jump to navigation

Happy GM’s Day! March 4, 2021

Posted by jkahane in gaming hut, holiday, rpg hut.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Happy International GM’s Day to all my fellow GameMasters out there!

I would like to wish all the GameMasters out there a very Happy GM Day!

While most gamers have tried to GM at one time or another, GameMastering is an art form of sorts. A person who plans to GM for a group of players has to have a facility of language, in order to get across to the players and their characters descriptions of what the player characters see, hear, taste, feel, and smell. It also helps with the atmosphere of the game. One has to have a sense of creativity and imagination, to create adventures and plots for the players and their characters. One has to know a bit about all manner of subjects in order to run rpgs, and spend a bit of time in a library (or these days on the internet, though I still prefer the former) researching subjects that one knows nothing about, to give games an element of verisimilitude. When all is said and done, the amount of enjoyment that the players get from a given adventure in an rpg is proportional to the amount of work that the GameMaster put into the adventure being played.

And in the end, GameMastering is a thankless job. Those of us who run games for our players have the patience of Job and a bit of insecurity in our running of games (at least I do), as players rarely thank those who run their games for the time, effort, work, and (hopefully) sheer enjoyment that they get out of their games.

So I would like to thank all the gamers who have GameMastered roleplaying games for me over the years, and to wish each and every GM out there a very Happy GameMaster’s Day.

And to Nick Roberts (wherever you are!), one of the former players in my Friday night gaming group who willingly picked up the GM dice and rulebooks and ran a game from time to time so that I might have the experience of playing in an rpg every so often, THANK YOU. And to David Matchuk (may he rest in peace), who had in recent years taken up the mantle so that I could get to play, another big shout out. I really did appreciate it.

Books Read in February, 2021 March 3, 2021

Posted by jkahane in book hut, month total, reading hut, review.
Tags: ,
add a comment

A new month. Thus, as is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my February, 2021 reads.


Books Read in February, 2021

Legion of Supr-Heroes Vol 8 #12 (Comic)

Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #1 (Comic)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (r)

December, 2020 Locus

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

The Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #280-284 (Comics) (r)

The Brave and the Bold Vol 1 #179 (Comic) (r)

DC Comics Presents Vol 1 #43 (Comic) (r)

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu (r)

January, 2021 Locus

A.D. 500: A Journey Through the Dark Isles of Britain and Ireland by Simon Young


And that was my reading for February, 2021. I have to say that this was a pretty good month of reading in terms of the quality of material read, especially given the last few months of reading, though it was not the most books I’ve read in a month. Part of the reason for this was because I re-read a really big book in the form of the Bradley P. Beaulieu first book in preparation for reading the second book in the Shattered Sands series this month. And I also read a good number of comics, both new reads and re-reads, so there! 🙂 Regardless, my bookcases are stacked with a pretty large To Read Queue (TRQ) still. The books I enjoyed the most were:

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke – Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls, an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house. There is one other person in the house – a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known. To say that I was anticipating Clarke’s second novel after the remarkable Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is an understatement. At 1/3 the page count of that first novel, Piranesi is a remarkable, good novel with very little resemblance to her first book. I am not going to provide spoilers at all for this book, as it’s just that good and every page is full of revelations that really subvert the expectations one might have. The characters of Piranesi (not his real name, but that’s what he’s called by The Other) and The Other come across as very real in the course of the book, and though they are both mysterious figures much is revealed about them during the course of the novel. Even though the book is a relatively slim book, it’s a challenging read. The reader wanders blindly for a while, in many ways like the protagonist, and the reader shouldn’t expect every dark corner to be illuminated by the time one reaches the end of the story. I highly recommend this book, especially if the potential reader was a fan of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Madeline Miller’s Circe. Piranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds. Like I said, highly recommended.

A.D. 500: A Journey Through the Dark Isles of Britain and Ireland by Simon Young – From Tintagel and tin-mining to saints and slave markets, from alcohol and King Arthur to boat burials and beavers, here are the realities of life in the 6th Century A.D.. Based squarely on archaeological and historical evidence, this window on the mysterious world of the Dark Ages is written as a practical survival guide for the use of civilised Greek visitors to the barbaric islands of Britain and Ireland. With the narrative of the Greeks providing a condescending and often hilarious running commentary on “the barbarians”, this is a vivid and original picture of life in the Dark Ages. I’ll start by saying that this is not a straightforward history book. The book takes the shape of a travelogue, written about a fictional Greek Embassy that made a tour of Britain in the Dark Ages. The fictional embassy is a device used simply to give an account of what a tour around Dark Ages Britain and Ireland would have been like. Author Young uses (and cites) several scholarly works to back up the information imparted within. This is not historical fiction. If that’s what you are expecting, you will be a bit disappointed. What the book is is a highly entertaining (the fictional author of the travelogue’s biting remarks concerning “the natives” are hilarious), if not somewhat informative, way to teach history. Admittedly, the book could have provided more details for my taste, but this is exactly what will make this an easier read for those who have a hard time with historical stuff. I definitely recommend it.

Overall, I managed to read 4 novels, 0 RPGs and RPG products, 2 magazines, 9 comics, and 0 graphic novels in February. This brings the year total in 2021 to a set of numbers that look like this: 10 books, 0 RPGs and RPG products, 3 magazines, 37 comics, and 0 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

Remembering Roger Delgado March 1, 2021

Posted by jkahane in in memorium, tv hut.
Tags:
add a comment

Today would have been the birthday of Roger Delgado.

For the fans of Doctor Who… the Doctor has faced many foes over the years – Daleks (and their creator Davros), Cybermen, Sontarans, Ice Warriors, to name a few – but only one foe has stood the test of time as his equal. If the Doctor had gone the other route, followed the dark path… That was the premise for the character of The Master, the renegade Time Lord who was first portrayed by the late (and great) Roger Delgado.

Delgado begat the role of The Master, making his debut appearance in 1971 in the Doctor Who serial “Terror of the Autons”, which also saw the first appearance of Katy Manning as Jo Grant. Delgado reappeared in a good number of subsequent serials during the Jon Pertwee years, and originally, it had been planned that the story of The Master would end and be tied up in one last serial, “The Final Game”. However, in 1973 while filming another project, Delgado was sadly involved in a car accident and passed away, before his time, at the age of 55. Thus, “The Final Game” never saw the light of day.

While Roger continues to be missed from the world of Doctor Who, his influence on the tv show will never be forgotten. The Master may have regenerated countless times since that time, but Roger Delgado’s legacy as the first, the original, the one TRUE Master is available for all to see. Personally, I adored Roger’s performance as The Master, and have felt that none of the actors who’ve since taken the role on ever did or have done it justice (though Anthony Ainley had his moments). I still love going back and watching some of the Delgado serials/episodes of Doctor Who, and watching his sophisticated and refined performances.

So lift a glass today in memory of Roger Delgado, the first, the original, and the best Master, who would have turned 103 years old today.

The Start of a New Month March 1, 2021

Posted by jkahane in health hut, life, new month, ottawa, pandemic, personal, weather.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

It’s March 1st. The start of a new month.

Thank Goddess.

February was very unkind to me, and that’s putting it mildly. The health issues I’ve had have been the worst of it. The leg pain that I’ve been suffering from for some time now has gotten steadily worse, and February was a bad month with it. To a large extent, I’ve been unable to walk all that much for some time now, and there were days when the pain incapacitated me several days, the only relief I’ve had coming when I’ve been able to spend a chunk of time with my feet up. On the last Thursday of February, I went for my usual footcare appointment. My two pinkie toes have blood vessels that are very close to the surface, and the regular person who takes care of my feet wasn’t there. Well, guess what? Yep, she cut the toenails too close and my two toes have been bleeding on and off for three days. And that’s not to mention the sharp, burning pain on the toes and the fact that I can’t wear socks or have a blanket over the toes else the pain is a lot worse. for long periods of the day, the only relief I’ve been able to get being spending time with my feet up. Add to that the sometimes severe abdominal and back pain that I’ve had for the last our months or so, and my life was pretty much a misery in February.

