Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #276

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #276 (June, 1981)
title: "Lord Romdur's Castle!"
writer: Gerry Conway
penciller: Steve Ditko
inker: Frank Chiaramonte
letterer: Ben Oda
colorist: Gene D'Angelo
editor: Jack C. Harris
cover: Rick Buckler and Dick Giordano
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Princess Projectra, Star Boy, Phantom Girl, Chameleon Boy, Sun Boy, Shadow Lass

Opponents: 
Lord Romdur

Synopsis: 
On Avalon, six Legionnaires are investigating the disappearance of United Planet surveyors. Although they are trying to remain incognito, as soon as they enter a village they are called out as strangers in Lord Harlund's lands. Star Boy tries to negotiate with the lead knight, but he calls them out as spies. After a brief altercation, Princess Projectra projects herself as a visiting liege, and her bearing convinces the knight to escort them to the king's castle.
The royal adviser meets with them and explains that the King is missing. He hopes that they are there to help save the King from Romdur. Romdur suddenly appears, blasting at the Legionnaires. After the magical attack is stopped, the knight explains who Romdur is.
Romdur first appeared on the day of King Leon's coronation, raining a dark storm on him and his people. Challenged, King Leon took 2,000 men to the castle on the Skull Mountain, which Lord Romdur has taken possession of. However, the King never returned. The adviser asks the Legionnaires to help. When they are told that the missing UP surveyors also headed towards Skull Mountain, they agree to investigate.
Instead of flying directly to the castle, the Legionnaires are escorted on horse-back by the knight in order to verify that the missing UP surveyors are not still somewhere en route. While they are traveling through the forest, Princess Projectra is attacked by Bleeder Plants. Although she recovers, Star Boy accuses the knight of planning the attack. He does not trust the knight, partly because he accused them of being spies the day before and partly because he was not chosen by the King to go with the army to fight Romdur originally.
The next day a mist creature attacks them, but intangible Phantom Girl materializes inside it and destroys its core. Chameleon Boy turns into a Centaurian Spy-Beast and verifies that it was a magical creation, not truly alive.
The Legionnaires and the knight arrive at Skull Mountain and see Lord Romdur's castle, standing on stilts at the top of the summit. Armed with their flight rings, they fly off for a direct approach. Although the knight is left behind to guard the entrance, he immediately begins scaling the rock wall towards the castle.

As the Legionnaires arrive at the castle, Shadow Lass suggests that perhaps they are actually about to face Mordru....when the Master of Dark Arts himself appears. He admits to the Legionnaires that he came to Avalon instead of going to the Sorcerers' World in order to refresh his power with new magical resources. He then begins blasting at them.

Shadow Lass tries to keep Mordru occupied as Star Boy adds mass to the castle's stilts. Mordru defeats all of the other Legionnaires and is about to blast Star Boy when the knight arrives and attacks him. While Mordru is fighting off the knight, Star Boy succeeds in bringing the castle down on-top of him, causing him to lose his powers.

The King and the UP surveyors are rescued, and we learn that the knight is actually the King's son, the Prince.

Commentary: 
This issue is a great idea done very, very badly.

The idea that Mordru would go off to some inky-dink "backwater town" of a planet in order to recharge his magical batteries is fantastic. It seems just like something he would do. Kudos to writer Gerry Conway or editor Jack C. Harris for coming up with that idea. However.....

This issue, up until the moment when the Legionnaires actually arrive at Lord Romdur's castle, reads like a set-up for a huge pay-off. In my mind, as soon as Shadow Lass suggests that Romdur is actually Mordru, the sorcerer needed to appear ala his grand entrance at the end of Adventure Comics #369 or Superboy/Legion #244 with a dramatic TO BE CONTINUED---!

Instead, we get two (yes, two) pages for the Legion to take down the greatest sorcerer of the universe. I ask you, is that really note-worthy? To me, it was a huge disappointment. It gave me more proof that Gerry and/or Jack were not respecting the source material. Imagine for a minute if this story was re-written with the Fantastic Four in the Negative Zone looking for some missing astronaut. For nearly twenty pages they search, and then in the last two pages they suddenly find that Dr. Doom had actually kidnapped them. After two pages of conflict, the story ends. Is that really a good story!?! It wouldn't work for Dr. Doom, and it doesn't work for Mordru.

Other than that, as I said, the plot is excellent but the story less-so. The Legionnaires are supposed to be trying to not attract attention, right? What if they had someone with them who could project an illusion to make them look like normal villagers? That would come in handy, wouldn't it? (SIGH) Or after the knight and his men attack, why wouldn't Sun Boy blind them all with a sunburst, or Shadow Lass blind them all with darkness? That would make sense, but it wouldn't let us see the six Legionnaires show off their individual powers, so I guess it's no good. And one last complaint: why in the world does a search for missing UP land surveyors warrant the attention of SIX Legionnaires?

The art is by Steve Ditko and Frank Chiaramonte again. As I've said before, these one-and-done adventures lend themselves more to Ditko's work than chapters in ongoing sagas. Because the backgrounds this time are forests and medieval castles instead of 30th Century Metropolis, his art seems better than usual. Of the half-dozen issues of this title that Steve Ditko drew, this one is my favorite.

And although it really has nothing to do with anything, I really like the cover by Rich Buckler and Dick Giordano. Too bad Princess Projectra was hardly ever shown to actually be this powerful.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Although Phantom Girl is listed first in the roll call "above the title," she is not actually shown on the cover. 
  • We never learn the name of the Prince.  
Status: 
This issue has been reprinted in Steve Ditko Omnibus Vol 2.

2 comments:

  1. I recognized the cover, but I had no memory at all of Mordru being in the story. That says something about the story.

    Alan

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  2. Once again Conway has taken the greatest Villain in Legion Universe (or second greatest) and made a totally crap story. This should not even be canon as a Mordru story in Legion History and I certainly don't read it when I read over the Legion's battles with Mordru.

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