Saturday, October 4, 2014

Limited Collectors' Edition #C49

Limited Collectors' Edition #C49
A Review by Guest Blogger Rob Kelly

I guess I probably shouldn't be here.

As listeners to The Fire And Water Podcast know, I hate the Legion of Super-Heroes with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns. Actually, that's a lie perpetrated by my co-host, The Irredeemable Shag, who is on the masthead of this very blog. I just never really got into the Legion was I was first reading comics, the way I did with the JLA, the Avengers, the Defenders, etc. Despite reading some solo Legion comics and various guest appearances, that apathy never abated, so when a Legion character comes up on our spin-off show Who's Who: The Definitive Podcast Of The DC Universe, I tend to focus on the art on any given listing, having very little to say about the history being chronicled.

But Legion (and Fire And Water) fan Russell Burbage has given me a chance to chip away at my Legion-hating persona, with a review of Limited Collectors' Edition #C49: Superboy And The Legion of Super-Heroes. Russell knew my love of the treasury comics, any and all, would over-ride my supposed disinterest over the subject matter. So I pulled the comic off my shelf, and gave it a re-read. 

For those not familiar with the format, the treasury comics were over-sized editions, measuring 10 x 13 inches between two card-stock covers. There have been treasury comics since the 1930s, and some companies still publish them today, but for the most part when someone uses the phrase "treasury comic," they're talking about the classic ones published by DC and Marvel in the 1970s, when both publishers were looking for anything to regain some of the sales ground they were losing on news-stands with the regular line of comics. Realizing these books, with their higher price points, would generally appeal to collectors or die-hard fans, both companies filled the treasuries with fun little bonus features, and reprinted material in a way that ended up presaging the "trade paperwback" format that modern comics fans are so familiar with today.
That's definitely the case with Limited Collectors' Edition #C49. Behind a beautiful wrap-around cover by Mike Grell, LCE #349 reprints a two-part story, "Mordru the Merciless" and "The Devil's Jury" from Adventure Comics #s 369 and 370, respectively. Written by a young Jim Shooter and drawn by Curt Swan and Jack Abel, the story is about the Legion's arch-enemy Mordru as he chases some members of the Legion across time. In an effort to escape his deadly attacks, Superboy, Mon-El, Duo Damsel, and Shadow Lass use the Time Cube to travel back to 20th Century Smallville. Via flashbacks, we learn that Mordru was placed in an airless prison chamber after his last battle with the Legion, but now he has escaped, and is really, really mad!

To try and throw Mordru off the trail, the Legionnaires decide to assume civilian identities (why sure, that makes sen...WHAT?!) in Smallville, even bothering to go to school to keep up the charade. Mon-El and Duo Damsel fit right in of course, but Shadow Lass is slathered in make-up to hide her blue skin. For his part, Superboy decides to lay low too, which allows various C-grade bad guys to go on a crime spree, since there seems to be no Boy of Steel to bring them to heel. The first half of the book ends with all of the Legionnaires' efforts having come to nothing, for Mordru finds them anyway!

With some pages to fill, the DC editors bring out the fun stuff: a two-page diagram of the LSH HQ, a center-spread featuring the wedding of Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel (complete with cameos by the Martian Manhunter (?) and Tars Tarkas (??)), and then another two pages detailing all the various features of the Legion HQ, drawn by Mike Grell. As a kid, I loved all these extra little bells and whistles, even if (like in this case) I was not the biggest fan of the subject matter. Re-reading these treasuries all these years later, they are generally still my favorite segments of any given book.

The story picks up on the other side, getting even goofier, which was par for the course in Silver Age super-hero comics. Lana Lang turns into Insect Queen, complete with giant bee legs and stinger, which is totally gross. Thanks to a double cross, Mordru is defeated once again, with the help of some other Legionnaries: Dream Girl, Princess Projectra, and White Witch. Considering how, earlier in the story, the female Legionnaires were dismissed as not being serious threats, it ends up being "the girls" that help defeat Mordru. Yay Women's Lib!

The inside cover features a key to all the characters who appearend in the center-spread, with the edtior of the book remarking that even he has no idea why Martian Manhutner and Tars Tarkas are there.

Despite the aforementioned apathy toward the Legion, I did enjoy this moves at a brisk pace (it has to, otherwise the gaps of logic so vast even Superboy couldn't clear them would become too obvious to ignore), and I think having both parts together between two covers helps it work even better. I don't think Curt Swan and Jack Abel's work is done any favors being reprinted at this size---Abel's tendency to simplify the work of whatever penciller he was inking makes these pages at times look like a coloring book. But throw in the great Grell cover and the bonus features, and Limited Collectors' Edition #C49 still makes for a fun read. If you're a Legion fan, it's probably completely irresistible.

There. Now do I get my Legion Flight Ring?


  1. This has always been on my wish list of things to own.

    Beautiful stuff.

  2. Rob,
    No flight ring yet. There's still another Collectors' Edition, isn't there? Right now you're still at Subs Level. Besides, any self-respecting Legion Fan would know that this HQ drawing isn't by Mike Grell. Looks more like Curt Swan to me.

    Funny story about this comic. I bought it at Target as a kid and rushed home with it. I was so enamored by the wonderful cover that I didn't realize that the inside was some weird Curt Swan story featuring Insect Queen, and none of the characters actually on the cover (except Superboy!) Also, my version was a mis-print, with the same pages over and over again and not the correct, complete issue. So I wrote a letter to DC Comics complaining, and a few months later I got another, "good" copy. I had that cover and the wedding scene taped on my walls for years.

  3. Russell-

    I was a little sloppy with my sentence structure. The two pages detailing the Legion HQ were drawn by Grell, but not the page of the HQ itself.

    And bought this comic at Target? Target was around in the 1970s??

    1. Yeah, I think it was a Target. It eventually turned into a Target if it wasn't a Target at the beginning....? Target is from Minneapolis, so maybe they had a wider Mid-Western presence before they started branching out to Nyu Joisey?

  4. Bought the Mordru story first time around. I wonder how many thought, since it referenced an earlier battle between him and the Legion, that we'd missed an issue.