Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #275

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #275 (May, 1981)
title: "Of Pride, Passion, and Piracy!"
writer: Gerry Conway
penciller: Jimmy Janes
inker: Frank Chiaramonte
letterer: Ben Oda
colorist: Gene D'Angelo
editor: Jack C. Harris
cover: Dave Cockrum
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Ultra Boy, Lighting Lad, Saturn Girl, Wildfire, Dawnstar, Shrinking Violet, Element Lad, Colossal Boy, Mon-El, Shadow Lass, Light Lass, Timber Wolf; Brainiac 5 and Star Boy appear in the background but have no lines

Opponents: 
Captain Frakes and her Pirates of Penzance

Synopsis: 
At Legion HQ, Lightning Lad is reviewing the mission from the day before, where Cosmic Boy and Karate Kid were wounded fighting off pirates. Wildfire is anxious to go after the pirates, so Lightning Lad gives the order. Saturn Girl is still confused because she thinks she sensed Ultra Boy as a member of the pirates, although the Legion at this point thinks Ultra Boy died facing Pulsar Stargrave.

Out in space, the pirates whom the Legion are about to hunt down are busy stealing from another freighter. Ultra Boy, being called "Seeker" because he hasn't regained his memory yet, is helping load up the pirate ship. When he sees his fellow pirates about to kill some of the hostages, however, he intervenes, placing himself in the line of fire. Of course, he is unharmed. He demands that no innocent lives are taken, and Captain Frakes reluctantly agrees.
On Earth, a small group of Legionnaires fly off to chase after the pirates. Light Lass and Timber Wolf discuss their relationship, and how Timber Wolf longs to get off of Earth and go live closer to nature. He admits to Light Lass that he stays on Earth as a Legionnaire only because of his love for her.
Elsewhere, Colossal Boy, Mon-El, and Shadow Lass are having dinner. Colossal Boy is complaining about his mother, the new President of Earth. When his friends tell him she is probably doing the best she can at a job she never wanted, he reacts impulsively, knocking a robo-waiter towards another table. He grows and saves the other patrons from being scalded by the spilt soup, chastising himself for acting rashly and for being so clumsy.
Out in space, the Legionnaires scan for the pirates in non-UP space. They find them on an asteroid named New Tartuga and head in. Ultra Boy does not remember who he is, but watching his fellow pirates running wild he is beginning to remember who he ISN'T. Frakes kisses him, and he suddenly remembers the girl he saw when he destroyed the other ship----Phantom Girl, on the Legion cruiser (although he still doesn't remember the details). He tells Frakes that he is remembering the girl he loves, and she orders him away.
Suddenly, the Legion cruiser arrives and blows up their pirate ship, the Antares. Frakes orders Ultra Boy to follow her, as she has a plan. As she rushes through the alleys of New Tartuga, Frakes slaps a slave-woman out of her way. When the woman hits her head on a rock as she falls and dies, Ultra Boy has had enough.

As the Legionnaires battle the pirates, Wildfire nearly sees Ultra Boy, but misses him by a few seconds. Saturn Girl, on the Legion cruiser, senses Ultra Boy's presence. She cries tears of happiness as she realizes that he has not betrayed them by joining the pirates.
Captain Frakes powers-up her stolen power-jewel cannon in order to shoot the Legion cruiser down. Ultra Boy sees the cannon and tries to stop it. He's blasted into nothingness, as rays ricochet around and destroy the entire fortress.
Saturn Girl lands the cruiser and falls into her husband's arms, crying because Ultra Boy is really gone.

Commentary: 
I'm usually pretty good at understanding the meanings of story titles, but this one leaves me confused. Whose "pride" and "passion" are we talking about? My first thought was the pride of Saturn Girl, not allowing herself to tell her husband or Phantom Girl that she suspects Ultra Boy is still alive. But is that really "pride"? And is the "passion" what Captain Frakes feels for Ultra Boy? Or what Ultra Boy feels for justice? I think that any story title that isn't clear with a little bit of thought is a failure. So.....yeah. Moving on....

As much as I dis-like the whole plot-line, I have to admit that it was concluded well enough. The pirates all "die by the sword," as it were, and we get another "shocking" ending of Ultra Boy dying again. So that is fine.

On the other hand, I don't really understand what Gerry and editor Jack C. Harris are doing here. There are *clearly* more Legionnaires available for this mission than actually go on it.....why? What is the point of having 22 available members and only taking five with you? This is just an odd decision to make.

Of the members who are present, we get Element Lad showing up again after more than six issues away. (Now where in the universe is Dream Girl?) And each gets a moment or two to shine, such as this nice bit with Shrinking Violet.
After Steve Ditko turned in such a lackluster effort on last issue's story, it's quite jarring to open up this issue and see Jimmy Janes back at the drawing board. He puts much more detail into his pages, which is good, but he is much less dynamic, which is bad. Still, if I had to choose between Ditko or Janes, at this point I think I would stick with Janes. His pirates at least look more dirty and disgusting than Ditko's did. On the other hand, once I see the way Saturn Girl is/isn't holding her husband in that last panel, I can't un-see it. (What's her left arm doing?)

The best art of the issue is definitely the cover, by former Legion artist Dave Cockrum. While it is not quite as "fresh" as his earlier work, it is still dramatic and vibrant. Oddly, Phantom Girl does not actually appear in this story!

Speaking of the cover, a quick tip of the hat to its colorist. You might never notice most of the Legionnaires in the background if the colorist hadn't colored them in for us. Nice work, whoever you are. Gene D'Angelo is the colorist of the story, but I don't know if that means he was the colorist of the cover as well.

And finally, spoiler alert, but I have a question. After reading this review (or the actual story, if you have it) who here thought that Ultra Boy was actually truly dead? I didn't think it two issues ago when he disappeared after Pulsar Stargrave's attack and I don't believe it now. I admit I did not foresee his return, but I was pretty sure he wasn't actually dead. Anybody else?

Science Police Notes:  
  • Phantom Girl, Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy, and Karate Kid are featured on the cover but do not appear in the story. 
  • Timber Wolf, Colossal Boy, and Mon-El are shown on the cover but do not go on the mission. 
  • Dawnstar goes on the mission, but is shown flying INSIDE the Legion cruiser. This is one of the few times she did not fly alongside it.   
  • Tortuga (not Tartuga, as spelled in this story) is an island at the northern-most tip of Haiti, famous for being a pirate hide-out in the 18th Century.  
This issue has not been reprinted. 

5 comments:

  1. In hindsight I'm puzzled as to the purpose of this pirate storyline. If Ultra Boy is apparently killed again it seems to be resetting back to his death from Stargrave. Were these issues just filler? Did someone have an obsession with pirates? Or maybe they planned on bring Ultra Boy back but then changed there minds and wanted him to come back differently?

    I am baffled!

    Alan

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    1. Yeah, this whole stretch of stories is baffling. Pirates and knights next issue and genies before this. Like we need to head into the future by going into the past.

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  2. Well, as the story wound up working out you needed to both establish Ultra Boy as missing-presumed-dead and also establish that where ever he is he probably has memory problems. So you can't go straight. So this story is setting up the memory thing and making his 'death' a little more final/convincing, if not to the reader than at least plausible to the characters.

    This is assuming that the story ended as originally planned, which, given that there's a writer change between the two ends, is not a given though.

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  3. Am I the only one who misread the last narration box on the first sample page as "several minutes after Lightning Lad orders lunch"?

    What's he doing, ordering lunch at a time like this?? Get it to go, man.

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    1. Legionnaires gotta eat, too, ya know....

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