Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #280

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #280 (Oct, 1981)
title: "O! Call Back Yesterday!"
writer: Roy Thomas
penciller: Jimmy Janes
inker: Bruc
e Patterson
letterer: Ben Oda
colorist: Gene D'Angelo
editor: Mike W. Barr
cover: George Perez
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Phantom Girl, Karate Kid, Dawnstar, Blok, Superboy/Ultra Boy; Mon-El, Element Lad, Colossal Boy, Wildfire, Shrinking Violet, Chameleon Boy; cameo appearances by all other members except Dream Girl

Guests: 
Duo Damsel, Bouncing Boy

Opponents: 
Grimbor, the Time Trapper

Synopsis: 
At the North Pole, the Legionnaires who captured Grimbor are shocked to see Reflecto's uniform in tatters, revealing that he is really Superboy. Mon-El thinks Grimbor might have something to do with this identity swap, but he swears he knows nothing about it.

As Superboy comes to, he unexpectedly claims to be Ultra Boy! Phantom Girl can't believe him. Saturn Girl admits that she thought she felt Ultra Boy's presence on the pirate planet a few days ago. Because they all thought he was dead, Saturn Girl didn't tell Phantom Girl because she didn't want to get her hopes up. Phantom Girl is initially upset with her team-mate, but then understands her reasoning.
Saturn Girl now scans Super Ultra Boy's mind and finds traces of both Ultra Boy and Superboy in it. Super Ultra Boy refuses to "prove" himself to the Legion, so Mon-El belts him one. Super Ultra Boy angrily reciprocates, and in the heat of battle proves that he could not be Ultra Boy by using two super-powers at the same time. Super Ultra Boy is as confused as everyone else.

The Legion flies off to Metropolis to place Grimbor in jail, calm an anxious world, and convene a full meeting to discuss the situation. Once they arrive in Metropolis, Colossal Boy and his mother, the President of Earth, meet up and embrace, all conflicts forgotten. Princess Projectra and Karate Kid have an emotional reunion of their own. And Blok understands that Wildfire is just as happy as everyone else is that the world was not destroyed.
Soon, at Legion head-quarters, Lightning Lad tables his request to resign again as the membership discusses the Super Ultra Boy problem. Saturn Girl reports that she can not find any trace of memory in Super Ultra Boy as to how or why Ultra Boy's consciousness got in Superboy's body. Phantom Girl "tests" him by asking intimate details of their last date, which he is able to answer to her satisfaction and embarrassment.
As everyone is reminded, Superboy was given a post-hypnotic suggestion NOT to return to the Legion's era after surviving a psychological attack, so something must have happened to over-ride this command. Lightning Lad decides to take a group back in time to Smallville to see what they can find out there. Although he doesn't call out Phantom Girl for the mission, she insists on joining them.

Back in 1960s Smallville, the seven Legionnaires re-appear in the middle of a nuclear explosion. US Army men are too close to the blast for their own safety, so Super Ultra Boy rushes out to create a super-funnel, forcing the blast into space. The Army thinks Superboy set it off, so they try to arrest him and the other Legionnaires. They resist arrest, then Lightning Lad orders them to retreat.
At the Kents' home, they find a note from Ma and Pa telling Clark that they are off visiting a sick relative. They then see a television report about Superboy "sabotaging" the nuclear bomb test. They also learn that he and the rest of them have arrest warrants out on them. Lighting Lad decides to go back to their era to get proper identification and clothing so that they can investigate the Super Ultra Boy problem in disguises. However, when they try to activate their time bubble, it explodes, stranding them in Smallville.
Suddenly, the Time Trapper reveals himself to be taking advantage of their predicament, promising to head back into the future to rule there as these Legionnaires are trapped in the past. The US Army then shows up, and the Legion has no choice but to retreat into the mountains.

Commentary: 
If you were expecting this fantastic George Perez cover to be wrapped around a well-plotted story, you haven't been reading my recent reviews. As we noted several weeks back, the better the cover illustration, the worse the story inside. And as even Matt Murdock could tell you, this cover is a knock-out. So....

As soon as Superboy looks around at his friends and says, "I'm Ultra Boy," I knew we were in for a stinker. (Also, when he addresses Phantom Girl as "woman," ala Conan the Barbarian....but I digress.) Clearly it's not bad enough to have Superboy pretending to be a red-headed stranger in a garish all-yellow suit; no, the Boy of Steel has to have amnesia and think he's Ultra Boy, too. Because...well, because (dare I say it?) Roy Thomas never met a convoluted plot line he didn't like?

The plot of this story is just incredibly convoluted, and the characters go about trying to solve the mystery in a dull, stupid way. Why not bring in Brainiac 5 or Chameleon Boy, who are arguably the Legion's greatest detectives? And while I like the idea that Lighting Lad chooses Dawnstar and Blok because neither has visited the past before....so? What exactly are they expected to bring to the table, story-wise?

Also, the most inane scene in the story has to be where Ultra Boy tries to prove his identity. He refuses to undergo any tests (which is dumb), but then later admits to some hot date with Phantom Girl, much to his embarrassment. Then someone says that Superboy could have known about that date if he really wanted to....because Superboy spies on his friends having sex? What the what....!?!

The appearance of the Time Trapper fills me with dread. He claims to not be responsible for Super Ultra Boy, but he's going to destroy the Legion's time bubble and strand them in the past so that he can....uh....laugh at them? I think we're in for another classic Legion villain not living up to his potential. Oh joy, oh rapture. (Speaking of which, the Batman-Legion team-up against Universo teased this issue was reviewed here)

The artwork this time out is by Jimmy Janes, so is average and/or competent. Personally I think that Bruce Patterson is a better inker for Janes that Frank Chiaramonte, so I have less brick-brats to throw at the art this time out. The women are beautiful, and the men are handsome. It could be worse.

Hopefully this story will have something close to a satisfying conclusion next issue....

As an extra-added bonus there is a two-page mini-poster of the full membership of the Legion of Super-Heroes by Joe Staton and Bob Smith. This is because from this month, all DC comics increased by two pages and went from fifty cents to sixty cents. This story must have already been near completed at the shorter length, so each instead of a longer story we get this center-spread.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Dream Girl is drawn on the cover and on the poster but does not appear in the story.  
  • According to the cover and the poster, there are 25 active Legionnaires.
  • "O! Call back yesterday!" is a line from William Shakespeare's play Richard II
  • Although Reflecto took on all of Grimbor's weapons last issue without losing his uniform, this time one punch from Mon-El is enough to reveal Superboy's blue and red leotard.
Status: 
This issue has not yet been reprinted.


Milestone: 
This issue is the debut of the new Legion of Super-Heroes logo, which would grace the pages of this series for the next six years. It is also (sort of) the return of Superboy to the Legion after nearly two years away.

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