Thursday, July 21, 2016

Legion of Super-Heroes (V2) #289

Legion of Super-Heroes #289
“A Cold and Lonely Corner of Hell”
JULY 1982
The Great Darkness Saga Part Six
Written by Paul Levitz
Pencilled by Keith Giffen
Inked by Bruce Patterson
Lettered by John Constanza
Colored by Carl Gafford
Laurie Sutton Editor

Roll Call:
Blok, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Dawnstar, Dream Girl, Lightning Lad, Lightning Lass, Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, Star Boy, Sun Boy, Timber Wolf, Ultra Boy, and Yera.

Once again this issue returns to the two story format, a lead-story by the Levitz & Giffen super-team that follows our heroes stranded on an icy asteroid when fleeing the Khund homeworld, and a back-up feature by Levitz and Carmine Infantino.
Our lead feature opens on the frozen asteroid and its five stranded inhabitants, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Saturn Girl, Shrinking Violet, and Timber Wolf. Chameleon Boy has shape-shifted into a dragon to provide the rest of the team with the essential life-saving heat needed on their icy prison. However, this doesn't prevent him from being guilt-ridden over his rash actions that led to their current predicament. Meanwhile, the rest of the Legionnaires are scouring the cosmos for their teammates. Blok & Sun Boy desperately search for their lost comrades on the jungle world of Yucatan VII, where it is rumored that a United Planets ship was spotted crash landing. Their search yields only a short conflict with some alien tourists.

Back on earth, the team of Legionnaires that rescued Karate Kid and Princess Projectra on Orando last issue, arrive to a deserted Legion Headquarters. They find its only inhabitant to be a noticeably weathered and disheveled Lightning Lad, who explains the Legion's current predicament.

Out in deep space, near the edge of the Khundia territory, Dawnstar and Lightning Lass desperately search for a trail leading to their missing comrades. Their search is cut short when a solar storm appears out of nowhere, destroying their ship, and injuring both Legionnaires in the process. Another team of Legionnaires, comprised of Phantom Girl and Star Boy, search the cosmos for their missing friends, passing the wandering planet of Apokolips that we saw a few issues ago. On it, a veiled Darkseid, unleashes five servants to go forward into the universe and wreak havoc in his name.

Back on the desolate icy asteroid, Shrinking Violet and Saturn Girl rummage through the wreckage of their ship, and think they have discovered the means to make one last desperate attempt at being located from a far. They have taken an anti-matter pod and rigged it to explode in light frequencies, which Chameleon Boy is then able to amplify and reflect into space. The cosmic signal flare is sent, and the Legionnaires watch their desperate final attempt at being found fade away. Just then the anti-photons from the pod react with the surrounding metal wreckage of the Star Cruiser, causing an explosion that sends the Legionnaires scrambling.

Timber Wolf carries the weakened Saturn Girl away at super speed, where they have their moment of the issue. Their emotional hug is interrupted by the rescue crew! Dawnstar with her incredible tracking skills saw their make-ship flare, and was able to locate the ship-wrecked Legionnaires from there. The crew has been saved, but not all of the Legionnaires are jumping with joy.

"Once Upon an Insanity”
Written by Paul Levitz
Pencilled by Carmine Infantino
Inked by Larry Mahlstedt
Lettered by Todd Klein
Colored by Carl Gafford

Roll Call:
Brainiac 5, Element Lad, and Matter-Eater Lad.

Brainiac 5 enlists Element Lad's help in his latest attempt to cure Matter-Eater Lad of his insanity. As the duo approaches their crazed teammate, they are sedated by a deranged and disgruntled Doctor R'Xalim, who seeks revenge on Brainiac 5 for tarnishing his career. The mad doctor traps the three Legionnaires inside a containment field that begins to shrink, and then runs off to celebrate, assuming that their destruction is assured.

Of course they don't call him Brainiac for nothing, he takes a lone flower, puts it in contact with the still incapacitated Element Lad, who is instantly awakened due to his intense Tromian allergy to pollinating flowers. With Element Lad awake, he is able to use his transmutation power to erect an inertron-iron-titanium alloy barrier, that repels the shrinking containment field and overpowers the projector.

With the three Legionnaires free and Doctor R'Xalim captured by the Science Police, Brainiac 5 and Element Lad head home with Matter-Eater Lad in tow, in hopes that Brainiac 5 can cure him.

