Tuesday, April 30, 2019

TOS: Action Comics #380

Action Comics #380 (Sept 1969)
title: "Half A Legionnaire?"
writer and layouts: Jim Shooter
penciller: Win Mortimer
inker: Jack Abel
letterer: Milt Snappin
editor: Mort Weisinger
reviewers: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage and Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board: 
Duo Damsel, Bouncing Boy, Mon-El

Opponent:
Nam Lor?


Duo Damsel stops a man from shooting at innocent bystanders from atop a mile-high tower. She gets him to talk to her, and as she gets closer she splits and grabs him. As she hands the man off to the Science Police, Mon-El asks her to deliver important papers to the planet Ikro. Because she's tired, she splits into two again: one Duo Damsel goes on the mission and one relaxes at the Legion head-quarters. 
The Duo Damsel that remained on Earth meets up with Bouncing Boy, and they go off on a date. When he asks about her other self, she tells him that they are identical in all ways. 

Weeks later, Duo Damsel is anxiously awaiting for her "twin" to return when she finally does so...with her fiance, Nam Lor from Ikro. Before they can talk out what happened on Ikro there is a general alert: a beautiful woman and a handsome man have been committing crimes around Metropolis. Nam Lor departs, and the Duo Damsels re-merges. Exhausted, she goes to bed and falls asleep very quickly. 
Duo Damsel dreams (remembers?) that while on Ikro she felt extremely ill, and fell out of an aircar. She was rescued by Nam Lor, who named her Lelith. They fall in love, and now Lelith demands that "Lournu I" also fall for him. Duo Damsel wakes up, and Lelith splits and runs off. 
Bouncing Boy is on Monitor Duty, and he tries to console her, but there is another robbery alert. Not feeling confident in their super-abilities, they grab some weapons and head to the Amalgonite Refinery. The man creates an energo-shiled that stops Bouncing Boy, but Duo Damsel manages to shoot the woman in the leg with a numbing ray. 
Later, when Lelith returns and wants to merge, Lournu realizes that the beautiful thief was Lelith. They split again, and Lournu tells Bouncing Boy her suspicions. Lelith overhears their plot, and calls Nam Lor to arrive to help. 
However, when Lelith orders Nam Lor to kill the Legionnaires, he refuses. He admits that it is the radiation from his hyper-aura that has warped Lelith into a criminal. Tearfully he tells them that after he has left she will return to normal. Broken-hearted, he walks out. 

Russell: This is another one of the Legion short stories that sort of leaves me feeling, dare I say it, of two minds. The idea of looking at the specifics of who/how Duo Damsel does what she does is a GREAT one. I would have loved to see more of this, maybe in a follow-up story. I would love to see a writer who is a twin write about Duo Damsel, because I imagine her existence has to be something akin to being a twin....right? On the other hand, Jim Shooter introduces this great story idea and then really does nothing with it. Strange radiation that will wear off in a few days, and no mention of Nam Lor ever again. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

Although it isn't really explicitly shown that Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel are a couple here, it's strongly implied. Reading this story *after* knowing that they get married in Superboy #200 maybe makes it a little more obvious? I wonder if readers of the day thought they were a couple. They definitely weren't as established as, say, Garth and Imra or Jo and Tinya.

One minor quibble I have is the idea that Duo Damsel has to suddenly be dispatched to Ikro to deliver some important papers. Why couldn't he do it, at super-speed? And why or how is delivering papers a Legionnaire's job? Okay, it was required for the plot but it seemed contrived.

My one real complaint is the art. Win Mortimer draws the two thieves on pages 8-9 completely in silhouette (you can see them on the last panel of page 8 reprinted above). This doesn't make any sense! The Legionnaires are in the light, so the bad guys should be, too. Why not put them in dark black suits with masks, or something to try to hide their identities. As it is, are we to assume that Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel simply didn't recognize Nam Lor and Lournu II? That's ridiculous.

Mike: This issue started out on a high note for me for a couple reasons. One, it's a spotlight on Duo Damsel. Second, her powers are very intriguing and the idea that one of her selves can rest while the other completes the mission is interesting. The dynamic between her two selves is especially interesting...they are having a conversation like they are two different people and the distinctions only grow. That raises a lot of questions. So, off to a good start. Did the story live up to it?

