Dead Legionnaires buried in space?

It’s time to once again climb aboard our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“Burial in Space!”
Adventure Comics #379, April, 1969
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Inker: Jack Abel, Cover: Neal Adams

4 Stars

Plot

At the conclusion of our previous issue, Adventure Comics #378 (see here), five Legionnaires – Brainiac 5, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Superboy – teeter on the brink of death, with their enigmatic executioner gleefully celebrating over them, when suddenly, time mysteriously stops. Let’s pick up the action:

We learn that a strange alien from a highly-advanced race from the planet, Seeris, has intervened and stopped time at that specific location to momentarily save the dying Legionnaires. He had been hoping that the heroes could assist him with some unspecified problem, but their current condition makes that impossible. As he monitors the situation, another contingent of seven Legionnaires arrives at the team’s headquarters to find their five comrades and mistakenly assume them to be dead. The Seeron immediately transports to Legion headquarters and informs the heroes of all that transpired and proposes that he will cure their teammates if they will assist him with his problem.

The seven are quickly transported to Seeris where they are informed a warlike race of brutes has invaded the planet. The aggressors are of such low intelligence that they are almost impervious to the Seerons’ impressive mental powers. The Seerons are unable to resist the invaders because their complete emphasis on intellectual prowess over the centuries has rendered them physical weaklings and they have no defensive capabilities.

The seven Legionnaires – Chameleon Boy, Chemical King, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Star Boy, Timber Wolf, and Ultra Boy – agree to the deal and set out to stop the vanguard of the advancing horde. A battle ensues and the brutes prove to be more powerful than expected, forcing the Legionnaires to retreat.

In the meantime, ANOTHER contingent of the Legionnaires arrives at the team’s headquarters, also mistaking the five that are in stasis for being dead, and proceed to give them a burial with honors in space. Back on Seeris, the seven Legion members regroup and formulate a plan to build an impregnable fortress to stop the enemy’s advance. The brutes easily breech the citadel’s walls, but Ultra Boy is able to buy some time with his impressive powers. Ultra Boy then sends out an appeal to the entire Seeron race to join in the conflict despite their physical limitations. The sheer number of Seerons proves too much for the invaders and they are defeated.

In gratitude, the Seerons transport the septet back to Earth and send a “thought force” to end the localized time stasis and cure the five heroes of their poisoning. However, upon arriving, the seven discover their five teammates had been mistakenly buried in space. Taking a cue from Brainiac 5 in the last issue, Ultra Boy suggests they use the mysterious “Miracle Machine” and the quintet subsequently reappear at Legion headquarters, none the worse for wear. Who was it that poisoned the five Legionnaires in the first place? Come to find out it was only a penny-ante crook by the name of Alek Korlo. Sheesh!

Commentary

This was an entertaining conclusion to the two-issue tale. Perhaps the most interesting element of the saga was back in the previous issue when writer, Jim Shooter, employed a “park bench philosopher” to counsel the dying Princess Projectra to “accept the inevitable without brooding about it,” and to “think of what’s been good in your life…don’t bother regretting a moment and squeeze your last hours dry, too!” The lost certainly don’t have much to offer when it comes to dealing with death.

Below is a detail from the cover of this issue that I wanted to emphasize. Note what appears to be a minister in ceremonial robes sending off the apparently-dead Boy of Steel while holding a book clearly labeled “Bible.” Great! God gets His digs in even in a comic book from DC’s Silver Age!

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Detail from the cover showing a robed minister holding a clearly-labeled Bible!

Only one more issue to review in our Legion Silver Age series. That’ll be coming up in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, DC is currently in the process of reintroducing the fabled Legion franchise, so I’ll be replacing my bi-weekly reviews of Silver Age Legion tales with monthly reviews of new LSH stories hot off of DC’s presses.

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Five Legionnaires must decide how to spend their final twelve hours

It’s time to once again climb aboard our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“Twelve Hours to Live!”
Adventure Comics #378, March, 1969
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Inker: Jack Abel, Cover: Neal Adams

5 Stars

Plot

A small contingent of Legionnaires – Brainiac 5, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Superboy – are gathered at Legion Headquarters in Metropolis for a celebration; Brainiac 5’s birthday. As the quartet shares a toast to Brainac 5, he notices a strange powder coating the lining of his cup. He rushes to the lab and determines that he and his teammates have all been poisoned with a lethal substance for which there is no antidote and have only twelve hours to live (Superboy’s cup was specially treated with a Kryptonite-based poison, the only substance lethal to the Boy of Steel). Brainiac 5 suggests each person use their remaining time as they see fit and that they all reassemble in twelve hours to “face death together.”

