Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #270

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #270 (Dec, 1980)
title: "Who Is The Dark Man?"
writer: Gerry Conway
penciller: Jimmy Janes
inker: Frank Chiaramonte
letterer: Milt Snapinn
colorist: Gene D'Angelo
editor: Jack C. Harris
cover: Dick Giordano
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, Shadow Lass, Mon-El, Wildfire, Princess Projectra, Timber Wolf, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Light Lass

Guests: 
Marte Allon, Blok

Opponents: 
The Fatal Five (Emerald Empress, Mano, the Persuader, Validus, Tharok), The Dark Man, The League of Super-Assassins (Silver Slasher, Titania, Lazon, Mist Master)
Synopsis: 
On Earth, seven miles under the Atlantic Sea in the Atlantean Gap, six Legionnaires are imprisoned in a pure neutron sphere. Shadow Lass uses her ability to see in the dark to gaze into the murky depths outside their prison. She is horrified to see huge krakens and sea serpents surrounding them. Mon-El and Wildfire try to break them free, but both fail.
They are demoralized until Shrinking Violet reminds them that they have to keep fighting. They review how they got to where they are, remembering how Validus, the Persuader, and the Emerald Empress captured Shadow Lass and Mon-El while Mano and Tharok captured the others.
At Metropolis Beach, Timber Wolf is investigating Shadow Lass' emergency signal and finds signs of a struggle. He calls in to Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, telling them he is going to the Allons to check on the others. Lighting Lad is angry at Timber Wolf's solitary activity, and yells at Wolf's girl-friend Light Lass (his sister Ayla), about him.
Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl then rush out to check out Metropolis Beach themselves, only to stumble into a trap laid by the Emerald Empress and Mano. Saturn Girl, thinking fast (literally!) telepathically calls Light Lass and warns her. This gives Ayla just enough time to ready herself before the Persuader and Validrus break into her quarters. She uses her gravity control powers to set them against each other so that she can escape.
Light Lass meets up with Timber Wolf at the Allons' apartment in time to hear Marte Allon talk to Wolf about someone named the Dark Man. Both Legionnaires recognize the name as the "leader" of the League of Super-Assassins, so they go to the Everest Planetary Prison to interview them. All of the members refuse to help except for Blok. He accepts their offer of a full pardon in exchange for assistance in finding the Dark Man.
At the bottom of the sea, Princess Projectra comes up with the idea of having the monsters outside their globe free them. She uses her illusion powers to make one of the sea serpents see their globe as a rival snake, and it squeezes the neutron sphere until it cracks, freeing the Legionnaires.
Blok tells Light Lass and Timber Wolf that the League of Super-Assassins used a special radio frequency to communicate with the Dark Man. Flying around the stratosphere in a Legion cruiser they finally home in on it. The three attack the Dark Man's ship, and once inside Timber Wolf comes face to face with the Dark Man.....a whole, non-cybernetic Tharok?!?

Commentary: 
Okay, although I said last issue that this story was the best Legion story Gerry Conway had written, this time out I have lost a little bit of the enthusiasm. The action and common sense is ramping down, and the soap opera histrionics and lapses in logic are ramping up.

First of all, why in the world does the Fatal Five bury the six Legionnaires in the Atlantic Ocean? Surely the most logical thing to do is to kill them while they have the chance? More importantly, I guess, there is never any reason given for the Fatal Five's actions. They complain that they are following the orders of the Dark Man, but....they're as confused as us?! Not a great way to show the universe's most fearsome villains.

Secondly, the "I walk alone!" shtick from Timber Wolf is already getting on my nerves after only two stories. Does this guy not know that there are 20 plus other members of the group? A guy who wants to work alone doesn't move to Metropolis, you know what I'm saying? Likewise, the reaction Lighting Lad has to Timber Wolf is inane, and yelling at his sister, the guy's girl-friend, is stupid. Saturn Girl is within her rights to tell him to postpone the tantrum, seeing as how six Legionnaires are missing. That whole scene rang utterly false.

Speaking of lousy dialogue, the Dark Man sounds like he belongs in some opera or something. I mean, come on, has ANYONE ever called their hide-out a "sanctum sanctorum"?!?

Then, of course, we get the ease of the Fatal Five just walking into the Legion head-quarters and capturing two members. Is there no security at their new HQ at all? One previous adventure with the Fatal Five consisted entirely of the Legion having trouble keeping the bad guys OUT of the head-quarters, and this time they just waltz right in!

Even if we can imagine that the Fatal Five somehow stopped the head-quarters' alarms, wouldn't somebody or something have alerted other Legionnaires? After Light Lass verifies that they are in fact up against the Fatal Five, then finds Timber Wolf, don't you think their first thought would be to call in other Legionnaires? Nope, it is never even mentioned as a possibility. Instead they go to a prison on Mount Everest (you're kidding, right?) and chat with the Super-Assassins (spoiler: they never actually assassinated anybody). This is a good idea to get intel; I'm not arguing that. I just don't like the direction this is going. (spoiler: I know that the one gray guy is going to join the Legion).

I don't want to make it sound like the whole issue was awful, though. The characterization of the women is terrific this time. When Wildfire and Mon-El admit that their manly powers can't free them, it's Shrinking Violet who tells them to shut up and double-down. Later, it's Princess Projectra who is directly responsible for freeing them. And when the Fatal Five attack again, it is Saturn Girl and Light Lass who out-wit them.

The art this time out seems rushed and, for lack of a better term, weird. I get a distinct "Rich Buckler" vibe in certain places, but also a lack of backgrounds and details that I have grown accustomed to with Jimmy Janes. The whole sequence where Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl are captured seems like it was drawn by a different artist. This is not his best work.

However, the last page is sufficiently surprising, and I hope for a satisfying conclusion to this story next issue.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Shadow Lass is mis-colored throughout the issue, with a different blue used in her mid-section as if she was wearing something over her skin.  
  • In an odd editorial decision, we get two separate "flashbacks" to the activities of the previous issue, one with the Legionnaires and one with the Fatal Five. 
  • Neutrax, one of the League of Super-Assassins, does not appear in this story. 
  • Saturn Girl is shown telepathically communicating with her husband, even though she is tied up and a prisoner of the Fatal Five. 
Status: 
This issue has not yet been reprinted.

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