The weather for February was a mixed bag pretty much, with some pretty nasty snowfalls and bitterly cold days, but there were days where it was feeling almost like spring was around the corner with relatively mild temperatures. Just a very bizarre weather month. Who knows what’s going to happen weather-wise in March, but hopefully it will be relatively mind.

Throw in the COVID-19 pandemic that still continues, now with variant forms of the virus, and even with the vaccine rollout starting in earnest, the virus is still winning. Hopefully, we won’t see a third wave of the virus. ::knock on wood::

Yes, there were a couple of good things that happened in the month, but truthfully, not a month to remember. So bring it on, March! 🙂

Happy Birthday, Legion of Super-Heroes! February 27, 2021

Posted by jkahane in birthday, comics hut, legion of super-heroes.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

1_Adventure_Comics_247.jpg

Happy Birthday to the Legion of Super-Heroes!

It was sixty-three (63) years ago today, February 27th, 1958, that the Legion of Super-Heroes made their debut in the pages of Adventure Comics Vol 1 #247.

While there is a brand new Legion title out there now, that is currently on hiatus, the folks at DC Comics have no idea what to do with the Legion (these days, or any other), but the really sad thing is that they don’t celebrate any of the birthday or anniversary moments of the Legion at all. But we, the fans, know. And we celebrate every key Legion of Super-Heroes moment!

Happy Birthday, Legionnaires one and all!

Long Live the Legion! 🙂

Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #275 February 24, 2021

Posted by jkahane in comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, review.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Time for today’s re-read of a classic Legion of Super-Heroes comic issue. This time out: the second confrontation with Captain Frake and her space pirates. Enjoy! 🙂

Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #275
May, 1981
“Of Pride, Passion, and Piracy!”
Writer: Gerry Conway
Penciller: Jimmy Janes
Inker: Frank Chiaramonte
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Gene D’Angelo
Cover: Dave Cockrum (signed)
Editor: Jack C. Harris

Mission Monitor Board:
Ultra Boy, Lightning Lad, Wildfire, Shadow Lass, Saturn Girl, Light Lass, Timber Wolf, Mon-El, Colossal Boy, Element Lad, Shrinking Violet, Dawnstar; Brainiac 5, Star Boy (background, no lines)

Opposition:
Captain Frake and her space pirates; inhabitants of New Tartuga

Synopsis:
At Legion Headquarters, Lightning Lad is reviewing the mission from the day before with a contingent of his fellow Legionnaires, in which the Legionnaires did battle with space pirates who almost demolished a Legion cruiser and left Cosmic Boy and Karate Kid badly wounded, and now hospitalized. Saturn Girl is still confused about what she sensed out in space, that Ultra Boy was a member of the pirates, although the Legion believes at this point that he died facing Pulsar Stargrave, and is somewhat cool and harsh with Shadow Lass, who comments that she’s not her usual self. Wildfire is anxious to go after the pirates, so Lightning Lad gives the order. The Legion will take their back-up cruiser and depart within the hour.

Out in space, beyond the orbit of Pluto, the space pirates whom the Legion are about to hunt down are busy stealing from another freighter. Ultra Boy, being called “Seeker” by the pirates because he hasn’t regained his memory of who he is, is helping to load stolen cargo aboard the pirate vessel the Antares, when the cargo-pac he is moving slips and almost crushes him to death, if not for his super-powers. Returning to the Antares, Ultra Boy sees one of the fellow pirates about to kill a captive who attempts to flee. He intervenes, placing himself in the line of fire, but is unharmed by the neuron-disruptor pistol blast. Crushing the pirate’s weapon, he demands that no innocent lives be taken, a decision that Captain Frake reluctantly backs up for now. She is starting to have her doubts about having fallen in love with “Seeker.”

As Lightning Lad leads a team of Legionnaires in their back-up cruiser to search for the space pirate from their last location by sub-space radar, Light Lass and Timber Wolf discuss their relationship. Timber Wolf tells her that he’s glad that he didn’t have to go on the mission with them, as he’s starting to feel that he’s losing his individual identity, saying tat that in recent days, the strain of living among so many has come close to driving him mad. He leads her to the Metropolis Zoo, where he tells her that the Legion seems to him at times like the creatures at the Zoo, “like a collection of freaks from many worlds — each locked helplessly in his or her own cage.” He longs to leave Earth, and go live closer to nature. He admits to Ayla that he stays on Earth as a Legionnaire only because of his love for her.

Elsewhere, at the Moon Dome, one of the finest of Metropolis’s night spots, Colossal Boy, Mon-El and Shadow Lass are having dinner. Shadow Lass tells the other two that she spoke with Tinya, Phantom Girl, before they left and she seems to be on the mend (from the death of Ultra Boy). Colossal Boy says that perhaps the best way for the Legionnaires to move on from his death is to go about their business as usual. Colossal Boy complains about his mother, the new President of Earth, who seems to be treating the Legion such that everything they do is wrong, that he thinks she’s let the power go to her head. Mon-El and Shadow Lass tell him that she is probably doing the best she can at a job she never wanted. Colossal Boy reacts impulsively, walking away from the conversation and knocking a robo-waiter towards another table. He grows and saves the other patrons from being scalded by the spilled soup and food, chastising himself for acting rashly and for being so clumsy.

Out in space, the Legionnaires can for the pirates in non-United Planets space some hundred light-years from Earth, and find a collection of planets and planetoids orbiting a blue-white star that Lightning Lad and Wildfire feel are where the space pirates can be found. Down in the depths of the Legion cruiser, Dawnstar, Element Lad and Shrinking Violet have little to do, but keep themselves on their toes as best they can.

On New Tartuga, one of the asteroids orbiting the blue-white star, Ultra Boy watches as his fellow space pirates run wild on the population of the pirate asteroid home, and while he doesn’t remember who he is, he’s come to feel that he isn’t one of them. Captain Frake calls to him, and offers herself as a calming influence, kissing him, but his memory of the girl he saw when he destroyed the Legion cruiser the day before – Phantom Girl – haunts him. Frake pulls away, sensing what’s going on, and he tells Frake that he thinks he’s remembering the girl he loves. She orders him away, telling him to get back to the Antares, that he’s now no more to her than the rest of the scum aboard the ship. At that moment, the Legion cruiser arrives, blasting the defensive ring around the town.

Captain Frake arms herself, and leading “Seeker” out of their quarters, not towards the Antares but towards the fortress north of the town. She has a plan, and the best defense is a good offense. As she rushes through the alleys of New Tartuga, Captain Frake slaps a slave-woman out of her way. When the woman hits her head on a rock as she falls and dies, Ultra Boy has had enough.

Back outside, the Legion cruiser attacks and destroys the Antares, and the six Legionnaires aboard emerge from the vessel. The space pirates and other citizens of New Tartuga defend themselves vigorously. Wildfire, Element Lad, Dawnstar, Shrinking Violet and Lightning Lad attack and defend themselves as best they can. Lightning Lad uses too much power in his attack, however, rendering his attackers unconscious leaving no one to question. “Seeker” attacks the pirates, feeling like he’s doing the right thing for the first time in a while, and Wildfire nearly sees Ultra Boy in action, but misses him by a few seconds. On the Legion cruiser, Saturn Girl senses Ultra Boy’s presence. She cries tears of happiness as she realizes that she really did sense him during the first battle with the space pirates and that not only is he alive, but he has not betrayed them by joining the pirates.