Each Legionnaire chooses to spend their remaining hours differently. Braniac 5 returns back to the lab, racking his twelfth-level intellect for an antidote. Superboy returns to 20th century Smallville and his adoptive parents, the Kents, but grief overcomes him and he departs back to the 30th century to perform heroic good deeds as his final legacy. Duo Damsel spends her last hours with her parents, although without burdening them with her impending doom. Karate Kid opts to die battling crime and seeks out the most powerful team of villains in the Universe, the Fatal Five. With “nothing to lose,” the Kid is a formidable opponent, but the Five – Tharok, Mano, the Persuader, the Emerald Empress, and Validus – manage to escape. As for Princess Projectra, she sits alone on a park bench, overcome by grief, but a stranger intervenes who counsels her to “accept the inevitable without brooding about it.” Huh? Easy for him to say.

With time quickly running out, the Legionnaires glumly reassemble at their headquarters and Brainiac 5 sadly informs his teammates that he was unable to find an antidote in the interim. Superboy then writes the quintets’ collective legal will on a huge steel tablet using his “super-hard fingernail.” After Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra sign the will with a “laser stylus,” they, along with Superboy, weaken and collapse. As Brainiac 5 also begins to feel the poison’s effects, it occurs to him that the mysterious Miracle Machine (featured in Adventure Comics #367, see here) could possibly save the dying quintet. Braniac 5 struggles to make his way to the storage room, but can’t crack the impenetrable “inertron” casing that seals the device. As life slowly ebbs from the collapsed Legionnaires, a shadowy figure enters the headquarters. However, just as the mysterious villain celebrates his victory over the dying heroes, time suddenly stops and all remain motionless.

Is this the end for Brainiac 5, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Superboy? Who is the mysterious criminal who poisoned them and what force has stopped time for the dying Legionnaires and their executioner and why? We’ll have the answers to those questions in two weeks when we review the ominously titled, “Burial in Space,” in Adventure Comics #379.

Commentary

It’s strange that writer, Jim Shooter, chose to use the very same small contingent of Legionnaires that were featured in the preceding issue, Adventure Comics #377. It’s also interesting how Shooter portrays the different ways the fivesome individually attempt to cope with their impending deaths, especially Princess Projectra and the godless advice she received from the “park bench philosopher.” I’ll have more to say about that topic in next issue’s commentary. For the purposes of this review, I only devoted a few words to Karate Kid’s reckless suicide mission, single handedly battling the Fatal Five, but the minor plot line actually consumed eight full-pages of this issue. Superboy using his last ounce of strength to engrave the Legionnaires’ last will and testament on a mammoth steel tablet is a glaring example of over-the-top Silver Age melodramatics.

Dumb question: Am I missing something? Since Superboy and the other Legionnaires are able to time travel, why didn’t Superboy just go back a few minutes in time immediately after the poisoning and destroy the lethal beverage?

Count it down, my friends! Only two more Silver Age Legion tales left to review! and only 33 more days until DC reintroduces the Legion after a six-year hiatus with “Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #1,” due in comic shops Wednesday, Sept. 18.

Legion mercenaries? 💲💲💲

Yes, my blogger friends, it’s time to once again climb aboard our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“Heroes for Hire!”
Adventure Comics #377, February, 1969
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Cover: Neal Adams

3 Stars

Plot

The story begins with the Science Police chasing a fugitive criminal to the planet, Modo. Legend has it that the entire planet is controlled by a powerful, evil entity, Modulus, and the incredulous officers quickly become believers when they are subdued.

Back in Metropolis, a contingent of Legionnaires –  Brainiac 5, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Superboy – breaks up an attempted robbery of experimental mind gas from a research center. One of the criminals is captured and divulges that numerous criminal gangs utilize Modo as a base of operations because of Modulus’ protection.

Emboldened by their evil lord’s patronage, the criminal gangs of Modo wreak havoc throughout the galaxy with impunity. Meanwhile, in a shocking twist, the Legion begins to uncharacteristically extort money for their services. In a short period of time, the Legion amasses a fortune made up of various planetary currencies, storing it aboard one of its space cruisers. The teen heroes begin spending the money like drunken sailors at port, catching the attention of one of the Modo gangs.

Shortly afterwards, the gang attacks the Legion cruiser and tows it to Modo. However, Chemical King uses his powers to surreptitiously release the living crystalline currency from the planet Rojun that’s in stow. The metal-eating creatures, in turn, consume the protective casing of several other strange and volatile currencies. A chain reaction ensues, resulting in a paralysis ray that overpowers every criminal on the planet, including overlord, Modulus.

