Thursday, October 23, 2014

Superboy #190

Superboy #190 (Sept 1972)
A review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage
title: "Follow Murder The Leader!"
writer: Cary Bates
penciller: Dave Cockrum
inker: Murphy Anderson
letterer: Ben Oda
editor: Murray Boltinoff
cover: Nick Cardy

Mission Monitor Board:  
Saturn Girl, Mon-El; cameos by Shadow Lass, Lightning Lad, Karate Kid, Colossal Boy, Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl, Invisible Kid, Bouncing Boy, Dream Girl, and Duo Damsel

Tharok and Validus

It's election day in 2972 and George McGovern and Richard Nixon are standing back to watch Saturn Girl take on Mon-El. Lightning Lad is campaigning for his girlfriend, "16 kilohectares and a space-mule for everybody!" against sexy Shadow Lass promising *anything* for a vote for Mon-El. She is so into it she has turned herself Caucasian in a desperate ploy for votes.

After a few panels of political talk, the Legionnaires prepare to vote. Meanwhile, Mon-El confides to Saturn Girl that he has lost confidence in himself, and if elected, he will not serve. Suddenly, both candidates disappear, teleported millions of miles away to a Democratic Convention in Chicago, otherwise known as a deserted asteroid. Validus of the Fatal Five attacks them; Saturn Girl sacrifices herself, pushing Mon-El out of the way and taking the full brunt of the creature's telepathic lightning.(Telepathic lightning? You don't think....? Also, Mon-El is nigh unto invulnerable; she's pushing *him* out of the way?!) Mon-El attacks in kind, but Validus punches him through the whole planetoid. When Mon-El flies back to the hemisphere where Validus is waiting, he is attacked by Tharok, the leader of The Fatal Five. Tharok keeps Mon-El imprisoned in pulsating spheres of energy as he explains his newest plot: murder the Legion's leader and the "army" of the remaining Legionnaires will fall apart. Tharok boasts that he has trained Validus to kill any Legionnaire who is referred to as their "leader." Validus will also get him a beer from the refrigerator when asked.

Meanwhile, Saturn Girl revives. She is only stunned, but too weak to muster any strength to use her powers...which are super-telepathy, so, yeah, she must be near death. Mon-El is afraid he is about to crack under the pressure, but then remembers Saturn Girl's (apparent) sacrifice for him and with renewed vigor refuses to give up. He breaks free, but instead of attacking Tharok he capitulates, agreeing to give the Legion to Tharok. Flush with the prospect of so much power at his command, Tharok agrees to Mon-El's deal, enthusiastically proclaiming himself Legion Leader then and there. Oops! Pavlov's Alien, Validus, has had his bell ringed. Hearing the words "Legion Leader," he viciously attacks Tharok! Then no longer under Tharok's control, he flies off "to roam harmlessly," says Mon-El. Uh-huh. "Harmlessly," he says. Saturn Girl reveals herself to be alive, and Mon-El,  with his self-confidence regained, is ready to get back to Earth and finish their election.

This is an exciting story, especially compared to the space crap DC *had* been offering us in LSH stories up to this issue. Cary Bates sets up the three dramatic conflicts in the story well and then addresses them in style: Who will win the election for Legion Leader? Is Mon-El losing his touch? Will Tharok and Validus be victorious? The art is noticeably futuristic, from the cool Legion HQ to the alien terrain of the planetoid; that Dave Cockrum kid has a future in front of him. Validus and Tharok are impressively threatening, and Tharok's plan is diabolical (although I do wonder how he knew that the Legion election was to be held on that day, and who the actual candidates were). The only flaw to the plot is the idea that Saturn Girl is really dead or that Mon-El is a traitor. Long-time readers knew that neither of those things would ever happen. Why, the idea that Validus could actually kill a Legionnaire...sheesh.
This is the last issue where Murphy Anderson inked Dave Cockrum's pencils. From the next issue we get pure Cockrum pencils AND inks. 

Science Police Notes:  
  • Superboy is back in his role as "host," introducing this story. 
  • Shadow Lass is mis-colored as Caucasian on the first page of this story. Conversely, Dream Girl's bare thighs are colored as white tights on the same page. 
  • Ultra Boy's tenure as Legion Leader began "only a few days ago" as of S/LSH #183, yet here we are voting in a new Leader already.    
  • Although it is not clearly stated here, Mon-El is elected Leader at the end of this story. This is his second (non-consecutive) term.
Reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archive Vol. 10

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