Reaching her fortress to the north of the town, Captain Frake arrives to find her First Mate has go the Star Crusher weapon powering up and preparing to fire. The power jewel cannon is the most powerful weapon in ten solar systems. She locks the weapon on her target – the Legion cruiser.

Back in the town, Dawnstar and Lightning Lad come upon a large group of pirates, too large to blast individually. While Dawnstar acts as a diversion for Lightning Lad, he uses his powers to strike and electrify the water of the large puddles they are standing in, knocking the large number of pirates and others out.

Meanwhile, Wildfire and Shrinking Violet, taking care of the house-to-house fighting, arrive at the fortress. They hear noises from a locked warehouse. Before Wildfire can blast his way in, Shrinking Violet tells him that sometimes you go around an obstacle, not shoot your way in, and then shrinks down. She opens the door from the inside, and introduces him to the enslaved people – women, children and old men – of New Tartuga.

In the meantime, Ultra Boy has managed to reach the fortress Frake mentioned on his own by following some of the pirate leaders. He sees the Legion cruiser in the air above, though he can’t figure out why it seems so familiar to him. He sees a weapon’s bay window opening, with some kind of cannon jutting through, and realizes what Frake meant when she talked about a good offense. As Ultra Boy races inside and find Frake and the weapon, he puts himself directly in the path of the Star Crusher as it fires. His invulnerable frame is blasted into seeming nothingness. The rays from the energy blast ricochet around, striking the Quintile crystal power source a glancing blow, and the fortress is destroyed in a massive explosion.

The Legionnaires see that half the mountain where the fortress was is nothing but rubble and ruin, but fortunately the town and the people there were on the other side of the mountain. Having landed the Legion cruiser, a shaken, staggering Saturn Girl emerges from the ship and falls into her husband’s arms. With tears pouring down her face and crying, Saturn Girl tells him that Ultra Boy is really gone now. Looking around at the devastation, the Legionnaires prepare to head back to Earth and home.

Commentary:
This issue is the second part of the story involving the “death” of Ultra Boy and the Legionnaires dealing with Captain Frake and the space pirates, that continues from the previous issue. The story seems to be less about Ultra Boy’s death, the Legion trying to get over that and move on here, and more about dealing with Captain Frake and the space pirates. The story does have the sub-plot of Saturn Girl still trying to determine if she really sensed Ultra Boy aboard the pirate vessel in the previous issue, and that matter is resolved here, in a manner of speaking. The shocking events at the end of the story, as Ultra Boy is seemingly killed yet again!, leave the reader feeling alarmed, and perhaps mentally reeling due to how unexpected it was. But the reader doesn’t get a clear resolution of how this shakes out, re: telling Phantom Girl, and the deception on Saturn Girl’s part.

While the story itself is fine, there are some excellent little sub-plots going on throughout. Wildfire’s impulsiveness comes out in the story once more, and he is all gung-ho about going after the pirates, taking Legion leader Lightning Lad to task for not doing so quickly. There’s a very emotional scene between Timber Wolf and Light Lass that hints at the strength of the love between them, but also at the fact that Timber Wolf is struggling to live in an urban, technological society. One has to wonder how much longer he will be a Legionnaire. Colossal Boy’s development as a character takes a twist here as well, as he questions his mother’s being Earth President and the changing relationship she has with both the Legion and with her son. There’s also the fact that he’s struggling with his being klutzy, an interesting twist given Gim’s super-growth power. Ultra Boy gets a bit of time spent on him, of course, but most of his time in the story is concerned with dealing with his growing feelings that he’s not one of the pirates and that his relationship with Captain Frake is not one of attraction or love, but more about feeling grateful for being rescued. It’s when he finally turns on the space pirates during the Legion attack on New Tartuga that the true Ultra Boy comes out once more. That said, I can’t help but wonder about the scene on page 14 where Frake swats away the female servant in the alley, killing her when she hits her head on a rocky outcrop… The slave girl is drawn to look a lot like Phantom Girl, right down to a white shift, and I have to wonder whether that was a deliberate move on the part of Gerry Conway and/or Jack C. Harris to make Ultra Boy remember Phantom Girl even more. The presence of Element Lad (who’s been absent for more than six issues) and Shrinking Violet are good to see here, especially the latter, who gets a very nice bit scene fighting one of the space pirates, but I have to wonder something else here. There are clearly more Legionnaires available for this mission of hunting down the space pirates than actually go on it. So, what’s the point of having 22 available Legionnaires here and Lightning Lad only taking five of them with him? Why have the cameos of Brainiac 5 and Star Boy at all?

One of the things that surprised me in this story was the absence of Phantom Girl. Given the romantic relationship between Tinya and Jo, and the strong role that she played in the first part of this story in the previous issue, it struck me as very odd that she wasn’t involved in the story and the dealing with the space pirates again. Shadow Lass mentions to Mon-El and Colossal Boy talking to Tinya on page 8, saying that Tinya’s still pretty upset about Ultra Boy’s death, and that she’s on the mend. That could be taken to mean she’s taking the time off to mentally and emotionally deal with Ultra Boy’s death, but might also refer to the attack by Ultra Boy on the Legion cruiser last issue, when Karate Kid and Cosmic Boy were both seriously injured. Tinya was hurt as well, though in the story Lightning Lad stated that she was merely stunned. It’s just odd that she’s not present in this story.

In terms of the artwork this issue, it was pretty jarring to open the comic and see that Jimmy Janes was back at the drawing board here. After what can only be described as Steve Ditko’s lacklustre effort in the previous issue, Janes brings back a nicely pencilled, solid effort with detail in his pages though I thought it lacked some of the dynamic edge that Ditko captured with previous issue’s work at times. Janes’s space pirates are more, well, dirty and disgusting looking than those of Ditko, giving the story a somewhat different feel. Frank Chiaramonte’s inks this issue are very effective over Janes’s pencils, giving the combat scenes notably a nice, dramatic and dynamic feel to them, though as I said, Janes’s pencils lack any real dynamism. I also liked the fact that Chaiaramonte’s inks give the panels a nice solid firmness to them, rather than the at times blurry look that Ditko’s work has.

That said, I have to say the best art this issue is the cover. Pencilled and inked by former Legion artist Dave Cockrum, it has a dramatic and vibrant look to it, even if it’s not as “fresh” as his earlier work. One additional thing about that cover… I don’t know who the colourist is for the cover, but one might not have noticed most of the Legionnaires in the background if the colourist hadn’t coloured them in for the reader. While Gene D’Angelo is the story colourist, I don’t know if he also worked on the cover. Regardless, nice touch.

Overall, this issue was a pretty good story with an ending that wrapped things up nicely as the pirates, including Captain Frake, all “die by the sword” as it were and there’s another surprise ending with Ultra Boy seemingly dying once again. But as a final thought, I’ll just say that the title of the story (see above) just left me quite confused. Whose pride, whose passion? The story title is a bit…unclear.

Final Notes:
The story continues, sort of, from the previous issue…

Phantom Girl is featured on the cover, and Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy and Karate Kid also appear on the cover, but they do not appear in the story…

Timber Wolf, Colossal Boy and Mon-El are also shown on the cover but do not go on the mission…

Dawnstar goes on the mission to New Tartuga, but is shown flying inside the Legion cruiser. This is one of the few times she did not fly alongside it…

This issue marks Element Lad’s first appearance since Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #267, not including his small appearances in the Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes mini-series. That’s an absence of almost nine issues…

On page 16, in the first panel, Saturn Girl is clearly seen emerging from the Legion cruiser onto the surface of New Tartuga. However, on page 19, it is clearly stated that she has remained on the Legion cruiser. Just another inconsistency here, nothing to see, move along…

The power jewel that Captain Frake is using to energize her Star Crusher weapon is revealed to be a Quintile Crystal. Quintile Crystals have appeared in the Legion stories twice before, first in one of the untold Legion stories in DC Super-Stars Vol 1 #17, and then later in Superboy and Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #237…

Tortuga (not Tartuga, as spelled in this story) is an island at the northern-most tip of Haiti, famous for having been a pirate hideout in the 18th Century.