As the Science Police round up the dazed criminals, the Legionnaires celebrate the success of Brainiac 5’s improbable booby trap and resolve to return all of the money they had collected as part of the ruse.

Comments

Ach. What started out as a decent plot-line fell apart with the ham-fisted ending. Only three more Silver Age LSH issues left to review! Will writer, Jim Shooter, give us at least one more five-star tale?

Noteworthy: The full-page illustration on page 5 (see below) showing the effects of experimental mind gas on Brainiac 5 is a good example of late-60’s psychedelia art.

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Chameleon Boy sadly sings, 🎵 The Wedding Bell Blues 🎵

Yes, friends, it’s time to once again climb into our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“The Execution of Chameleon Boy!”
Adventure Comics #376, January, 1969
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Cover: Neal Adams

4 Stars

Plot

Previously, in Adventure Comics #375, we learned that a mysterious entity had challenged the mightiest Legionnaire to combat, and the team subsequently used the search for the members of another super-hero-team-temporarily-gone-bad as a tournament to identify their champion, with Bouncing Boy improbably claiming the title. Just when the entity abducts Bouncing Boy via a transporter ray, the real BB appears. Let’s pick up the action…

The ersatz Bouncing Boy is transported to the planet, Nadir, which is ruled by King Artros and his mighty knights. Nadirian society appears to be similar to that of Medieval Europe, but technological advances are hidden beneath a veneer of antiquity.

The Nadirians reveal that an evil and mighty baron, Kodar, is claiming the right to marry Princess Elwinda, and become heir to the throne. They had summoned the Legion’s champion as their only hope in battling Kodar. After defeating the baron, the victorious Legionnaire would take the royal maiden’s hand in marriage, himself.

To their surprise, the Nadirans’ high-tech equipment reveals Bouncing Boy is actually Chameleon Boy in disguise, who had assumed his teammate’s identity in the hopes of winning the aforementioned tournament by stealth. The Nadirians are shocked by CB’s alien appearance and call a council to deliberate on this “disturbing” revelation. In the meantime, CB changes into a bird and leaves his guarded quarters to drop in on Princess Elwinda in her private gardens. Romance quickly ensues, but the council resoundingly decides against the possibility of an “orange-skinned, alien freak” marrying the princess.

The Nadirians opt to battle Kodar and his powerful army themselves, but are quickly subdued. Just when all appears lost, Chameleon Boy enters the fray and, using his unique powers, defeats the evil baron. Grateful for his saving-intervention, King Artros grants that CB may marry his daughter.

⚠️ Warning: Brace yourself for the very awkward ending.

During all the shenanigans on Nadir, the Legion had been desperately scanning a multitude of dimensions in search of Chameleon Boy. They were shocked when they discovered a dimensional portal to Nadir and observed Chameleon Boy with his head on a chopping block with two knights holding raised axes overhead (see cover illustration). Brainiac 5 immediately transported Cham back to Legion headquarters and permanently sealed the portal. A furious Chameleon Boy then explained that the raised axes were part of the traditional Nadirian marriage ceremony. Instead of rescuing CB, the Legion had permanently put an end to his dreams of wedded bliss with Princess Elwinda. Ach. I hate when that happens.

Comments

This was an interesting conclusion to the two-part saga with some entertaining twists and turns, although the abrupt and awkwardly contrived ending was an unfortunate example of ham-fisted, Silver Age writing. I’m guessing Shooter was using the Nadirians’ repugnance with Chameleon Boy’s alien appearance as a subtle commentary on the very strained race relations in 1969 America.

Huh?!?! Bouncing Boy the mightiest Legionnaire?!?!

It’s time to once again climb into our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“King of the Legion!”
Adventure Comics #375, December, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Cover: Neal Adams

4 Stars

Plot

We open this story on a distant asteroid with a contingent of Legionnaires slowly approaching an unidentified group as if for combat. Naw, the Legion is only meeting another group of super-heroes, the Wanderers, who hail from a remote region of the Universe. Following the formalities, the Wanderers are returning home when their ship is engulfed by radiation from a strange space cloud. Hold that thought.

Back on Earth, the Legionnaires are occupied with routine tasks when Superboy encounters a strange gauntlet, which inscribes a giant message on an armor plate, challenging the mightiest Legionnaire to combat, which evokes a “Shades of Belshazzar!” from the startled Boy of Steel.

