Tuesday, January 22, 2019

TOS: Adventure Comics #371

Adventure Comics #371 (August 1968)
title: "The Colossal Failure!"
writer and layouts: Jim Shooter
penciller: Curt Swan
inker: Jack Abel
letterer: Ben Oda
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Neal Adams
reviewers: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage and Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board: 
Colossal Boy, Bouncing Boy, Brainiac 5, Saturn Girl, Shrinking Violet, Sun Boy, Superboy, Ultra Boy; debut appearance of Condo Arlik, future Legionnaire Chemical King

Opponents:
Extortionists who turn Colossal Boy's parents into glass statues


Colossal Boy gets off duty and goes home, which is an apartment he shares with his parents'. His mother cooks dinner via  Computer Synthesizer (instead of the new-fangled pre-programmed meals) and they enjoy their time together. 
Mike: This scene with Gim's family really captures the sensibility of a lot of early Legion stories. Futuristic sci-fi mixed with a very traditional 1950s view of life. Polite teenager, mom cooking dinner....right out of Leave it to Beaver but in the 30th Century.
Russell: I did find these first few scenes with the Allons quite fun and quaint.

Two men arrive, saying that they are from Universe TV who want to interview Colossal Boy and his parents for a documentary they on doing on Legionnaires. As their 3D camera warms up it turns out to be a machine that turns Colossal Boy's parents into glass statues. They show him his mother's Life Brooch, which proves that she and his dad are still alive. 
Russell: Generally speaking, I'm not a big fan of this type of "super-tech" link to a story. The Life Brooch comes in mighty handy in this and next issue, is all I'm saying. And if Mrs. Allon loves it so much, why isn't she wearing it?
Mike: I liked that tv camera and lighting equipment has not really advanced that much beyond 1960s technology.
They extort Colossal Boy into giving them secrets of the Legion Academy. They teleport away before Colossal Boy can stop them. He decides to play a lone-hand rather than risk asking his friends for help. 
Mike: I had to chuckle at how trusting they were to let these guys into their house. Even if day to day life in their time makes the average person feel more trusting and secure, you would think a Legionnaire would have his guard up a little more. Still, the plot of blackmailing Gim with his parents' lives is intriguing.
Russell: I, too, had that same thought...is there NO security for the Legionnaires? Two would-be assassins are able to walk right in on them. If they had wanted to kill the Allons when Gim wasn't there, what would have stopped them?


The next day, Ultra Boy alerts them that criminals from the water-planet Mohado have flooded downtown Metropolis in order to rob the stores while they are underwater. Colossal Boy messes up the capture, so Ultra Boy orders him to the Legion Academy for re-training...exactly as he hoped. Bouncing Boy notices his pal's odd reaction to being "sent down." 
Mike: Some nice artistic touches here from the swamp creature look of the thieves to the breathing gear worn by the Legionnaires, although I am not sure if Superboy really needed one. I suppose he may not have wanted to be distracted with holding his breathe during a potential battle, despite how easy it's been shown for him in the past.
Russell: I like how Ultra Boy's election to Leader is mentioned in passing. And I like how the Legionnaires all rag on Colossal Boy for messing up. None of them ever make any mistake, and then all of a sudden BAM we have a colossal failure. On a side note, every time I read this page I wish this was the St. Louis Arch on the banks of the Mississippi River.


The next day Colossal Boy reports to the Legion Academy, where he is treated like every other cadet. He studies the psychology of criminals, tests his reflexes, and then practice-fights with electro-jousting poles with a fellow cadet named Condo Arlik, who calls himself Chemical King. Bouncing Boy, as a guest instructor, sees his friend and knows that he could do better if he wanted to. 
Mike: The scene of the electro-jousting fight between Chemical King and Colossal Boy felt right out of Star Trek. While it was fun to see the training academy, I was really disappointed that every trainee was a male human. There are enough aliens in the Legion now that I expected more variety.
Russell: I couldn't help but think of the battle from "Amok Time", too. Also, I'm including this scene because Chemical King is one of my favorites. I know he's not a great character, but I don't care. And yeah, reading this story now it's painfully obvious that every cadet and every teacher is a Caucasian male. I know that at this time DC was afraid to feature Black characters, but not even a yellow guy or green girl? (sigh)


Bouncing Boy asks Saturn Girl and Brainiac 5 for help in figuring out what is wrong with Colossal Boy, but Brainiac 5 says he needs evidence, and Saturn Girl refuses to use her mental abilities for personal issues. Bouncing Boy breaks into the Allons' apartment and finds her Life Brooch. 
Russell: On the one hand I really like the layout of this page and the dynamics of flying. On the other hand, do we really think that Saturn Girl and Brainiac 5 would be so callous as to not want to investigate what was bothering Colossal Boy? Reading this so many years later, it's hard not to think that one of Gim's friends, such as Chameleon Boy or Sun Boy, wouldn't reach out and try to find out what was wrong with their friend. And also, I'm not a fan of Bouncing Boy being portrayed as a klutz.
Mike: Totally agree, especially with respect to the Bouncing Boy scene.