The plot with Ultra Boy’s death is not concluded here, for Jo Nah is not dead, of course. The story will continue in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #277-282…

Next Issue: The Superman Family Vol 1 #207

Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #274 February 22, 2021

Posted by jkahane in comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, review.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Here’s the start of the week’s classic re-read of a Legion of Super-Heroes tale. This time out: the start of a saga that will take a good six or seven months to resolve… Enjoy! 🙂

Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #274
April, 1981
“The Exaggerated Death of Ultra Boy”
Writer: Gerry Conway
Penciller: Steve Ditko
Inker: Frank Chiaramonte
Letterer: John Costanza
Colourist: Gene D’Angelo
Cover: Rich Buckler (pencils) & Bo Smith (inks) (signed)
Editor: Jack C. Harris

Mission Monitor Board:
Ultra Boy, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, Karate Kid, Cosmic Boy, Princess Projectra; Brainiac 5, Wildfire, Sun Boy, Star Boy, Mon-El, Colossal Boy, Timber Wolf, Shadow Lass, Chameleon Boy, Dream Girl (cameos)

Opposition:
Amnesia; Captain Frake and her space pirates

Synopsis:
The story continues from the previous issue, sort of. Out in space, Ultra Boy’s body is drifting and soaring through the universe, riding on pure acceleration from the force of Pulsar Stargrave’s attack (in the previous issue). He is either deeply unconscious or half-conscious, thinking he’s dreaming or possibly dead. The impact of small asteroids mean nothing to him, nor does the gravitational forces that push and pull at him or his passage through solar flares. He eventually drifts back into empty space.

On Earth, the Legionnaires believe Ultra Boy to be dead, and at a gravesite, conclude a ceremony to mark his passing. Returning to Legion of Super-Heroes Headquarters, they unveil a statue of Ultra Boy in the Hall of Heroes. Phantom Girl gives the dedication at the statue.

Out in space, Ultra Boy is found by a ship and taken aboard as it uses its tractor beam to bring the unconscious, perhaps dead, Legionnaire in.

Back on Earth, after the dedication ceremony of Ultra Boy’s statue, the other Legionnaires have gone home, leaving Saturn Girl and Phantom Girl alone at the HQ. Imra talks to Tinya, saying they need to have a chat. Imra says she understand that Tinya loves/loved Jo, but Tinya laughs, saying that Imra can’t understand love given that she’s a Titanian telepath. She says she used to called Imra “the Ice Maiden” because she never showed any emotion, and wonders why Imra married Garth. Tinya tells Imra that even though she was unconscious when Pulsar Stargrave attacked Jo (Nah) on Rimbor, she can see how it happened and says she would have given her life for him. Now, all she has is just a memory of him. Saturn Girl persists, and using her telepathic abilities, is able to console her friend by reminding her of all the good times she shared with Jo Nah/Ultra Boy. Tinya is grateful for what she has done, and the two share a tearful hug.

Aboard the spaceship that took him in, Ultra Boy is woken by a bucket of water to the face and learns that he’s aboard the “free ship” (pirate vessel) Antares, commanded by one Captain Frake. It is clear that he has amnesia. Ultra Boy takes offense at the First Mate’s treatment, and uses his super-speed and super-strength to fight first him, and then a bunch of crewmen off, but the arrival of Captain Frake puts a damper on things, although she takes a shine to him.

Back on Earth, the next morning, Phantom Girl is greeted gingerly by the Legionnaires on duty, but tells them she’s all right. Lightning Lad tells her that if she needs time to deal with things to take whatever time she needs. They are interrupted by the Deep Space Alarm from Pluto orbit, and race for the hangar bay.

Back on the Antares, Ultra Boy arrives at the Captain’s quarters. Captain Frake, calling him “Driftwood,” appreciates the new pirate finery that he’s been provided, and interviews him. He tells her that he doesn’t remember who he is, that everything up until he woke on the Antares is a blur, but he does remember a battle, being blasted with terrible energies, and being blown into space so fast that it must have seemed like he disappeared. The flight ring on his hand is melted and he doesn’t know what it was, but has the feeling it was important to him. Captain Frake tests his invulnerability (by shooting him with a ray-gun) and strength (by having him destroy a statue bare-handed), and then saying that he’ll be useful on the raid she’s planning, comes on to him.

In Earth orbit, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl man the bridge of the Legion cruiser. Karate Kid, Cosmic Boy, and Princess Projectra man various stations aboard. The Legion cruiser heads out and arrives shortly near Pluto, to find a space freighter under attack by space pirates. Since the Legion has agreed to help the Science Police with deep space patrol, the pirate attack comes under their jurisdiction. At Saturn Girl’s orders, Cosmic Boy lines up the cruiser’s guns and opens fire on the pirate vessel…

…the Antares, where Captain Frake tells Ultra Boy that he can repay their hospitality by going outside and taking the space patrol vessel apart.

Even though he feels it’s wrong to do so, but feeling that he has to pay Captain Frake back for saving his life, Ultra Boy goes out into space, breaking into the weapons section of the Legion cruiser, red lining the pod’s life support systems, and knocks out Cosmic Boy. With Phantom Girl taking over Karate Kid’s station, he goes to the weapons section but is forced to break in as the air is leaking there. Before he can act, Karate Kid is taken down by Ultra Boy. Phantom Girl goes to check the situation out. She manages to hurt the intruder (Ultra Boy) by phasing through him, but he still manages to knock her out. He is about to try and kill her, but is unable to do so as everything aboard the Legion ship seems familiar to him, especially Phantom Girl. Ultra Boy breaks out of the Legion ship and races back to the pirate vessel. The space pirates finish looting the freighter and then depart for the depths of space.

Shortly thereafter, Lightning Lad tells Princess Projectra that Karate Kid and Cosmic Boy were fortunate, as the life support system kept pumping oxygen into the leaking pod, so they will recover, and Phantom Girl was merely stunned. However, he can’t figure out why Saturn Girl is so broken up about the situation. Saturn Girl decides to keep what she has learned secret for now, until she figures out if what she learned is true, as it would break Phantom Girl’s heart.

Meanwhile, on board the pirate vessel, Ultra Boy continues to struggle with emotions that he can’t understand, the meaning of a dim, elusive memory, and suffers through his amnesia, and the attentions of Captain Frake.

Commentary:
The basic premise of this story, which continues (sort of) from the previous issue, is that Pulsar Stargrave struck Ultra Boy so hard that he was blasted into the depths of space, lost his memory, his flight ring melted, and now finds himself with amnesia aboard a pirate ship. All this time, though we are told in the story that it’s only been some twenty-four hours or so to this point, the Legionnaires believe that Jo Nah is dead, it hits Phantom Girl pretty hard, and finally the pirates’ path crosses that of the Legionnaires. This is a pretty good idea for a story.

While the scenes of the Legionnaires’ grief over Ultra Boy’s seeming death are very brief and to be honest, not all that poignant (where’s Mon-El in all this?, as I’ve always felt he and Ultra Boy were good friends), the story focuses primarily on Phantom Girl’s grief, her ability to move forward, and how Saturn Girl helps her grieve by showing her all the good memories that she has of her relationship with Jo Nah.

