Thursday, January 8, 2015

Superboy starring The Legion #201

Superboy starring The Legion of Super-Heroes #201 (April, 1974)
A Review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage
title: "The Betrayer From Beyond"
writer: Cary Bates
artist: Dave Cockrum

letterer: John Letterese
editor: Murray Boltinoff
cover: Nick Cardy

Mission Monitor Board:  
Wildfire (Erg-1), Superboy, Star Boy, Phantom Girl, Colossal Boy, Chemical King, Shadow Lass, Cosmic Boy, Shrinking Violet; cameos by Saturn Girl, Timber Wolf, Invisible Kid, Ultra Boy, Lightning Lad, Karate Kid, and Element Lad

applicants Porcupine Pete and Infectious Lass

Molecule Master

At an open call for new Legionnaires to replace Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy, Infectious Lass, Porcupine Pete, and Molecule Master are anxious to impress the Legion. Superboy shows them a film on recent applicant Erg-1, who made the ultimate sacrifice to save Colossal Boy on a recent mission on Manna-5 (actually a flashback to S/LSH #195, reviewed here). However, as the group leaves the video review room, Erg-1 reveals to us that he is actually still alive. His energy was dissipated, but not destroyed, on Manna-5. He has finally managed to "pull himself together" and make his way to Earth to re-animate his power suit. However, there is a force-field around the display, keeping him out.
Porcupine Pete shows off his power, but because he can't control the aim of his exploding quills, he is rejected.
Erg-1 comes across Cosmic Boy and tries to communicate with him somehow. However, Cos' flight ring uses the same frequency as the force field, and Erg-1 is stymied again.

After Infectious Lass hits Star Boy with too big a dose of the flu, Superboy doesn't trust her powers, and she is rejected. Molecule Master enlarges the free-flowing atoms in the air and harnesses them into atomic power. He passes the first stage of the application process.
Erg-1 wants to communicate with the applicant, as he doesn't have a flight ring yet. However, as soon as he tries, Erg-1 realizes that Molecule Master is actually an android. Erg-1 can "read" the android and understands that it was sent to kill the Legionnaires and steal the Miracle Machine.

Molecule Master begins to emit poisonous gas, and the Legionnaires fall down, unconscious. Suddenly, Erg-1 is back! Molecule Master attacks with his atomic energy, but Erg-1, instead of being eaten by the power, is actually re-invigorated, absorbing it into himself. He destroys the android, telling us that he communicated with the Miracle Machine itself to help him. He revives the Legion and is ready to join!
This is another great issue with fantastic Dave Cockrum art. I love how many scenes of the Legion head-quarters we get in this issue. And I love how after Porcupine Pete "explodes," his quills can still be seen sticking in the walls. The story is fun, although, in typical Cary Bates style, there are a few plot holes you need to ignore. The biggest question I have is: the Legion puts a force-field around a dead hero's uniform, but not around the Miracle Machine!? Besides that, I have a problem with Erg-1 allowing the android's plot to get so far...why let him think his poison gas was succeeding? Why not face the Molecule Master with the Legion, instead of one on one? Seems like a needless risk, but maybe that was part of Erg-1's personality. We all know Wildfire turned into kind of a jerk.

title: "Silent Death"
writer: Cary Bates
artist: Dave Cockrum

letterer: John Letterese
editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:  
Dream Girl, Karate Kid, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Brainiac 5

Two muggers attack Karate Kid and Dream Girl on their way to Legion HQ. Karate Kid dispatches them before Dream Girl can lift a finger, making her feel sorry for herself. Karate Kid tells her that her unique power is important. That night, Dream Girl dreams that someone in the mission monitor room is facing death. She rushes in, but finds Karate Kid with his feet up, eating a fruit. They look at the monitors and fear perhaps that Lightning Lad and Phantom Girl are in danger. However, after a moment of doubt, they see that they are fine, too. Karate Kid suggests maybe Dream Girl saw her own death....but as he suggests this, he collapses. It turns out that he was knifed by a laser knife in the mugging. His rigid discipline trained him to shut out the pain. Karate Kid could have died if Dream Girl had not been there to save him.
It seems like Cary Bates felt a need to write these "I am a legitimate character!" stories when he first took over the Legion. He had two such stories in S/LSH #199 (with Princess Projectra and Bouncing Boy), and here he is doing it again with Dream Girl. Karate Kid comes off as something of an idiot here, as, yes, Dream Girl's prophetic powers are NEVER. WRONG. All's well that ends well, I guess. I do like to think that the very first scene in this story is what made Karate Kid insist on all Legionnaires getting basic hand-to-hand combat training. Because, really, if a mugger can take you out, you can't very well be expected to take on The Persuader, now can you? In a Tales of the Legion story I recently reviewed here, Dream Girl took on a thief all by herself with a vastly different outcome!
Dave Cockrum does a great job making Dream Girl sexy. He even makes Karate Kid sexy!  He was the first to try to make Val Armorr more of an Asian character, work that was continued by Mike Grell. When Jim Shooter came back to the Legion, he eventually wrote the story that made Karate Kid half-American, half-Japanese. You can really see that "look" here.

Science Police Notes:  
  • This is the debut of the Molecule Master. Long-time Legion fans recognize the name of the super-villain who is supposedly going to kill future-Legionnaire Reflecto, from the infamous "Adult Legion" story of Adventure Comics #354
  • According to artist Dave Cockrum, the lump next to Dream Girl as she awakens from her nightmare is Star Boy, soundly sleeping next to her. Why he didn't get up and stumble after her when she screamed is unknown. Maybe he's used to it?   
Reprinted in:
Legion of Super-Heroes Archives vol. 10
Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #343

Wildfire returns to life in this issue. He will officially join the Legion next issue.
This is also the debut of future Legion of Substitute Heroes Porcupine Pete and Infectious Lass.

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