Thursday, December 4, 2014

Superboy starring The Legion #198

Superboy & Legion of Super-Heroes #198 (Oct 1973)
review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage
title: "The Fatal Five Who Twisted Time!"
writer: Cary Bates
penciller: Dave Cockrum
colorist: Ben Oda
editor: Murray Boltinoff
cover: Nick Cardy

Mission Monitor Board:  
Superboy, Brainiac 5, Element Lad, Princess Projectra, Karate Kid, Mon-El, Colossal Boy, Chameleon Boy; cameos by Cosmic Boy, Shrinking Violet, Chemical King

The Fatal Five! (Emerald Empress, Persuader, Tharok, Validus, Mano)

Clark and Lana are enjoying a traveling carnival outside of Smallville. After encountering an escaped gorilla, Clark and Lana come across a gypsy fortune-teller. Clark instantly recognizes her as the Emerald Empress. They begin to fight, which alerts the Persuader to join in, too. His atomic axe fells the Boy of Steel, and the Empress encases him in a force-field so he can't escape. Mano arrives just as Superboy is defeated, and they all disappear together.
Later, four Legionnaires arrive to warn Superboy only to find that they are too late to help. In the 30th Century Mon-El and Colossal Boy discuss how Validus had broken Tharok free, and the others had stolen a time bubble to travel back to Smallville. Suddenly, the Legion HQ and the Legionnaires on-site fade away into nothingness. Tharok boasts to Validus that his Time Sorter planted in Superboy's era created a domino effect that has obviously caused the Legion to cease to exist.
Back in Smallville, the Empress, the Persuader, and Mano attack the Legionnaires, who have split up trying to find them. They destroy the Legion's time bubble and gloat to them (and to us) how the Time Sorter warps the space-time continuum. They explain that because of the Time Sorter the Legion will never exist and that therefore these four members no longer have a future to return to. There are some great battle scenes (although Princess Projectra does absolutely nothing) before the Legionnaires realize they had better retreat. When they get back together to compare notes, they are sad that they have been stranded in the past, possibly forever. 
In the 30th Century Mano joins Tharok and Validus, even though there is another Mano already in the past. This Mano claims that he was detained by Science Police, so never met the Empress and the Persuader to go back in time. Back in Smallville, this Mano convinces the Empress and  the Persuader to guard the Time Sorter to make sure that its effects become permanent. They head downtown where they reveal that the Time Sorter is buried in a Superboy statue (from The Superboy Planet?). However, Chameleon Boy's disguise as Mano is discovered when his battery-charged disintegrator Mano-glove runs out of power. Princess Projectra saves Cham with an illusion of Validus, then Karate Kid bursts open the Superboy statue and the Time Sorter. Time returns to normal, and when the LSH HQ re-appears, Mano and Tharok are standing right where the HQ brig surrounds them. However, Validus, the Empress, and the Persuader all escape.
It is a good thing the art in this issue is absolutely beautiful, because the story is full of more holes than Swiss Cheese! Dave Cockrum does a stunning job here, mastering the Superboy-centric first chapter in Smallville to the more futuristic Legionnaires and Fatal Fivers. For example, there is a page early in the story where the Emerald Eye of Ekron scans the whole city of Smallville, causing all of its citizens to appear as if they were being x-rayed. It is a fantastic illustration for a throw-away panel. The art shown here should be enough evidence to convince you that I am telling the truth about how great Cockrum is. Check out the dynamics of those two attack scenes. And that scene where Superboy appears to be cutting his own head off...brr! That Dave Cockrum sure knew what he was doing.
The story, on the other hand....I'll just list the questions I had after reading it, okay?
Why in the world did the Fatal Five tell their whole plot to the Legion!?
How did Chameleon Boy know where and when to infiltrate the Fatal Five as Mano? Mon-El says that the three Fivers all disappeared into the past together, so why wasn't he (Mano-Cham) there to help fight Superboy? He was there when they cart Superboy off, so why didn't he know that the real thing was hidden in the statue? And why in the world would he touch the garbage can with his Mano-glove!? Mon-El also says he sent four Legionnaires to Smallville, so did Brainiac 5 send Cham undercover without his leader's permission?
What happened to the force-shield surrounding Superboy? When Karate Kid breaks the statue open Superboy falls free without it.
How did the Legion get back to the 30th Century without a Time Bubble?
If the Time Sorter prevented the Legion from ever existing, wouldn't that also prevent the Fatal Five from existing, too? The Legion was the reason the Fatal Five formed in the first place.
For two issues in a row a Legionnaire dives onto a count-down device and stops the weapon with only seconds to spare. Last time it was Timber Wolf, and this time it was Karate Kid.   

Science Police Notes:  
  • Element Lad, Princess Projectra, and Colossal Boy all wear their new uniforms in this issue. Colossal Boy's brown & orange uniform from #195 is gone and forgotten.
  • Element Lad wanders the carnival eating cotton candy.  
  • Although Lana Lang meets the Legionnaires, she does not become Insect Queen and offer to help fight the Fatal Five. 
  • One of the tents at the carnival belongs to Vashnu, who would several years later join a certain circus and meet acrobat Boston Brand, aka The Deadman.  
Reprinted in the TPB Legion of Super-Heroes Archive Vol. 10

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