However, what makes this story work so well is the parallel structure that is used in its telling. The reader gets small scenes of Ultra Boy, the story then cuts back to a small scene of the Legion. This back-and-forth storytelling continues throughout the issue until the two plots converge at the edge of the Solar system near Pluto. A couple of good examples of what I’m talking about here are the pages where Ultra Boy is floating in space at the same time as the Legion concludes their ceremony for him (page 2) and Ultra Boy about to awaken just as Phantom Girl really does recover with Saturn Girl’s help (page 9). That said, the story could have benefited from a bit better editing as well in this regard, as the Legion gets the alarm from the Science Police of the pirate attack (page 13) well before the pirates attack (page 18)!

Saturn Girl comes across in a very interesting manner this issue, almost as if writer Gerry Conway and editor Jack C. Harris are trying to personify her. The scene of Imra and Tinya, where she tries to help Tinya deal with her grief over Ultra Boy’s “death,” is very well handled. Tinya tells her that she (and likely other Legionnaires as well) thought of Imra as “the Ice Maiden” because she doesn’t show her emotions, but it is clear here that Imra is very much an emotional person and feels deeply, but has good reasons why she doesn’t reveal them that often. And she does understand not only Tinya’s grief, but also how best to help her under these circumstances. However, when Saturn Girl believes that Ultra Boy is alive and chooses not to tell the others, especially Tinya, strikes me as being the wrong way to handle that. It reminds me of too many Silver Age Legion stories where secrets and twist endings were the norm. If nothing else, it should be interesting to see how this shakes out next issue.

The artwork by Steve Ditko this issue doesn’t really help the story at all. His simple, somewhat cartoonish style doesn’t fit this story very well at all. Up until this issue, Steve Ditko was always used as a “fill-in” artist on single, one issue tales, such as Blok’s origin a few issues ago (Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #272). This story, however, is a continuation from the last issue and it’s jarring to go from Jimmy Janes (in the previous issue) to Steve Ditko this time. Unfortunately, the art by Ditko doesn’t help me get into the story at all. Specifically, his character designs for the pirates are laughable. Captain Frake is supposedly a cut-throat leader of men (I use the term loosely) and yet she’s wearing a bikini and strapless blouse!?? That has to be one of the silliest character designs I’ve seen in the Legion series in quite some time. And what about Saturn Girl? Can that bikini bottom get any– ah, never mind. All I can say here is that it doesn’t make it easy to take Saturn Girl seriously when most of her body is on view. That said, Frank Chiaramonte’s inks do a good job of cleaning up some of Ditko’s pencil work, and the space scenes of Ultra Boy floating and drifting in the void of stars is nicely effective and handled quite well. Ditko’s sense of movement in the space scenes doesn’t work for me, but at least Chiaramonte’s inks do a decent job of not making that aspect of the story too noticeable.

Overall, this story is a decent issue due to the plotting and how the story is presented in a parallel structure manner. There are a few nits that I could have picked about the tale itself and some of the internal logic of Ultra Boy’s situation, but I rather enjoyed the issue and am looking forward to seeing how everything shakes out.

Final Notes:
The story continues in the next issue…

Shadow Lass is drawn on the cover once more without her cape. This time out, it’s Rich Buckler’s doing, not Dick Giordano’s…

Mon-El appears on the cover of the issue, but he only appears on page 4 in a shot from behind him…

The Roll Call on the splash page lists all the Legion members who appear in this story, even those with no lines, except for Dream Girl and Mon-El…

There is a statue of Tyroc in the Hall of Heroes on page 4…

Pulsar Stargrave attacked and seemingly killed Ultra Boy on Rimbor in the previous issue, Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #273.

Next Issue: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #275

Happy 28th Anniversary, Babylon 5! February 22, 2021

Posted by jkahane in babylon 5, tv hut.
add a comment

Today is the 28th anniversary of one of the best, if not the best, science fiction television shows to air.

The pilot film of Babylon 5 aired 28 years ago today. At the time, I thought that it was the best science fiction I’d ever seen on television to that point, and I was hooked. As far as I’m concerned it’s still the best science fiction program to air on television. Period.

Happy 28th Anniversary, Babylon 5! 🙂

Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #273 February 18, 2021

Posted by jkahane in comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, review.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Time for today’s classic Legion of Super-Heroes re-read. This time out: the truth behind Brainiac 5’s madness. Enjoy! 🙂

Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #273
March, 1981
“A Murderer–Among Us?”
Writer: Gerry Conway
Penciller: Jimmy Janes
Inker: Frank Chiaramonte
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Bob Le Rose
Cover: Rich Buckler (pencils) & Steve Mitchell (inks) (signed)
Editor: Jack C. Harris

Mission Monitor Board:
Wildfire, Colossal Boy, Brainiac 5, Timber Wolf, Chameleon Boy, Karate Kid, Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl, Light Lass, Star Boy, Sun Boy, Shadow Lass, Mon-El, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Shrinking Violet

Guests:
U.P. President Marte Allon; Bouncing Boy; Superboy, Dawnstar (flashback)

Opposition:
Pulsar Stargrave

Synopsis:
On Earth, the Legion of Super-Heroes is called before the United Earth Council, where the newly elected Earth President Marte Allon tells them that according to their own by-laws, they must disband. When the Legion questions the reasons, President Allon tells them that their own by-laws state that no Legionnaire may kill – but Brainiac 5 did so, and remains unpunished. The Prosecutor General reminds the Legion of the facts regarding the murder of An Ryd of Rimbor. She was murdered in a complicated plot to destroy the Legion’s credibility, first by accusing Ultra Boy and then by having it appear that Brainiac 5 was the real murderer. Although Brainiac 5 was found to be temporarily insane at the time and therefore not responsible, the Legion Constitution clearly states that no member can be guilty of taking another’s life. Wildfire argues that Brainiac 5 never faced any specific charges, but Brainiac 5 actually agrees with the United Earth Council, and quietly resigns (once more). Chameleon Boy agrees with Wildfire that the situation does indeed stink.

Several minutes later, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Wildfire, and the majority of the Legionnaires decide to return to Legion Headquarters to discuss their plan of action. Ultra tells a small group of Legionnaires that he’s just too mad to sit around and do nothing, and Chameleon Boy agrees, asking Ultra Boy and several other members of the Legion to help him track down the real killer of An Ryd. Nearby, Timber Wolf tells Light Lass that he won’t be able to go with the others, due to the headaches that have been plaguing him of late. Brin is afraid that his time in civilization is coming to an end, and Ayla tells him that if he goes, so does she.

Meanwhile, Colossal Boy hangs back to talk to his mother, the new Earth President, as she emerges from the building. She strongly rebuffs his efforts to talk to her about Council business and the Legion. Gim takes umbrage at this, and storms off.

Meanwhile, Chameleon Boy, Phantom Girl, Ultra Boy and Star Boy arrive on Rimbor. Chameleon Boy and Star Boy go to the Orion Hotel, where An Ryd was murdered. Obtaining the key from the alien as the front desk by forceful means, they head up to her former room. Chameleon Boy admits that he wants to solve this murder because it was his initial investigation to prove Ultra Boy’s innocence that laid the guilt at Brainiac 5’s hands. Chameleon Boy turns into a Rigellian seeker-hound but can find no trace of Brainiac 5’s scent, meaning he was never at the scene of the crime. Star Boy looks at the laser blast marks on the floor, and confirms that it was not from Ultra Boy’s flash vision or from a Legion blaster. The two come under attack, as an energy blast rips through the window into the hotel room. Star Boy attempts to absorb it, since it seems to be stellar based, but is overloaded by the energy and collapses. Chameleon Boy changes form, but is blasted by energy that he seems to recognized. When the villain enters the room, Chameleon Boy recognizes him, saying that the Legionnaires thought he/she/it was dead, but that was “a fraud from a fraud” before he is blasted again in the eyes and also collapses.