The Legionnaires subsequently bicker among themselves as to who should be their champion, but when the new Science Police Chief informs them that the space cloud incident has temporarily transformed the Wanderers into criminals, Element Lad suggests they turn the dragnet into a tournament to decide the mightiest member.

In the preliminaries, Bouncing Boy, Element Lad, and Mon-El hunt Dartalg, with Bouncing Boy improbably nabbing the fugitive. Chameleon Boy, Chemical King, and Saturn Girl track down Ornitho with Cham eventually making the arrest. Karate Kid, Sun Boy, and Ultra Boy search for Quantum Queen* with Karate Kid claiming victory. Brainiac 5, Superboy, and Timber Wolf locate Immorto and it’s Superboy who apprehends the Wanderer.

In the semi-finals, Karate Kid and Superboy hunt Elvo, with the Boy of Steel claiming the prize. Chameleon Boy, accompanied by his shape-changing pet, Proty, and Bouncing Boy vie to capture Psyche, with Bouncing Boy once again the improbable winner (or is he?).

In the final match, Superboy and Bouncing Boy square off to capture Celebrand, but the leader of the Wanderers unexpectedly surrenders to Bouncing Boy!

Back at Legion headquarters, the members humbly submit to Bouncing Boy as the mightiest in their ranks, when he is suddenly transported away by the same mysterious challenger who was behind the gauntlet message. The next moment, the REAL Bouncing Boy stumbles into the room. So who did the mystery entity actually transport? Stay tuned for part two of the story in Adventure 376!

Comments

This was an entertaining tale with the Wanderers temporarily turning into villains, Superboy encountering a challenge based on an occurrence in the Book of Daniel, the tournament to determine who was the mightiest Legionnaire with Bouncing Boy as the (laughable) winner, and the mysterious ending. The scene where the vanquished Legionnaires cower beneath the victorious Bouncing Boy and rip off their uniform emblems as an act of submission (p.23 and cover) is the kind of over-the-top melodrama that occasionally leaked into Silver Age plots.

*Trivia alert: In “The Adult Legion,” Adventure Comics #354, March 1967, Shooter featured Quantum Queen as one of the future doomed Legionnaires.

Gang warfare in the 30th Century?

It’s time once again to climb aboard our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“Mission: Diabolical!”
Adventure Comics #374, November, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter; Penciller: Win Mortimer, Cover: Curt Swan

4 Stars

Plot

We open the story with various groups of Legionnaires scattered across the galaxy consumed in various leisure and crime-fighting activities. One by one, each contingent is abducted by some unseen enemy.

Back at the Legion’s headquarters in Metropolis, Earth, five of the team’s heroes – Ultra Boy, Dream Girl, Element Lad, Matter-Eater Lad, and Supergirl – are contacted by an entity who represents SCORPIUS, a powerful criminal space gang. The being informs the quintet that SCORPIUS is holding their teammates hostage and that they must eliminate five super-outlaws – Rogarth, Black Mace, Mystelor, Shagreck, and Qunto – who are working for a rival gang, TAURUS. Realizing the crooks have them “over a barrel,” the five heroes disguise themselves to avoid identification by the Science Police and engage the TAURUS super-outlaws, but the melee is broken up by the Legion of Substitute Heroes who aren’t privy to the extortion plot. The quintet retreats, but Polar Boy of the substitutes manages to recognize a couple of the disguised heroes. Polar Boy’s observation will lead the substitutes to launch an investigation that will ultimately pay dividends at the story’s end.

In the meantime, the five heroes contemplate how to infiltrate the top echelon of TAURUS. When Dream Girl ascertains the circumstances of the next attack by the five super-outlaws, Ultra Boy concocts a scheme to disguise himself as Black Mace in order to infiltrate TAURUS. The scheme backfires when Ultra Boy is knocked unconscious in the tussle, but Dream Girl is able to subdue Mystelor and, using a quick disguise, takes her place among the outlaws.

Aboard the super-outlaws’ spaceship, Dream Girl, as Mystelor, is able to stoke resentment against TAURUS’s leadership and the crooks decide to travel to TAURUS headquarters to demand proper compensation. However, they’re not aware that Dream Girl has secretly signaled her four Legion co-conspirators to follow along. At the rival gang’s headquarters, the leader of TAURUS is revealed to be R.J. Brande, the Legion’s billionaire benefactor! But is it really Brande? The Legionnaires come out of hiding and arrest “Brande” with no interference from the super-outlaws who are on strike for higher wages. The Legionnaires quickly determine the leader of TAURUS is not actually Brande, but is Chief of the Science Police, Zoltourus, who had kidnapped Brande and secretly used the billionaire’s vast funds to finance TAURUS’s operations.

