Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #274

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #274 (April 1981)
title: "The Exaggerated Death of Ultra Boy!"
writer: Gerry Conway
penciller: Steve Ditko
inker: Frank Chiaramonte
letterer: John Costanza
colorist: Gene D'Angelo
editor: Jack C. Harris
cover: Rich Buckler & Bob Smith
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra; Wildfire, Brainiac 5, Star Boy, Sun Boy, Colossal Boy, Chameleon Boy, Mon-El, Shadow Lass, Dream Girl, Timber Wolf

amnesia, Space Pirates of the Space Caribbean

Out in space, Ultra Boy is soaring though the universe unguided, riding out pure acceleration from the force of Pulsar Stargrave's attack last issue. He is half-conscious, thinking he's dreaming or possibly dead.

On Earth, the Legion believes him dead and concludes a ceremony to mark his passing. Then they unveil a statue of Ultra Boy in the Hall of Heroes.

Out in space, Ultra Boy is picked up by the pirate ship the Antares, led by Captain Frakes. They wake him up and they all realize he is super-strong. However, his flight ring is melted, and he is suffering from amnesia.

On Earth, Phantom Girl has trouble coping with her grief. When Saturn Girl tries to console her, she lashes out at her. But Saturn Girl persists, and is able to console her friend by reminding her of all her good times with Ultra Boy.
Out in space, Ultra Boy is interviewed by Captain Frakes, who calls him "Driftwood." She tests his strength and invulnerability, then comes on to him as they head towards their next raid.
On Earth, the Legion gets an urgent request to help fight pirates on the outskirts of Pluto and they head out.

Out in space, Frakes and her group have attacked a freighter. When the Legion arrives, Frakes orders Ultra Boy to take care of them. He breaks into the weapons area, knocking out Cosmic Boy. When Karate Kid investigates, he is knocked out too. Phantom Girl tries as well; she hurts him by phasing through him but he still knocks her out. He looks to kill her, but is unable to do so. He rushes back to the pirates.
Meanwhile, Saturn Girl senses Ultra Boy's presence, and believes that he has gone rogue and joined the pirates. She keeps this knowledge to herself. Ultra Boy, meanwhile, continues to suffer through both his amnesia and the attentions of Captain Frake.

What happens when you're blasted so quickly and with such strength that you go flying into outer space? With this issue Gerry Conway tries to answer that question, as Ultra Boy suffers from the Ralph Kramden "POW! Right to the Moon!" syndrome. Although it is a *tad* too convenient that he simultaneously loses his memory, none of the pirates recognize him, and his Legion flight ring is melted.....! The flight ring damage especially seems silly, as Pulsar Stargrave belted Ultra Boy in the face, not on the finger.

Still, this is a good idea for a story. What DOES happen when the Legion thinks you're dead? They grieve, and then try to move on. I found it disappointing that not ALL of the Legionnaires made an appearance in this story, though, especially Mon-El. I always thought he and Ultra Boy were especially good friends, but maybe that friendship came later....?

Another thing that works for this story is the parallel structure. We get small scenes of Ultra Boy, then cut back to a small scene of the Legion; this back-and-forth continues throughout the story until the two plots converge at the edge of the galaxy. Two good examples of what I'm talking about are the first two pages reprinted above: Ultra Boy floating in space at the same time the Legion concludes their ceremony for him, then Ultra Boy about to wake up just as Phantom Girl really does. However, the story could have benefited from a little bit better editing, as the Legion gets the alarm for the pirate attack (pg 13) before the pirates actually attack (pg 18)!!

Up until this issue Steve Ditko was always used as a "fill-in" artist on one-and-done issues, such as Blok's origin a few issues ago. This story however is a continuation from last issue. It's jarring to go from Jimmy Janes (last issue) to Steve Ditko this time.

Unfortunately, the art by Ditko doesn't help me get into the story at all. In fact, his simple, almost "cartoony" style takes me OUT of the story several times. Specifically, his character designs for the pirates are laughable. Captain Frakes is supposedly a cut-throat leader of men (using the term loosely) and yet she's wearing a bikini and strapless blouse?? COME ON! That is the dumbest character design I've seen in this book in quite a long time.
This outfit just SCREAMS "pirate captain," right? 
Speaking of designs, can Saturn Girl's bikini bottom get ANY lower? Clearly we are in the era of T&A to the extreme. I'm just saying, it doesn't make it easy to take Saturn Girl seriously when most of her body is on view.

Speaking of Saturn Girl, Gerry and editor Jack C. Harris are clearly trying to personify her, but by having her not tell anyone that she thinks Ultra Boy is alive....? That doesn't feel like the right thing to do. It almost feels like Gerry & Jack have been reading too many Silver Age Legion stories, where secrets and twist-endings were the norm. We'll have to see how this pans out...

Science Police Notes:  
  • Shadow Lass is drawn on the cover without her cape again. 
  • The Roll Call on page one lists all the members who appear in this story, even those with no lines, except for Dream Girl
  • There is a statue of Tyroc in the Hall of Heroes. 
This issue has been reprinted in Steve Ditko Omnibus Vol 2.


  1. Obviously Bikini Bottoms and Tall Boots were the in style in the 2980s, since we have four different characters rocking that look here.

    A very atypical for this legion era cover that shows an event that doesn't actually take place during the story (which always maeks it hard for me to remember how this storyline went down from just looking at the covers...)

  2. I believe this was the very.first Legion story I read, it was at a friend's house. I didn't start buying the Legion for a while later but this one stuck in my memory so one day when I was sick my mom asked if I wanted any comics and I named the Legion. Bought it monthly for the next 15 years!

  3. Even Steve Ditko couldn't make this crappy storyline palatable and undoubtedly the WORST run in LSH history!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. The scene with Saturn Girl and Phantom Girl is pretty damn amazing. Yeah, there are flaws here but moments that make the LSH what it is and what we all loved.

  5. The main takeaway I had from it is the Space Pirates raided their costumes from a Space Circus.