Elsewhere at Rimbor Space Control, Phantom Girl and Ultra Boy use some bribery and are able to learn that no ships arrived either just before or just after An Ryd’s murder carrying anyone matching Brainiac 5’s description. Ultra Boy realizes that Brainiac 5 was never there, and that someone drove him to insanity after making Brainy appear to be the murderer. He remembers Karate Kid’s words when it was all happening: “It must have been some kind of fever that’s driven him to this madness.” They realize they have two clues: the real killer knows how to operate the Legion’s highly advanced computer systems, and was able to reach Rimbor without a spacecraft, under his/her own power. The villain of the piece attempts to kill the Space Port controller who helped the two Legionnaires, his scream alerting them. Phantom Girl reaches his side first, and discovers he’s injured but still breathing. Phantom Girl suddenly comes face to face with Pulsar Stargrave, aka the original Brainiac, who attacks her, without being able to affect her intangible body. Ultra Boy arrives on the scene, but his ultra vision is no match for Pulsar Stargrave. When Phantom Girl attempts to use the distraction to attack their enemy, she doesn’t reckon with his body’s constant high-energy force field and is rendered unconscious. Rushing to her side, Ultra Boy lets his defense down and Pulsar Stargrave’s nova blast strikes, blasting him to seemingly nothingness. Gloating somewhat, Pulsar Stargrave leaves the unconscious Phantom Girl where she is and departs Rimbor for one of its moons.

Meanwhile, in Earth orbit, Brainiac 5 uses his intellect and realizes that even if he was insane at the time due to various factors, he would have have ignored his strong, moral code to become a murderer as the evidence seemed to indicate. He talks to several fellow Legionnaires and learns that four Legionnaires have gone to Rimbor to try and prove his innocence. He travels there to join them, and finds on the space-plotter that there is one other there as well. Some time later, Brainiac 5 arrives at Rimbor and goes to help his friends. Phantom Girl, Chameleon Boy and Star Boy have been seriously wounded, but Brainiac 5 assists in their treatment. He tells them that he’s going to take on Pulsar Stargrave; he realized who their foe was when he entered the Rimbor system, and found two sources of stellar-level energy, one of them being Rimbor’s star. Brainiac 5 leaves. Phantom Girl realizes that there’s one empty bed, and when she asks is horrified to learn that they believe Ultra Boy is dead.

On one of the moons of Rimbor, Brainiac 5 confronts Pulsar Stargrave. The original Brainiac admits that all of his recent actions the last few months have been to discredit and destroy Brainiac 5. Pulsar Stargrave attempts to destroy Brainiac 5 with his nova blast, but is blocked by Brainiac 5’s force-field which the Legionnaire than expands to engulf them both. Caring nothing for his own life, as his hatred for Brainiac 5 is all-consuming, Pulsar Stargrave unleashes a massive nova energy blast. When the shockwaves abate and vision clears, the force-field still stands. Inside it is the only survivor, Brainiac 5, who had erected a second, personal field around himself. Pulsar Stargrave is destroyed. Brainiac 5 posits the notion that the original Brainiac had been destroyed long before this event, as his coming into the 30th Century seemed to have changed him from a finely tuned logical android who replaced that with emotion and ruled by his hatred.

Commentary:
This story concludes the plot begun in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #239 about the murder of An Ryd and the framing of Ultra Boy that also led to the storyline involving Brainiac 5’s insanity (Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #250-251) and his eventually being cured (Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #256). Granted, the notion that Brainiac 5 had committed murder and had gotten away with it was never a good plot, so writer Gerry Conway and editor Jack C. Harris have to be congratulated for finally clearing up the murder of An Ryd and revealing the real killer. Brainiac 5 never struck me as the type to be a cold-blooded murderer, and even during the whole business of his insanity, even at the height of the Omega situation, nobody actually died, despite his having the opportunity to do so on multiple occasions. I thought it was pretty inspired that the true killer of An Ryd was actually Pulsar Stargrave, aka the original Brainiac, whom they had faced originally back in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #224, but there were a couple of issues with Pulsar Stargrave and the plot here.

Aside from the fact that it seems that no one had been to An Ryd’s hotel room in the months after her murder and the room had never been cleaned up… I find it hard to believe that it would take the Legion, especially Chameleon Boy with his detective suitable mind, so long to verify that Brainiac 5 had never been in the room – and why the Legion blaster supposedly used to kill An Ryd seems to have left a very similar trace and pattern to that of Stargrave’s energy blasts, and no one spotted this until Star Boy checked it out. Are we supposed to believe that Pulsar Stargrave just sat around on the moon of Rimbor all this time, waiting to kill the space port authority fella? And why kill him, when Phantom Girl had already checked the arrivals and departures information? The other thing that made no sense is that Pulsar Stargrave attacked three Legionnaires and lets them live. He gloats when he believes he’s killed Ultra Boy, but doesn’t go that extra mile to kill the others? Why not? Didn’t strike me as being all that sociopathic after all.

I also felt there was something…lacking…with the ending of the story. From what happens, Brainiac 5 hoped to keep Stargrave trapped on Rimbor’s moon forever. Faced with permanent incarceration, Stargrave blows himself up, though he believes it will take Brainiac 5 with him. Since Brainiac 5’s force-field belt is based on the original Brainiac’s force-field, why does Stargrave not see what’s coming and that Brainiac 5 has tricked him? Furthermore, why not wrestle Brainiac 5 and force him to turn off the field, or better yet, grab the belt for himself? I guess the reader is expected to assume that Stargrave is purely irrational, filled with hatred for Brainiac 5 to the points of being governed by emotions (Brainy even says something to that effect at the end of the story), but still… In their final confrontation, Brainiac 5 and Stargrave say it’s been “months ago” since they met. The storyline had such starts and stops for various reasons in real time that it took years to tell the tale, bu it only lasted say six months in Legion time. That lessens the problems with the Stargrave elements of the story marginally.

That said, the story reads pretty well (aside from the problems noted above) and has good pacing. The main story’s beats worked well for the most part, with the scenes being relatively seamless. There were also other things going on in this issue that peaked my interest. First off, there’s the relationship between Colossal Boy and his mother, the new President of Earth, that’s going through a rough patch. How that shakes out is a matter of time, but it will be interesting to see what the Legion’s relationship with the President will be as well. Then there’s the business with Timber Wolf suffering headaches, and the potential that he may leave the Legion, and if he does, Light Lass will go with him. I have to wonder what’s causing Brin’s headaches, and whether this has something to do with the manner in which he got his powers, perhaps something to do with the fact that Brin seems better in natural, rather than urban, environs. Perhaps a return to his Lone Wolf days and ways? Finally, there’s the matter of Ultra Boy. What happened to him when he was blasted by Stargrave’s nova energy blast? Is he dead, or did something else happen to him? Given my love of Phantom Girl, this was a devastating incident for her in the story that was glossed over almost completely. The one thing that irritated me this issue was the fact that Wildfire comes across as forceful and still the leader of the Legion, even though Lightning Lad’s had the reins for a while now. Part of me thinks that the story was meant to take place during the end of Wildfire’s terms as Legion leader, but there could be other reasons for Lightning Lad’s taking a low-key role in the story, such as letting Wildfire resolve a matter that started during his term as leader.