Unfortunately for Colossal Boy, Bouncing Boy also finds some stolen Top Secret Training Manuals. When Colossal Boy refuses to offer any explanation as to why he has them, the Legionnaires have no choice but to expel him. 
Mike: I am always happy to see Bouncing Boy play a significant role and Gim's disgrace was a heckuva cliffhanger to end on. But I had trouble accepting that he would not make some attempt to warn the Legion, especially once he is taken into custody and it seems impossible for him to give his parents' kidnappers what they want. With everything the Legion has accomplished, certainly he would have confidence the Legion could outsmart those two guys. Especially with Brainiac 5 to formulate a plan.
Russell: I find it ironic that two other Legionnaires that have been expelled, Sun Boy and Ultra Boy, are involved in the expulsion of Colossal Boy. I'm pretty sure that Jim Shooter didn't include them on purpose, but it would have been nice if they had shown some personality. Ultra Boy, especially, should have spoken up and told Colossal Boy that he knew there has to be a reason for him acting this way.

Russell: In general this is a fantastic idea for a story but is just not done right, in my opinion. The idea that all of Colossal Boy's friends would not believe in him enough to find a way to make him tell them what the problem was....it's just cold. As I mentioned earlier, Ultra Boy and Sun Boy have also had the experience of being expelled from the Legion. If you remember Ultra Boy's story in particular, Phantom Girl never lost faith in her boy-friend. What if Shrinking Violet, or Gim's so-called best friends Sun Boy or Chameleon Boy, had trusted him in that same manner? Cham could have become something and followed Gim to find out what was going on. Or Violet could have shrunk and stowed away on his belt buckle or something. This whole ending seemed rushed and badly plotted.
Mike: Yes, the premise of Colossal Boy's parents being held hostage is great but the story was not told well overall. It relied too much on everyone acting callous or out of character.

Science Police Notes:
  • Ultra Boy is now the leader of the Legion, per write-in votes from readers announced in the letter column of  Adventure Comics #368.
  • The cover depicts a scene from the reprinted story, "The Valhalla of Super-Companions" from Superboy #101. Originally, the story did not feature the Legion of Super-Heroes at all. For some reason, two additional panels were added to this reprint to include the Legion. The story was then re-titled, "When Superboy Walked Out On The Legion." 
These two panels were not in the original story!! 
Status: 
This issue has been reprinted in The Best of DC Digest #24, Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 8, and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 4.


Milestone: 
Colossal Boy is expelled from the Legion in this story.
This story features the debut of Chemical King, who will join the Legion in the next issue.  

7 comments:

  1. Back in the stone age (the seventies) when I was getting into comics, I would get an odd mix of Silver and Bronze age back issues. My second Legion story was the second part of this two parter, and I remember I was ecstatic when I got this issue.
    I thought it was clever, beautiful (really, Swan overdid himself. Just look a those two reprinted pages with the arch and Gim in the flight-ring drill) and engaging, even reading it out of sequence.
    I understand the caveats (the lack of diversity at the academy IS painful), but great, powerful stuff.
    Finally, Condo (and Brin) is introduced. What else can we ask from a Legion story?

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  2. Some stray thoughts:

    * Here's yet another example of a Jim Shooter two-part story: draw out the set-up in the first issue, then cram everything else into the second issue and rush the ending. I still wonder if he wanted to tell Marvel-style stories and was hampered by DC's reluctance/intransigence in refusing to tell multi-part stories.

    * Boy, what a difference a decade makes. Here, the Legion Academy was structured and run like a boot camp. having a large contingent of recruits (despite most of them being from Stepford), and training with virtually no emphasis on training in their powers. Later stories would show small groups trained in the use of their powers (and allowed to have costumes) with an eye to possible/eventual Legion membership.

    What do you suppose happened? Did R.J. Brande object to the cost and demand cutbacks? Was there a reorg after the Allon affair? An Untold Tale of the Legion, I suspect.

    * Thank you for revealing that the two Legion panels in the Superboy story were add-ons; I never read the original story, only this one, and it never made sense to me why the title emphasized the Legion when they only had a cameo and Superboy's "rejection" carried no consequences.

    And why even alter a past story like this? They are plenty of Superboy stories that feature the Legion, or at least a Legionnaire, to serve a back-up feature. Was it because Neal Adams made such a cool cover and Weisinger felt the need to shoehorn this story in?

    * I like Swan's panel arrangements here (more Shooter/Marvel influence), but I'm not a fan of Jack Abel's inking. His use of darker shades and heavy lines just make the figures look harsher and the settings and backgrounds more stark.

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  3. Anon has probably nailed it with his, er, cover story. I've only seen one other time where a reprint got the cover ant that was Superman's "The thing from 40,000 A.D.". Bus as to the main Legion tale, I've always liked anything that served to humanize/individualize the various Legionnaires and nothing does that like family scenes. And Star Boy at least got a trial with a dramatic vote by vote tally. All CB gets is a GTFO. And that walk of shame at the end, whoa.

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  4. This was one I red from a digest, many years ago. Thanks for posting both covers. Yeah, it probably could have been better handled. But it really connected with the 12 year me.

    Call me geeky, but I get a real kick out of reading the old election results. Speaking of which, you should probably add the Election label.

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    Replies
    1. I thought about it, but didn't because the election wasn't actually shown. Maybe I should rethink it.

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  5. Curious that Colossal Boy is shown as having super-strength even at normal size, an ability never shown before or since.

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