The five super-heroes are suddenly transported back to SCORPIUS headquarters where they are joined by their released Legion comrades. Thinking the ordeal is over, the heroes quickly realize they’ve been double-crossed by the SCORPIUS gang, which intends to kill them all. Just as the Legionnaires’ doom seems certain, Polar Boy and the Legion of Substitute Heroes attack SCORPIUS headquarters and subdue the criminal gang.

Commentary

This tale was a bit convoluted and wasn’t among Shooter’s best efforts. The thought should occur to the inquisitive reader that if SCORPIUS is powerful enough to kidnap 21 Legionnaires, it should also be powerful enough to neutralize the five super-outlaws by itself. However, it was always interesting whenever the substitute heroes played a role in a story. I remember feeling sad for these Legion “rejects” whose powers obviously far exceeded those of regular Legion members, Matter-Eater Lad, Bouncing Boy, and Duo Damsel. Speaking of Matter-Eater Lad, I’m guessing that Shooter purposely chose him as well as Dream Girl, Element Lad, and Supergirl as four of the five main protagonists in this story in an attempt to compensate for their infrequent appearances relative to other Legionnaires.

Postscript #1: Whenever enthusiasts compile a list of the most ridiculous comic super-heroes of all time, Matter-Eater Lad is inevitably included.

Postscript #2: DC Comics discontinued its Legion of Super-Heroes series in 2013 because of low readership. However, over the last couple of years DC has been teasing Legion fans with hints of a series relaunch. Recently, I learned that DC will be reintroducing the Legion in LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: MILLENNIUM #1 due out at comic shops on Wednesday, September 4. This is the first of a two-part prelude that will be followed by a monthly, ongoing series from writer, Brian Michael Bendis, and artist, Ryan Sook.

 

A Legion Clunker

Yes, my friends, it’s time to once again climb into our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“The Tornado Twins!”
Adventure Comics #373, October, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Cover: Neal Adams

3 Stars

Plot

Seven of the Legionnaires – Brainiac 5, Element Lad, Karate Kid, Phantom Girl, Princess Projectra, Sun Boy, and Superboy – are enjoying various recreational activities when they’re suddenly summoned to a robbery in progress. However, when they arrive at the crime scene they discover the criminals have already been apprehended by a brother and sister, super-hero duo with the last name of “Allen.” Hmm, we may already know where this one is headed, right JLA fans? The Allen twins, Don and Dawn, smugly gloat about beating the Legion to the punch, which leads to a heated exchange between Don and Karate Kid.

The Legionnaires return to their headquarters with their tails tucked between their legs, but are soon called to another emergency; some worker robots have gone haywire at an iron mine, causing a partial cave-in and trapping some V.I.P. visitors. The Legionnaires confront the powerful robots, but are quickly overcome. The Allen twins show up, thrash the robots and save the visitors. The puzzled Legionnaires search for information about the mysterious twins, but find nothing unusual as the Metropolis media celebrates the new heroes and pronounces the Legion as “has-beens.”

Like beating a dead horse, the Legion is called to a third emergency at a chemical plant and are once again upstaged by the twins. Heated words are again exchanged between Don Allen and Karate Kid, which quickly escalates into an all-out rumble between the seven Legionnaires and the twins, with the Allens leaving the seven bloodied and battered. Does anyone else see a pattern developing here? Public confidence in the Legion is at an all-time low and still plummeting.

The Legion is then sent a, gulp, fourth emergency signal, but the heroes’ confidence is so shaken that they initially opt to stay inside their headquarters. However, they soon reconsider and investigate a seemingly-hostile alien spaceship parked in the middle of Metropolis. Yet, when they force their way inside the ship, they find a giant statue of the 20th century super-hero, the Flash aka Barry Allen. Don and Dawn soon arrive and explain they are descendants of Barry Allen and were artificially endowed with the Flash’s powers on a temporary basis in order to publicize the United Planets’ upcoming commemoration of “Flash Day.” After twenty-two pages of bitter acrimony, everyone suddenly shakes hands and goes about their business. Ugh!.

Commentary

Aside from the pitiful “The Revolt of the Super-Pets” (Adventure Comics, 364), this issue might be the hokiest Legion tale we’ve reviewed to this point. A “Flash Day” in the 30th century? C’mon! Seriously? The feigned animosity featured in this story was a well-worn plot device in DC’s Silver Age-era. Win Mortimer’s pencils are a step down from Curt Swan’s, but still much better than latter-day Legion artwork. It’s great to see Element Lad in a story for a change. For some strange reason, he was one of the least-featured Legionnaires. Maybe it was the pink leotards?

