Friday, June 2, 2017

Review: Legion of Super-Heroes #303

Legion of Super-Heroes #303 continues the layered, complex, dense approach to the universe that creators Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen are famous for. As is the standard approach for their issues, their is a main plot that is maximally covered but there are also multiple looks past that story, peeking in on the lives of the rest of the team.

This approach allows the reader to keep tabs on almost everyone. It shows the breadth of this mythos. But most importantly, it means that if you have a favorite Legionnaire you won't go too long without seeing them. Levitz keeps us up to date on almost everyone.

I have said before, there is a slowly simmering storyline in these issues which will come to a head in a couple of months. Looking back now, reading this issue, I am impressed how Levitz and Giffen left a trail of bread crumbs for the readers to follow. I know I was blind to the clues even though they were all there. This ability to let a plot slowly unfold just isn't seen anymore.

On top of all that, this continues a period where Levitz and Giffen brought Supergirl back into the fold. Obviously, these issues hold a special spot in my heart. I love this cover. It definitely showcases Kara nicely. But the image of the Legionnaires trapped within the Emerald Eye is a nice touch.

On to the book!

"Those Emerald Eyes Are Shining" was a product of Levitz, Giffen, and inker Larry Mahlstedt.

We open with a nice splash of the Emerald Empress with a new hairdo. For someone as vain as the Empress, it makes sense that she would mix things up. After decades of swept back wavy locks, this straightened bob with bangs is a nice change.

And everything about this close-up speaks of her haughty attitude. There is something about this dismissive gaze, leaning against her hand, is perfect.

And we get a pretty impressive display of just how powerful the Emerald Empress is. These are five Legionnaires, including a Kryptonian, and she not only has them helpless, she gloats over it.

Open handed slaps to Colossal Boy and Shrinking Violet! Excellent. Blasting Brainiac 5 and Kara. Superb.

But breaking Sun Boy's jaw while saying 'hush,hush'?? That is perfection. You can just see how she lords over these powerhouses.

I also find it interesting that the Empress didn't recognize Supergirl. I guess they hadn't met before. And maybe someone like Kara is so 'below' the Empress that she wouldn't care to learn about her.

Now this story of the Legionnaires captured by the Empress on Weber's World is a gripping read. But still, Levitz does what he does best. He takes a step back and lets us take a peek at the rest of the team.

The bulk of the Legionnaires are heading to Orando to celebrate the wedding of Princess Projectra to Karate Kid. Someone has to mind the store as it were.

And so reservists Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel are called in to man the monitor board. I love the easy chemistry between these two who clearly love each other. And the silly courting of a human rubber ball brought a smile to my face.

But how crazy is it that Levitz devoted a page to these two! That is why this book is so special. I love that we get to see what these two are up to. We care about the Legion and their history. So knowing Chuck and Luornu are out there is wonderful.

And in the aftermath of last issue's fight with Lightning Lord, we learn more about the Ranzz family.

It turns out that Garth couldn't tell Mekt where Ayla is hiding even if he wanted to. She left and didn't tell anyone where she was going. This not only let's us see Garth's feeling towards his sister, we get to see how this has affected Timber Wolf.

But more importantly it reveals to us just how much Ayla wanted to get out of there. She fled.

Back on Weber's World, the Science Police officer Ontiir reveals that he is a member of the Dark Circle and working with Emerald Empress. She orders Ontiir to execute the Legionnaires. In one of those 'easily escapable situation involving an overly elaborate and exotic death' moments, Ontiir sets up a firing squad.

Of course, these situations are definitely easily escapable. Supergirl uses her super-breath to activate Brainy's force field. Sun Boy then fries Emerald Empress' nullifier pods. Suddenly the team is free.

But what is the Emerald Empress up to? What will she do with a moving planet which is all administrative buildings without weapons?

Well, it turns out that she can use it as a battering ram. The Empress has set the planet in motion to barrel into the UP fleet! A bit crude ... but surely effective.

I love the moment at the top. Again, Supergirl has returned to try to mend her relationship with Brainy. And he is clearly gobsmacked by her presence. He stammers and sputters every time he talks to her. It is these small nuances in Legion relationships that make this all seem real. Levitz and Giffen clearly have a good grasp on these characters.

Last issue we saw that Element Lad and Erin Schvaughn were heading to Imsk to investigate something problematic in the Legion.

In this issue we see Chief Zendak is irate that those two also were looking into Durlan emigration files as well.

What is this mystery?

Well, long time readers know but it is amazing how many hints the creators gave us. I should have figured it out.

Still, that is a page of Gigi Cusimano and Chief Zendak. But I don't mind.

And then we head to Daxam where the heavy hitters of the team are terraforming.

One of the subplots going on is the team's growing irritation with Dream Girl's leadership style. Her term as Legion Leader has been tumultuous. For the most part it has been successful. But her preening on a rock and making decisions without consultation has grown wearisome.

And the biggest complainer has been Ultra Boy, the deputy leader. Dreamy sends Wildfire and Mon-El off to Weber's World but has Jo stay to move the dirt. And he won't take it any more.

