Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #26

The Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #26 (Sept, 1986)
title: "Illusion"
writer: Paul Levitz
penciller: Greg LaRocque
inker: Mike DeCarlo
ink assist: Arne Starr
lettering: John Costanza
colorist: Carl Gafford
editor: Karen Berger 
cover: Steve Lightle
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Sensor Girl, Polar Boy, Colossal Boy, Tellus, Dream Girl, Brainiac 5, Dawnstar, Phantom Girl, Ultra Boy, Wildfire, Timber Wolf, Sun Boy, Element Lad, Blok, Chameleon Boy, Magnetic Kid, Lightning Lass, Shrinking Violet, Star Boy, Invisible Kid, White Witch, Quislet

Saturn Girl. Lightning Lad

The Fatal Five: the Emerald Empress, the Persuader, Flare, Caress, and Mentalla

On Stratus, Sensor Girl has been revealed as Princess (Queen) Projectra. Her identity surprises all of the combatants. Dream Girl rallies her troops, getting Tellus to link their minds telepathically. On her signal, Polar Boy attacks the Eye of Ekron with ice, allowing the Legion to retreat.

On Shanghalla, Brainiac 5 theorizes that Sensor Girl is really Projectra after noticing that they are near to Karate Kid's cenotaph. He is surprised to note that Timber Wolf was the Legionnaire closest to the truth about who and what Sensor Girl was when he thought there was some trick to her; namely, illusions.

On Earth, Element Lad confirms with Saturn Girl that Sensor Girl is Projectra. As the Legion discusses their next steps, White Witch announces she is going on a short leave of absence back to Xerox.

On Stratus, the Fatal Five has locked down the planet so that the Legionnaires' emergency signals are stopped by radio-wave blocking satellites. The Fatal Five then takes a short break to refresh themselves before going out on a hunt for the Legion.

Meanwhile, the Legion revives Projectra, who reverts to her Sensor Girl identity. Projectra then explains to her friends why and how she became Sensor Girl. After Orando was pillaged by the Legion of Super-Villains and her husband died,  Projectra went into a meditative retreat, praying to her ancestors for guidance. Her ancestor bestowed upon her increased power: the ability to see through the illusions of the universe, such as distance and density. Projectra and the Great Council of Orando agreed that she should do penance for her role in Orando's misery, so she agreed to return to Earth without benefit of name, position, or wealth. Projectra went first to Saturn Girl, who could have telepathically seen through her illusions regardless. It was Saturn Girl who suggested she rejoin the Legion wearing a masked identity.

Dream Girl reminds Projectra that keeping her identity secret also helped dodge the question of how Projectra had killed Nemesis Kid, as killing is against the Legion Constitution. The two heroines ponder on Death, its meaning, and the fact that no one has any control over it.

Elsewhere on Stratus, the Fatal Five has begun to hunt. Mentalla is not pulling her weight, much to the annoyance of fellow new members Flare and Caress. Suddenly, a stray blast hits their target: the Legion's hiding place is found.

Emerald Empress uses her Eye of Ekron to snatch the Legionnaires' flight rings from them. Grounded, they are easier to fight. Dream Girl goes after Mentalla, calling her a "traitor." Polar Boy stops Flare momentarily, but not before she dehydrates and clogs Tellus' life-support helmet. Polar Boy risks his life to save Tellus, who then returns the favor via telekinesis. Emerald Empress is torturing Colossal Boy as the Persuader has his eyes on Sensor Girl, the first Legionnaire he ever met.

Suddenly, Mentalla uses her mental abilities to force Flare to destroy the telecommunications shielding while she also forces Emerald Empress to turn the emergency signal on one of the captured flight rings. Mentalla tells everyone that she only pretended to go bad to show the Legion that she had what it takes to join them. Incensed at the betrayal, Emerald Empress murders Mentalla on the spot. Mentalla's telepathic cries of anguish knock Tellus unconscious, and reach all the way to Saturn Girl on Earth.