A memorable Legion tale in more ways than one

It’s hard to believe that it’s already time once again to climb into our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“School for Super-Villains!”
Adventure Comics #372, September, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Curt Swan, Inker: Jack Abel, Cover: Neal Adams

5 Stars

Plot

A couple of weeks ago, we witnessed Colossal Boy being expelled from the Legion in disgrace for stealing classified training material. Unbeknownst to the Legion, he had been blackmailed by mysterious criminals who were holding his parents captive.

As the action picks up, Colossal Boy dejectedly walks the streets of Metropolis deciding on his next step when he is accosted by Science Police. He escapes, but accidentaly drops his mother’s “life jewel” in the tussle. The criminals subsequently reconnect with the fugitive ex-Legionnaire and offer him a new deal.

In the meantime, Brainiac 5 deduces the recovered “life jewel” can guide the team to Colossal Boy’s mother for some answers. Shrinking Violet diminishes to sub-molecular size and follows the beams connecting the life jewel with its owner across the galaxy. The beams lead her to a distant planet and a training center for the newly-created Legion of Super-Villains run by Tarik the Mute, with Colossal Boy as the reluctant trainer. Violet returns to Earth and informs the Legion of her findings, including the real reason why Colossal Boy turned traitor. Brainiac 5 devises a plan in which Superboy and Chameleon Boy and candidates, Chemical King and Timber Wolf, infiltrate and subdue the collection of super-criminals and free Colossal Boy’s parents.

With Superboy and Chameleon Boy in disguise, the quartet stage a phony battle with the Science Police on Mars in hopes of attracting the attention of Tarik’s recruiter. The ruse works and the four are transported to the super-villains’ training center. The heroes observe several disgruntled Legion-rejects from the past including Nemesis Kid, Spider Girl, Radiation Roy, Ronn Kar, and Lightning Lord; Legionnaire Lightning Lad’s brother. However, Colossal Boy recognizes Superboy, and, out of fear for his parents’ safety, sounds the alarm. A battle ensues and the super-villains overcome the super-heroes. Tarik condemns the four to death, but as they await their execution the following day, Superboy conceives of a plan. But will it work?

At dawn, Tarik orders Colossal Boy to use a ray gun to turn the Boy of Steel into glass, just like his parents. When the teen titan hesitates, Tarik pulls the trigger and an executioner immediately shatters Superboy into a million pieces with a sledge hammer (see cover photo). Enraged by Superboy’s death, Colossal Boy snaps and joins the three remaining heroes in battling the villains. In the melee, Timber Wolf radios Legion Headquarters for reinforcements and Duo Damsel, Phantom Girl, Starboy, and Ultra Boy quickly come to the rescue like a 30th century cavalry. Just as Tarik prepares to smash Colossal Boy’s crystallized parents, Superboy KOs him with a steely left hook. Huh? Superboy? Turns out Chameleon Boy and Superboy had disguised themselves as each other prior to the dawn execution and CB had dodged the ray gun, changed himself to glass, and then into broken glass at the appropriate times.

The criminals are taken into custody, Colossal Boy’s parents are restored to normal, and he’s voted back into the Legion along with new members, Chemical King and Timber Wolf.

Commentary

This was an entertaining story, especially since it includes the origin of the Legion of Super-Villains and the introduction of Chemical King and Timber Wolf as Legion members. The abrupt and overly-simple ending was admittedly a bit lame, but quite par for the course for the Silver Age era. This issue is significant for a couple of more reasons. It was Curt Swan’s last outing as the Legion’s penciller. His drawings would be judged as stark and too simple today, but his classic lines put him at the very top of the DC’s pencillers of that era. This was also my last Legion comic book at that time. I began following the Legion in November, 1966 in Adventure Comics #350 and would continue for twenty-two issues, but I reluctantly quit comics after that because I was entering into seventh-grade and reading comics was definitely “not cool” as it would become a couple of decades later (and comic book plots would become so convoluted, no seventh-grader could possibly follow them). But don’t worry, we still have eight more Legion installments to review before DC ended the franchise’s tenure in Adventure Comics with the May, 1969 issue.

