Thursday, February 4, 2016

Superboy & The Legion #250

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #250 (April, 1979)
title: "This Is The Day The Universe Dies"
story & layouts: Jim Starlin (credited as Steve Apollo) 
words: Paul Levitz
finishes: 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:  
Chameleon Boy, Wildfire, Shadow Lass, Tyroc, Mon-El, Dream Girl, Lighting Lad, Saturn Girl, Sun Boy, Cosmic Boy, Timber Wolf, Element Lad, Superboy, Star Boy, Brainiac 5, Ultra Boy, Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, Karate Kid, Dawnstar, Princess Projectra (mentioned but not actually shown)

Omega and his mysterious creator

At Legion head-quarters, Chameleon Boy is sitting alone, considering that one of the Legionnaires is crazy, and, worse, a murderer. Just then, a masked man shows up and confronts Cham. He tells Chameleon Boy that he was monitoring him, and when Cham ran a program on his recent activities, he knew that he had been discovered.  The masked man coldly blasts Chameleon Boy and walks off. leaving him for dead.
Wildfire shows up later and, after verifying that Chameleon Boy is not dead, takes his flight ring. Wildfire then calls a Class-1 emergency.

When the entire (?) Legion arrives, Wildfire fills everyone in on Chameleon Boy's investigation. He tells them that after Ultra Boy had been framed for murder (in S/LSH #239), Cham had started digging. Suddenly, a hologram of the masked man appears, interrupting Wildfire. He tells the Legion that he has started a "game." As he disappears, a deep space alarm goes off.
Superboy and Mon-El fly off to investigate. They find Omega, who hates the Legion and is stronger than Validus. He punches Mon-El with enough force to give the indestructible youth a concussion. Superboy grabs him and hightails it back to Earth.
Wildfire decides that the best thing to do is to send out teams of Legionnaires to try to slow Omega's approach to Earth. He then confronts who he thinks is responsible: Brainiac 5! Brainy admits that he created Omega to destroy the Legion. He tells them Omega is coming to Earth to get the last thing he needs, and then Omega will destroy the universe. To everyone's dismay, Brainiac 5 is clearly insane.
Dream Girl tells Wildfire that she had a vision of Wildfire at Legion HQ as the world explodes. He has no choice but to ignore her warning, as he sends all the other Legionnaires out to try to stop Omega.

This is one of those stories that you read though as quickly as you can because it is so exciting, only to find upon re-reading it that there are plot holes large enough for Omega to walk through! So let's talk about the good things first!

Let's start, of course, with the gorgeous artwork of Jim Starlin. Although he chose to publish this work under a pseudonym, it is clearly his work. (Besides, in the previous issue's Next Issue Box it had proudly claimed that Jim Starlin was coming back---!) Be that as it may, the Legion had not looked this good since James Sherman & Bob McLeod had left. Every page and every Legionnaire is gorgeous. The space scenes are especially well laid out. Don't believe me? Take a look.
The story is mostly just a set-up for the climax next issue, but there are still quite a few nice bits here. Chameleon Boy's great detective skills for example, are highlighted nicely. Wildfire and Cham's back-up plan to not lose their entire investigation results in case the murderer struck again was also very clever. Omega as a menace is clearly formidable, but it isn't clear exactly who or what he is yet, so I'll refrain from comment on him this time.

The rest of the story, however, doesn't really stand up upon closer inspection. Chameleon Boy suspects Brainiac 5, but when the masked man arrives, Cham simply lets himself get shot? Then the would-be murderer doesn't make sure that Chameleon Boy is dead? Then Wildfire doesn't rush his friend to medical aid? Then Wildfire calls an emergency meeting without actually reading Chameleon Boy's report!? In fact, it's not quite clear when he does read it....!

Also, the idea that the best way to defeat Omega is to have several different groups fight him is a move right out of a Cary Bates' script. Specifically, the idea that Dream Girl is going to go out into space to battle Omega is just plain ludicrous. She should have stayed at Legion HQ and watched over Brainiac 5, or something.

Also, I have a minor point but a telling one: if the masked man who shoots Chameleon Boy is supposed to be Brainiac 5, why in the world would he dress like a hooded murderer? That's just drawing attention to himself! I've read enough Agatha Christie to know that he should have walked in to the room where Cham is as Brainiac 5, calm as can be, and shot his buddy. Then if anybody had seen him after he had tried to kill his friend, he's just Brainy talking to Chameleon Boy, or he could claim that he had just found Cham---shot! If somebody had walked in on him with a hood on, how do you explain THAT away!? Besides, if Chameleon Boy suspected a lone murderer, why would he sit in an isolated room away from help? Clearly Jim Starlin hadn't read a lot of mystery novels, OR he was sabotaging Chameleon Boy's intelligence.

On another note, clearly the Legion had been the victim of deadlines and creative chaos, and I doubt it was all because of the DC Implosion. Reading this story it is obvious that it was written and drawn for when Wildfire was still the leader. Lightning Lad is mentioned as being the leader, yes, but it is a throw-away line; clearly Wildfire is in charge. And as I mentioned before, this tale was originally mentioned in a letter column to published as a "Special," not broken up over two regular issues. In S/LSH #255 editor Jack C. Harris admits that the story was originally 64 pages, but trimmed to 42 to run over this and next issue. With nearly 20 pages to cut you would think they would have just stretched it out over three issues instead....!?

Still, the sense of foreboding and suspense is maintained, and I could not wait to read the next issue when I got to the end of this story.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Phantom Girl and Light Lass do not appear in this issue. 
  • Although Wildfire says that he is acting leader in Lightning Lad's absence, Lighting Lad is clearly shown in two group shots. 
  • Tyroc makes one of his rare Legion appearances with actual dialogue. He doesn't actually use his powers, but he does a tad more than just stand around. 
  • The cover features Superboy and the Legion bursting through nine previous Superboy covers: 96, unrecognizable, 1, 198, unrecognizable, 125, 157, 197, and 202. UPDATE: Per the note from Brian Morrison below, the second cover does appear to be Superboy #86, featuring "The Army of Living Kryptonite Men." Nice catch, Brian!
This issue has not yet been reprinted.

This is the 250th issue of Superboy, which had made its publishing debut in January, 1949 before morphing into Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Brainiac 5 is revealed to have been the murderer in Superboy/Legion #239, and to have been criminally insane since atleast that time.

1 comment:

  1. The second cover is from Superboy 86. Check it out at