Thursday, September 18, 2014

Superboy # 176

Superboy (vol 1) #176 (July 1971)
a review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage
title: "Invisible Invader!"
writer: E. Nelson Bridwell
penciller/inker: George Tuska
letterer: Joe Letterese
colorist: Uncredited
editor: Murray Boltinoff
cover: Neal Adams

Mission Monitor Board:  
Chemical King, Invisible Kid, Mon-El, Superboy (narrator), cameos of Ultra Boy and Cosmic Boy

unnamed thief and his unnamed accomplice

Superboy is the narrator of this tale, but does not actually participate in it.

Let him have it, Chemical not.
This story begins at a public ceremony to commemorate the first commercial time-travel service. There representing the Legion is their newest member, Chemical King. All of a sudden, a sneak thief appears out of nowhere and robs the owners of their fares, disappearing before Chem can stop him. Back at the Legion HQ, Invisible Kid believes he knows how the thief escaped: he must have come up with the same invisibility serum that Invisible Kid did! The challenge then becomes, how can the Legion stop someone with the same abilities as one of their members? Several ideas are put forth to counter-act the Kid's invisibility, until Invisible Kid himself hits on the way. Mon-El and the others  head off to the Atlantic Grand Prix, hoping the prize would be too tempting for the thief to resist. They are right, and stop him and his accomplice cold. Then we learn that Chemical King was using his powers to control chemical reactions to counter-act the chemicals in the thief's bloodstream, rendering him visible!

If only Chem knew how his own power worked...!
This story was probably written to spotlight the Legionnaires Invisible Kid and Chemical King, but all it ends up doing is showing how difficult it was to write a good Chemical King story. Here is a guy who can control all chemical reactions (he very considerately tells us that on page three). Yet when faced with a guy who can appear and disappear, he doesn't use his power!? He could have ended the story right there if he had, say, slowed the guys' metabolism so that he fainted. At the very least he could have made the story a bit more interesting. If you're going to go out and fight bad guys, don't you think you'd have a set repertoire of tricks to throw at them? Instead of, say, wanting to punch them? Then, when Invisible Kid tells him that he gets his power from a serum, why didn't Chem say, "Well, I can control that reaction, so I can counter-act it." He didn't even know enough to say that about his own powers! And then at the end, Chem doesn't get to do anything, either: he just stands there as Mon-El stops the cruiser and Invisible Kid...throws a punch at the bad guy!?! In what turned out to be E. Nelson Bridwell's last Legion story, Invisible Kid is very clearly (ahem) the star. Which is ironic and a bit sad, given what happens the next time Invisible Kid appears, three years later.
As for the art, George Tuska is very clearly phoning this work in. None of the scenes jump out at you, not even when Mon-El stands in front of a speeding cruiser to stop it. Even though I really like all three of these characters, this is just one dull story.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Chemical King admits that he is a mutant, saying, "I just supposed most other super-people were like me...mutants!" Wrong book, Chem.   
  • Ultra Boy and Cosmic Boy are present to hear that Chemical King let the bad guy go, then promptly take some of Invisible Kid's serum and disappear for the rest of the story. "Geez, let's let Mon handle these losers....!" Jo is heard to mumble.   
Reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archive Vol. 10 and Showcases Presents: Legion of Super-Heroes vol 4

Legion Bonus! 
Because the story is only seven pages, here it is in its entirety!


  1. Seeing Chemical King's ineffectiveness at the start of the story and remembering that he came out of the Legion Academy, I can't help be reminded of LSH v.2 #304, where they considered several Academy students for Legion membership but ultimately recommended they all stay at the Academy for further training: "Better no new Legionnaires than another dead one."

    1. Good point. It would have been cool if he had been shown doing what Chuck and Lournu were later shown to be doing, hanging at the Academy

  2. I first read this one in the pages of Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #24, which in addition to reprinting this story, also reprinted Legion stories from Adventure #357, 371, and 372 as well as having a new story "Murder in Glass." All wrapped in a very eye-catching Ernie Colon cover.

    -Kyle Benning

  3. So this is another story where a character does something other than use their powers which happened a lot. Like in the Ranzz origin story where Ayla thinks "my flight ring..." and Mekt knocks her out. She could have just used her powers. Unfortunately idiot plots are a staple of Legion stories.

    Also, no female Legionnaires!