Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #35

The Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #35 (June, 1987)
title: "The Universo Project Chapter 4: Forgotten Friends"
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:  
Saturn Girl, Dream Girl, Chameleon Boy, Brainiac 5, Mon-El, Ultra Boy, Lightning Lass, Shadow Lass, Element Lad, Sun Boy, Magnetic Kid, Polar Boy, Colossal Boy, Dawnstar, White Witch, Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet, Tellus, Wildfire, Timber Wolf, Sensor Girl, Blok, Invisible Kid, Duo Damsel, Lightning Lad


The fugitive Legionnaires are back on Earth. Saturn Girl uses her mental telepathy to read the mind of a local Science Police officer, allowing them to learn about the sleeping plague that hit Earth and the changes President Desai ordered to increase security. Everyone's wills seem to be sapped, and the Legion was shut-down and outlawed. The Legionnaires decide to go after President Desai, assuming he is Universo in disguise.

Less is not more when it comes to backgrounds. 
Elsewhere in Metropolis, Mon-El and Ultra Boy capture an unregistered Durlan, searching for Chameleon Boy. The Durlan is confused, thinking that Chameleon Boy was their Legion team-mate and friend.
 The four fugitives break into the Presidential Palace. Saturn Girl is able to find President Desai, but they immediately realize that he is NOT Universo. The Legion attacks, but Saturn Girl is able to turn them "off" for a moment, and they successfully get away. Saturn Girl breaks off from the others so that she can follow a different lead.
Gosh, these characters are unattractive. 
Universo is nearly giddy when he learns that they had attacked. He calls these four the most dangerous Legionnaires.

Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, and Dream Girl escape to Brainy's Metropolis University laboratory. They hope to accumulate weapons on which to mount an attack on the Legion HQ when Dawnstar arrives and leads the others directly to them. There is a battle royale, but when White Witch and Tellus join the battle, the last fugitives fall.
Meanwhile, Saturn Girl goes to see former President Marte Allon. She frees her from Universo's control, and together they theorize that Universo must be Presidential aide Vid-Gupta. Saturn Girl goes back to the Presidential Palace, where she finds Universo waiting for her. However, Mon-El and Ultra Boy are now his body-guards.
Undeterred, Saturn Girl shuts down the sub-conscious minds of her friends, then mentally battles against Universo. Her will ultimately proves stronger than his hypnotic powers, and she shuts him down. She then frees the Legionnaires, and they are able to free all of Earth.

Later, President Desai publicly apologizes for being used by Universo, and officially recognizes the Legion as a force for good. He offers Saturn Girl anything she wants as a token of their appreciation, but she simply asks to be re-admitted into the Legion. Her friends give her an unequivocal ovation as their answer.

Who can read this story (or this story arc, for that matter) and not believe that Saturn Girl belongs in the Legion of Super-Heroes? She is the driving force of this story, and simply refuses to allow herself to be beaten. Confronting Universo, she boasts, "My mind is my power, too...!" She has definitely come a long way from the "sex-kitten" image she was stuck with in the Seventies because of that awful pink bathing suit she wore. This character is more like the "ice maiden" she was in the early years of the Legion, but with more heart and soul. Fantastic stuff by writer Paul Levitz. It's obvious he loves this character, and she is now right back where she belongs.

What isn't quite so obvious is what is going on with the other cast members. It is never explained what Universo was planning, or why he did not simply have these Legionnaires killed. It appears that his ego would not allow him to admit that they were stronger than he was, but that still doesn't explain what he was planning on doing with them. It's a loose end that spoils what is otherwise a very tightly written thriller.
And my criticism on the art is beginning to sound like a broken record, but unfortunately, the art does not match the level of writing in this issue. Mon-El and Ultra Boy are downright ugly in their scenes. Although Shadow Lass' abilities are illustrated well, the overall battle choreography is lazy or unclear. The worst example is the fight between Dream Girl and Magnetic Kid; I have no idea what is going on there. Dream Girl has precognitive powers, but isn't smart enough to watch her own back? Dream Girl gets the short end of the stick in this issue, not adding anything of substance to the goings-on. Although Universo's attempt to control Saturn Girl on page 23 is illustrated well, the actual fighting on pages 24 is bad. Every panel on that page is just awful.
100 credits to anybody who can tell me what
is happening in panel 5. 
Another general criticism: whether it's Greg LaRocque, Mike DeCarlo, or Arne Starr, whoever is responsible for the details simply isn't getting them right. Is that Captain America in the background scene on page 4? Moments later there is what appears to be a large slab of rock, right in the middle of the street? (see scanned picture above) There are complete strangers at the Legion ceremony, but not all of the Legionnaires? As a long-time Legion fan, this sort of cavalier attitude to the art just rubs me the wrong way.

Still, now that the Universo Project is over we can look forward to more straight-forward drama and tighter continuity. Oh, wait.....

Science Police Notes:  
  • All current members of the Legion appear in this story except Quislet. 
  • Duo Damsel is shown at the Legion ceremony, but Bouncing Boy is not. 
  • Saturn Girl is shown with short hair throughout this issue (and last), but during the Legion ceremony she is shown with her traditional longer hair-style.  
  • This issue features the first appearance of Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad's second son, Validus, in his non-monster form.  
This story-line has not yet been reprinted.  

Saturn Girl returns to active membership in the Legion at the end of this story. She will be officially re-instated sometime between the scene shown here and the first scene in the next issue. 


  1. Saturn Girl has always been my favorite legionnaire. This one time in all of legion history where she had the lynch pin role she deserves.