Thursday, March 3, 2016

Superboy & The Legion #254

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #254 (August, 1979)
title: "A Mad Man Shall Lead Them"
writer: Gerry Conway
penciller: Joe Staton
inker: Dave Hunt
letterer: Todd Klein
colorist: Gene D'Angelo
editor: Jack C. Harris
cover: Dick Giordano (signed)
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

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

Brainiac 5, RJ Brande, Legion of Substitute Heroes: Polar Boy, Night Girl, Fire Lad, Chlorophyll Kid, Color Kid

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

On Earth, Superboy arrives at the mental institution on St. Croix to talk to Brainiac 5. However, before they can exchange more than a quick greeting, Lazon arrives and blasts Superboy with green Kryptonite light. Superboy begs Brainiac 5 to help as he is attacked. Lazon does not attack Brainiac 5.

On RJ Brande's asteroid home, Lightning Lad has led a group of Legionnaires to ask for more financial backing from their rich friend. Unfortunately, Brande admits to them that he is bankrupt.
Brainiac 5 and his floating coffins
At the Substitute Heroes' head-quarters, Brainiac 5 arrives with a body-guard, a robotic observer, and six "dead" Legionnaires. He tells the Subs that he was allowed to retrieve the lifeless bodies of his former team-mates and bring them to the Subs in order to save them. He tells them that after Superboy was attacked, Brainiac 5 analyzed security tapes from around the Legion HQ and witnessed the League of Super-Assassins attacking the Legion. However, he also saw that the League hadn't killed the Legionnaires. What really happened was that Superboy flew around at super-speed and put all of them into suspended animation. Now Brainiac 5 needs the help of the Subs to capture the League so that he can use Lazon's light powers to awaken the Legionnaires. (whew!)
Brainiac 5 traces Lazon's energy to their hide-out, and by keeping in the shadows (created by Color Kid) the Subs are able to out-wit and capture all of the League.
Brainiac 5 then drains Lazon's body of enough light energy to reverse the suspended animation and revive the six unconscious Legionnaires. Superboy then admits that he had overheard the League of Assassins planning on killing his friends, so he decided to use the gases that the Legionnaires had absorbed from their night club and holo-movie experiences earlier in the evening and convert them into suspended animation gases.
Here comes the Silver Age-like explanatory dialogue!
So, yeah, this is the stupidest Legion story I have read since, well, maybe since Matter-Eater Lad's little brother tried to win his way into the Legion by killing his older brother! (I'm not making this up, it's from Superboy #184).

Anyway, Superboy overhears the League of Super-Assassins planning their attack on the Legion. Instead of rushing back and helping Colossal Boy defeat Mist Master, and, oh, I dunno, calling in the other four members in Metropolis for a knock-down drag-out fight between the two groups, he decides that putting his friends in pseudo-suspended animation would be the better course of action.

Re-read that paragraph. Go on, I'll wait.

Yeah, so this is stupid. I mean, how do you fake a mental attack? Phantom Girl at the very least should have been killed, cuz there's no way Superboy could have guessed that Neutrax was about to give her a fatal brain blast. And even if she was unconscious, wouldn't he still have killed her? Likewise, Blok seriously beat-up on Light Lass, and Silver Slasher clearly ripped into Timber Wolf. Why did Superboy allow this to happen?
Oh, right, so Gerry Conway could set up Brainiac 5 as their savior. By the way, how many mental patients do you know who are allowed to walk around after being committed? (The Joker doesn't count.) And the asylum didn't call the Legion in!? I guess it makes sense that Brainiac 5 would ask the Subs for help, maybe assuming that they hadn't heard that he was bonkers....but this point isn't mentioned anywhere in the story.

But enough brick-bracks. I LOVE how the Subs take down the League, proving once again that they are a force to be reckoned with when written well. But really, their appearance is the only saving grace in this awful story. It reads more like something from 1959, not 1979.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Shadow Lass is shown on the cover and in the "roll call" but does not appear in the story. Someone got her and Phantom Girl mixed up. Jack C. Harris? 
  • Element Lad clearly appears on RJ Brande's asteroid in this issue, but then he does not re-appear in this series until LSH # 266. His absence is never explained. 
  • Stone Boy does not appear with the Legion of Substitute Heroes
  • The group never actually refers to themselves as "the League of Super-Assassins." 
This issue has not yet been reprinted.


  1. This was one of the first issues I owned. I actually really liked it and like the Subs.

  2. As dumb as it was I also love this story for the Subs.
    It's also the start of the trend where the Subs are most effective when they're NOT being lead by Polar Boy.

  3. This was probably my introduction to both the Subs (and Polar Boy) and Brainiac 5, so both of my favorite legionaires...

    Actually, I'm not sure if I read this issue before the one two months later. These stories probably work better when you don't have the backstory behind them.

    On the other hand, the fact that that backstory exists, that the Legion is, almost uniquely among DC books at the time, doing long-form, soap-opera-esque storylines directly involving the main characters (B5 now, Ultra Boy later) that drew me into the series

  4. Here's another brick to bat the story with: leaving Stone Boy out of the action was just lazy. Night Girl could have used him as a club to bludgeon some of the tougher LSVers, like Silver Slasher and Titania.


  5. This issue was The Legion v The New X- Men .

    Blok could absorb energy blasts but later this disappeared replaced by Super strength and invulnerability ( how he got around the unique power rule for admission it was never explained ).

    I would have preferred Lazon to have joined !