Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #23

The Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #23 (June, 1986)
title: "Back Home in Hell"
writer: Paul Levitz
penciller & co-plotter: Steve Lightle
penciller: Greg LaRocque
inker: Mike DeCarlo
lettering: John Costanza
colorist: Carl Gafford
editor: Karen Berger 
cover: Steve Lightle
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Mon-El, Shadow Lass, Phantom Girl, Tellus, Brainiac 5, Element Lad, Dawnstar, Dream Girl, Lighting Lass, Shrinking Violet, Timber Wolf, Ultra Boy, Invisible Kid, Sensor Girl, Magnetic Kid, Sun Boy, Cosmic Boy

Circadia Senius, Night Girl, Superboy, Jonah Hex


At Legion HQ, Mon-El is going crazy with the pain of the lead poisoning serum wearing off. The Legion suggests putting him back in the Phantom Zone until Brainiac 5 can find a cure, but he refuses, flying off. Dawnstar is able to catch up to him and bring him back because he is too weak to break through the protective sheath around Earth. They then return him to the Zone.

Mon-El can't stand the idea of "living" in the Zone, so refuses to stay "near" and communicate with the Legion. Instead, he goes off to try to find a way to die.

Brainiac 5 needs Superboy's help, so Element Lad, Shadow Lass, and Dawnstar return to Smallville to fetch him. Just before they arrive, Cosmic Boy and Night Girl borrow another time bubble to go back to 1986.

In the meantime, Phantom Girl and Tellus enter the Phantom Zone in order to find Mon-El and bring him "back." Tellus is initially overwhelmed by the Phantom Zone, but Phantom Girl guides him to try to find Mon-El in the sea of nothingness.

Heading back to Smallville, the time stream is very rough, but the three Legionnaires arrive successfully. They find Superboy and he agrees to go back with them. On the way into the future they fall out of the time stream and see Jonah Hex in the 21th Century.

Phantom Girl and Tellus find Mon-El, and Tellus is able to use his telekinesis to hold on to Mon-El so that the Phantom Zone projector can latch onto them. On Brainiac 5's signal they bring him back to the Multi-Lab. Brainiac 5 uses a kryptonite needle to do a blood transfusion with Superboy, giving Mon-El some of Superboy's blood. Brainiac 5's hope is that the Krypton's blood will permanently negate the lead poisoning of the Daxam blood. And if it does not work, Mon-El will have his wish and finally die.

While all this is going on, Lightning Lass and Shrinking Violet go to Rimbor to try to track a lead to find the Emerald Empress. They heard that the Persuader had met with someone named Javors, and went looking for him. Later, Magnetic Kid updates them on Mon-El's situation. When Lightning Lass can't imagine what good Superboy will do, Shrinking Violet teases her for being naive.

Later, a fully restored Mon-El tells Shadow Lass that he thought he glimpsed Sensor Girl from the Phantom Zone, but could not believe what he had seen.

This is probably one of my favorite Legion stories. The plot is great, and all of the characters have clear and understandable motivations....well, except for the inclusion of Jonah Hex. But except for that bit, the story is highly entertaining.

The basic plot was suggested by artist Steve Lightle, who requested the opportunity to draw it when Paul Levitz got around to scheduling it in. The sections that feature Mon-El out-right are drawn by Steve Lightle, and the interludes, such as those with Shrinking Violet & Lightning Lass, and the Legionnaires going back to get Superboy, are drawn by Greg LaRocque. The heavy inking of Mike DeCarlo makes the transitions less noticeable, but I can never decide if that is a good thing or not. What is really clearly differentiated in this story are those scenes IN the Phantom Zone versus those in the real world. Take a look at the page layout reprinted above as an example. The panels are at odd angles and are located in a round, slightly difficult-to-read layout. This is intentional, especially compared to the straight lines and square panels on all of the non-Phantom Zone pages. Also, look at the coloring. The Phantom Zone is washed out of color, which is painfully obvious when noticing the bright colors of Sun Boy in the real world. Colorist Carl Gafford should have gotten a special award for his wonderful work this issue. And of course, the scenes in the Phantom Zone were drawn by the great Steve Lightle. It's obvious he put a lot of effort into these pages.

I only have two questions about this story. First, why did Element Lad and Dawnstar join Shadow Lass in her travel back to Smallville? I could understand Shady going, but I would have expected Ultra Boy to accompany her. And next, why in the world did DC include a cross-over with Jonah Hex? My guess is that it was sales related, but I know that I resented this intrusion, and went out of my way not to purchase HEX after this blatant (and jarring) intrusion.

This was the last regular issue of Legion that artist Steve Lightle illustrated. He returned to this series as the regular cover artist after #25, but he never drew another story for volume three. His creativity was sorely missed.

However, Steve has graciously agreed to do an interview with the Legion of Super-Bloggers about his fantastic run on The Legion. That interview will appear right here as A Very Special Episode next Monday, so don't miss it!

Science Police Notes:  
  • Look closely at the cover and you can spot Superboy's arm, right behind Dawnstar.  
  • Sensor Girl is in The Hall of Heroes when Mon-El becomes violent.  
  • The naked slaves bowing before Darkseid is the first instance of actual nudity I can recall in a mainstream DC comic. 
This story has not yet been reprinted.  

This is the last regular issue of Legion of Super-Heroes for penciller Steve Lightle. He would return as the regular cover artist from #25, but he would not illustrate another Legion story again until 2003.  


  1. It's a shame Lightle didn't have the speed necessary for a monthly comic. I was never a fan of Decarlo's inks, but it gets much worse once his assistant Arne Starr takes over.

  2. First of all, I was never Mike's "assistant" and, I never took over the book either, just helped on the backgrounds of about 25 issuers or so... Anytime you see a credit that says "ink assist," that was a badly played political move, that I never appreciated....

  3. What do you mean "was never reprinted"?


  4. Steve Lightle’s art is beyond spectacular here. It’s such a joy to see him take one more shot at the Legion. He is truly among the greats.
    Mon-El’s pain is so real. I could really feel it. The PhantoM Zone sounds like a horrible life and he didn’t deserve it. (It does remind me that he’s a thousand plus years older than any of the other Legionnaires, including Shadow Lass. Talk about an age difference!)
    It seems like something is happening between Lightning Lass and Shrinking Violet here and in the past couple of issues. Was Levitz setting up the first same sex romance in the Legion in the middle 80s? That’s so amazing!