Tuesday, June 11, 2019

TOS: Action Comics #386

Action Comics #386 (March 1970)
title: "Zap Goes The Legion!"
writer: E. Nelson Bridwell
penciller: Win Mortimer
inker: Jack Abel
letterer: Shelly Leferman
editor: Mort Weisinger
reviewers: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage and Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board: 
Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl, Karate Kid, Brainiac 5

Guest-Star: 
Night Girl

Opponent:
Uli Algor


On Takron-Galtos, a new rehabilitation process is beginning. Hawkor Phuy is the first prisoner to undergo the Prism Therapy, which hypnotically deadens the evil part of his brain. He begins to regret his actions, totally rehabilitated. 
Next is Uli Algor, who fought the Legion six months ago. She seems to be rehabilitated, but actually she is only pretending to go straight. Because she is a mistress of  various types of lights, she is immune to the light power of the prism. She is freed, and ready to plot her revenge on the Legion. 

A few days later several Legionnaires are out on the town. They are seeing a documentary (?) on various earlier time periods, which includes an old-time, outlawed boxing match. After the film, Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl return to Legion head-quarters because they have to go on duty. 
Uli confronts the three Legionnaires and Night Girl, but they don't want to believe that she hasn't reformed. So to prove that she is indeed "bad" she uses her power-belt to speed up the people mover, threatening to injure many bystanders. 
Lightning Lad tries to blast the moving sidewalk, but Uli short circuits him. Cosmic Boy is about to use his magnetic power to stop the sidewalk when she reverses his power, slamming him into a wall. Saturn Girl tries to take control of Uli's mind, but instead she sees fearsome, nightmarish visions that make her faint. Night Girl rushes into the dark alley to (switch on) her super-strength, but Uli uses her belt to blast her with ultra-strong light, blinding her. 
Later, we learn that all four heroes will recover. Karate Kid and Brainiac 5 question Night Girl as to what happened, and she tells them all about how Uli attacked. As the Legionnaires begin to plan their counter-attack, Uli comes forward and challenges them. They agree to meet her on the asteroid, Talus. They get there before her and set up an electrically powered robotic trap. However, she is able to use her belt to short-circuit the cybernetic center and escape the trap. 
Uli returns to her hide-out, located in war-destroyed Midway City. However, Phantom Girl has stowed away on Uli's space-ship, and calls in her team-mates with their location. Uli blasts Phantom Girl before the others arrive. 
When Ultra Boy and Brainiac 5 arrive, Ultra Boy is incredibly angry that Phantom Girl is injured. He storms up to Uli, who is ready for any of his various ultra-powers. He, however, simply uses an uppercut that he learned about in the documentary, and knocks her out.  
Russell: This is a great little action thriller, but if the whole point at the end is to defeat Uli without using any super-powers, how did she expect to defeat Brainiac 5? It might have been better to have a different Legionnaire present instead of Brainy so readers like me wouldn't have thought of that....

Also, it does seem a bit contrived that the Legionnaires conveniently saw a film about famous boxer Jack Johnson just before having to "box" with an enemy. Don't they all undergo hand-to-hand fighting training, regardless of what documentaries they see? Why the heavy-handed call out to an ancient boxing match?

The biggest question, however, is whether Uli Algor is the girl accomplice from the Legion story in Action Comics #379 or not. When I read that story and referenced Sunburst, no sources told me that the Legion impostor returned six issues later. However, when I referenced Uli Algor I found her called out as the accomplice in Who's Who in the Legion of Super-Heroes #7. I find it odd, though, that these stories were both written by E. Nelson Bridwell BUT there is no specific reference in this story about the previous story. How easy would it have been to add an Editor's Note calling out Action #379 if that woman had really been Uli? On the other hand, she was jailed for impersonating a Legionnaire, and she had light weapons, so obviously it is her, right? Read the review of that issue here, and decide for yourself.

The sad part is that she with her belt was an extremely powerful foe. I would have liked to have seen her again, regardless.

Mike: I feel like I should have enjoyed this story far more than I did. It certainly had a lot going for it. The concept of the premise therapy is interesting, although this story does not weigh the moral implications of altering criminals' minds as we would see in later stories such as the Squadron Surpreme limited series or (shudder) Identity Crisis. Its actually fascinating that here the morality of using the device is taken completely for granted, although there is at least the suggestion that criminals volunteer in exchange for a lighter sentence.

There are some fun moments here I enjoyed such as the Legion viewing the boxing match and having Night Girl be part of the action. I am curious what boxing fans may have thought when they read that their beloved sport was outlawed in the future?

Uli Algor is an intriguing villain and it is impressive how brutally she takes down so many powerful Legionnaires. I do wish we had gotten to see more of her. The resolution of how Ultra Boy defeated seemed a bit too pat but that sort of thing is not unusual for this time.

I think what makes this just a good story for me, rather than great, is the art. I am just not a fan of how Mortimer and Abel portray most of the male Legionnaires and the fight scenes just feel dull. Given Uli's power level and what she does to our heroes, I feel like those scenes should have had a much stronger impact on me as I read the issue.

Science Police Notes:  
  • World Heavyweight Champion Jack Johnson fought retired World Heavyweight Champion James Jeffries on July 4, 1910 in Reno, Nevada. Dubbed "The Fight of the Century," the boxing match lasted 15 rounds before Jeffries literally "threw in the towel" and admitted defeat. The fight was filmed and distributed, coming in at approximately 2 hours. Hopefully this wasn't the film the Legionnaires watched! In 1970, James Earl Jones portrayed Jack Johnson in The Great White Hope, which might have been the impetus to include this scene here. 
  • This story features the last appearance of Night Girl in a Silver Age Legion story. After this she won't be a co-star in a story for five years, until Superboy/Legion #212. 
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 9 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 4.

2 comments:

  1. I believe this is the first appearance of the asteroid Talus, which would become the Legion's HQ during the 5YL series...

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  2. So, when Jack Johnson was first mentioned who else thought of the singer?

    ReplyDelete