Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #37

The Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #37 (August, 1987)
title: "A Twist In Time"
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:  
Mon-El, Ultra Boy, Brainiac 5, Invisible Kid, Blok, Sun Boy, Polar Boy, Element Lad, Saturn Girl, Sensor Girl, Tellus, Lightning Lass, Timber Wolf, Colossal Boy, Dream Girl, Shadow Lass, Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet, Dawnstar, Wildfire, Superboy

Cosmic Boy, Night Girl, Pete Ross, Ma & Pa Kent, Lana Lang

The Time Trapper

On Earth, the Legionnaires are busy at the Time Institute repairing the Time Beacon, which was destroyed last issue by the Time Trapper.

Brainiac 5 is ready to lead the entire team to the Time Trapper's citadel at the end of time when he is unceremoniously stopped by Polar Boy. EarthGov has requested that some Legionnaires stay on Earth in case the Khunds attack. Therefore Polar Boy assigns five Legionnaires plus Cosmic Boy and Night Girl to accompany Brainiac 5.

As soon as the Legionnaires enter the time stream, however, the Time Trapper senses them and instead of allowing them to come to his era, he sends them back to Smallville.
Ultra Boy, Mon-El, Cosmic Boy, and Night Girl go into town as the others stay behind to watch over the Time Bubble and monitor the time stream. They find Pete Ross and the Kents, who invite them over for dinner to wait for Superboy to return.

Superboy enjoys a warm reunion with his friends. He then leads them into their basement, where he uses a time stasis beam to capture them. He starts to head off after the remaining Legionnaires when Lana Lang comes over and asks for help on her homework.
Pete Ross is able to reach the others and warn them that something bad has happened. Brainiac 5 suggests they retreat to the time stream, and they do just that as the detained Superboy arrives and tries unsuccessfully to capture them.
Somewhen, Time Trapper laughs, knowing that his plan is about to come to its fruition.

On Labyrinth, Saturn Girl, Sensor Girl, and Tellus arrive at the prison planet with the unconscious Universo.

At Legion HQ, Dream Girl awakens from a dream of vague images that leaves her unsettled and suspicious. In the cafeteria, Wildfire surprises Dawnstar with his new energy body, created using know-how he learned from Quislet. In the Mission Monitor Room, Polar Boy is uncertain about his first decision as Legion Leader, so asks Element Lad for advice. Element Lad tells him that it is difficult to make decisions, but that splitting the team up was just what he would have done. Polar Boy is relieved to hear it.
At Science Police HQ, Marella Tao arrives to talk to officers Cusimano and Erin.

This is the beginning of the story-line that re-defined Legion lore for several years and that had far-reaching effects on the Legion title for more than ten years. It's a shame, then, that this issue seems so off. First of all, why in the world would Polar Boy send Invisible Kid and Blok to fight the Time Trapper? Why wouldn't he send someone more powerful, like the White Witch or Wildfire? And for that matter, why wouldn't he send himself or Element Lad as Deputy on such an important mission?

Secondly, when the time travelling group arrives in Smallville, where do they get the clothes they are wearing? It would have been a nice scene for Mon-El to sneak to the Kent farm (if that still existed?) and borrow some of his or Clark's old clothes. That doesn't explain where Night Girl got her dress, though. Too bad they weren't shown visiting Pete Ross or Lana Lang for help; that would have added more to the story and explained a few plot holes.

Speaking of Pete and Lana, after Superboy captures Mon-El's group, Pete rides to Brainiac 5's group saying that he heard screams from the Kent house, so rushed off. Yet there is Lana right there at the scene, too, asking Clark for help on her homework, and she didn't hear anything!? Oops!

Another question I have for Paul Levitz is, what the heck is the Time Trapper's plot? It isn't clear, which makes his maniacal laughter at the end a bit annoying. And speaking of time, how does Superboy know to when his Legion friends are escaping? How can he hope to follow them? Is the time stream like some river that he could hope to "catch up" to them? Even if they had only gone, say, one month into the future? Or does time travel not work that way?

The statues of the Legionnaires in Superboy's basement are an odd touch. I remember that SuperMAN and SuperGIRL had statuettes of the Legionnaires, but did SuperBOY have them, too? Anyway, it seems odd that the five newest members are not included in his collection, as he had a chance to meet them in his last adventure with the Legion (LSH (v3) #23). And this is a knit-picking detail, but who is the woman behind Blok, a mis-colored Duo Damsel? And while we're on the subject of coloring, I generally love the work of colorist Carl Gafford, but what is up with Cosmic Boy having a different color blue to represent his black hair!?!

From this issue the art in general and the inking in particular takes a nose-dive in quality. The perspectives on many panels are off (not centered on the main eye-line or center of attention), and the backgrounds are non-existent. What is up with that last scene where Superboy attacks his friends? Why is he small in one panel, large in the next, close again in the next...? Like I said, it's just off. On several figures it looks like Mike DeCarlo used a Sharpie to go over Greg LaRocque's pencils. For such a monumental Legion epic it is very unfortunate to get such bad illustrations.

Science Police Notes:  
  • A fine memorial column by Dick Giordano notes the then-recent passing of former Legion writer E. Nelson Bridwell, who died on January 23, 1987. 
  • This is the first appearance of Wildfire's new look, which will last for the next two years. 
  • This story continues in Superman (v2) #8. 
This story has been reprinted in Superman: The Man of Steel vol 4 TPB  


  1. I hear and agree with a number of your points, but mainly I want to point out how harsh and overwhelming the inks are. I don't know if DeCarlo was switching techniques or tools, but as you mention, it's downhill from here.

    1. It's really too bad. I want so much to love this series, but I can only half enjoy it because of the art.

  2. I am pretty much in agreement about the art. I was never a huge fan of Greg LaRocque's artwork, but it never kept me from reading the book. But by this point I was really looking forward to a different artist taking over. The elongated faces and really uninspired inks, I just wasn't feeling it. But the cover...absolutely gorgeous, one of the best of the baxter run imo.

    As for Wildfire's new look...I liked it better the way Giffen would soon draw it. But it was the late 80s and tweaking iconic costumes would soon be par for the course. It was okay, but Wildfire's original look is just so damn cool, even by today's standards.

  3. Well, obviously the team was chosen because Byrne wanted the closest analogs of Fantastic Four members for his part of the story. Which is something a less indulgent editor wouldn't have okayed without a better in-story justification, but...

    1. We get into this next week, but, yeah, there was a creative request that made no in-story sense.

  4. Maybe Polar Boy brought back the Interplanetary Chance Machine off-panel.
    Remember seriously hating DeCarlo's work at this point. No matter who the artist characters always came off as horse faced under him.

    I did like the new Wildfire design.

  5. Just a quick note: Superboy did have statues of the Legion during the Silver Age.