Monday, March 9, 2015

DC Comics Presents #43

DC Comics Presents Superman & The Legion of Super-Heroes #43 (March, 1982)
A Review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage
title: "In Final Battle"
writer: Paul Levitz
artist: Curt Swan
inker: Dave Hunt
letterer: John Costanza
colorist: Gene D'Angelo
editor: Julius Schwartz
cover: Brian Bolland (signed)

Mission Monitor Board:  
Superman, Cosmic Boy, Brainiac 5, Sun Boy, Element Lad, Shadow Lass, Wildfire

Legion Reservist Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane; cameos by Black Canary, Green Lantern, Red Tornado, Supergirl,

Mongul, the Sun-Eater

Clark Kent is at the Daily Planet with Lois and Jimmy when he happens to look up and see the Sun-Eater heading towards Earth. Making his excuses, he exits, then flies towards it. He watches it devour a world, then is caught in the destructive waves as the world explodes.He lands on the Moon, where Mongul is waiting for him. Mongul shrinks Superman down into a force-field cube, intending to make him watch as the Sun-Eater destroys Earth.

Back on Earth, Lois and Jimmy are at an observatory watching Mongul defeat Superman. Lois rushes out to try to find help, while Jimmy uses his Legion flight ring to call the Legion of Super-Heroes.

In the future, six members of the Legion debate the possible repercussions of going back to Superman's era. Sun Boy and Cosmic Boy are the only two members who faced the Sun-Eater the first time, so are especially somber. Brainiac 5 reminds them that the Earth will probably survive (unless their whole time line is altered), but that they are definitely putting their own lives on the line if they go. Still, the Legion decides to help.

Back in 1981, the Justice League can not stop Mongul, who harnesses the energy of the Sun-Eater to knock all of them out. The Legion arrives, and Sun Boy breaks Superman free. Superman orders the others away so he can take care of Mongul, but they refuse and have at him. During the melee they damage Mongul's controls for the Sun-Eater, so now instead of Earth the device heads towards the Sun. Element Lad orders everyone after it, so even though Shadow Lass argues against leaving, Superman must fight Mongul alone. The Legion approaches the Sun-Eater, and as they talk about Ferro Lad's sacrifice, Brainiac 5 realizes the way to stop it: Wildfire must blow it up with his anti-energy body.

On the moon, Superman finally defeats Mongul. When the Legionnaires return, he initially thinks Wildfire has been destroyed until the Legion reminds him that Widlfire can re-form his anti-energy body.

This is a fine one-and-done story with classic Curt Swan art. It's fun to see Swan illustrating the "modern" Legion (such as Wildfire, who joined long after their Swan-illustrated  Adventure Comics days). It's also fun to see Lois and Jimmy, and a shame that there is no scene with Jimmy meeting the Legionnaires. Also, there is a quick cameo by Supergirl in this story, but there is no scene with her meeting them, either. And as an aside...did Lois ever meet them? Probably at some "Superman Birthday" party or something, in a throw-away scene. It would have been nice if they had all connected here.

However, that being said, there are a few plot holes that bothered me in this story. For one thing, and mentioned in the story itself, why in the world would Superman forget that Wildfire was made up of anti-energy? That just doesn't make any sense. On a related note, without his power suit (destroyed when the Sun-Eater exploded) how is Wildfire supposed to get back to the future? In fact, with Mongul having destroyed their time bubble, how did any of the Legionnaires get back?

Other than that, as a non-regular DC Comics Presents reader, I really have no idea who Mongul is, and why he is trying to destroy Earth. I vaguely recall that he appeared in a Jim Starlin drawn story featuring Superman and the Martian Manhunter, but it isn't very clear in this story what his motivation is for genocide. It should have been made more explicit.

The best part of the story for me is the scene where the Legionnaires discuss the repercussions of going back into the past and helping Superman. My first thought was, "Did they have this discussion EACH time they went back into the past?" Brainiac 5 makes it quite clear that the Earth will survive this attack....but that if it doesn't, this incident will be a fork in the time-line, and "their" future may not be there to get back to. That is a very interesting idea, and is what finally happened Post Crisis. The second thought I had was, "Can't they look at the archives and figure out that Superman beat Mongul on that date?" Time travel stories are confusing.

The coloring is off several times in the story, with various Legionnaires getting incorrectly colored at various times. Because colorist Gene D'Angelo was not the regular Legion colorist, somebody should have provided him with accurate color design sheets for the characters.

Science Police Notes:  
  • This story occurs sometime between Legion of Super-Heroes (v2)  #283 (referenced in this story) and Legion (v2) #287. Element Lad is Deputy Leader here, and in the latter story Lightning Lad resigns as Leader, promoting Element Lad to the top spot. 
  • This is one of the last (if not THE last?) times that Jimmy Olsen ever reminded us that he was an Honorary Member of the Legion of Super-Heroes. 
Reprinted in Showcase Presents: DC Comics Presents: The Superman Team-Ups (vol 2) and Superman vs Mongul TPB.  

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