Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #269

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #269 (Nov, 1980)
title: "Who Shall Name the Dark Man?"
writer: Gerry Conway
penciller: Jimmy Janes
inker: Frank Chiaramonte
letterer: Ben Oda
colorist: Gene D'Angelo
editor: Jack C. Harris
cover: Dick Giordano
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Princess Projectra, Shadow Lass, Mon-El, Shrinking Violet, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Wildfire, Timber Wolf, Colossal Boy, Light Lass (not listed on Roll Call)

Colossal Boy's parents, Wynn and Marte Allon

The Fatal Five (Validus, the Persuader, Emerald Empress, Mano, and Tharok)

On Earth, several Legionnaires are mulling about Metropolis during Earth's election day for Earthgov President. Preoccupied with each other, Shadow Lass and Mon-El head out on their own. Colossal Boy, as a native of Earth, explains to the rest of his friends that the World Computer chooses three possible candidates, then all citizens vote for these candidates within the next 24 hours. The winner then becomes President. As his explanation ends, Colossal Boy is surprised to see that his mother, a Political Science professor, is one of the finalists!

Out in space, at the outer reaches of the solar system, two crooked United Planets Border guards deliver a stolen security bypass system to a client who turns out to be the Dark Man. The villain uses mental powers to make the ranking guard kneel and cowtow as he delivers the piece to him. The guard does not like this, and vows to himself to someday strike back at the Dark Man. However, the Dark Man admits that his abilities allow him to "hear" the guard's thoughts. He kills him by making him fall into a tank filled with Sirian Sea-Apes.

Later, after the Dark Man has installed the stolen technology, his ship arrives on Earth un-tracked. Shadow Lass and Mon-El, still enjoying their time together, sees the ship land in the water. Suddenly, Validus rises to the surface and attacks them. Mon-El tries to free Shadow Lass from Validus' grip, but he is knocked out by the Persuader's atomic axe.
Shadow Lass manages to hit Validus' pressure points in his hand, causing him to release her. Before she can do anything other than grab Mon-El and send out an emergency signal, however, the Emerald Empress joins the fray and captures both of them.
At Legion HQ, Timber Wolf is on monitor duty when he notices Shadow Lass' signal. Instead of telling anyone else, however, he goes off on his own to answer it.
At the Allons' apartment, several of the Legionnaires are with Colossal Boy and his parents as they await the election results when Mano and Tharok attack. Wildfire and Princess Projectra have Mano on the run, but Tharok knocks out Shrinking Violet and Projectra as they try to save the Allons. After Projectra's illusion disappears, Mano makes quick work of the apartment floor, crushing the other Legionnaires in the rubble. Tharok, on the other hand, is incapacitated when he suffers a mental blast from the Dark Man.

As they cart away the Legionnaires, Mano wonders why the Fatal Five now follow the Dark Man.

Hold on to your hats, but I'm about to praise this book for the first time in about six months. Yep, I think this is probably the best Gerry Conway Legion story we've gotten so far.

First, the opening scene where the Legionnaires are hanging out in Metropolis is just what I wanted to see. These characters seem to know each other and, more importantly, like each other. When Colossal Boy starts explaining the Earth election process to the rest of the non-Earther Legionnaires, it seems what a "local" guy would do. And the royalist, Princess Projectra, saying the election is a lot of wasted time is a fun bit, too.

And even if Gerry does forget that Projectra has a flight ring, that doesn't spoil the idea that Shady and Mon desert her for some more "private" time. Editor Jack C. Harris is the guy who really should have known better, anyway....

The extended sequence where we meet the Dark Man and learn just how powerful (and evil) he is goes on a *bit* too long, but this is a minor quibble. And we do learn that the Dark Man is someone to fear, so that part is a success. It is a bit odd to think of him flying around with a full tank of Sirian Sea-Apes, though.

When we finally get to see the Fatal Five, it's like a blast of fresh air. We've had so many dull and nondescript adversaries in this book lately, to see Shadow Lass in the grips of Validus---wow! It really gets my heart pumping. Although we never really get the fight promised us by the cover, Shadow Lass threatened by the Fatal Five is a pretty good hook. I'm only sorry Harris failed to mention their long-established relationship (the Fatal Five tried to take over Shady's planet in their second appearance, way back in Adventure Comics #365).

Did I say that I liked the Legionnaires' characterization? I do, but with one caveat: Timber Wolf here is played as a pseudo "Wolverine," or Lone Wolf. The idea that he would not share Shadow Lass' emergency signal with anyone else is just plain stupid. In my opinion, the Legionnaires' lives are dramatic enough without having to create artificial drama like this.

And to hark on that one minor problem again, when Mano destroys the floor of the Allons' apartment, why don't any of the Legionnaires think to use their flight rings to stay airborne? They can ALL fly, Gerry and Jack! Speaking of that scene, I really like how Mano is shown to be a real threat this time, and I like how Projectra's illusions stop him until Tharok knocks her out. Usually the Princess is shown to be a light-weight, but this time she is a complete professional.

The artwork this time out is acceptable, but I think I prefer Dave Hunt as inker instead of Frank Chiaramonte. Not sure why, but Chiaramonte has a "messier," style. I prefer Hunt's cleaner style. Speaking of which, is it just me or does it look like John Calnan drew the Emerald Empress' face on page 17 (above). It sure looks more "clean" and developed than we are used to seeing with Janes, especially with Chiaramonte.

Anyway, I look forward to the next issue, which is something I definitely haven't said about this book since before the name change!

Science Police Notes:  
  • Although she gets the lion's share of the action in the story, Shadow Lass is not featured on the cover. 
  • Colossal Boy mentions that the last time they fought the Fatal Five they were trying to go straight (Superboy/Legion #247).  
  • Wynn and Marte Allon first appeared in Adventure Comics #371
  • Light Lass is not mentioned in the Roll Call, but is clearly shown in the crowd scene and later at the Legion HQ. 
  • Lightning Lad is drawn as if he is wearing a cape on page 18 (reprinted above). 
  • Shadow Lass is consistently mis-colored, as if her mid-riff was a different colored part of her uniform, and not her skin (noticeable in both the pages reprinted here).
This issue has not yet been reprinted.

1 comment:

  1. Jimmy Janes and Gerry Conway were just horrible !

    These were dark days for LSH's fan's indeed !

    Each month was just more disappointment and agony than the last.