Thursday, March 17, 2016

Superboy & The Legion #256

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #256 (October, 1979)
title: "This is Your Life---and Death, Brainiac 5!"
writer: Gerry Conway
penciller: Joe Staton
inker: Dave Hunt
letterer: Ben Oda
colorist: Gene D'Angelo
editor: Jack C. Harris
cover: Dick Giordano (signed)
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Superboy, Shrinking Violet, Chameleon Boy, Mon-El, Shadow Lass, Phantom Girl, Colossal Boy, Ultra Boy, Light Lass, Timber Wolf, Wildfire

Brainiac 5, RJ Brande, Matter-Eater Lad


On the island of St. Croix on Earth, Brainiac 5 is sitting in the dark in his room at the mental asylum, unaware that his friends are visiting him again. The doctor tells the other Legionnaires that Brainy prefers the darkness, smashing the lights every time a staff member replaces them. The doctor thinks Matter-Eater Lad can eventually be cured because the source of his insanity is organic (he ate the Miracle Machine) but he thinks Brainiac 5 will remain insane for the rest of his life. Saturn Girl thinks that if they helped him know himself, it might cure him.
On RJ Brande's private asteroid, Chameleon Boy has begun trying to figure out how their benefactor lost his vast fortune. He begins to formulate a plan to investigate further.
At Cosmic World, a floating amusement park hovering over the Grand Canyon, the manager refuses the Legionnaires' request to loan the facility to them. Not taking no for an answer, they confiscate it anyway. They broadcast that there have been mechanical failures, sending all the patrons home. The manager angrily calls in the Science Police.
At the destroyed Legion HQ, Timber Wolf airs his frustration at the sheer amount of work required to rebuild. Light Lass gives him a pep talk explaining how the Legion is an ideal, not a shiny building.
Back at Cosmic World, Brainiac 5 awakens as if he were the newborn son of his parents. Then that image fades and he is an elementary school student, being made fun of by the other boys. He is called "freak" and "big brain." His father is angry at him for fighting with the boys and letting their teasing get to him. Then that vision fades, too.
In reality, Lighting Lad and Saturn Girl are using the hologram program at Cosmic World to make Brainiac 5 relive his traumatic childhood. The hope is that they can get him to get past whatever it was that made him go crazy.
Meanwhile, the Science Police arrive to investigate. Superboy destroys their cruisers, but Cosmic Boy stops them from crashing.

In Brainiac 5's program, he is now re-living the time that he came across a little girl on a coastal cliff. She falls, but he saves her. She gratefully hugs him. In reality, she had cowered before him. Because Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad reprograms the hologram for the memory to be pleasant and not traumatic, Brainiac 5 is cured.
Holograms are better than a Legionnaire, Lightning Lad? Really!? 
Outside, the SPs attack again, taking Superboy down with Green Kryptonite and Cosmic Boy with lasers. They burst in to the part to arrest the others just as the program is ending.

My notes to this story starts with, "Oy vey." This is such a hot mess, making no sense from start to finish. The Legion commandeering a public facility? How about they ask their long-time member, Princess Projectra, to create illusions around Brainiac 5? Wouldn't that have been simpler, and even more dramatic? Or how about a visit back to Colu, Brainiac 5's home planet? Perhaps psychiatrists there could have helped where Earth doctors could not. Speaking of Colu, a planet of geniuses, why would "big brain" be a term of mocking?

As I've said before, I think that the insanity of Brainiac 5 was a terrible story idea. But here we have it cured by....a hologram hug?!? Hence my "oy vey."

Moving on... Chameleon Boy suggests that he will have to activate the Legion Espionage Squad....but without Phantom Girl and Saturn Girl, who are both busy on Earth. One is And the other was never a member of the Espionage Squad! And again we ignore Princess Projectra, who is....who knows where.

And sentimental Timber Wolf (?!) needs a pep talk from Light Lass (?!) to keep going. Riiiiight.

The art is capable, but not anything especially note-worthy. Joe Staton and Dave Hunt are professionals, but I don't get any particular feel that they are enthusiastic about the work.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Although Chameleon Boy is featured on the cover, he does not take part in the mission to cure Brainiac 5
  • The title of this story refers to the TV series "This Is Your Life," broadcast in the US from 1952-1961 and in a new, syndicated version in 1970. Each week host Ralph Edwards would surprise his guests with reunions of old friends, family members, and other acquaintances to reminisce about the guest's accomplishments. 
This issue has not yet been reprinted.

1 comment:

  1. This may have been a terrible story, but it was my introduction to the Legion. My father picked it up at the local drugstore and gave it to me when I was sick. I was fascinated by the characters and tracked down almost all the back issues at several local comic book shops and flea markets picking up everything to when Supergirl was rejected during her first tryout. (No easy feat pre-internet days!)The name-dropping (like the unseen Princess Projectra) is one of the things that hooked me. I wanted to know who all the characters were. So, thank you Legion #256-- you led to decades worth of reading and unforgettable weekends shared with friends hunting through long boxes of comics!