Tuesday, December 30, 2014

DC Comics Presents #80

DC Comics Presents #80 (April 1985)
a review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage
title: "A World Full of Supermen!"
writer: Paul Kupperberg
penciller: Curt Swan
inker: Dave Hunt
letterer: Ben Oda
colorist: Gene D'Angelo
editor: Julius Schwartz
cover: Eduardo Barreto (signed)

Mission Monitor Board:  
Superman, Chameleon Boy, Element Lad, Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet, Ultra Boy


The five "missing" Legionnaires step through the star-gate from LSH (v3) #8 expecting to be on 30th Century Earth. However, they are still in outer space,and all they see is an asteroid with what appears to be a 20th Century Earth city located on it. They are considered a threat by the "guard," so a tractor beam grabs them, dragging them down into the stratosphere. Ultra Boy bursts free to try to break the tractor beam device, but is stunned by Superman. The Man of Steel attacks the others, too, but Element Lad is able to encase them in a lead ball. Chameleon Boy, Shrinking Violet, and Phantom Girl escape, hoping to distract Superman so Element Lad can escape, too, but they are shocked when they are surrounded by an army of Supermen!
Brainiac is revealed as the villain behind the asteroid and Superman robots, part of his newest attempt to destroy the real Superman. He decides to take advantage of the Legion accidentally arriving, so he calls the real Superman via a homing beacon on an ultra-sonic frequency only Superman can hear. Clark Kent, just finishing up a news-cast on the real Earth, hears the signal and flies off.
At the asteroid,  Chameleon Boy tries to stop the three Supermen until Ultra Boy returns from being kaoyed earlier. They realize that their foes are robots, and the fight goes their way. Chameleon Boy rescues Element Lad, and the five head down into the city to try to figure out what is going on. They are almost immediately attacked by another swarm of robots.
The real Superman finally arrives, approaching the Legionnaires just as another gang of robots attacks them again. They believe he is another robot, so they attack him, as well, knocking him out. Brainiac arrives to kill him. He explains his plot, which was to capture Superman and spread his molecules all across the multiverse. However, Brainiac has decided to ignore the Legionnaires, who strike back. Brainiac's system begins to fail due to their efforts, and Superman regains consciousness. Sure that victory is no longer possible, Brainiac teleports away, leaving the heroes to explain to each other what has happened.
This is a nice simple stand-alone story. I imagine that DCCP editor Schwartz asked LSH editor Berger if/when he could schedule another Superman-Legion team-up (the last one was DCCP #43) and when he was told that there were five members currently on their way back from Limbo, the plot discussions probably progressed from there.
The story is fun. Element Lad is obviously the brains of this group, knowing enough to bluff Brainiac into victory. Chameleon Boy is the brave one, stepping up to try to stop three Superman robots in order to save the others. Although Ultra Boy gets the lion's share of attention by literally smashing up the Superman robots, Phantom Girl is also shown solidifying inside some robots, or becoming immaterial between two robots so that they take each other out. Unfortunately, we never get to see Shrinking Violet in action. A quick panel or two of her shrunk down inside a robot, damaging it, would have been nice.
However, there are a few problems with the plot. It is never explained why a star-gate controlled by the, er, Controllers, wouldn't actually *go* to Earth, instead of stranding the Legion "elsewhere." Nor is it ever really explained how an asteroid made to look like Metropolis, populated by an army of Superman robots, was supposed to trap and kill the real Superman. The number of Superman robots seems to fluctuate, especially when the four Legionnaires are initially attacked. First there is one robot, then there are three more threatening the escaping trio, then there are only three again. The first robot smashing the lead ball containing Element Lad just up and disappears. Lastly, the conclusion of the story seems rushed and the Legionnaires run off without really having anywhere to go.
The art is by Curt Swan and Dave Hunt. Swan was a long-time Legion artist, of course, so handles the characters well. Hunt, however, doesn't seem to know the characters as well, consistently inking Chameleon Boy wrong through the entire story. He does a great job in the darkness inside the lead ball, though. Kudos to Gene D'Angelo for great coloring effects here, as well as in the scenes with Brainiac trying to disintegrate Superman.

Science Police Notes:  
  • The editor's note referencing the Legion's disappearance cites LSH (v3) #5; the correct issue is #8. 
  • This story occurs between LSH (v3) #8, when these five Legionnaires step through their star-gate, and LSH (v3) #9, when they finally(!) re-appear on 30th Century Earth. 
  • Although billed as a team-up book, in this story Superman and the Legion never actually "team-up."  
This issue has not yet been reprinted.

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