Star Trek / Legion of Super-Heroes Crossover: Mr. Spock, meet Brainiac 5

Star Trek / Legion of Super-Heroes
Written by Chris Roberson, Pencils by Jeffrey Moy, Inks by Philip Moy, Colors by Romulo Farjardo, Jr.
IDW Publishing and DC Comics, 2012, 152 pages

4 Stars

What do you get when you mix the crew of the original Star Trek television series (1966-1969) with DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes? Writer, Chris Roberson, explored that fascinating concept in this crossover graphic novel, which compiles six separate installments published monthly from October 2011 to March 2012.

Plot

Chapter One

The story begins with six Legionnaires – Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, and Shadow Lass – traveling in a time bubble from a mission back to the 31st century. Something goes wrong with the craft and Brainy struggles to make an emergency “landing.” Meanwhile, back in the 23rd century, the senior officers of the USS Enterprise – Captain James T. Kirk, Lieutenant Commander Spock, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, and officers Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov – enter the ship’s transporter expecting to enjoy some shore leave in San Francisco. What about Scotty? Hey, somebody has to stay behind and run the ship. The Legionnaires and Star Fleet officers reappear in different locales on 23rd century Earth; the Legion immediately harassed by an angry mob and the Trekkers confronted by hostile military units, but both Brainy and Spock deduce it’s a different Universe!

Chapter Two

We learn that a mysterious emperor controls the Imperial Planets from his palace on Earth and his forces relentlessly subjugate additional worlds. The Legion escapes the mob via their super-powers and the Trekkers escape the Imperial army via a shuttlecraft. Brainy leads the Legion contingent on a hunt for the source of two “temporal disturbances” registering on his “chronometer,” when the sextet is suddenly confronted by the equally surprised Trekkers (i.e., temporal disturbance #1).

Chapter Three 

A confrontation ensues between the Legionnaires and Trekkers, but serious damage is averted when cooler heads (Brainiac 5 and Spock) prevail. After the formal introductions, the two teams begin to discuss possible solutions to the timestream problem when they are attacked by the “new universe” version of the Legion’s classic foe, the Fatal Five (replete with some Star Trek elements), in service to the Imperial Planets. The attackers are defeated by the Legionnaires’ powers in combination with the Trekkers’ technology. The two teams then adopt a joint plan: three LSHers and three Trekkers will take a jury-rigged time machine to try and fix the time line at the “point of historical divergence” while Team B checks out temporal disturbance #2.

Chapter Four

Team A (Brainy, Spock, Bones, McCoy, Checkov, Cosmic Boy, and Saturn Girl) don’t get too far with their time machine jalopy and “crash land” in the pre-historical past where they are confronted by primitive tribesmen. Team B (Kirk, Uhura, Sulu, Shadow Lass, Lightning Lad, and Chameleon Boy) follows their sensors to the headquarters of the Imperial Planets where the emperor, informed of their approach, awaits. Both teams come face to face with the same “immortal” being known by various names in different eras: Vandal Savage/Flint/Vandar the Emperor.

Chapter Five

On pre-historic Earth, Vandal Savage imprisons Team A. Shortly afterwards, a young girl helps the six escape. Who is she? The girl is actually being mind-controlled and leads the team to a powerful being, although captive, who has been secretly playing a major role in this story from the start. The being reveals himself to be the powerful Q (a character in the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager Star Trek series), who has been forced to do the bidding of Vandal Savage/Flint/Vandar. Forward to the 23rd century; Vandar initially fetes Team B, but then reveals his intent to forcibly extract information from them about the future so that he can manipulate the present reality accordingly.

Chapter Six

Emperor Vandar tortures three members of Team B close to death, but with no results, and prepares to interrogate the remaining three. Kirk buys time by chiding Vandar and eliciting unrestrained emotion. Back on pre-historic Earth, Brainy and Spock discuss with Q possible ways to free him from the control of Vandal Savage. Vandal and his savage tribesmen interrupt the deliberations, but when Cosmic Boy releases the “inhibitor collars” from the warriors, they resort back to intertribal squabbling. Spock and Brainy free Q from his confinement and the powerful being immediately “fixes” the time line. We next see the six Legionnaires back in their time bubble headed to the 31st century and the six Star Fleet officers beginning their shore leave in 23rd century San Francisco, both groups completely unaware of their alter-Universe adventure.

Commentary

I enjoyed this crossover quite a bit. Fans of the Legion and/or Star Trek will appreciate the many details Roberson includes from both franchises. The intellectual sparring between Brainy and Spock is not to be missed. Kirk’s brash bravado is also well-characterized. The artwork is a big step-up compared to the illustrations of the Legion’s latter years, especially Romulo Farjardo, Jr.’s striking coloring.