Determined not to waste the opportunity that Mentalla has given them, Polar Boy, Dream Girl, and Sensor Girl fight on. However, it quickly comes down to Sensor Girl facing the Fatal Five alone. The Persuader mocks her abilities until he is suddenly enveloped in darkness, unable to trust his own senses. Caress grabs Sensor Girl, intent on burning through her illusion, but she is stopped by the timely arrival of Dawnstar. As Wildfire joins them, Sensor Girl rallies to knock out Emerald Empress, then collapse, exhausted.

When I saw this cover and read the blurb, "Someone dies!" my first thought was "Oh no! Polar Boy or Tellus are gonna die!!" Luckily for them, the fates were kind. However, the specter of death hung over this entire story.....with the discussion between Dream Girl and Sensor Girl about Death, and Dream Girl possibly fore-seeing their battle? This was great atmospheric foreshadowing. Finally, Mentalla makes her move, sacrificing everything to try to prove her worth. Her murder is quite graphic for this series, and the repercussions immediate: the mental anguish of Tellus and Saturn Girl is also portrayed well. I'm not surprised that the Legion fans wrote in asking for a commemorative statue for Mentalla, even though she never was a Legionnaire. She had guts, even if she was wildly naive.

Every time I re-read this issue I can't help but be impressed by how much Paul Levitz crams into the story. Wildfire and Dawnstar arrive literally at the end of the issue, appearing just before the book itself ends. THAT is how much is going on in this story! Paul juggles all of the threads and characters well, building up the tension bit by bit. This is literally a page-turner that builds to an awesome climactic battle.
One thing that I always notice about this story: Colossal Boy was sort of "in charge" of the group as they were flying around trying to track down Mentalla. As soon as they were attacked by the Fatal Five, however, Dream Girl seemed to take charge. Then it was Sensor Girl who actually kept the forces of evil at bay. It's great to read about two powerful women, especially two Legionnaires who were often considered "weak."

Another great thing about the story is the way that the Legionnaires help each other out. Tellus is attacked by Flare, and his life-support helmet is damaged. Polar Boy stops what he is doing (fighting Caress to the death) in order to help his team-mate. Tellus, likewise, lets loose with a huge telepathic slap-down as soon as he is able to. Conversely, the Fatal Five bicker and fight among themselves; the Persuader actually takes out Flare (by accident, but still). This kind of altruism is what makes the Legionnaires so cool.

The "new" Fatal Five is, all in all, a success. I would have liked to have gotten a little bit more back-story on new members Flare, Caress, and Mentalla, but I figured we would learn about them in their next appearance. Then after Mentalla was killed, I was hoping that the next iteration of the Five would appear with an even more dastardly member. Unfortunately, the Fatal Five never appeared again. Although the Emerald Empress appeared near the end of Levitz' run on Legion, this is the last time we see the Persuader, Flare, and Caress.

Science Police Notes:  
  • If Mentalla's telepathic death throes were "heard" by Saturn Girl on Earth, did everyone on Titan hear them, too? 
  • The Persuader referenced the first time he met Princess Projectra, which occurred in Adventure Comics #352. 
This story has not yet been reprinted.  

Mentalla is brutally murdered by the Emerald Empress in this story. Although not a Legionnaire, she wanted to be a hero, and died to save the Legion


  1. I always liked how Mentalla's costume had the same color scheme as the original Saturn Girl outfit from Adventure 247

    1. Yes, artist Steve Lightle (who designed her) admits that original Saturn Girl uniform was his inspiration.

  2. I loved Mentalla and had hoped she'd get a new 52 Revival. Maybe one day she will.

  3. I was so into the Sensor Girl mystery when I read these as a kid. The thing that baffles me now is that Jackie would wake up every morning, put on her full Princess Projectra costume, then create a Sensor Girl illusion. Why not just wear the Sensor Girl costume?
    I think I lost track of the Legion a bit after this, so looking forward to seeing where the story is going from here on out. (Though I do remember the Superboy story very well!)