Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #298

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #298 (April 1983)
title: "The Edge of Nowhere"
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:  
Wildfire, Dawnstar, Blok, Invisible Kid, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, Element Lad, Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl, Chameleon Boy

Guests: 
Duplicate Boy, RJ Brande, SP Officer Shvaughn Erin

Opponents: 
Karlak of Khundia

Synopsis: 
On Asteroid 73-Q, a group of Legionnaires arrive after being called in by the local United Planets Consul. However, they arrive just as the authorities are taking away the Consul's dead body. The White Witch casts a spell to reveal anything "unnatural" about the corpse, and the Legionnaires are able to see that his heart had been crushed.
On Medicus-1, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad want to see the doctor who is seeing Dr. Gym'll's patients while he is away. They are there to verify that Lighting Lad is no longer suffering from his recent illness.

On Earth, Duplicate Boy arrives and confronts Colossal Boy and Shrinking Violet, who appear to be lounging around together at some love hotel in the Himalayas.
On Asteroid 73-Q, Blok and Wildfire go down into the mining tunnels to investigate why the UP Consul might have called the Legion. Suddenly, there is an earthquake. Blok holds up the support struts of the structure, preventing a large amount of damage. They then ask the miners what has been happening, and are directed into the core of the asteroid.
Dawnstar and Invisible Kid join them as they go further into the heart of the asteroid. Dawnstar in particular is angry at being left behind earlier, just because she was upset at the sight of the Consul's corpse. As they bicker, the Legionnaires find a makeshift Challenge Court of the Khunds. Suddenly, Karlak, cybernetically enhanced Khund champion, appears. He defeats Wildfire and Dawnstar. Invisible Kid sees something strange as Wildfire's containment suit is destroyed, so as Blok battles Karlak Invisible Kid disappears. Blok manages to wound Karlak by destroying some of Karlak's circuitry, so he, too, disappears by teleporting away.
On Earth, Duplicate Boy duplicates Colossal Boy's ability to grow, so two giants begin slugging it out in the middle of the Himalayas. The Science Police call in the Legion, and Ultra Boy flies on ahead. He comes up underneath Duplicate Boy, tripping him and knocking him out.
When Duplicate Boy awakens he apologizes to the Legionnaires for the damage. He confronts Colossal Boy and Shrinking Violet, then flies away. Both Element Lad and Shvaughn notice that Violet appeared scared of him.
On RJ Brande's private asteroid home, his son Chameleon Boy tells Brande that he has somehow lost his powers. He has decided to go to Durla to try to get them back.

Commentary: 
This issue seems very much like a "place-holder" as Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen are heading towards issue #300. That may not be a fair assessment of what this (and next) issue started out as, but picking this up and reading it today, it is hard to say that anything noteworthy really happens.

On the other hand, knowing what does come down the path in a few months, it is difficult to read this story without wishing that Levitz had made his hints more clear. Specifically I am talking about the bottom half of page six (reprinted above), where Colossal Boy and Shrinking Violet are sitting together nearly naked. Colossal Boy says to Violet, "What do you think of this old Earth custom?" Before Violet can respond, Duplicate Boy breaks in. Violet instead says, "Who...."

Spoiler Alert (for a plot that was revealed 30 years ago but that will be revealed here in six months) it seems that Colossal Boy is referencing either eloping or honeymooning. Did ANYONE think this is what Colossal Boy was talking about when you read this scene? Likewise, as comic-book readers we are so ingrained with characters saying "Who...?!" or "What....?" that when it happens we tend to ignore it. Yet here, it is actually just what it seems to say: Violet doesn't know who Duplicate Boy is.

That's a huge story point, but, again, I doubt that ANYONE picked up on it on their first reading. Clearly, Levitz likes his mysteries, and he likes to play fair, but I would argue that this (and the speech by Duplicate Boy later in the story just before he leaves, also reprinted above) were more obtuse than they had to be.

Besides that story point, we get to see the five newest Legionnaires out on a mission together. This is nice, as I know "the newbies" in companies and schools tend to spend time together. It has already been established that Wildfire has a "big brother" affection for the Legion Academy members, so it makes sense that he would gruffly take the "rookie" Legionnaires under his wing as well. It also makes sense that of all of the members, Dawnstar would chafe at his over-protection. There is also a very nice scene between Invisible Kid and the White Witch when he thinks that the spell she plans to cast will harm the deceased. We get to see that the White Witch is spiritual, not scientific.

That being said, the story itself did bother me. Not only do we NOT learn why the Khunds have built a Championship Court in the MIDDLE of Asteroid 73-Q (?!) but we end up seeing the very same Khundia warrior who already faced the Legion?! On a planet of millions, what are the odds that we would get the same guy again? Seems coincidental to me that he is still the champion, and now with technological advances.

During the battle between Blok and Karlak, Blok is heard to say, "Those who kill Legionnaires suffer before they die." This is an odd thing for him to say, as it is patently false. The Sun-Eater, Validus, and Deregon are the three people (?) responsible for the deaths of Legionnaires, and none of them were killed for doing so. On the other hand, although Blok is usually portrayed as a "gentle giant," is this statement to be interpreted as a threat, i.e. "I am going to make you suffer before I kill you"? He says it when he thinks that his team-mates may be dead. I have to admit that I hoped it would point to a deeper, somewhat darker side of Blok, but there was never any follow-up to this pronouncement.

Carl Gafford, the colorist, does a great job this issue. Just check out the reprinted pages here, especially the shadowing on the Himalayan scene and each instance of Invisible Kid disappearing. Good stuff!

This issue features a free Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld preview pull-out 15 page story by Dan Mishkin & Gary Cohn, with art by Ernie Colon.

Science Police Notes:  
  • The White Witch is shown on the cover facing Kharlak, which does not occur in the story.
  • Dr. Gym'll is off-Earth because he is escorting Matter-Eater Lad back to Bismoll, as we saw last issue. 
  • Kharlak first appeared in LSH (v2) #287 when he fought Timber Wolf, Shrinking Violet, and Chameleon Boy. 
  • Duplicate Boy had been on Weber's World helping to rebuild it after the Great Darkness with the other Heroes of Lallor.  
  • We learn that Ultra Boy is the Deputy Leader under Dream Girl because Element Lad turned the post down. 
Status: 
This issue has been reprinted in LSH: The Curse.

3 comments:

  1. I hear your points about the pacing and "waiting for 300", yet I have a lot of affection for these issues. I think that the clues to the Vi mystery make sense in a couple of issues; time, and the idea is to go back an re read the issues just before.
    You mention the colors, and I have to say the whole art team was on all cylinders at this point. The Duplicate/Colossal Boys beefcake splash page is something to behold.

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  2. Oh my. Teenage me loved that Duplicate Boy/Colossal Boy fight page. That gigantic teeny-tiny swimsuit.

    I also thought Giffen's Duplicate Boy on that page was very Kirby-esque for some reason.

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  3. I don't know why but this is one of my favorite LSH's comics !

    Perhaps it was after a comic book hiatus and my first introduce to the character " Blok" who I thought was really cool with his grey chiseled rock and blue eyes .

    He's what Benjamin Grimm should have been .

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