Well, first I have to resist the urge to raise some of the...less mature questions that have popped into my head about the Duo Damsel-Bouncing Boy relationship over the years. Instead, I'll just appreciate the scene when we first see them together and the awkwardness Bouncing Boy displays as he tries to understand exactly how her powers work. There is a genuine sweetness there that was nice.

You are right that it is strongly implied that they are a couple, and I think having it implied rather than outright stated is one of the strengths of this tale. It's a subtle growth that was not often seen in the Silver Age. I do not think you having known they would get married when you first read it colored your perceptions at all.

The main downside to me here is that this issue emphasizes certain aspects of her powers and the potential consequences of it that never really get much follow through in this era (at least that I recall) and it's a shame. I am really at a loss as to what degree I should consider that a fault or not. I did like the story overall, it just left me with some nagging questions. I guess, like you, I am of two minds on it. Also, I did find the art to be a letdown after last issue but it was not bad either. It felt...servicable.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Nam Lor is never mentioned or seen again, not even in the Who's Who in the Legion series.  
Status: 
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 9 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 4.

9 comments:

  1. I liked this one. Not bad for a "shortie". And you can't really blame the story itself for the fact that there was no "follow through". Perhaps a neat touch would have been DD recognizing that the evil brought out by Nam Lor is in all of us.

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  2. I don't know if it was intentional (probably not?), but there's a certain amusement value to the fact that Mon-El says Duo Damsel is the only Legionnaire available to deliver the papers, while Bouncing Boy is right there off-duty. Sure, being off-duty, maybe Mon-El didn't consider him eligible for an assignment, but... the assignment was going to last a week, so it's not like Duo Damsel wouldn't be making the delivery when she should be off-duty, either.

    But, of course, Bouncing Boy being a horrendously incompetent courier is how he got his powers in the first place, so it also makes perfect sense why Mon-El would pick literally any other Legionnaire for the job.

    Probably not intentional, probably just a minor slip-up, but... the "No-Prize" explanation is hilariously valid, too. :)

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  3. I also like this story. I'm impressed by Shooter asking a logical question -- which part of a person who can split into two (or three) 'identical' versions is the 'real' one -- and making a rather interesting and slightly compelling story out of it. I'm sure if he had a slightly longer page count, he could have rounded it out better. And yes, I'm also one of those who believes this is where Chuck and Lournu are established as a couple.

    I remember reading in a DC "Who's Who" about DD that when her second self was killed by the Time Trapper, the one who was killed was apparently Lelith, who'd been causing some tension in her marriage with Chuck. I'm of the opinion that there was never any other follow-up because, other than Levitz, nobody really paid any attention to these back-up stories, so no one ever saw the potential, again other than Levitz.

    (BTW, I've noticed that other regular commentators have been returning to comment now that I've no longer been, so I'm going to hit the brakes for these stories, except for those I genuinely like or have strong opinions on. So, peace out from Anon.)

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  4. Regarding BB and DD a couple: Didn't they start to become a couple in the last Adventure Legion story?

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    1. That story only showed Chuck flirting with Lournu for a panel or two. In this story, Chuck says he wanted to ask the complete Lournu to the movies and does take Lournu I on a date to the "local ice cream shoppe", which Lournu I is charmed by. So, they are dating by this time, making them an official couple.

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  5. So who goes for a ride on a ‘sky-saucer’ without a flight ring? Or a parachute? Where is OSHA? And what normally happens to her flight ring normally when they split? Are they implying that it randomly chooses which Luornu to go with?

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    1. I would prefer to think that it duplicates along with her costume. But that answer only spawns more questions. Like what happens if Lournu II leaves it somewhere. Does it disappear when she merges or does it continue to exist? Best not to dwell on such minutia.

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  6. If you look at the panel above, Lournu II/Lelith seems to "emerge" from Lournu I, so the flight ring probably stays with the original body, i.e. Lournu I.

    On the other points, you're right, those sky-saucers do appear unsafe at any height/speed.

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  7. This seems to mark the point where BB and DD went from a friendly relationship (with occasional outings together) to something more seriously romantic.

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