In terms of the artwork this issue, I thought that the job done by Jimmy Janes and Frank Chiaramonte was adequate to the job. I will say that I’ve actually come to like Janes’s work, though not to the degree I liked the work of Grell, Cockrum, and Swan. Janes’s work is definitely more realistic than that of Steve Ditko, something that I think needs to be present in artwork in the Legion title, and Frank Chiaramonte’s inks are starting to gel pretty well with Janes’s pencils. The page with Colossal Boy on page 6 reminded me a lot of Romeo Tanghal’s work, and I also thought that the page (18) where Stargrave blasted Ultra Boy had a very Mike Grell feel to it. This leads me to believe that Janes is actually improving as an artist on the title.

Final Notes:
Shadow Lass is drawn on the cover without her cape again. This time out it’s Buckler and Mitchell who got it wrong…

Shadow Lass is consistently mis-coloured in the story, as if her mid-riff is dark blue or it’s a different coloured part of her costume, and not her skin as it should be…

Earth President Marte Allon’s middle name is Ida…

The murder of An Ryd and Ultra Boy’s implication in that murder occurred in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #239…

On page 5, Timber Wolf is clearly standing with Chameleon Boy’s group as someone drawn and colored as Timber Wolf flies away with Lighting Lad’s group. I suspect the person flying away was meant to be Wildfire…

The words that Ultra Boy says Karate Kid told them about Brainy’s madness occurred in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #251, page 3…

Pulsar Stargrave first appeared in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #223, with issue #224 being his official entry to villain status. He then appeared in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #226, when he had Brainiac 5 try to steal the Star-Stone from Xerox, and where Brainy learned that Stargrave was actually the original Brainiac. In Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #227, Stargrave was seemingly destroyed by Superboy and Wildfire…

When Phantom Girl faces Pulsar Stargrave, she tells him that she thought he died when Superboy and Wildfire knocked him into Earth’s sun. It was actually Colu’s sun, as they faced him down on Colu…

There is no mention made in the story of Pulsar Stargrave’s previous associates, Quicksand and Holdur.

Next Issue: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #274

Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #3 February 17, 2021

Posted by jkahane in comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, review.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Time for today’s classic Legion of Super-Heroes story re-read. This time out: the third part of the story to determine which Legionnaire is R.J. Brande’s child. Enjoy! 🙂

Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #3
March, 1981
“Revelation!”
Plotter: E. Nelson Bridwell
Writer: Paul Kupperberg
Penciller: Jimmy Janes
Inker: Frank Chiaramonte
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Gene D’Angelo
Cover: Dick Giordano (signed)
Editor: Jack C. Harris

Mission Monitor Board:
Wildfire, Saturn Girl, Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Mon-El, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, Ultra Boy, Shadow Lass, Element Lad, Lightning Lad, Colossal Boy, Dream Girl, Cosmic Boy, Timber Wolf, Star Boy, Phantom Girl, Sun Boy, Light Lass; Dawnstar, Ferro Lad (deceased), Invisible Kid (Lyle Norg; deceased), Chemical King (deceased) (all flashbacks to their origin); Shrinking Violet (flashback)

Guest Stars:
Marla Latham; Tyroc (flashback to his origin); The Legion of Substitute Heroes (Polar Boy, Night Girl, Fire Lad, Chlorophyll Kid, Color Kid, Stone Boy) (flashbacks to their origins); Jimmy Olsen/Elasti-Lad, Pete Ross, Lana Lang/Insect Queen, Rond Vidar, Kid Psycho (flashbacks to their origins); Superboy (flashback)

Supporting Cast:
Arlayn

Opposition:
Universo (flashback) Evillo, The Fatal Five (all in flashback)

Synopsis:
The story continues from the previous issue. After the revelation that one of them is the child of R.J. Brande, the Legionnaires find it very hard to believe. However, the doctor on the monitor tells them that the child is Brande’s only chance of living. Yorggian Fever is extremely rare, and Brande contracted it years ago and it has lain dormant since then until now. The one possible cure is a blood transfusion, but R.J. Brande has a very rare blood type and only a child of his might be able to save him. Mon-El asks what they can do to help Marla Latham and Arlayn figure out who the child is, and Marla says they should just keep telling them about the Legionnaires and their origins.

Up next is Wildfire, aka Drake Burroughs. Born a normal human, Drake was an orphan raised by adoptive parents. Drake’s interest in astrophysics led him to eventually be employed by Galactic Propulsions Inc. where he was caught in an anti-matter test, and his body destroyed, changing him into a being of pure anti-energy. He survived by being put into a special containment suit, and took the name Wildfire. Since he is composed of anti-energy and has no blood, he hopes he’s not Brande’s child. Wildfire then tells Marla the origin story of Tyroc (aka Troy Stewart), a Marzallian word that means “Scream of the devil.” He tells Marla that Tyroc’s home of Marzal is back in another dimension, though they can bring him to Earth once in a while, if he’s really needed.

The Legionnaires are contacted by Commander Hagbard of the Science Police, who tells them they have a seriously hot emergency. He says that indications are that the Varltul XVI sun appears to be unstable and may go nova at any time. Since there are several inhabited planets that orbit the star, and there’s not enough time to evacuate everyone, Hagbard asks the Legion to go there immediately. Wildfire takes Chameleon Boy with him, and then grabs Shadow Lass and Element Lad for the mission as well. They set off in a Legion cruiser at top speed for the mission.

While the Legionnaires, along with Marla and Arlayn, move to a conference room where they can also monitor the progress of Wildfire’s mission, Brainiac 5 tells him the origin story of Dawnstar. A pureblood Amerind native to Starhaven, Dawnstar’s mutant abilities give her an infallible navigation sense, a natural propulsion system faster than any starship, and the natural ability to survive in a vacuum. Next up, Brainiac 5 leads everyone to the Memorial Room, that holds the statues of three Legionnaires. The Legionnaires reluctantly talk about their three deceased members: Ferro Lad, aka Andrew Nolan; Invisible Kid, aka Lyle Norg; and Chemical King, aka Condo Arlik. All three died in the line of duty.

Marla is discouraged about his quest, since they have run out of Legionnaires to discuss. dream Girl then recounts the origin of the Legion of Substitute Heroes, and provides background on the members of the team: Polar Boy, aka Brek Bannin; Night Girl, aka Lydda Jath; Fire Lad, aka Staq Mavlen; Chlorophyll Kid, aka Ral Benem; Stone Boy, aka Dag Wentim; and Color Kid, aka Ulu Vaq. Phantom Girl then proceeds to talk about the Honourary Legionnaires. These include Jimmy Olsen in his guise as Elastic Lad; Pete Ross, who learned Superboy’s secret identity but kept it secret, and aided the hero in various adventures; Lana Lang, who was rewarded by an alien with a bio-genetic ring that allowed her to take the form of various insects as Insect Queen; Rond Vidar, the son of Universo, who is immune to all forms of hypnotism, and helped the Legion defeat his father numerous times; and Kid Psycho, aka Gnill Opral, who developed mutant abilities to create impenetrable force fields at the cost of each use of the power taking a year off his life. With all the various Legionnaires and their allies covered, Marla exclaims that he’s back to square one and doesn’t know who the child of R.J. Brande could be.
Suddenly, Saturn Girl realizes that she can help find out who the Legionnaire child is, and rushes to the Medi-Center to get the information right from the source.

Meanwhile, Wildfire and his team arrive at Varltul XVI and prepare to analyze the star to figure out what’s going on. The scanners immediately have trouble doing their job, and Shadow Lass warns the others they’re too close to the star as it is. When a solar flare knocks out the ship sensors, a frustrated Element Lad says he now cannot determine which of the star’s elements is out of whack. And to complicate matters, Chameleon Boy says that according to the records, Varltul XVI is a man-made star created by…R.J. Brande! That means their friend might know what the problem is, but he’s as helpless to aid them as they are!

