Thursday, June 30, 2016

Legion of Super-Heroes #286

Legion of Super-Heroes #286
“Old Friends, New Relatives, and Other Corpses”
APRIL 1982
The Great Darkness Saga Part Three
Written by Paul Levitz
Pencilled by Pat Broderick
Inked by Bruce Patterson
Lettered by John Constanza
Colored by Gene D’Angelo
Edited by Anton Kawasaki
Cover by Pat Broderick and Romeo Tanghal

Roll Call:
Blok, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Dawnstar, Lightning Lad, Lightning Lass, Phantom Girl, R.J. Brande, Saturn Girl, Shrinking Violet, Star Boy, Sun Boy, Superboy, Timber Wolf, and Ultra Boy.

We’re back with the third installment of the Great Darkness Saga story arc, as it is presented and reprinted in the Great Darkness Saga TPB & HC. Just like the previous issue, Legion of Super-Heroes #286 featured two stories, a lead feature that ran 18 pages, as well as back-up story, that checks-in on Karate Kid and Princess Projectra on her homeworld of Orando.

Our lead story opens with the Legion enjoying some down time courtesy of a 30th Century game of beach volleyball during a Legionnaire picnic. It seems the fun and games quickly turn to an argument when Colossal Boy cheats and uses his powers to grow in height and spike the volleyball. The gang's all there, enjoying rest & relaxation, including Superboy ,fresh in from the 20th Century, and the founding father of the Legion of Super-Heroes, RJ Brande. But it seems that the Legion’s recreation time is about to be cut short by a brooding Dr. Zaxton Regulus, who reflects on how he bestowed fabulous solar powers to Dirk Morgna, turning him into Sun Boy, a mistake he’s about to rectify.

Meanwhile, RJ Brande, who recently revealed to Chameleon Boy that he is in fact his father, has pulled Chameleon Boy aside to have a father-son heart-to-heart chat. Chameleon Boy still feels overwhelmed by this shocking revelation, and is a bit cold and distant towards his father, even going so far as to shape shift into a butterfly and bail on the conversation. Just then, the skies go red, the ground starts shaking, and the heat gets so intense that it causes Brande to collapse, just as the rest of the Legion arrive on the scene. It seems the source of the intense heat and pulsations are coming from Brande’s lead-lined secret laboratory, which is located on the far side of the planet. The Legionnaires grab Brande and make haste towards this lab for further investigation.

Upon arrival at the fusion dome, the Legionnaires are quickly confronted by the culprit of the disturbance, Dr. Regulus. It seems Regulus has amped up Brande’s fusion generator, absorbed it’s radiation, and now holds at his fingertips enough raw power to decimate a star system. With that power, he makes short work of the Legion, even dispelling his radiation in the same wavelength as a red sun, crippling Superboy. This leaves only Phantom Girl, who is unharmed by the radiation as long as she stays in her phantom form, and Sun Boy, left to stop the maniacal Dr. Regulus.

Meanwhile, back on earth, another team of Legionnaires, consisting of Ultra Boy, Lightning Lass, Timber Wolf, Star Boy, Shrinking Violet, and Blok, reflect on the growing Khund menace (as seen in last issue). Just then Chameleon Boy (who is apparently still an emotional train-wreck despite his 56 million mile trip) bursts through the door and determines that something must be done immediately about the Khunds, and he orders the other Legionnaires to pack their gear for a reconnaissance mission to the Khund homeworld, which departs in 10 minutes.

Back in the fusion dome, as the reactor approaches critical mass, Sun Boy confronts Dr. Regulus and they square off in a radiation-powered test of wills. Sun Boy gains the upper hand, overpowers Regulus, and then heads off to stop the reactor, no matter the cost. Dr. Regulus recovers, and with no one else there to stop him, climbs aboard his ship, and heads for the stars, seemingly leaving the planet and the Legionnaires doomed when the reactor goes critical in a few more moments.

The rest of the Legionnaires have recovered, including RJ Brande, who is the only one with the knowledge to stop the nuclear dome. So Superboy flies at super-speed to the heart of the dome to relay instructions for RJ Brande to Sun Boy via Saturn Girl’s telepathic link. However, Dirk seems to have everything in hand, using his experience as a Nuclear scientist to safely power down the reactor and saving the day. As he watches the glow around the planet receded, Dr. Regulus soon realizes his plan has failed, but before he can escape, a team of Legionnaires led by Dawnstar, track him down, and make short work of the homicidal maniac.

