Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #297

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #297 (March 1983)
title: untitled ("Mettle")
writer/co-plotter: Paul Levitz
penciller/co-plotter: Keith Giffen
inker: Larry Mahlstedt
letterer: John Costanza
colorist: Carl Gafford
editor: Karen Berger
cover: Keith Giffen & Larry Mahlstedt
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Cosmic Boy; appearances by Sun Boy, Timber Wolf, Lightning Lad, Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl

Night Girl, Matter-Eater Lad, Dr. Gym'll

On Earth, the shuttle to Takron-Galtos prison planet is stopped in mid-take-off by Cosmic Boy, who pulls the three convicted "fire-baller" terrorists out of it via the iron in their blood. A Braalian SP officer is on-site to try to stop Cosmic Boy from harming the prisoners, but he is totally out-classed by the Legionnaire. Cosmic Boy seems intent on killing the terrorists. They are the men responsible for the nuclear bomb explosion that leveled his parents' neighborhood and injured his parents and little brother. However, before he can do any serious harm to them he is knocked out by his girl-friend, Night Girl.
Three Legionnaires arrive, and Night Girl explains to them that on their way back to Earth she and Cosmic Boy saw the news, including the item about his family's neighborhood being destroyed. That is how he knew how to go after them.

Elsewhere, Dr. Gym'll is going to accompany former Legionnaire Matter-Eater Lad back to Bismoll. Brainiac 5 sees them off at the space-port.

At Legion HQ, Cosmic Boy wakes up, upset but calmer. He tells Night Girl about growing up on Braal, even though he was actually born on Earth. His father went where the work was, but when Cos was still an infant they returned to Braal, where his brother was born. Cosmic Boy as a youth played Magno Ball, winning several competitions but not managing to become an Olympic champion. After several lean years, Cosmic Boy turned 14, the legal age on Braal, so he headed to Earth to earn money for his family. He decides to go check on them, with Night Girl accompanying him.

Elsewhere at Legion HQ, Timber Wolf, still feeling dejected with Light Lass having left the Legion, heads to Boston to meet girls.

At the hospital, Cosmic Boy and Night Girl arrive to check on his family. When the doctor will not let them in to the radiation decontamination facility, Cosmic Boy uses his powers to rearrange the portal's lock mechanism, then lock it again behind him. Night Girl breaks it down, and she and the doctor follow after him.
As they head towards where Cosmic Boy's family are convalescing, Night Girl tells the doctor "the story" of how three young immigrants saved RJ Brande's life, how he suggested they form a team, and how the computer picked Cosmic Boy to be the first leader.

Night Girl and the doctor approach Cosmic Boy, who has just learned that his mother has died from her injuries. Overwhelmed by emotions, he knocks Night Girl out and heads back out to kill the "fire-ballers."
Elsewhere in Metropolis, Chameleon Boy returns to Earth after being pardoned after his brave actions during the Great Darkness. He is happy to see three of his friends there to meet him, but sad to admit to them that he has lost his powers.

The Legionnaires hear a cry for help, so rush off to find Cosmic Boy about to kill the terrorists again. Sun Boy stops his team-mates from interfering, asking his friends to give Cosmic Boy a chance to stop himself.

As Cosmic Boy is about to kill the terrorists, he hears his mother's voice telling him to stop. He breaks down, ashamed of what he was about to do. He flies off to be alone with his grief.

This is a very powerful story of one man and the pain he has to endure. Circling around that core issue of what a son will do to "avenge" his family is the origin of the Legion in general and of Cosmic Boy in particular. This is where it is established that Cosmic Boy was born on Earth, for example. Levitz does a good job of going over "the story" but adding a few new or slightly differently presented facts to make it interesting. One wonders if this story was presented at least in part to bring any new readers from The Great Darkness Saga up to speed as to the core history and believes of the Legion.

But that is not what is really important here. With this story Cosmic Boy becomes one of the few Legionnaires to face the possibility of killing someone and getting dismissed from the Legion. I commend Levitz for the way this story progresses, building the suspense until Cosmic Boy actually knocks Night Girl out-cold rather than let her stop him. I also commend him for choosing Sun Boy to be the member to stop his team-mates from stepping in, as Sun Boy was also present when Chemical King did the same thing for Element Lad. Element Lad went just as crazy when *he* came face to face with the man who murdered his people (in Superboy/Legion #211) as Cosmic Boy does here. And just as Element Lad realized on his own that he could not commit murder, Cosmic Boy is able to stop himself here. It's a painful yet uplifting scene. Perhaps because I have also lost my mother, no matter how often I read this scene it brings a tear to my eye.

My one criticism of this issue has to do with the last page. Are Cos' eyes supposed to be open in that last sequence, or closed? And what is supposed to be happening? Does Cosmic Boy blast the terrorists again, and one of them screams? In the previous panel they appear to be unconscious. Does Cosmic Boy let out a primal scream as he flies away? Then I would think he wouldn't be smiling and the scream would be less of an "AYEEII" and more of an "AAAARR!!" It's a confusing way to end a wonderful story.

Science Police Notes:  
  • This story is untitled. However, the "Next Issue" blurb in the previous issue called it "Mettle." Also, in the letters' page in issue #310 Levitz verifies that this was supposed to be the title. 
  • Cosmic Boy's parents are Hu and Ewa Krinn, and his brother is Pol. 
  • Cosmic Boy's mother, Ewa Krinn, dies in this story. 
  • Chameleon Boy returns to Earth in this story. 
  • Matter-Eater Lad has a clean bill of health after being cured of the insanity he suffered after eating the Miracle Machine (in Superboy/Legion #251). 
  • The founding members' original uniforms from Adventure Comics #247, which were only shown once, are featured in the flash-back. 
This issue has been reprinted in LSH: The Curse.


  1. This is one of my favorite issues of the Legion. A perfect synthesis of word and image-- love the way Cos's powers are depicted visually here. Your scan of p. 23, for example, really shows why Giffen and Levitz were at the top of their game in this era.

    1. Mine as well Steve ! This Levitz / Giffen run was good stuff !

  2. This is why I love this era of Legion. This storyline.

    Sun Boy going undercover to bust the fireballers.

    Dream Girl breaking another nail.

    The depiction of Cosmic Boy's powers.

    Cos' costume being a hybrid of the classic look and the silly (let's face it, it was silly) Grell corset (which, I believe, was held up by Cos' own powers).

    The random aliens that were actually alien.

    And, as noted, Cos' choosing not to kill.

    In the long run, this also got us Magnetic Kid, a great character in his own right.

    They had their missteps (like the "return" of Lyle Norg and that whole Omen and Prophet hot mess), but damn Levitz and Giffen (and Mahlstedt!) did some awesome stuff in just a few years!