omega if he is given the universe to rule. When Wildfire agrees to Brainy's condition, Brainiac 5 urgently sends for Matter-Eater Lad. 
Timber Wolf, Star Boy, and Colossal Boy try to stop Omega once he arrives on Earth, but they fail.
Matter-Eater Lad arrives at Legion HQ. He is sent inside to the armory with Brainiac 5 as Karate Kid and Princess Projectra head outside to confront Omega. Wildfire stays inside as the last line of defense.
Projectra uses her illusion powers to confuse Omega, actually stopping his charge. Karate Kid breaks through the illusion, however, and Omega passes by them.

As Omega enters the Legion HQ, Wildfire explodes out at him, letting loose all of his anti-energy. Unfortunately, although the Legion HQ is wrecked, Omega still lives.
"Volthoom"? Wasn't that the Crime Syndicate's safe word? 
Omega enters the rear of the HQ where Brainiac 5 confronts him. Brainy tells his creation that the Miracle Machine has been destroyed. As it disappears, so does Omega.
Timber Wolf and Star Boy enter the HQ as Brainiac 5 tells them that Matter-Eater Lad is now totally insane because he has eaten the Miracle Machine.
Later that night, Wildfire and Superboy talk about what's next. No one was killed, but the United Planets will be angry about all the damage, especially on top of the damage from the recent Khund invasion. Wildfire says they have no choice but to keep shouldering on, and Superboy praises him as a hell of a Legionnaire.
The first time I read this story I thought, "Something is wrong."

The first chapter seemed like a good cliff-hanger: the universe is in peril and Brainiac 5 appears to be crazy. How will the Legion save the day? I was hooked and couldn't wait to read the conclusion.

Well, this particular concluding chapter is definitely not what I expected. Not only is Brainiac 5 truly certainly absolutely loony, but thanks to him the Legion HQ is destroyed and now Matter-Eater Lad is crazy, too!

And the worst part? Karate Kid and Wildfire actually talk about using the Miracle Machine in the middle of the story! Not only is this a clumsy attempt at foreshadowing, but it shows how stupid Wildfire really is. Using the Miracle Machine to stop Omega is "too dangerous"??? Compared to what, you idiot? Compared to possible fatalities? Compared to destroying their headquarters,  as well as sections of Metropolis? And then Matter-Eater Lad ended up using the Miracle Machine to stop Omega, anyway. Come on!!

I can't put into words just how much I hated the ending of this story. Making Brainiac 5 insane has to be one of the top ten worst plot ideas I have ever read. I never looked at the character in the same way again. And then to have Matter-Eater Lad eat the Miracle Machine!? This was either lazy plotting, or just somebody's idea of "real drama." I don't know if Jim Starlin had this particular ending in mind for the cancelled Legion Special, but he did draw Matter-Eater Lad passed out, so I'm guessing it was his idea. No idea why Legion writer Paul Levitz and Legion editor Jack C. Harris approved this monstrosity, though.

It's such a shame. What if Princess Projectra had been allowed to maintain her illusion, and kept Omega from getting into the headquarters at all? Meanwhile Wildfire could use the Miracle Machine to wish Omega away, and also wish Brainiac 5 back to normal. Then maybe when the others voice their opinions as to him over-stepping his bounds, he could have wished the Miracle Machine into oblivion? That would have been dramatic, right?

Nah, let's have Karate Kid kick some more ass, and Superboy praise Wildfire in a field of debris. Hooray for stubbornness! (How about one more bit of irony: Projectra was the only Legionnaire besides Brainiac 5 who even came close to stopping Omega!)

The art sure does look nice, though. With my apologies to Joe Staton, the Legion won't look this good for several more years.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Princess Projectra wishes that Saturn Girl were there to read Brainiac 5's mind; you would think the possible destruction of the universe would have brought her back to Earth from wherever she went after the end of last issue. 
  • Brainiac 5 is given a leave of absence due to his insanity after the events of this story.  
  • In the last scene Karate Kid enters the HQ with Timber Wolf, but on the next page he has morphed into Star Boy. No sign of Colossal Boy or Princess Projectra, the only Legionnaire who wasn't injured fighting Omega.
This issue has not yet been reprinted.

The second Legion Headquarters, which had made its debut in Adventure Comics #367 (April, 1968), is destroyed in this story. Ironically, the Miracle Machine made its debut in the same story, and was actually responsible for creating the headquarters!
Brainiac 5 and Matter-Eater Lad are both clinically insane after the events of this story.

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