Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #268

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #268 (Oct, 1980)
title: "Life After Life After Life!"
writer: J.M. DeMatteis
penciller: Steve Ditko
inker: Bob Wiacek
letterer: John Costanza
colorist: Gene D'Angelo
editor: Jack C. Harris
cover: George Perez & Terry Austin
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Chameleon Boy, Dream Girl, Karate Kid; appearances by Cosmic Boy, Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Lad

R.J. Brande

Dr. Mayavale

At Legion head-quarters on Earth, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad are enjoying their newly built home when Cosmic Boy calls in to report his group's newest adventure.

Out in space, Chameleon Boy and Karate Kid are lounging around on their ship. In-between creating new stars and dragging those stars to their destinations, the boys are bored. Suddenly, Dream Girl screams. They both rush to her quarters to investigate. She tells them that she actually had a dream of the both of them screaming in agony, and her about to be killed. Just as Shrinking Violet and Colossal Boy join them, Cosmic Boy tells everyone to get dressed, because RJ Brande is calling for them.
Brande is on monitor duty and has found something weird: a small vessel is approaching them, seemingly out of nowhere. Karate Kid (who has spent time in the 20th Century) recognizes it as a subway car, but that gives them more questions than answers. The Legionnaires go out to investigate.

Chameleon Boy, Dream Girl, and Karate Kid are allowed to board, but the others are repelled, then encased in a force-field. They are unable to follow as the subway car blasts off into the unknown, carrying their friends with it.
The subway car space ship arrives on a planet full of all sorts of odd items, and the Legionnaires are greeted by an alien calling himself Dr. Mayavale. When the Legionnaires complain about their situation, he sends a yeti and a spider-creature called a P'O'Likk at Karate Kid, who stops them easily.
Dr. Mayavale then explains to them that he is from the planet Avatanda, a world whose people have devoted themselves to lucubration and meditation. One day, when he was "stuck" at his inner progress, his mentor took him to the Wheeling Mist. He learned of his past 60 lifetimes, but this knowledge seemed to drive him mad. He realized that he has done nothing but "good" during his previous lives, so vows to do nothing but "bad" for the next 60 lives.

As one of the first orders of business, he wants to kill the three Legionnaires. He tells them that he knew of them in previous lives, so he's now going to take revenge on them. He drugs them so that they can not resist, and he takes them back in time.
In his first scene, Dr. Mayavale was a Native American Chief and Chameleon Boy was Black Eagle, a brave who betrayed him to the US Cavalry. So this time, Dr. Mayavale ties Cham to the ground so that he is run over by the invading cavalry.

Dr. Mayavale, Karate Kid, and Dream Girl then appear in Ancient Greece, where Mayavale says that he was Julius Caesar and Karate Kid was Brutus. This time, however, Mayavale (Caesar) convinces the Senate to kill Brutus. They attack Karate Kid as Mayavale walks off.

Finally, he and Dream Girl appear in New York City in 1969. Mayavale is John Alvarez, a police detective, and Dream Girl is his girl-friend, Carol Domblewski. This time, instead of him getting betrayed and shot down, she is.

However, Dream Girl isn't really killed; Dr. Mayavale needs her for the K'rev Venna ceremony. So he ties her down to a sacrificial altar and is about to kill her when Karate Kid and Chameleon Boy arrive. Chameleon Boy changed himself into a rattlesnake to escape the stampede, negating the effects of the gas. As soon as he did so, the cavalry revealed themselves to be robots, so Cham turned into a bison and destroyed them. Likewise, Karate Kid used his training to conquer the effects of the gas, and then destroyed the Senators, who were actually robots. They both realize they were not back in time at all, but still on Dr. Mayavale's planet. They met up as they entered the altar room.
When the two boys rush forward to save Dream Girl, however, Dr. Mayavale catches them in a cellular disruptor beam. Dream Girl then snaps, breaking free from her bonds and knocking Mayavale around. When she takes a moment to free her friends, Mayavale disappears. As he fades away, he tells them that Dream Girl has grown from when he last knew her. That growth surprised him, so he is going to go away and study the way of darkness more, then perhaps attack them again.
After the three Legionnaires return to the others, no one knows whether to believe Mayavale or not. If reincarnation is really possible, in their next lives the Legionnaires might be the bad guys? This concept dumb-founds Cosmic Boy, as well as Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad, as his mission tape ends.

This issue is most noteworthy because it features the very first illustration of The Legion by the artistic legend, George Perez. The first work Perez did for DC after coming over from Marvel were covers for this book and for others, such as Green Lantern.

Other than the cover.....this issue is really bad. The legendary Steve Ditko illustrates the story, which should be a plus. However, he is clearly phoning in the work. For example, the scene where the three captive Legionnaires arrive on Dr. Mayavale's planet is an opportunity to go weird, as the text points out that he has collected articles from his numerous earlier lives. So what do we get? Twelve count 'em twelve specific items shown, including the Coliseum, the Eiffel Tower, a covered wagon, and a castle. For a story that screams "psychedelic," we get DULL. Truly, there is more detail on the Perez cover than there is in the entire rest of the story.

Also, in lieu of action Ditko prefers extreme close-ups of the characters; there are atleast a dozen instances where we get the shock/pain/horror of the character instead of some action. It's okay a few times, but over-done it's clear that it's easier to draw one face than to draw a few characters actually *doing* something.

As for the story, it seems to want to be taken seriously; atleast, that's the vibe I get when I come across words like lucubration (meditation) and stentorian (strong, forceful). However, there is no explanation as to how or why Dr. Mayavale suddenly sprouted four additional green (?!) arms, nor is there any explanation as to how he acquired an entire planet and numerous robots to play with...a toyset he ups and abandons at the end of the story, by the way. J.M. DeMatteis also has Dr. Mayavale "laughing for a full hour," which I don't even think is possible.

I also don't understand why Dr. Mayavale gets rid of Chameleon Boy first, as Ancient Rome comes many, many years before the genocide of the Native Americans. Why not kill Karate Kid first?

The idea of a "good man" going bad in order to balance out some type of karmic balance is a good one. The idea of a man experiencing reincarnation and hating the Legionnaires from a previous life is also a good one. However, this effort just doesn't hit the mark.

Needless to say, Dr. Mayavale never returned.

That George Perez cover sure is nice, though.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Ultra Boy appears on the cover Roll Call but does not appear in the story. Shrinking Violet appears in the story but does not appear on the cover Roll Call. 
  • A Roll Call parchment is drawn on page 2, but is left blank. The list of participating characters runs across the bottom of the page instead. Shrinking Violet is not listed. (Neither is Ultra Boy.
  • This story takes place "several weeks ago," before Colossal Boy returned to Earth and faced off against Kantuu (LSH #266). 
  • Julius Caesar was murdered by Marcus Brutus in Rome on or about March 15, 44 BC. 
This issue was reprinted in Steve Ditko: Omnibus Volume 2. 

This issue features the first George Perez work on The Legion of Super-Heroes. He will eventually draw five more covers.


  1. I remember a comment on rec.arts.comics.lsh some years back saying the best thing about this issue was the Hostess ad. I don't know that I can argue with that.

  2. John , that was well told .

    Even with Ditko, it was just a waste of 50¢ and the fifteen minutes invested in reading it !