Back at the Medi-Center on Earth, Saturn Girl uses all her powers and her superb training to go into the mind of the feverish, comatose R.J. Brande to find the information that she needs – and she is successful! She races back to Legion HQ just in time to hear Marla, Arlayn and the others talking about some of the misconceptions they have. She tells them that she learned that Brande did have powers at one time but lost them long ago, and because of that has had to spend his life in the form of an Earthman. Using that information and comparing it with the races that have contracted Yorggian Fever with the membership of the Legion, by the process of elimination they realize that R.J. Brande’s child has to be Chameleon Boy. Contacting Wildfire’s team, Marla delivers the news and the shocked Chameleon Boy boards a small vessel and races for Earth, arriving in mere hours. Several hours later, his blood is successfully transfused into R.J. Brande, saving Brande’s life.

While Brande will remain unconscious for a few days, Saturn Girl is able to read Brande’s clear mind and gain the information they need to repair the sun. She transmits that information to Wildfire and his teammates orbiting Varltul XVI. With Shadow Lass’s powers keeping her and Element Lad safe, Element Lad is able to use his powers to stabilized the star and thus the Legionnaires are successful on two fronts.

Later, at the Medi-Center, the recovered R.J. tells Chameleon Boy, who has doubts about the new relationship, that he, his wife, and cousin Theg contracted Yorggian Fever after Reep was born. Chameleon Boy’s mother died of the disease, but Brande and Theg decided to leave Durla to avoid exposing more of their family to the disease. Leaving baby Reep in the care of his sister, Brande and Theg went to Earth, where they underwent their last shape-shift into human form, the Yorggian Fever having destroyed it forever. Brande and his cousin, now called Doyle, made their fortune on Earth creating suns. Deciding that the threat of the disease lying dormant was too much of a burden to lay on Cham, Brande kept quiet about their actual relationship. Cham’s “mother,” actually his aunt, arrives to share in the reunion.

Commentary:
And so we reach the conclusion of the three-issue mini-series that reveals the “dark secret” that the first issue of the story promised. I’ll come back to that in a bit. In this third issue, the reader finally gets to the end of the membership list and the various hangers on and extras that make up a lot of Legion lore, and get to the nitty gritty of figuring out who Brande’s son or daughter is. The story presents another extraneous, convenient drama element in terms of the unstable star, and that works somewhat to give us a bit of a plot device to get Brande’s child out of Legion HQ and then having to be recalled quicky to save Brande’s life.

The story reads well, and has decent pacing for the most part, and that’s a credit to Paul Kupperberg and E. Nelson Bridwell. This third part continues having the Legionnaires recount their own stories, or tell those of the ones that are not present for whatever reason, rather than having the boring computer files method from the first installment, so that’s a plus. The origins of Dawnstar and Wildfire here are interesting to read again, though nothing new is added to their origin stories for the most part. Treating the Legionnaires as “the help” the way Marla does throughout the story, but moreso in this third part, is and was absolutely the wrong way to go about the story for me. This should have been a tale with the Legion going over their glorious and infamous (at times) history and personal record, and Brande’s dying of Yorggian Fever could have still played a role in this. That said, this third part of the story did entertain with the tales of the Legion of Substitute Heroes, the Honourary Legionnaires, and those who had died in battle. When all is said and done, other than the part of the story with Saturn Girl getting information from R.J. Brande himself and the business of the sun going nova, the story comes across a bit dull. It should not have been told as a history book, but as an adventure of some sort with a bit more action and conflict.

When it comes to the sun going nova plot, it’s not clear when the Science Police call the Legion for “help” what they expect the Legionnaires to actually do. If they were supposed to re-start or stabilize the star, Wildfire’s taking Chameleon Boy and Shadow Lass with him wasn’t the right call, though Shady would be useful for sun blocking and the like. If it was a case of solar power, I would have thought common sense would have said that Sun Boy would have been a good choice, then Mon-El or even Light Lass. Either way, I was glad that Element Lad got in on that part of the story. I did find it awfully convenient that the star was man-made, created by R.J. Brande, and while it upped the stakes of curing Brande’s condition, it felt like an artificial or imposed drama element to effectively kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.

And so the “dark secret” of the Legion is that R.J. Brande is actually Chameleon Boy’s father. This makes as much sense as anything would, but there are a couple of problems with this revelation, or so I think. I’ll give the writer and editor credit that it was a good suprise, definitely interesting, and should make for an interesting next chapter in the lives of Brande and Cham. I also found it interesting that, when push came to shove, all the background and history the Legionnaires could tell Marla and Arlayn would not have allowed them to figure out who Brande’s son or daughter is/was. The missing information that Saturn Girl obtained from Brande’s mind was the clue set needed to reveal who Brande’s son was, and it took all of a page total to make the reveal once that information was at hand.

That said, I would have thought that the doctor’s scans and analysis would have revealed that R.J. Brande wasn’t an actual human. It’s never been made clear whether or not a Durlan shape-shifted into another form assumes the biochemistry of the item, creature or being changed into, but it seems that Brande is clearly diagnosed as human. In that case, how can a transfusion of Durlan blood from Chameleon Boy save his Human seeming father? Anyway, there’s something the readers can debate about until– oh, that’s right, this issue came out a looooong time ago. Guess it was never a problem for most Legion fans. I also don’t understand why R.J. or Ren or whatever didn’t ever tell his son the truth. It’s said in the story there’s the fear that he would have transmitted it to Reep, but if that’s true, wouldn’t the risk still be there every time R.J. was in Cham’s presence in the same room? And what about infecting any of the other Legionnaires, or those he came in contact with? The conclusion is a bit of a belly flop for these reasons, but it still made for an interesting story twist.

Overall, this was a decent story and the third part brought the tale to a climax, albeit not an action-filled one. I don’t know how effective the story was for long-time as opposed to first-time readers of the Legion, but when it came down to it, I found myself wanting a bit more. That said, it does make an excellent three-issue series for continuity fans to hold on to and perhaps for readers and writers of the Legion stories (hint! hint!) to have on their shelves for reference.

Final Notes:
This issue concludes the mini-series, and reveals which Legionnaire is the child of R.J. Brande…

Mike W. Barr has stated in a footnote in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #280, that this 3 issue mini-series takes place between Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #271-272…

Shadow Lass appears on the cover of the issue without her cape, as artist Dick Giordano was wont to draw her…

While recounting his origin story, Wildfire says that he an an orphan with adoptive parents. This refutes what he told the Legionnaires in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #263…

The story of how Tyroc joined the Legion can be found in Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #216. Tyroc’s origin story can be found in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #265…

Commander Hagbard has appeared in several previous issues of the Legion titles as well. His most recent appearance was in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #267…

The story of how Dawnstar joined the Legion can be found in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #226…

The story of how Ferro Lad joined the Legion and a bit about his origin can be found in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #346. The death of Ferro lad story can be found in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #353…

The story of the death of Invisible Kid (Lyle Norg) can be found in Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #203…

The tale of the death of Chemical King can be found in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #228…

The various members of the Legion of Substitute Heroes first appeared in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #306…

Although she is not named in the story, as per Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #263, Chameleon Boy’s “mother” (actually his aunt) is named Ji Daggle…

This issue reveals that Chameleon Boy’s father is actually R.J. Brande, whose Durlan name is Ren Daggle…

The Legion Outpost letters column this issue is replaced with another page pertaining to Inside the Legion of Super-Heroes. This time out, the column provides a listing with basic information on some of the Legion foes, followed by a complete list of current Legionnaires. There are some typos in this material, but otherwise it’s a good basic listing for future use.

Next Issue: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #273