Thursday, February 25, 2016

Superboy & The Legion #253

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #253 (July, 1979)
title: "Night of the Super-Assassins!"
writer: Gerry Conway
penciller: Joe Staton
inker: Frank Chiaramonte
letterer: Ben Oda
colorist: Gene D'Angelo
editor: Jack C. Harris
cover: Dick Giordano (signed)
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Superboy, Timber Wolf, Light Lass, Colossal Boy, Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl; Lightning Lad, Shadow Lass, Mon-El, Princess Projectra, Saturn Girl, Dream Girl, Cosmic Boy

Opponents: 
The League of Super-Assassins (Silver Slasher, Titania, Neutrax, Lazon, Mist Master, Blok)



Synopsis: 
Out in space, a space-ship is carrying six cousins towards Earth. They are looking forward to facing and killing six particular Legionnaires. They want to get revenge on the six Legionnaires who they think were responsible for the destruction of their planet.
On Earth, the Legion asks the Earth President for financial support. As their head-quarters was recently destroyed by Omega, and they had crashed their last space cruiser while fighting the Star-burst Bandits, they were in financial troubles. Unfortunately, the President and his cabinet refuse to underwrite the Legion. He reminds them that they are still very busy rebuilding Earth after the Earthwar with the Khunds. Lighting Lad decides to take a group to see their original benefactor, RJ Brande, and hopes that he can pay for a new head-quarters and new cruisers. The others, who just happen to be the six that are targeted by the aliens, stay on Earth and hang out.
The space-ship enters Earth's atmosphere and destroys a Science Police cruiser, killing all on-board. They land and hide their ship, then go out to murder Legionnaires.
In Metropolis, the six Legionnaires are enjoying themselves by going to a night club and to a hologram theatre before calling it a night. As Superboy flies off to visit Brainiac 5 in his mental institution, Colossal Boy is attacked by Mist Master. He appears to be killed.
Timber Wolf brings Light Lass back to his sparsely decorated apartment, but as they squabble about their relationship, Blok and Silver Slasher attack. Blok punches Light Lass seemingly to death as Timber Wolf is torn to bits by the Slasher's fingernails, then thrown out a 40-story window.
Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl linger around the wreckage of the Legion head-quarters on their way home until Phantom Girl simply seems to drop dead. Neutrax tells Ultra Boy that he killed her. Titania meets Ultra Boy in battle, then punches him to death when Neutrax neutralizes Ultra Boy's ability to switch his ultra-powers.

Ecstatic, Lazon intends to finish their last target: Superboy!

Commentary: 
This is not a great story, although it has bits of brilliance in it. We don't get a lot of information as to who or what this group of "Assassins" are (they never actually call themselves that), but the idea that a group of characters would hate the Legion enough to alter themselves to go after them is a good one. Titania and Silver Slasher call each other "sister," and Slasher calls Blok "cousin." They appear to be one big happy (?) family, which is also interesting. Of course, this is the debut of Blok, who would later become a Legionnaire.
The first meeting between Blok, Light Lass, and Timber Wolf
However, the bad guys are only half of the story. Everyone's characterization is a bit off. Timber Wolf is waaaay over the top when he whines about being a Lone Wolf, then orders Light Lass to stand back and let him handle the attackers. Really? Timber Wolf has to be teased to tell Light Lass that he loves her? Is he really this shallow and sexist? Gerry Conway would have us think that he is.

Similarly, Colossal Boy is moping around all evening because he misses Shrinking Violet...but she is not his girl-friend! This shows that writer Conway and, worse, editor Jack C. Harris, haven't mastered the relationships between the Legionnaires yet. Likewise, when the group of Legionnaires fly off to visit RJ Brande, there is a non-descript character between Princess Projectra and Cosmic Boy who looks like he would be....Chemical King!? (see panel above) So that shows that artists Joe Staton & Frank Chiaramonte haven't mastered what the characters look like, either!

Speaking of the art, Joe Staton's more cartoony style is made a bit less cartoony thanks to the inking of Frank Chiaramonte. His style is more "renaissance," or perhaps "sketchy." It's not a bad combination.

The worst part of this issue for me is just how convenient it is that the six Legionnaires who the Assassins are looking for are the ones who happen to be on Earth. The odds of that happening seems astronomical.

Science Police Notes:  
  • The name "League of Super-Assassins" is never actually used in this story. 
  • The Silver Slasher's real name is Ki-Lan. 
Status: 
This issue has not yet been reprinted.

Milestone: 
This issue features the debut of Blok, who would end up becoming the 31st Legionnaire. It also features the debut of The League of Super-Assassins, characters who would bother the Legion for the next ten years.

7 comments:

  1. We've still got 2+ years of Conway stories before Levitz comes back. Spoiler: there are far worse stories coming.

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    1. I don't actually mind this story too much. Like I said in my review, the odds of the Assassins' targets being the six Legionnaires who remain on Earth is *highly* unlikely, but besides that, the set-up isn't so bad.
      The conclusion, however, falls into your category of "worse."

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  2. This is somehow the height of the Legion's popularity, though, the era when it was one of DC's top selling books. I wonder how that happened...Riding a long wave from Earthwar? People buying anything Superman-related that they could? Probably that (although World's Finest was in deep decline; maybe Batman was of negative marketing value at the time.)

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    Replies
    1. I don't know the publishing or sales figures, but I was under the impression that the Levitz-Giffen era was the height of the Legion's popularity. Your point is valid, though, as the book splits off into two titles here within the year.

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    2. Probably matters if you're talking absolute or relative numbers. The newstand was a lot more alive during this time than the early direct-market days (thus, the birth of the direct market) so I don't think anything from the late 80's had anything like the numbers even of very poor selling books from 79-80. And the legion wasn't poor-selling, it was right up there in the second tier of books, behind Superman and Action, right in there with DCCP and JLA.

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  3. I kind of like this group of baddies! As a result, I'm a bit more forgiving of the story. As you say, some of the characterization is a bit off.

    But Titania swinging a girder as a weapon and Blok as a reluctant baddie? I'm okay with it.

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  4. The League of Super Assassin's burst through the wall of Legion H.Q.....

    Superboy - " Are you newcomers here to join the Legion " ?

    Lazon - " What do you think Dummy "? " We've come to sell you Amway ® soaps and vitamin's " !

    How ridiculous a response from Superboy .

    With the exception of the New X-Men rip off this story was terrible .

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