Tuesday, May 28, 2019

TOS: Action Comics #384

Action Comics #384 (January 1970)
title: "Lament For A Legionnaire!"
writer and layouts: Jim Shooter
penciller: Curt Swan
letterer: Jack Abel
editor: Mort Weisinger
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board: 
Dream Girl, Mon-El, Karate Kid, Element Lad, Princess Projectra, Shadow Lass, Superboy, Ultra Boy

Mon-El's descendant, Eltro Gand


Dream Girl is sleeping when she has a chilling vision of the death of Mon-El in five days. The Legionnaires on duty console her, not sure if she should tell him what she saw or not. However, just then Mon-El himself walks in and overhears the news. He is shocked by the prophecy, but is exhausted from the mission that he just completed, and heads wearily to bed. 
The next morning he decides to enjoy his limited time alive. He thinks that he really has had a long life, then goes to the sub-basement storage area to take his daily anti-lead serum. He realizes that he can only die if he runs out of this serum, so he stock-piles all seven doses in his belt. He then blocks off the laboratory used to make the serum so that no one can get into it and possibly destroy it. 

The Legion is surprised to see that the news of Mon-El's imminent death has been leaked since the previous evening. The High Commissioner of Daxam calls and offers Mon-El sanctuary on this home planet for the five days. He politely declines, intent on beating his fate. He insists on a mission to keep himself occupied, so Legion Leader Karate Kid sends him to the Posvar Asteroid Complex to bring back fragments of a wrecked probe for analysis. 
After Mon-El departs Shadow Lass arrives. Having heard the news about Mon-El, she rushed to Legion HQ but just misses him. She is furious. 
Dream Girl has another vision: this time of Mon-El fighting off an inter-dimensional invasion force on his own with no help from the other Legionnaires. 
A few days later, Mon-El returns but tries to ignore Shadow Lass. That night, Superboy tries to take his place, but Mon-El was ready for him. 
The next day, Mon-El's fated last day, an invasion force DOES attack the Legion. They trap the majority of Legionnaires in the head-quarters behind an impenetrable force-field. Only Mon-El is free, and he succeeds in defeating the entire attack force. 
As the invaders return to their dimension, "Mon-El" admits to really being Eltro Gand, Mon's long-dead brother's descendant. 
Eltro took Mon-El's place in order to save his life. He then flies the Legionnaires to the Posvar Asteroid Belt where they find that Mon-El has indeed died. Eltro knocked him out with a Daxamite drug, and being unconscious he wasn't able to take his anti-lead serum. He's succumbed to lead poisoning! 
Eltro grabs Mon-El's body and flies him back to Legion HQ, where he uses the Life Force Exchanger to reanimate Mon by sacrificing himself. 

I had never read this story when I first read the 5YL issues that feature Eltro Gand, so those stories confused the hell out of me. After eventually figuring out who and what Eltro Gand was and then reading this story, I think it is safe to say that this is probably my least favorite Legion story of this era, and definitely in my Top Ten Least Favorite Legion stories EVER.

Which is unfortunate, because the premise of the story is wonderful. Just think about it: you have a precognitive member, so don't you think she would eventually pre-see someone dying? (The closest I can recall to her being used in this way was when she dreamt of the attack of Validus the day Invisible Kid died.) On the other hand, does anyone really understand how Dream Girl's powers work? I always thought that, similar to how it is portrayed here, Dream Girl actually truly SEES her dreams. Yet, if that is the case.....her dreams DON'T come true! The vision she sees on page two of this story (reprinted above) is NOT the scene as it actually happens! For one thing, Superboy never actually picks up Mon and carries him. Also, the Legionnaires in attendance are totally wrong. And Eltro Gand isn't shown. He's not even cropped out or shown in shadows. So that's just confusing.

The other big question I have is the storage of Mon-El's anti-lead serum. If the idea is that only he (or Superboy, or Ultra Boy) can get to it.....why? If worst case scenario he starts to run out and needs an extra dose, don't you think it would be better if all of the other Legionniares could get it for him? Without literally jumping through all of these Daxamite hoops? It seems silly to me.

By far the silliest bit, though, is the would-be heroics of Eltro Gand. Why in the world would he think that taking Mon's place was a good idea? And then once Mon is dead, how did he know about the Life Exchanger? That seems WAY too convenient.

I would have liked this story a whole lot more if the "Mon" who died would have been Eltro in the first place.

Curt Swan is back as penciller for this story only. I have no idea why he was given (or asked for?) this story, but it's nice to see him back after several years away. Inker Jack Abel tries his best to make every penciller he works with come out looking the same, but you can still see plenty of Curt Swan goodness here.

Lastly, is it just me or does Jim Shooter have death on his mind? This is the third story within a year where Legionnaires face their own mortality. It's a bit more than a trend, ya know?

This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 9 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 4.

This was the last Legion story written by Jim Shooter for nearly five years. He returned to the Legion in Superboy/Legion #209. 


  1. Dream Girl actually foresaw what she believed to be several Legionnaires' deaths in her debut story, when she dreamed about an exploding Legion cruiser (which also turned out not to be what it seemed), and she actively tried to prevent it (and couldn't).

    Nura's power seems to operate on a "hit-or-miss" basis. Sometimes she needs to be asleep to get a vision, but more often she's awake. Sometimes she just gets a vague vision of upcoming events, other times she gets more detailed accounts. It just depends on the writer or the story needs.

  2. This story does not age well. But I had no problem with Eltro knowing about the life exchange tech. It was, after all, a Daxamite invention.

    1. Right. Mon-el got the secret of reviving Lightning Lad with the lightning bolt technique from Daxam.