Thursday, April 7, 2016

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #259

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #259 (January, 1980)
title: "Psycho War"
writer: Gerry Conway
penciller: Joe Staton
inker: Dave Hunt
letterer: Milt Snapinn
colorist: Gene D'Angelo
editor: Jack C. Harris
cover: Dick Giordano (signed)
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Superboy, Wildfire, Karate Kid, Shrinking Violet, Chameleon Boy, Shadow Lass, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Sun Boy; cameo by Mon-El?

RJ Brande, Ma & Pa Kent (images)

Rejis Thomak, aka Psycho Warrior

At the ruins of Legion HQ, ambulance workers prepare to take away Lightning Lad, Sun Boy, and Saturn Girl after they were put in catatonic states by the Psycho Warrior. He prepares to take on Superboy next when an air-ship from the St. Croix Medical Center arrives, scaring him off.
Medical staff from the psychological hospital approach the three fallen Legionnaires. Using an Electron Disruptor, they cure them. They explain to the other Legionnaires that they know who attacked them and why.

At RJ Brande's penthouse, the doctors explain who and what Rejis Thomak has become. He had escaped from St. Croix earlier in the day, and they strongly suspected that he was after the Legion.

They tell the Legionnaires that Thomak is from the planet Bunyon's World, a hellish colony where life is hard. He and his girl-friend were on their way to Earth to study at college when they fell into the gravity of an uncharted star that was going nova. When Thomak turned to help his girl-friend get into the escape pod with him, he bumped the automatic eject button. The escape pod blasted off without her, saving him but killing her.
The moral: Ladies First. 
Eventually Thomak was brought to Earth and assigned to St. Croix. Once there he saw Sun Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, and Superboy visiting the ill Brainiac 5. He then transferred his irrational hatred of himself to them. He broke out, but before leaving the island read the psychological profiles of the Legionnaires stored on the island.

Suddenly, he attacks, using a concussion bomb as a diversion. Then he uses an optic detonator, paralyzing the optic nerves of all of the people present except for Superboy.
Superboy chases after Psycho Warrior, who blasts the Teen of Steel and makes him see how his parents died (will die?). Initially overcome with grief and guilt, Superboy is eventually able to shrug the pain off and grab Psycho Warrior. He then forces Thomak to face *his* enemy: the sun! Thomak realizes that it was his carelessness that cost his girl-friend her life, and he becomes rational again.
Later, Superboy tells his friends that he is upset, but will learn to live with the pain of the knowledge of his parents' death somehow. However, the Legionnaires conferred and had agreed that Saturn Girl would give Superboy a mental command to stay in the past. They didn't want him to have to deal with the pain of losing his parents every time he came into the future. As he flies way, they think they will never see him again.

As Colonel Sherman Potter often said: Horse hockey!

This story is just bad. So let's start with some random does Psycho Warrior, a college boy on a "hellish" colony world, suddenly know how to use neural detonators and optic detonators and what have yous? This seems awfully convenient to me.

Also, why in the world does he hate the Legion in general and these five Legionnaires in particular? It's not like they had anything to do with the death of his girl-friend. I can understand Thomak hating Sun Boy, symbolically, but the others seem....irrational. Oh, wait, is that the point? Never mind. By the way, we never saw these particular five Legionnaires visiting Brainiac 5. (We only saw the Legion visit St. Croix three times, and these five were part of a larger group in S/LSH #252, but that's it.) I'm assuming Thomak saw them in some visit which was never shown to us, but still, it's a bit odd.

Totally different question: am I reading too much into it, or did their space accident happen because he and his girl-friend were distracted while having sex? You know, instead of actually driving their space-ship? Looks that way to me.

Of these four Legionnaires, Superboy is the only one with a strong enough will to break free of the Psycho Warrior's power? How awfully convenient. And the others are letting him quit!?!

That brings us to the ending, or the cover: the reason this story is on the Milestone list. Here we have Superboy having a bad experience in the future, and his friends basically telling him they would rather never see him again than have him deal with it.

Uh...okay......I guess....if this was a future universe where nothing bad ever happened!!! Superboy (and every member featured in this story) has had to deal with the death of actual Legionnaires; did Saturn Girl make any of them forget Chemical King or Invisible Kid? In fact, Lightning Lad by this point had to deal with the deaths of HIS parents (see S/LSH #207) but did Saturn Girl make him or his sister forget *their* pain? Of course not!

Besides the basic immaturity of this's the 30th Century, for crying out loud! Ma and Pa Kent (and he, himself) are LONG DEAD. Why is that a shock to him? What did he expect?!
Now, I don't disagree with the idea that Superboy should not be in every issue of Legion of Super-Heroes. However, the worst thing about this ending is that Superboy is well on his way to dealing with his loss in a mature and responsible way when his friends sabotages him. If he had just said, "I have some things to think about. I'll be back....someday" and flown off...that would have been great. This is what almost did happen, until the immature Legionnaires had to stop him from grieving naturally. This is just stupid, stupid, stupid.

