Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tales Of The Legion of Super-Heroes #315

Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #315 (Sept, 1984)
Review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

title: "Judgment!"
writer/plotter: Paul Levitz
plotter: Keith Giffen
penciller: Terry Shoemaker

inker: Karl Kesel
letterer: Adam Kubert
colorist: Carl Gafford
editor: Karen Berger
cover: Terry Shoemaker & Karl Kesel (signed)

Mission Monitor Board:  
Sun Boy, Supergirl, Brainiac Five, Invisible Kid

The Dark Circle

This story begins immediately after last issue left off, as Supergirl, Sun Boy, and Brainiac Five crash into the inner sanctum of the Dark Circle right there on the splash page. I realized last week in the last issue that I have no idea who or what the Dark Circle is or what their motivations are. Given the fact that they are all dressed in dark robes and NOT happy to see the Legionnaires show up, I guess it goes without saying that they are a group of aliens plotting to take over the world (the universe?). As Supergirl starts to tear through them, they decide that they don't have to stand there and take it, so with a simple POOOF! the entire population of the planet disappears. As the trio ponders their next move, Brainy realizes that teleportation on such a scale requires a huge energy source: probably, the sun!

Meanwhile, Science Police Chief Zendak, United Planets ambassador Relnic, and the captain of a commandeered SP cruiser head into the Dark Circle territory. They are following the path of the broken ships left by the Legionnaires.

In a space station orbiting their sun, the Dark Circle continues to interrogate rogue SP officer Ontiir. Ontiir claims to be a double agent, a Dark Circle spy in the Science Police, but his allegiance(s) are now hopelessly muddied. The Dark Circle demands that he tell them all he knows about the United Planets, and then commit suicide. Ontiir appears understandably anxious at this demand. Before anything else can happen, the Legion bursts in (again). The Dark Circle council is so angry at this disturbance that one council member drops his robe and starts to touch Sun Boy. He appears to be choking him, and not in a good way. Ontiir picks up a blaster and aims it at these two. He thinks that this is his chance to "get a clear shot." Chief Zendak and his SPs burst in next, and when Ontiir doesn't lower his weapon, Zendak shoots him dead. The Dark Circle says, "I believe we no longer have anything to fight about" and dismisses the intruders.

On the way back to Earth, Supergirl is disillusioned by how this "fun" mission ended. She flies off, back to her own time period for some personal reflection.

Back on Earth, Invisible Kid goes to the Legion's doctor, Dr. Gym'll*, to discuss the resurrection of the formerly dead original Invisible Kid. Dr. Gym'll flatly refuses to get involved. So Invisible Kid feels he has no choice but to bring the original Invisible Kid back to where he found him, "the land of dreams."

*(Is "Gym'll" pronounced with a hard "g" or a soft "g"? I know it should probably be pronounced like "gymnasium" but I can't help but pronouncing it with a hard "g" like in "gimme.")

This is a fun story! The art is crisp and clear, and the action is easy to follow. Supergirl and Brainiac Five make a cute couple. Ontiir and the Dark Circle look sufficiently creepy and alien. The Dark Circle member when he drops his robe is especially creepy. Terry Shoemaker and Karl Kesel do a great job.

The story is not what you would expect, and each time I re-read it I respect Paul Levitz for not giving us the clear-cut ending we are used to in straight super-hero comics. Still, it does feel frustrating to not KNOW which side Ontiir was on. I feel the same way Supergirl does. On the other hand, I don't much care that this mission was the impetus for Supergirl to leave the Legion again. I never liked the idea that Superboy was a "joiner" but Supergirl was not. Growing up in an orphanage being kept as a secret weapon seems like a perfect environment for a young girl to want to escape into her future, if you ask me! I definitely do not like the idea that Supergirl was not a more active Legionnaire.
I do have two specific problem with this story, one for each plot. First, what kind of teleportation device is it that makes you lose your clothes when you move? All the people on the planet disappear, leaving their robes behind. So they had a few closets full of replacement robes stored on that space station then? Because except for the alien who gets down and dirty with Sun Boy, they are all wearing robes again when the Legionnaires burst in on them. Second, the Invisible Kid story leaves me cold. Invisible Kid is faced with what he thinks is a seriously depressed former Legionnaire. So what does he do to help him out of his blue funk? How about calling some of the original Kid's friends over and having a party to celebrate his return from death? Did *that* idea never occur to you, Invisible Kid!?! No, he decides "the only thing to do" is take him back to the hellish dimension he found him in. Very smart, Maria, very smart!

