Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #46

The Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #46 (May, 1988)
title: "On The Fourth Hand"
writer: Paul Levitz
pencillers: Greg LaRocque & Pat Broderick
inker: Mike DeCarlo
lettering: John Costanza
colorist: Carl Gafford
editor: Karen Berger 
cover: Ken Steacy
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Mon-El, Brainiac 5, Polar Boy, Tellus, Chameleon Boy, Ultra Boy, Shadow Lass, Phantom Girl, Dawnstar, Sun Boy, Colossal Boy, Saturn Girl; cameos by Timber Wolf, Blok, Magnetic Kid, Element Lad, Shrinking Violet

Duo Damsel, Bouncing Boy, Atmos

the threat of a Legion-based conspiracy, the threat of Starfinger

At the Legion HQ, four Legionnaires swear to complete their oath, even if it means the destruction of the Legion. Brainiac 5 is the only member of the conspiracy we see clearly.
Polar Boy calls in Tellus to ask him to probe the Legion telepathically because something "fishy" is going on with the members but he is not sure what. This word choice offends Tellus;  so Polar Boy apologizes.

On Rimbor, Chameleon Boy assumes a new identity to get near to Shraw, who works for Starfinger. He eventually gets his attention, and Shraw offers him a job.
Back on Earth, Shadow Lass and Phantom Girl are enjoying the sun and water as Ultra Boy and Mon-El dredge a channel in the Atlantic. Mon-El is not smiling as he finishes the mission and flies off, cryptically saying that he has "things to take care of." Shadow Lass begins to share her feeling of anxiety about what is going on in the Legion when Polar Boy calls them in.
At the Legion Academy, Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy are reviewing Atmos' abilities. They find him wanting, which pisses him off.
Above Rimbor, Chameleon Boy is being recruited by Starfinger to work in "Arrangements." They raid banker Fa Roh's home, kidnapping him to make sure he transfers Starfinger's money.
Simultaneously, Phantom Girl's team rendezvous with Dawnstar, assigned to find Chameleon Boy per Polar Boy's orders.

In deep outer space, Mon-El cripples a Khund destroyer while he is searching for something for Brainiac 5. In a rare moment of reflection for him, Mon-El admits that he does not fully trust Brainiac 5. 

At the gym at Legion HQ, Sun Boy teases Colossal Boy about being an old married man, then goes out on a date. Polar Boy checks on Colossal Boy, who is still trying to recuperate from his Starfinger injuries.

On Rimbor, Dawnstar has tracked Chameleon Boy to a specific area. Phantom Girl goes into the only cruiser they find in the area as Fa Roh is tossed overboard. Cham sees her, but waves her off. Phantom Girl then lies to her other team-mates, telling them that Cham was not on board.

At Legion HQ, Tellus and Saturn Girl are chatting when Tellus suddenly senses that Saturn Girl is part of the conspiracy.
Beginning this issue we get the parallel story-line structure featuring The Conspiracy and Chameleon Boy's Mission. Unfortunately, neither are all that interesting. I think I would have liked to have seen something more definite happen, instead of just a bunch of talking heads. Perhaps we could have seen more action from Ultra Boy and Mon-El in-between the Parade of Angst-Ridden Legionnaires. By my count we have nearly a dozen (I don't count Ultra Boy, who shows no real concern; or Dawnstar, who is always this annoyed.)

Chameleon Boy's mission is the more interesting of the two stories this time out. The first time I read this story I did not notice that the art on his chapter was different; only once we get into the drama and see recognizable characters like Phantom Girl and Dawnstar did I recognize Pat Broderick's work. It was great to see him back. Compare his planet scenes with the dull work by Greg LaRocque, and Greg really comes up delinquent.

As for the story itself, we have not gotten this much detail into the workings of The Legion Espionage Squad before, and by that regard this is fascinating. Like routine police work, however, it is also long and boring. I do not understand how this story ends, though: how is Phantom Girl so sure that the alien she sees is Chameleon Boy? And why does she not at the very least contact him? And why does she burst into an unknown freighter and reveal herself? If that alien had not been Cham, she would have let all of the thugs know that the Legion was onto them! Pretty poor plotting, methinks. And then why does she lie to her fellow Legionnaires? Wouldn't it have been more dramatic to have them disagree on how to carry out their mission?

On the other hand, the Conspiracy is written with subtlety, but it isn't drawn that way. Although we don't actually see who Brainiac 5 is plotting with in the opening scene, artist Greg LaRocque is about as hard to read as a stop sign. One hand is clearly Mon-El's, which we verify with his monologue later in the story. The other two look a lot like two specific Legion characters. When we later see both of the suspects, their haircuts are the same as the shadowed figures'. On the last page, sure enough, we learn that one of the women in shadows is Saturn Girl. And is there any good reason that a teeny tiny spec of jewelry shines on page 12? Why in the world LaRocque didn't draw her bracelet in an earlier panel, instead of doing a wide perspective and a "Look at me!" spotlight on it is beyond me.

Speaking of that scene, what is Paul Levitz trying to do with Atmos? We have him basically rejected by Polar Boy, then out-right rejected by Wildfire, and now we have Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel reject him, too. We get it, alright, he's an annoying jerk. So now what? Why are we still wasting time on him?

Although this story is supposed to be the beginning of an exciting new five-parter, it feels like another place-holder. The cover, however, is definitely one of my all-time favorites. The tense scene of all of the characters getting angry at each other, coupled with the unique look that artist Ken Steacy brings to the proceedings, makes this a Classic.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Ben Grimm (The Thing from The Fantastic Four) and a double-breasted woman are shown walking the streets of Rimbor. 
  • How does Chameleon Boy know that Shraw works for Starfinger? That seems like a vital piece of information that Cham comes across incredibly quickly. 
  • Per his conversation with Phantom Girl on page 19, Ultra Boy goes off on his mission from Polar Boy without actually checking on what it is. Now *that* is easy-going! 
  • There is no good reason for Polar Boy to visit Colossal Boy in the gym other than to give Gim someone to talk to.  
  • Blok gets hit on the head with a boomerang while playing with Timber Wolf
This story has not yet been reprinted.  

This issue features the return of Legion of Super-Heroes penciller Pat Broderick after a gap of more than four years (since Legion #309). He would illustrate two more issues. 


  1. I love how Duo Damsel is talking to herself on the cover. On the other hand, I hate how her costume was colored with that wave design. It must not have lasted long as I didn't remember it at all until seeing it just now.

  2. As far as Atmos goes, the only explanation I can think of is that DC wanted Levitz to shoehorn in Captain Atom somehow.