Thursday, January 22, 2015

Superboy starring the Legion #203

Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes #203 (August, 1974)
A Review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage
title: "Massacre by Remote Control!"
writer: Cary Bates
artist: Mike Grell
editor: Murray Boltinoff
cover: Nick Cardy

Mission Monitor Board:  
Mon-El, Superboy, Invisible Kid, Phantom Girl, Element Lad, Sun Boy, Lightning Lad, Karate Kid, Brainiac 5, Dream Girl, Saturn Girl

Validus, Tharok 

At Legion headquarters, a group of masked intruders try to break in. They are all stopped except one, who turns out to be Element Lad. He, Karate Kid, Lightning Lad, and Phantom Girl were the intruders, participating in a test of the HQ's security. Invisible Kid was supposed to be in the trophy room, but did not appear when Element Lad did. Suddenly, he does re-appear, promptly fainting.

Brainiac 5 uses a Mento-Scanner to see inside Invisible Kid's recent memories. (Too bad the Legion doesn't have a telepath on duty...hey?!) On a visi-screen Brainy and Mon-El see Invisible Kid in another dimension with a beautiful girl named Myla. Suddenly, the screen showing his memories blows up. Brainiac 5 believes Invisible Kid is in shock because of something he saw or because of something Myla told him.
Later, Invisible Kid talks to Phantom Girl about his power, and about Myla. Invisible Kid is in love with her and plans to propose to her. Meanwhile, Dream Girl foresees Validus attacking the Legion. Saturn Girl likewise picks up thoughts of Tharok, the leader of the Fatal Five and the man in control of Validus. Superboy flies to the prison (Prison Complex X33?) to verify that Tharok is out of commission. He sees that Tharok is under-going surgery after the events of his recent battle against the Legion. 
Superboy returns to Earth just as Validus comes in sight, and they battle in the stratosphere. Validus tosses Superboy earthward, and he crashes into the Legion HQ. Karate Kid and Sun Boy attack Validus as he arrives, but he shrugs them off.
Back in the trophy room, Invisible Kid realizes that components of Tharok's computer brain that the Legion has on display have re-formed, and *that* is what is actually controlling Validus. He tries to destroy the computer brain, but only succeeds as Validus squeezes the life out of him. As Invisible Kid dies, Validus, now free from Tharok's control, flies away.
As the Legionnaires mourn their comrade, Myla appears. She admits that she is a ghost who will take care of Invisible Kid from now on.

Invisibility has always been a cool super-power. And for Invisible Kid to have been elected Legion Leader with such a "minor" power makes me think that he must have been a great character. However, there *are* bad writers who put their characters in bad situations. Let me ask you this: if you are invisible and you realize that a computer brain is controlling a monstrous brute coming after you, what do you do? Turn invisible and run & hide, right!?! How in the world did Validus find Invisible Kid if he was invisible? Was the brain telling Validus where it was? After nearly 15 years of existence, why in the world did Invisible Kid simply stand there and allow himself to be grabbed?

As you can see, my major problem with this story is the way Invisible Kid is killed. I don't mind so much that he does die, but he should have put up a better fight, sorta speak. I don't think one grab of Validus should have been enough to kill a Legionnaire.

And I haven't even talked about the "twist" ending yet, where Myla reveals that she is a ghost. Why would Invisible Kid go into another dimension when he disappears? Where did *that* come from? If only Lyle had appeared at the end of the story, Return of the Jedi-like, maybe I would have enjoyed this story better. And then maybe its awful sequels might not have happened.
I don't mean to imply that this is a terrible issue. For one thing, the art is gorgeous! Mike Grell was obviously working to impress here, as every scene is meticulously composed. His characters are beautiful or good-looking, and a pleasure on the eyes. (See Exhibit A, above!) His battle sequences between Validus and Superboy, and then Validus and Karate Kid & Sun Boy, are great. And the story is basically it and you may notice that Tharok's computer brain was shown several times as it morphed into its final, completed version. This is definitely clever.

It just could have been so much better, ya know?

Science Police Notes:  
  • Although several Legionnaires are seen around the head-quarters during this story, when Validus actually attacks there are only five members on duty. Dream Girl and Saturn Girl in particular show up for one scene and then never appear again. 
  • This story seems to be referencing the story in Superboy #190, but Tharok appeared alive and well in an appearance after that, namely Superboy/Legion #198. 
  • Validus escapes at the end of this issue, the third time in a row where he is not apprehended at the end of his conflict with the Legion
Reprinted in:
Legion of Super-Heroes Archives vol. 11

Long-time Legionnaire Invisible Kid dies in this issue, becoming only the second member to die in the line of duty.
This is the first Legion story Mike Grell ever penciled.

1 comment:

  1. This was such an odd issue to read as a kid. In my country it came packaged in a black & white omnibus with some early Legion stories (maybe the Universo outlaws the Legion saga)and you're right, Invisible Kid is very much the decisive, square-jawed leader.
    Then this story and at the end Lyle is just... gone. With the artwork as powerful as it is and having no clear idea of the Legion in comic hierarchy I thought this story must be really important, but there was a disorientating abruptness to it.

    I never thought invisibility was a great power, but the idea that someone with it was ordering around people like Super Boy and Mon-El and no-one doubted his authority was pretty cool.