The cover may be the best we've seen so far. Now I don't mean that from dynamic or eye-grabbing standpoint, I mean that from the stance that it perfectly captures the tone of the story inside. Our lost team of Legionnaires comprises a very small percentage of the cover real estate. The rest of the cover is devoted to the freezing cold abyss of an icy asteroid in the deep frigid vacuum of space. This covers give you a sense of dread and reeks of isolation, which is the main aesthetic of the lead-story. The cover perfectly captures that hopelessness and desperation.

The story itself is another masterpiece weaved by Levitz and Giffen. From an action standpoint, there really isn't much outside of the short bursts of panels scattered here and there throughout the issue, but it's still a captivating read. It's real strength lies in the emotional roller coaster ride Levitz puts the readers through as he forwards the sub-plots and creates a soap opera dynamic within the team.

We see Garth, who was the Leader of the Legion of Super-Heroes just a few issues ago, at rock bottom, completely cracked under the stress of possibly losing his wife Saturn Girl forever. Based on how the issue ends, even though Imra is back home to him safely, I don't think his emotional woes are going anywhere anytime soon. Of course I'm speaking to the very uncomfortable, emotionally & sexually charged tension between Saturn Girl and Timber Wolf. They don't kiss, but you get the feeling that another few hours on that icy rock and they may have. Instead, their heart-to-heart after the explosion culminates in a hug, which Lightning Lass doesn't seem too pleased with when her and Dawnstar arrive on the spot.

We see Chameleon Boy's finally come to terms with the gravity of the situation he and his teammates are in, and how his rash behavior is ultimately what's responsible for the death that surely awaits himself and his four comrades. Luckily for him, their ship-wrecked crew is rescued by Dawnstar and Lightning Lass, but I anticipate, that like Lightning Lad, he's got more trouble on his horizon as well when they return to earth. And of course Star Boy continues providing some comedy relief with his absolutely awful, inconsiderate, pessimistic comments about the state of his lost teammates. What a jerk.

And of course the biggest plot moment of the issue outside of the lost Legionnaires being located by Dawnstar and Lightning Lass, is Darkseid! We see him unleash his forces on an unsuspecting and unprepared, 30th Century. In the story his true identity is still hidden in shadow, but come on he's all over the front and back cover of the trade paperback, so obviously it's him!

Onto the back-up feature, well...I got to be honest...this one hurts a bit to revisit. I'm a huge fan of Carmine Infantino's 1950's and 1960's comic art; he brought a dynamic style to DC's superhero and science fiction comics that were absolutely revolutionary, especially compared to other DC books on the shelf at the time. He had some of the best figure work, page compositions, and panel progressions in the industry. His artwork and storytelling abilities in his youth were absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, that is not the same Carmine Infantino we see here in 1982. Outside of the panel from page 3 of the story with the ridiculous facial expression and proportions, the art isn't bad per say, some of that might be due to Larry Mahlstedt doing the heavy lifting and damage control with inks, but it's boring. It's just bland, boring art, which pains me to say. You have one of the most dynamic artists of the Silver Age, who really bucked the stiff-artwork trend of the era, now looking stiff here in 1982 when he's no longer on the top of his game. From a story standpoint, there isn't a whole lot added here either, so all in all, the issue ends on a whimper.  

Next week, we dive into the first Legion of Super-Heroes annual, which is going to put some of our sub-plots on hold, but it looks to be another great Levitz and Giffen adventure!


  1. Great review-- these issues bring back a lot of memories for me. Just a quick note-- you refer to Ayla as Lightning Lass several times in the review, but she's Light Lass at this point in time.

    1. You are correct she is, but as I've been compiling my notes and doing the story recaps, I made the decision to stick with all of the characters' original names, except in a case of a drastic character or name change, such as Triplicate Girl to Duo Damsel.

      This just helps me personally keep track of the continuity and appearance chronology with each character, so I use their original names whenever possible, which is also how they are listed at Mike's Amazing World.

      Thank you for reading! I'm having a blast recapping the issues!

  2. I never bought Ayla's reaction to seeing Saturn Girl and TWolf. Light Lass is the one who begged Saturn Girl to go looking for Timber Wolf. Also, they're stuck on damn asteroid, potentially freezing to death, they've just escaped their ship exploding and Ayla's jealous!? I may be in the minority here but ugh, so dislikable (Light Lass that is).

  3. I loved it when Vi asked Saturn Girl since "she's good with machines" I love the call back to the fact that Saturn Girl is a scientist too (she invented XY-4 after all).