All is well that ends well, except for Chameleon Boy’s desertion, which doesn’t sit too well with Legion Leader Lightning Lad. He vows to have a very charged discussion with Chameleon Boy when he returns to Headquarters, but that will have to wait an issue (or two).

“A Crown for the Princess”
Written by Paul Levitz
Pencilled by Keith Giffen
Inked by Bruce Patterson
Lettered by Adam Kubert
Colored by Gene D’Angelo

Roll Call:
Karate Kid & Princess Projectra

This back-up story picks up on a story thread from Legion of Super-Heroes #284 & 285. Princess Projectra had returned to her homeworld Orando with her boyfriend Karate Kid, in hopes of Val proving to Projectra’s father, the King, that he is worthy of her hand. But before the King of Orando could render his final verdict on the matter, he quite literally dropped dead. So this story opens on the King’s funeral, as we see Projectra, now Queen of Orando, reflect with sadness on the death of her father, but her mourning is interrupted with a challenge for rule, issued by her cousin Prince Pharoxx. He claims that the King’s death was unnatural and due to the strange associations that Projectra has made with witches, demons, and aliens of foreign worlds. And so a “Trial by Combat” is issued, with the winner claiming the throne of Orando.

The trial begins, and doesn’t last long. Pharoxx has the upper hand from the beginning of combat. He seems to be immune to Projectra’s powers of illusion, resulting his very quick defeat of her. Karate Kid doesn't fair any better, as he is quickly dismantled by Pharoxx's proficiency in wielding both sword and sorcery. Pharoxx is triumphant, and the crowd embraces him as King. His first royal order….death to Princess Projectra and Karate Kid, traitors to the realm!

Starting with the cover, it’s a pretty dynamic and attention-grabbing cover. We see Dr. Regulus with a choke hold on Sun Boy, who seems to be the lone defiant Legionnaire left while a number of Legion heavy-hitters lay defeated in the background. I like it a lot, it’s definitely better than the cover to #285, and a fitting entry to an all-around action packed issue, and it actually reflects the circumstances around their showdown inside the issue! 

And an action packed issue it was! Legion of Super-Heroes #286 has two great stories with absolutely gorgeous art and high octane pacing. In our lead story we have a great mix of character moments and action! It’s great to see Sun Boy get a chance to shine against his nemesis, where he uses a combination of raw power and brains to avert a total nuclear meltdown. Then of course we have Chameleon Boy unable to cope with the sea of emotion he's facing due to the recent revelation that RJ Brande is his father. This has sent Chameleon Boy off half-cocked, taken valuable Legionnaires off world on an unauthorized secret mission, and royally p’d off Lightning Lad. After the lackluster filler issue of Legion of Super-Heroes #285, Levitz is back to straining the Legion and chipping away at its foundation. He's setting them up for the gauntlet they're about to be put through when the Great Darkness Saga gets in full swing, just like we saw in the opening chapter of the story from Legion of Super-Heroes #284.

That chipping away of the Legion foundation is continued in the second feature of the issue as well. This little story is a great character piece, similar to the Dream Girl story from the previous issue. We get to see more about the culture of Orando, its customs, and how Projectra attempts to temper them with her experiences from more modern worlds as a member of the Legion. Meanwhile Karate Kid is just trying to roll with the punches and adjust to these ancient and archaic customs, when all of a sudden they find themselves facing death at the hand of Projectra’s cousin. No longer are Karate Kid and Projectra seemingly just off world, it now looks like they may be on their way to totally being out of commission…permanently!

The art in both stories is fantastic! After a weaker performance in Legion of Super-Heroes #285, Broderick is back with his strongest art performance in our coverage so far. All of the characters are crisp, well rendered, and dynamic. He excels at not only the fast paced action scenes, which his art paces very well, but also the slower, more emotional moments. I can’t praise the art enough in this one, it’s a fantastic example of what great super-hero comic art is all about. And the brass at DC must have really enjoyed this one as well; it was hailed as one of the best stories of 1982 and reprinted in the Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #35 in 1983.

Giffen’s work on the back-up feature in the previous issue is what saved it from being a total bust, and that’s high quality artwork is continued here. He packs the trial of combat into three pages, and man is it exciting to look at. And we better get used to it, because starting next issue, Giffen takes over as the main artist. I'm sad to see Broderick go, especially after he put forth such an amazing 18 pages in this one. I can't help but wonder if he gave this one a little something extra to ensure he went out with a bang.

All around this was a really fun and exciting read. It leaves you satisfied but also eagerly awaiting the next chapter, bring on Legion of Super-Heroes #287!

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