The plot of this story was a bit convoluted with the various timelines and the alter-Universe. But that’s the name of the game these days. I cut my teeth on comics during DC’s Silver Age, when time was linear, reality was reality, and there was only one Universe. But DC and comics in general are in a precarious financial situation and reboots with changing characters and different dimensions and Universes are intended to keep things perpetually in flux for younger minds that are less satisfied with linear predictability.

Justice League (and a Legionnaire) vs. The Fatal Five

DC Comics pulled the plug on the Legion of Super-Heroes’ own comic book series back in 2013, but the teen heroes from the 31st century have been busy making cameo appearances in a variety of other venues, including the very recent…

Justice League vs. The Fatal Five
Directed by Sam Liu
Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment, 2019, 77 minutes

4 Stars

Plot

In the 31st century, three members of the galaxy’s most powerful crime team, the Fatal Five, break into the Legion’s headquarters in Metropolis, and abscond with a time-travel sphere with Star Boy clinging on for dear life. Their destination? 20th century Earth. But Star Boy is able to place the villains in state of stasis before the vehicle crashes. Superman recovers the sphere and brings it to Justice League of America’s headquarters.

Meanwhile, the stranded Star Boy has some big problems. He suffers from a form of schizophrenia and his medication is back in the 31st century. His increasingly erratic behavior results in being sent to prison.

Mister Terrific of the Justice League inadvertently releases the three members of the Five – Mano, Tharok, and the Persuader –  and they immediately search for Jessica Cruz, one of the Green Lanterns, who has some mental health issues of her own. What do Mano, Tharok, and the Persuader want with a Green Lantern and where are the other two members of the Five; Emerald Empress and Validus?

The unstable Star Boy breaks out of prison using his impressive mass-altering powers and defends Jessica from the villainous trio. The Justice League – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Mister Terrific and trainee, Miss Martian –  soon join in the fray and the crooks are forced to flee.

The JLers set up a mind-meld and ascertain from Star Boy’s memories that Emerald Empress and Validus were apprehended by the Legion in the 31st century and sent to the 21st century to be imprisoned in the only facility strong enough to hold them; the Green Lantern Corps’ impenetrable Sciencells on the planet Oa. Ah, so that’s it! The villains need Green Lantern Jessica to lead them to their imprisoned comrades.

Mano sends an ultimatum to the JLers: turn over Jessica or explosives will detonated in cities throughout the world. Metropolis is suddenly rocked by powerful blasts, forcing the JLers to flee, and Jessica is impelled to lead the villains to Oa and the Sciencells where Validus and the Emerald Empress and her powerful Emerald Eye are freed following a tussle with two Green Lantern guards. Jessica’s Green Lantern ring is destroyed in the melee, rending her powerless. The Emerald Empress then super-charges the powers of the Eye using the Green Lanterns’ Central Power Battery.

The Five return to Earth and the Princess initiates her plan to use the Eye to destroy the Sun, thus annihilating Earth and eliminating the Legion as future antagonists. The JLers intervene, but succumb to the power of the Five. Just when all seems lost, Jessica finds her nerve back on Oa and reassembles her Green Lantern ring and reclaims her powers. She returns to Earth and apprehends the Five. However, the Eye is already well on its way to a cataclysmic rendezvous with the Sun. Superman, Jessica, and Star Boy give chase, but it’s too late, the Eye plunges into the Sun and it begins to fracture. Star Boy sacrifices himself and flies into the Sun, knowing his powers to alter mass can reverse the fracturing process and save Earth.

In the final scene, the JLA members are joined by a contingent of Legionnaires from the 31st century to honor the fallen Star Boy.

Comments

Hey, I enjoyed this animated film quite a bit! It was a good story and I appreciated the LSH tie-ins. The inclusion of once-taboo mental health topics into the story-line was interesting. The “Clutch Cargo” animation was extremely stiff, but that’s what fans of DC’s low-budget, direct-to-video, super-hero animated films have come to expect. Last July, we reviewed the origin of the Fatal Five in Adventure Comics #352 (see here) and the sacrifice of Ferro Lad to save the Sun, so it was interesting to see another Legionnaire sacrifice his life for the same purpose, although this time the Fatal Five were opponents rather than reluctant allies. It was strange to see Mano portrayed as the leader of the Five in this film, when Tharok, with his half-computer brain, was the historical leader of the evil quintet. Good stuff. Lots of fun for an old DC Comics Silver Age fan. Legionnaires making cameo appearances include Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Dawnstar, Mon-El, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, and Tyroc.