In an 'only Ultra Boy' move, he spells 'STUFF IT' in rocks. He is done with her.

Again, everyone has a specific personality. I am continually amazed that Levitz and Giffen could keep it all straight.

Weber's World is still heading to the fleet. Supergirl was literally pushing on the planet to try to slow it down. How Silver Age!! But this is the Bronze Age. We see how foolish that is. Instead of slowing down the planet, she is simply drilling a tunnel into the ground.

Brainy has a better idea. Why not bash into the planet on an angle, smacking it like a pool ball and moving the thing out of the way!

I think Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen really love Supergirl. She gets a lot of great moments in the Legion. And the art here, with narrow panels, is so slick!

With the planet stopped, now the team has to stop the Empress.

It looks like she might escape but then Violet stops her cold with a Durlan Nerve Cruncher punch.

A Durlan nerve-cruncher? Why would the (then) timid Vi know that?? The clues were all there.

With the Empress and Ontiir captured, the away team can head to Orando to join the party.

How great that Sun Boy is silenced!

But we revisit that Querl/Kara romance again. Finally Brainy admits that Supergirl is distracting to him. He can't think straight.


So a great main story. Superb subplot pages. And a mystery that isn't simmering any more. It is on full boil.

But first, we have a wedding to attend!


  1. Another great issue. Bounce Boy and Damsel Duo are adorable, Lightnig Lad appears hurt even though he's told himself he must respect his sister's wishes for privacy, Ultra Boy is hilarious, Supergirl is great and Brainiac 5 is SO smitten with her. And Emerald Empress is deliciously evil. This kind of elaborate character interplay reminds me of the best issues of Claremont/Byrne's X-Men.

    I like the art and the Bronze Age shenanigans. I miss when Kryptonians were allowed to move planets or use their powers in weird ways. I mean, using super-breath to press a button?

    I wish DC would have done more things with Kara and Brainy instead of erasing her from history. She's kind, emotional and the embodiment of physical prowess. He's rude, logical and the smartest guy around. They're so different and still surprisingly alike, a competent writer surely could write great emotional stories featuring them.

    I want to see a Legion Rebirth book where Superboy and Supergirl are regular members. Or at the very least recurring guest stars. Come on, DC. You don't even need to explain why the cousins are spending their time in the 31st century. You can tell their teammates pick them up whenever they want or need to see them.

  2. This was my first LSH issue. I was sick from school and my mom bought it for me at a 7-11. I think I'd seen the Legion before, but this was the issue that got me interested in them. It was easy to fall in love with the title after seeing this issue.

    I think that UP main fleet base is from an anime, but I don't remember which one.

    1. Good story !

      I had been reading the legion since the Adventure Comics days and this was a good story AND artwork .

      Unfortunately Jerry with the beginning of the "Prophet" storyline the series began its fall.

  3. Legendary comics creator Denny O'Neil once termed this style of story plotting as the "Levitz paradigm." In it, the writer creates three or more plots. Plot "A" is the main plot and gets most of the issue's focus. Plot "B" and "C" (or in the case of Levitz, "D", "E", "F", ad infinitum) are subplots that are give time and are moved forward, but are not the 'main' story. Once plot "A" reaches its climax and is resolved, plot "B" 'graduates' to being the main story, while "C" gets bumped to "B" level, a new "C" plot is introduced, or even a "D". And as stories wrapped up, newer ones were focused on and more were included.

    This is how Levitz was able to juggle so many plotlines at once. He always kept track of just what was going on in the teams' overall story, as well as the individual stories. He also never lost sight of the fact that subplots are still plots and needed to be developed properly; no plot element was ever truly wasted. This method also allowed him to insert little bits of business and characterizations, such as the bits with Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel. This made all the characters more rounded as people and gave the series more depth, even when such items had nothing to do with any of the principal or secondary storylines.

    I suspect this is also why "Legion" was one of the 1980's top-selling books. This method of plotting doesn't allow readers an easy "jumping off" point to drop the book from their reading lists. There's ALWAYS something going in here, always a story that hasn't concluded yet, that won't conclude for months. And, new stories keep creeping up! That keeps long-time readers hooked and ensnares new readers and entices them to stick with it. (Diabolical!) And, as O'Neil observed, this storytelling also mimics real life. Real life isn't a single, linear, neatly-wrapped even, but a complex, shifting, ever-changing series of multiple events that don't always have a quick, easy, or pleasant resolution. Or, are sometimes never resolved. Just like these Legion stories.

    Neat, huh?

    1. Levitz as said he tried I cop he plot structure of Roy Thomas' Avengers run. He's also said that he used a bulletin board to keep track of all the Legionnaires.

    2. Levitz has said...tried "to copy the" plot...
      Sorry about that!

  4. One of my favorite covers of that period.

    It'd be fantastic to get a writer/artist combination of this caliber, writing style, clean art, and longevity for any relaunch.

  5. Thanks for all the great comments.
    This run only gets better ... before getting worse!

  6. Just discovered your blog! Thanks for all this.