This issue’s got two stories, benefits of being a fifty-two-page giant on the regular. The first story’s by Paul Levitz, Mike Grell, and Vince Colletta. Colletta also inks the second story, but the rest of the team’s different; second story is Gerry Conway and George Tuska.
The comic itself is basically burying the lede—Conway’s second story follows up on last issue’s cliffhanger and buries that lede in a literal sense. The first one’s lede-burying is more abstract. The Legion is fighting pirates who want good modern technology for their backward planet, and Brainiac 5 wants to make sure no one listens to the terrorists’ point of view.
What is it, 1776 or something?
It’s also interesting because Levitz writes Brainiac 5 as an egomaniac, but Conway doesn’t.
And it reveals how much trouble it’s going to be keeping up with the cast; I seriously thought the guy arguing with Brainy was named Garth, but it’s Cosmic Boy, whose name is Rokk. He just looks like Aqualad, whose name is Garth.
The techno-pirates aren’t even the main plot, which involves Superboy’s annual brainwashing. The first attack interrupts the brainwashing, something the entire Legion knows about, at least the whole line-up for this issue. Unfortunately, there’s no exposition explaining if this secret requiring brainwashing is new or old; meaning, should a regular reader know they’ve got to brainwash this secret from Superboy’s mind, or is it something Levitz is introducing for the first time here, twenty-ish years into the publishing history.
It wouldn’t be necessary if the secret weren’t so blasé. The idea is Superboy would blab if he knew the truth. Superboy, who keeps his identity secret, and so on. It’s a weak finish to an engaging story. Levitz and Grell handle the talky action well; there’s lots of well-balanced banter and exposition. Grell’s future art is good, but his figures are elongated. Superboy, in particular, often looks like his chest has been stretched.
And, now, the second story, which opens with a note explaining it’s continuing from last issue. Last issue had four Legionnaires turning into a giant monster who attacked Earth. This story’s got nothing to do with that event. It takes half the story to even tie into the previous issue; it feels like you’re reading out of order.
This story’s about some angry dude claiming the Legion let his kid die because they wouldn’t let the dude capture a space monster with magical healing radiation. It’s set at a trial with testimony from the various participants, with a device able to determine if they’re telling the truth. The truth as they know it.
Conway touches on the differences in how prejudice and bias affect one’s experiences, but only very briefly and in the coda. It’s actually a thoughtful, empathetic observation from Brainiac 5, who’s not an asshole this story. It’s nice Conway gets the moment in, especially since the rest of the story has to wind itself silly to gin up some drama. Conway hides way too many details from the reader to create drama, not just how it all relates to the previous issue.
And unfortunately, does zip with the themes Conway explored in the previous issue.
But it’s fine.
Once again, Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes is fine.