Thursday, June 25, 2015

Superboy starring The Legion #225

Superboy starring The Legion of Super-Heroes #225 (March, 1977)
title: "And Who Shall Lead Them?"
writer: Paul Levitz
penciller: James Sherman
inker: Bob Wiacek
editor: Denny O'Neil
cover: Mike Grell
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Dream Girl, Lightning Lad, Shadow Lass, Ultra Boy, Wildfire, Superboy; cameos of Mon-El, Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, Phantom Girl, Chameleon Boy, Saturn Girl

The Resource Raiders

On Earth, Superboy interrupts Wildfire's swearing-in ceremony for Legion Leader because he thinks he should be the Leader instead. Mon-El slaps Superboy to bring him to his senses, as Dream Girl and Lightning Lad try to explain to Superboy that part-time members like him and Karate Kid cannot be elected Leader. Shadow Lass approaches him, knowing that something is going on. Superboy won't talk to her.

Later, the Resource Raiders, infamous throughout the universe for plundering various worlds, are spotted on Earth. They are trying to destroy a dam. Wildfire and Lightning Lad can't catch them, so Wildfire is about to blast....something. Superboy stops him, then he and Ultra Boy toss the Raiders' ship into the atmosphere. However, the Legion doesn't follow them. Superboy says that there is gun powder all over the dam, so if Wildfire had blasted it, the whole dam would have exploded.

At Legion HQ, Ultra Boy tells the other Legionnaires that there was no gun powder on the dam when he first looked at it. In the uniform hall, Superboy fights Wildfire, but then only Wildfire walks out of the hall. Later, Wildfire finds the Raiders hiding behind an old satellite. The Legion attacks, and Wildfire is blasted. Was he Superboy in disguise? No, Superboy shows up and explains that the computer had told him that the new leader would be blasted, so he thought he would stand a better chance of surviving the blast than Wildfire. However, during their earlier tussle Wildfire convinced Superboy that *he* would more likely survive, so Superboy gave up. They capture the Raiders, determined to find out who they are and why they are on Earth.

From the first scene to the last, this story is just bad. Superboy would never do the things that this character does, from interrupting a Leader's swearing-in ceremony, to pretending to blow up a dam (that whole scene is just confusing), to fighting Wildfire but then....not walking out with him? And Mon-El bitch-slapping Superboy!? No way!! It doesn't help that the whole drama is because the Legion's computer told Superboy (but nobody else?!?) that the Legion Leader would be blasted on his(/her?) first mission. News flash: Legionnaires are blasted at all the time! This story is like Paul Levitz took a Cary Bates script and re-wrote it, but not in a good way. Meanwhile, all of Legion fandom were right there with Shadow Lass when she says, "What the hell is going on here!?!" Luckily for us all, Paul got better.

There are two good things about this issue, though: first, the competent portrayal of Dream Girl. She may be the hottest Legionnaire, but she is also a brain: she talks to Superboy about the Legion Constitution as if she had a hand re-writing it! (She actually sat down and read the whole thing in her very first appearance, in Adventure Comics #317).   The second good thing about this issue is the debut of artist James Sherman. I remember not liking his style because I was such a fan of Mike Grell, but looking at it now I can definitely see how great it is. And Bob Wiacek brings out the best of his style. This is some fantastic stuff.

title: "A Matter of Priorities"
writer: Paul Levitz
penciller: Mike Nasser
inker: Bob Wiacek
editor: Denny O'Neil

Mission Monitor Board:  
Princess Projetra, Sun Boy, Timber Wolf

Guest Star: 
Ambassador Relnic

Tseln of Thaun, a mass murderer  

On a spaceship that is bringing Ambassador Relnic to the Dominators on a diplomatic mission, mass-murderer Tseln of Thaun kills again. Three Legionnaires are secretly acting as Relnic's body-guards, but if they break their disguise Relnic's mission could be jeopardized. The three decide to use Tseln's superstitions against him. Princess Projectra creates an illusion of a demon and hellfire, with real fire supplied by Sun Boy. When Tseln shows himself, Timber Wolf catches him under cover of the illusion. Relnic never realizes that the Legionnaires had a hand in the killer's capture.

This is the type of story that Cary Bates was very good at, so I guess we can tell with some certainly what Source Book Paul Levitz was copying here. This is a relatively straight-forward drama featuring just a handful of characters. There is nothing inherently bad with this story; the art of Mike Nasser continues to improve. However, the Legionnaires don't appear in costume, so any story with the Legionnaires in disguise is a story missing some excitement. This is less of a Legion adventure and more of a science police case. Coupled with the mis-step of the lead story, this issue probably didn't suggest to anyone what the future had in store for Paul Levitz.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Even though the story from the previous issue had ended in a cliff-hanger, it is not referenced at all in this issue. 
  • Why does the Legion HQ have a "Hall of Uniforms"? And whose uniforms are those besides Wildfire's? 
  • Why did the Legionnaires vote for Superboy if they knew he could not serve? Did they not know their own Constitution? 
  • This issue features the debut of Ambassador Relnic, who would be a major supporting character for the next ten years.   
  • Although Princess Projectra is on their mission, Timber Wolf uses facial make-up rather than hide behind one of her illusions. Why he is on an under-cover case in the first place is a great question. They should have sent Chemical King, who nobody would have recognized, with or without make-up.  
  • Whose voice is on the speaker, announcing that the murderer was captured by actors? That's either a very clever, quick-thinking announcer, of the Legionnaires' voices pre-recorded? 
Reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives vol. 13

This is the first Superboy/Legion issue written by Paul Levitz. He would eventually go on to write more Bronze Age Legion stories than any other writer. This is also the first issue drawn by James Sherman. Wildfire is elected the 12th Legion Leader for the Legion's 10th year.

1 comment:

  1. It was common practice at this time to let the fans elect the new Legion leader. In this case, Superboy did get the most votes, but Levitz chose the runner-up, Wildfire, instead. Then, in the story, he had Dream Girl explain his decision as a way of honoring the fans.