Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #261

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #261 (March, 1980)
title: "Space Circus of Death!"
writer: Gerry Conway
penciller: Ric Estrada
inker: John Calnan
letterer: Todd Klein
colorist: Gene D'Angelo
editor: Jack C. Harris
cover: Dick Giordano (signed)
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Mon-El, Star Boy, Brainiac 5, Phantom Girl, Princess Projectra, Timber Wolf

unnamed killer

At the Bacaro Barley Interstellar Travelling Carnival & Sideshow, the Legionnaires are using a brain scanner to prove that Imik the Juggler is the murderer they are looking for. Suddenly, the device electrocutes him! Brainiac 5 now knows that whoever the murderer is, he or she must have some advanced technological knowledge.
Meanwhile, the assistant manager of the circus is heading towards their trailer when she sees someone lurking around suspiciously, dressed all in black. He sees that she sees him, so he kills her with his disruptor. Inside their trailer, Timber Wolf hears her dying cry and rushes outside to give chase to the murderer. Timber Wolf catches up to the killer, but they accidentally fall into a cage with a Venusian Night Shark. Phantom Girl stops it by phasing through it, but in the confusion the murderer has gotten away.

Ring Master Gissark decides that he has no choice but to quit and return to their native planet, Cygnus IV. He understands that this might mean war between Earth and Cygnus, but he refuses to jeopardize any more of his staff or animals.

Of Brainiac 5's original three suspects, only Tyrus the Clown remains. Mon-El and Star Boy decide to watch over him, but they are not quick enough to stop him from being killed in an explosion.
As the circus train of space ships begin to depart into Hyperspace, the Legionnaires suddenly find themselves without a vehicle. Timber Wolf grabs the energy charge from the last ship, and the others hold onto him. All of the Legionnaires are then pulled into hyperspace without a space ship.
In order to prevent the Legionnaires from suffering from vertigo or even worse visual disorientation, Projectra lets them all see an illusion of a pleasant trail as they fly through hyperspace. Suddenly, the Ring Master flies back towards them, admitting that as an Earthman who immigrated to Cygnus, he wanted to cause a war between his two "native" planets because he is a racist. Phantom Girl easily disarms him, as she is not injured by his blaster in her phantom form. After he confesses, he jumps off the illusional "path" into hyperspace, killing himself.
Well, *that* was a disappointment! On the one hand I'm glad to see that the murderer was not one of the three suspects, but, really, Brainiac 5 and company only reached that conclusion after two of the three were murdered! This is 16th level intelligence?

Speaking of intelligence, why was Tyrus murdered? Seems to me that the Ring Master would have left him alive, if only to leave him as the prime suspect. Or did the Ring Master know or suspect that the Legion was on to him? Maybe, as it would have been his decision to blast off into hyperspace while the Legionnaires were outside of their space-ship. Speaking of that, though....huh? Timber Wolf somehow grabs hold of the energy charge emitting from the last ship in the chain, and that allows all of them to fly into hyperspace? This is a stretch. What if, instead, Mon-El, who has the speed of Superboy, grabbed his friends and flew them into the last space-ship trailer? Wouldn't that make a little bit more sense? Of course, then we wouldn't get the scene of the Ring Master flying up to the Legionnaires, trying to kill them, then flying off again....to his death? Not sure what happened there, why he was okay to approach them but not okay to fly away from them?
The art this issue is by Ric Estrada and John Calnan. Due to the heavy inks of Calnan, though, you might not be able to recognize any Estrada pencilling work. It looks very much like last issue's Joe Staton art. Oddly enough, the circus characters appear more "cartoony" this issue. Check out the page reprinted above of the ill-fated Tyrus; he looks like a Looney Tunes frog or something. I do think Estrada's layouting is good, though....check out that page where the Legion decides to chase after the hyperspace-jumping ships; the angles and close-ups are quite effective.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Princess Projectra's hair is mis-colored as blonde throughout this story.
  • Clovis the assistant manager is totally annihilated by the disruptor, but no one witnessed her death, so why does everyone assume that she is dead, and not just missing? 
  • On page 15 (reprinted above) why does Phantom Girl exclaim, "Gods of Imsk!"? She's not from Imsk, Shrinking Violet is. Phantom Girl is from Bgtzl. 
  • On page 16, the incorrect contraction "it's" is used instead of the pronoun "its": "...and when the world has settled into it's new form..."  
This issue has not yet been reprinted.


  1. This storyline was what I hoped would be the bottom for the Legion but unbelievably it got worse until Keith Giffen took over !

    The plot was just pathetic and made me question the "writer, Jerry Conway was on either a bender or drying out as it looks like he'd just read " The Avengers #22 with the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime and plagerized the work!

    The "artwork" was exactly what the story deserved.... Crap !

    Siskel and Ebert would have given this masterpiece " two thumbs DOWN !

    I'd give it " half a peace sign " !

  2. That whole bit with the hyperspace illusion probably read like a good idea on paper but damn it visually made no sense whatsoever. I'm not even sure it would have made sense on paper.

    Why couldn't this have just been an interesting murder mystery instead of "I'm trying to start a war because I hate Cygnus." Of course, even as a murder mystery is wasn't good.