Thursday, June 18, 2015

Superboy starring The Legion #224

Superboy starring The Legion of Super-Heroes #224 (Feb, 1977)
title: "When Stargrave Strikes!"
writer: Jim Shooter
penciller: Mike Grell
inker: Bob Wiacek
editor: Denny O'Neil
cover: Mike Grell
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Superboy, Saturn Girl, Chameleon Boy, Karate Kid, Sun Boy, Brainiac 5, Lightning Lad, Princess Projectra, Star Boy

Pulsar Stargrave, Holdur, Quicksand

On planetoid P88-01, the Legionnaires prepare to mend the fissure in space when Holdur and Quicksand stop them. Pulsar Stargrave fixes the sky as they watch, then teleports everyone to his home. With a wave of his hand, he encases all of them in a force field. He admits that he opened the fissure in order to lure the Legion out to his part of the universe. He explains that he is looking for an ally to battle his enemy. He had freed the Time Trapper to test him as a possibly ally, but when the Trapper was defeated by the Legion, he decided to use the Legion instead.

Superboy breaks everyone loose, and the Legion attacks. Quicksand dissolves the ceiling on several Legionnaires, then makes it into a solid column. Saturn Girl and Karate Kid work together to free them. Stargrave hits Superboy so hard that he goes flying out of the atmosphere. When he returns, he is furious. However, Stargrave knocks Superboy out with red sun radiation. The others attack again, but Stargrave knocks them out easily.

Alone with Brainiac 5, Stargrave tells him his origin. Stargrave was travelling through space when his life support system failed. He was found by a race of aliens who thought he was dead, so they "buried" him in a star that was going nova. As it became a pulsar, he somehow merged with the exploding plasma, becoming Pulsar Stargrave. He tells Brainiac 5 that he wants the Legion to work with him to destroy Mordru, and Brainiac 5 agrees, recognizing Stargrave as his altered father.

....and with that, Jim Shooter and Mike Grell say good-bye to The Legion. Yes, this is the last issue for both of these men. My thought is that neither of them knew at the time that his would be their last issue, as the story ends on a fantastic cliff-hanger. Shooter, specifically, must have had an additional story in mind when he originally wrote this script. He had the Time Trapper in the first chapter, Pulsar Stargrave in this chapter, and.....Mordru, maybe, in chapter three? As far as I know, he has never revealed what he was going to do in chapter three. What we ended up with was a lackluster conclusion that absolutely did not live up to the drama promised in this ending.

In fact, it is difficult to review this story because it is so obviously just the beginning. Pulsar Stargrave, as shown here, is a fantastic new character with plenty of potential. Is he really Brainiac 5's father? If he isn't Brainiac 5's father, why is he claiming to be? Why is he going after Mordru? We found out how Gerry Conway answered that question, but we never read how Jim Shooter would have answered...
As for the art, Mike Grell gives us some of his best work here. His version of Holdur is creepy but cool, and his Quicksand makes me wish we had seen more of her. His full-page shot of Superboy getting knocked, literally, out of the world, is great. Grell had a style that not all fans appreciated, but in a world of Curt Swans and Dick Dillins, I found his work too dynamic for words. I adored his stuff. I missed him for years after he left the title.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Although Shadow Lass was clearly part of the mission team last issue, here she is replaced by Brainiac 5, who was not shown last issue. He might have been driving the Legion cruiser, but that is no explanation as to where she disappeared to.  
  • This is the first Superboy/Legion issue with the DC bullet logo. 
  • This is the first issue of Superboy/Legion edited by Denny O'Neil. 
  • The first caption of the book is pure gibberish. Check it out yourself: 
Reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives vol. 13 

This is the last regular issue of Superboy/Legion that Mike Grell drew and Jim Shooter wrote. Grell moved on to Batman, Green Lantern, and Jon Sable; Jim Shooter moved to Marvel Comics. 


  1. I was always disappointed with the resolution to this story. At the time I thought it was a fantastic set-up with a great cliffhanger ("I ... cannot ... fight you ... father"), but the follow-through was extremely disappointing. And Stargrave himself, after being established as an indestructible bad-ass that the Legion couldn't even touch, was defeated by ... Superboy and Wildfire both punching him at once.

    Bloody shame DC didn't buy a story outline from Shooter before he left, and then kept Grell on the book long enough to finish the arc. Who knows ... it might have turned into the Legion's first five-part epic, nearly two years before Earthwar.

  2. Superman and Superboy-Legion desperately needed movement/explosion centered art, by Mike-Grells and Kirbys of the world--this art on the Shooter script establishes a fabulous villain's-opening-act. ...Worst squandering of creative material of the Bronze age...besides cancelling 'The New Gods' as Orion pledged to finally face Darkseid and there let fate be settled, in the last frame of issue 11.