Well, what's done is done. On the bright side, we do get a Legion without so much Superboy every issue starting next month! To celebrate, next issue we go to the Circus of Death? Uh-oh. Maybe not.

With this review, the series Superboy/Legion (label SLSH) is officially over. However, instead of just continuing on with weekly reviews of Legion of Super-Heroes (vol 2) (label LSHv2), I'll be taking a break from weekly reviews for a little while. This is partly because I'm a little burned out on the sheer effort required, partly because of the quality of the upcoming stories (Circus of Death, indeed), and partly because I want to try to fill in some of the other gaps in our coverage first. Don't worry, Jimmy James and Blok fans, we will be back to this future eventually!

Next week join me here for a look back on the Superboy series and character. Then for the rest of April I'll be co-opting this space to finish my *other* series of Legion reviews (LSH v3), coincidentally ALSO coming to an end....and then we will have all sorts of new and different stuff for you in May!!

Science Police Notes:  
  • This issues features the debut of a brand-new Legion logo. It was used on this series for the next twenty issues. 
  • Although Mon-El does not appear at any time during the course of this story, he is inexplicably present at the good-bye scene. The majority of Legionnaires featured on the cover waving good-bye to Superboy do not appear in this story. 
  • Three doctors arrive from St. Croix to help cure the Legionnaires, but only two are paralyzed by the Psycho Warrior on page 12.  
This issue has not yet been reprinted.

With this issue, the official title of the book becomes The Legion of Super-Heroes. The Legion's conquest of Superboy's book is now complete. Meanwhile, Superboy, at the end of this story, returns to Smallville and a brand-new solo series called The New Adventures of Superboy. It would last for fifty-four issues.


  1. I think you're sort of misunderstanding Superboy's condition at this point. He already has a hypnotic suggesting thing going on such that anything he learns about his own future while hanging with the Legion, he completely forgets about while he's in the past, so he doesn't have paradoxes and such. But then next time he comes to the 30th century, the second he gets there he'll remember it again, and it wouldn't work like putting him back in the same emotional place he is at the end of this issue but instead putting him in the same emotional place he was when he first found out. (And it's not just that they're dead, but that they're dead because of something that he might have been able to do something about but failed.) (And something that he could trivially prevent if it weren't for the hypnosis and those pesky paradox things.)

    In brighter news, this issue represents the first appearance of the best of all of the Legion logos.

    1. You may be right, but if that is the case it isn't clearly explained. And yeah, the emotional baggage of them dying because of something he did would be the pain he would have to get over. I would agree with that. But I would argue that I'm right: his "forgotten" memories come back like "Oh, yeah, right, I knew that," like how he always knew who Supergirl was and that they had shared adventures. She wasn't a stranger to him every time they met up at LSH meetings.

    2. I do totally agree with you that the logo is boss!

  2. How were Wildfire's "optic nerves" paralyzed by the bomb-thingee? And how did a writer, penciller, inker, letterer, colorist and editor all work on or review that page without catching it?

  3. This is a slightly huge and tragic lost opportunity: boot Superboy from the epic storyline of which he's an integral part, past and present, that works rather well (but that maybe could use some time focusing on mature 30th century world/family building independent of Kal-El being a primary character every issue...)--well, I think he should have continued to make appearances consistently and prominently until shortly before coming out as Superman in Metropolis at about age 25, so perhaps another 5 years or so before Kal-El was reduced to occasional guest star.

    But if you ARE going to boot your star character who so unfortunately throws a shadow over least give him an epic, three-to-five-issue-arc-climaxing-in-desperate-battle-that-matures Kal-El by its intensity, and darkens the tone of The Legion as they move into the 1980s under their own (yes, awesome) logo... I're only removing the most famous, iconic and popular (yah, start doubting when Superman III comes out) character in comics from your roster--and reorganizing the team to avoid time-travel. Not a big deal or anything. Man, what a wasted opportunity.

    1. Just for detailing, I'd suggest part of a 'get rid of Superboy' arc could have that last desperate battle be either a nasty physical one, as Superboy has one last memorable bonding experience with the Legionaire once almost family to him: Mon-El and he double-teaming in a desperate last-stand-effort to effectively fight off or resist an enraged Validus (say)

      -Or, some conflict putting critical pressure, for a long moment, on Superboy's desperate psychic resistance to being overwhelmed by Mordru's magic--Kal having enough knowledge and dread of the situation, that, utterly lacking in magical resistance or no, the indomitable will that often seems to be a trait of the character giving him a surprise-basis to attempt to resist. Just two thoughts from the top of my head that seem...well...obviously better than randomly meeting Ma and Pa Kents' ghosts. -One offers a farewell to a Legion character (whose equal status is recognized, for once, looking to the future). The 2nd incident, something a bit beyond teenage stubbornness (which isn't Kal's thing, anyway) would perhaps have suggested that, in this arc, he was soon exiting the period of his life when he could be appropriately called 'Superboy' any longer.