Thursday, March 12, 2015

Superboy starring The Legion #210

Superboy starring The Legion of Super-Heroes #210 (Aug, 1975)
A Review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage
title: "Soljer's Private War"
writer: Jim Shooter
artist: Mike Grell
editor: Murray Boltinoff
cover: Mike Grell (signed)

Mission Monitor Board:  
Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Superboy, Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Princess Projectra

Soljer, an energized army private from the year 2775

Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, and Superboy are playing a game of super-powered tag when it starts to rain. Lightning Lad tries to hit Superboy with a bolt of lighting, but actually hits a small patch of ground. This turns out to re-animate Army Private Mike Essad, who was buried on the spot 200 years ago. During World War VI he was a member of the army whose orders were to invade and "take" Metropolis. However, he threw himself on a gamma grenade to save the rest of his unit. At the same time the grenade exploded, he was also hit by lightning. So Lighting Lad's bolt of electricity somehow revives him, and he thinks his orders are to destroy Metropolis.

The alert comes to the Legion that he is firing "imaginary" weapons, but causing real damage. When the Legion investigates, he shoots Superboy with anti-energy, even though Brainiac 5's analymeter does not pick up any weapon whatsoever. Lightning Lad attacks, but his energy is shrugged off. When Phantom Girl attacks Essad as a phantom, he stabs her with a knife that isn't there. The Legion retreats to their head-quarters.
Brainiac 5 surmises that because Superboy was hit by anti-energy, somehow this "soljer" is using phantom weapons from 200 years ago. Brainy thinks that Soljer was charged with anti-energy, and he is somehow expelling that energy via his "imaginary" weapons. Chameleon Boy turns into a phantom and is able to pull a dagger out of Phantom Girl's abdomen. When he turns solid, it disappears. Brainiac 5 needs a little time to do some research, but then he wants to lead the team against Soljer again.

Soon, back in downtown Metropolis, Soljer sees that the city is totally destroyed. His commanding officer appears and tells him his mission is over. Soljer promptly drops dead. It turns out that Brainaic 5 was able to guess who Soljer really was, and Chameleon Boy and Princess Projectra provided the illusion needed to stop him.

After hitting a home run last issue, Jim Shooter hits a foul ball this time out. A 200 year old energized soldier who can't be stopped by the Legion? Besides, if gamma grenades are anything like current army-issued hand grenades, wouldn't Essad have been blown to pieces? (By the way, where were the soldiers who threw the one grenade? One guy threw one grenade and then ran off?) Anyway, there is a lot of back-story devoted to this poor soldier with very little pay-off. Besides, the Legion doesn't really do anything! I would have liked to have seen Karate Kid or UItra Boy or maybe Chemical King try to stop Soljer. Would the radiation/energy have weakened Ultra Boy, or could Chem have tried to control it? As it is, Princess Projectra saves the day without much drama. Not Shooter's greatest endeavor.

Mike Grell does another great job, though. He is definitely making these characters his own, as he has given Cham his own "alien" look, and embraced totally Lightning Lad's long curly hair look. By the way, Grell has spoken in interviews that he originally intended Soljer to be a black man, but editor Boltinoff nixed that, so he had to make him white.
In the letters' page in Superboy/Legion # 213, many fans had a problem with Chameleon Boy actually turning into a phantom in this story. But editor Boltinoff explained that his powers would be sufficient to "mimic" Phantom Girl's ability well enough to pull out the anti-energy dagger.

title: "The Lair Of the Black Dragon"
writer: Jim Shooter
penciller: Mike Grell
editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:  
Karate Kid

Karate Kid's Sensei (Toshiaki Shiratsuru)

Sadaharu, Black Dragon  

Karate Kid is attacked by black-belted goons, set upon him by a man named Sadaharu. He wanted to meet and test Karate Kid in order to get him to help kill the man who killed his best friend....Karate Kid's father. Sadaharu then walks off, but Karate Kid, intrigued, trails him to mountains in Japan. There he finds that someone has holed up in a Nullitron dome. Karate Kid breaks into it to figure out what is going on, only to find his Sensei. Sensei admits that he did kill Karate Kid's father, who was the notorious Black Dragon. Sensei explains to Karate Kid that his father was a notorious criminal who he fought for years. Eventually Sensei killed Black Dragon in a duel to the death. Only then did Sensei find out about Karate Kid's existance. His mother, Valentina Armorr, was an American who had died shortly after his birth. Sadaharu was Black Dragon's apprentice, who took over the crime organization when Black Dragon died. He finally found the Sensei and now wants to kill him. However, Karate Kid stops him and his goons. He then vows loyalty to the man who raised him and made him a force of good, "my true father."

This story packs quite an emotional wallop, especially compared to the silliness of the lead. The plot is well structured and flows logically. It seems obvious that Karate Kid is one of Jim Shooter's favorites. And with this story, Mike Grell completes his overhaul of Karate Kid's design, changing him from just another Caucasian with brown hair into a half-Japanese Asian man. Grell obviously modeled the look on Bruce Lee. Besides the design, though, the art is great. The shock on Karate Kid's face when he learns that Sensei killed his father is drawn very well, for example. And then the look of love he gives Sensei at the end of the story is also well done.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Although Princess Projectra is an integral part of the lead story and actually saves the day, she is given no lines whatsoever. 
  • Sensei's name is not given in this story. He is called Toshiaki White Crane in Secret Origins #47. "White Crane" in Japanese is Shiroi Tsuru, or Shiratsuru, so that is the name I reference here. 
  • Black Dragon's real name is given as Kirau Nezumi, which is Japanese for "Hated Rats" or "I hate rats." Neither one of those words is a Japanese last name, so it is probably a stage name. 
  • The cover features the first appearance of the Legionnaires' heads across the top banner. There was another set which was never used, reprinted here. 
Reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives vol. 11 

This issue features the "secret origin" of Karate Kid, establishing once and for all that he is half-Japanese and half-American.

1 comment:

  1. Always thought that Chameleon Boy's 'phantom' schtick was a little wonky; thankfully this wasn't used much.

    The Karate Kid story is easily one of my favorite Mike Grell art jobs.