**********Second Story**********
title: "The Forging!"
plotter: Paul Levitz
dialogue: Mindy Newell
penciller: George Tuska

inker: Karl Kesel
letterer: Adam Kubert
colorist: Carl Gafford
editor: Karen Berger

Mission Monitor Board:  
Blok, White Witch


White Witch's "secret origin" continues from last issue. Blok, after having started watching a holo-vid provided by White Witch, is joined by her. She picks up the thread of her history, telling him how she as young, orphaned Mysa* first arrived on the Sorcerers' World after leaving her native planet, Naltor. Out of desperation and loneliness, she finds the strength within her to cast her first spell. From that point, the sorcerers welcome her as a neophyte. She stays on the Sorcerers' World for six years, studying under each of the Masters. When she turns sixteen, she goes through the final initiation ceremony to join them as an equal. However, a young Mordru sabotages her initiation, causing her to transform into a "hag." The other sorcerers believe her to be secretly evil and banish her immediately.

*(Is "Mysa" pronounced as "my-sa" or as a rhyme to "Lisa"? I don't know why, but I always rhymed it with "Lisa.")

George Tuska draws beautiful women and evil looking men, so this story gives him plenty to sink his teeth into. However, as good as his Mysa and White Witch are, his Blok looks flat and two-dimenstional here. And by changing the narrator from the holo-vid White Witch to the actual person, Paul and newcomer Mindy Newell give us a preponderance of side comments about Evil, human pride and humor, and sadness. I'm sure this was supposed to help "humanize" White Witch and Blok, two of the dullest Legionnaires ever, but the side comments really just distract from the main narrative.

What does the title refer to? Are White Witch and Blok forging a friendship? Is White Witch being "forged" by her time on the Sorcerers' World? Or is she literally being forged when she steps into the flames of her initiation ceremony, only to be found wanting?

Science Police Notes:  
  • In a nice touch of continuity, UP Ambassador Relnic shows up and accompanies Zendak to the Dark Circle world. He is a long-standing supporting character, having appeared in several stories since he made his debut with Ontiir in "The Earth War Saga" in S/LSH # 241-245. He was at the trial of Ontiir last issue, as well.
  • In another nice bit of continuity, Blok recognizes Mordru before White Witch introduces him. It has been established that Blok spends his time watching old Legion archival holo-vids, so it's a  nice touch that he recognizes a man he has never actually met. 
  • Mindy Newell was the first woman to ever write (dialogue) a Legion story. 
This issue has not yet been reprinted.


  1. I've always pronounced Gym'll the same way I pronounce the Hebrew letter gimel: hard G, short I, and a schwa, emphasis on the first syllable. The spelling notwithstanding, the idea that it might have a soft G as in gymnasium literally never occurred to me until you mentioned it just now. As for Mysa, I've always pronounced it to rhyme with the 4th and 5th Doctor's companion Nyssa.

    1. I bet you're right about the Hebrew letter gimel; that never occurred to me, thanks!
      And I'm not a Doctor fan, so I'm left with the question, "How do you pronounce Nyssa?" ;-) I'm guessing with two esses, it's not a long "i" sound.

    2. What Siskoid said. You're correct, of course, that the double-s might affect how the Y is pronounced, and pronouncing Mysa to rhyme with Lisa is perfectly reasonable. And in fact, per Wiktionary, that's how it's pronounced in Icelandic, in which "mysa" means "whey."

    3. Personally, I pronounce Mysa to rhyme with miser. And Gym'll with a soft g, like Gymnasium. But it's the future, so who knows!