Thursday, April 9, 2015

Superboy starring The Legion #214

Superboy starring The Legion of Super-Heroes #214 (Jan, 1974)
A Review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage
title: "No Price Too High!"
writer: Jim Shooter
artist: Mike Grell
editor: Murray Boltinoff
cover: Mike Grell (signed)

Mission Monitor Board:  
Superboy, Brainiac 5, Shadow Lass, Karate Kid, Wildfire

unnamed "Overseer" in charge of the automated planet, Gyrich

On the automated planet Gyrich, five Legionnaires are sneaking around under Shadow Lass' darkness in order to escape detection by robotic guards. They are on-world to fix what they think is a malfunctioning automatic defense computer. Suddenly, Superboy notices a passenger ship has entered the atmosphere. Because the automatic defenses will shoot it down, Superboy rushes off to rescue the sole occupant, an arrogant adolescent boy. He identifies himself as the son of Leland McCauley, the owner of planet Gyrich. Robot guards respond to the Legionnaires activity, so Wildfire and Karate Kid take care of them. The Legionnaires bring the boy along as they return to the shadows, but the boy thinks he can order the robots to let them go. He arrogantly shows himself to some robotic guards and is immediately taken hostage. The Legionnaires have no choice but to give themselves up, too.

Soon a mysterious older man arrives to gloat. Calling himself the Overseer, he was the last living worker on the planet before McCauley fired all of the employees. The Overseer then snuck back and took over the entire automated system, holding the planet hostage. He wants revenge against McCauley, but doesn't know who the boy is. The Legionnaires try to warn the boy to keep quiet about his actual identity, but he thinks they are tricking him. He decides to announce his identity to the Overseer. Wildfire's cavalier attitude grates on Superboy's nerves, and they have an altercation.

Wildfire manages to keep the boy quiet until the Legionnaires' planned execution, when he blurts out his real name. The Overseer grabs him, intending to kill him. Superboy offers to allow the Overseer to blast the Legionnaires if he will let the boy go. The Overseer considers the idea, so is surprised when the boy fights back. The Legion, too, fights back, destroying his robotic guards. They boy learns his lesson, the Overseer is arrested, and Brainiac 5 fixes the tampered computers. Superboy explains to Shadow Lass that he would have let the Overseer shoot them, but he wouldn't have let any of them get hit. (He had intended to shield the mortal members.)
"You can shoot us now, or let the boy go and shoot us then...Your choice!' 
This is an odd little story that doesn't really stand up to scrutiny. I guess all of my comments boil down to this one: why didn't Brainiac 5 (and maybe Superboy) simply fly to planet Gyrich to try to fix the computer center? After all, they didn't know there was an Overseer actually orchestrating the problem, so why all the rigmarole? As for the Overseer's plot....he says he intends to execute the Legionnaires, then seems to consider Superboy's offers to trade the boy's freedom for...their execution? Why didn't he laugh in Superboy's face? He already had all of them exactly where he wanted them. And for all the trouble he caused, we never learn the boy's actual name.

title: "Stay Small---or Die!"
writer: Cary Bates
penciller: Mike Grell
inker: Bill Draut
editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:  
Shrinking Violet, Brainiac 5, Saturn Girl; cameos by Ultra Boy and Colossal Boy

the nocturnal pervert known as Brainiac 5  

Shrinking Violet has been traumatized. Because she was almost stepped on by Sun Boy when she was only 3 inches tall, she is now having nightmares that she will be trampled by monsters if she uses her powers. Saturn Girl and Brainiac 5 analyze her via a video dream scanner, but can't agree on the prognosis. Brainiac 5 suggests using a hypno-beam and shocking her back to her senses; Saturn Girl argues for a "wait and see" approach, not wanting to push her friend over the edge.
Brainiac 5 is sure he is right, however, so he sneaks in to Violet's room that night and, using a hypno-beam, kidnaps her. He brings her to the planet Klorra, a planet of giants who all died in a world-wide plague. Although no one lives on Klorra, one of the native's robotic "pets" is still there, and it captures Brainiac 5. Shrinking Violet wakes up, panicking because she thinks she has shrunk. Falling off the table, she is captured by the wire-hair-balls the pet vomits up on and around her.

Just as Brainiac 5 begins to think he's not as smart as he thought he was, Violet short-circuits the pet and frees him. She realized she wasn't small when she started to fall, but the air currents weren't stopping her, as they would if she were tiny.

This is the creepiest Legion story I have ever read. Not only does Brainiac 5 lie to his team-mate about his intentions, he sneaks into another team-mate's room, hypnotizes her, kidnaps her, and puts her in mortal danger. And this guy is a hero!?! To add to the creepy factor, Violet appears to be sleeping nude, which means he truly perved on her. Thank goodness he's doing all of this for her own good!
This story, coupled with Brainy's previous nocturnal adventure from S/LSH #204, turned me off to the character forever.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Writer Jim Shooter later used the name "Gyrich" again: government agent Peter Gyrich was a thorn in the side of Marvel's Avengers for several years. 
  • Coincidentally (?), both the lead and back-up stories feature the Legionnaires battling robotic threats. 
  • Although Brainiac 5 thanks Violet for saving his life, he is still armed with his force-field belt and his Legion flight ring. He should have been able to escape relatively easily. 
  • Shrinking Violet in her panic allows herself to be pushed off the giant's table by the giant "pet." In her state of confusion, she forgets that her Legion flight ring allows her to fly away. 
  • This is the second of three stories inked by Bill Draut over Mike Grell's pencils. 
Reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives vol. 12 

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