I went into this issue doubly hesitant because it’s about Ultra Boy being framed for murdering his ex-girlfriend, An Ryd, and I avoid Ayn Rand fans. Maybe it’s just the letters; maybe there’s no connection. Or just a name familiarity one. The character’s barely in the comic, just long enough to double-cross Ultra Boy and then get double-crossed by her actual murderer.
The issue’s got those frustrating layout and finisher credits—Jim Starlin did the plot and layouts, Paul Levitz gets a plot assist and dialogue credit (which I assume also means exposition boxes), and then Joe Rubinstein gets the finished art credit. Based on how the faces never sit on right the faces in anything but close-ups, it sure seems like Rubinstein got the inglorious task of drawing the faces on Starlin’s empty heads. As a result, Mon-El and Superboy don’t just look the same; they look the same, with their faces sliding off in the same way.
The close-ups are good, though. And it’s mostly just the crowd shots where there are problems.
Overall, it’s a solid enough issue. The Legion tries to bring Ultra Boy in before the Science Police get him, only he wants to prove he’s innocent. He’s got a big escape—where Levitz nicely reminds readers Ultra Boy can only use one power at once—and then he’s got to go underground, which allows an editor’s note to last issue’s reprint. There’s another editor’s note about the last time the Legion was on trial for something, only four issues ago… is the framed Legionnaire plot the most common in the book, I wonder.
Although Ultra Boy can escape the Legion heavyweights, he’s not ready for Chameleon Boy to have done his homework on possible safe houses. It quickly turns into a manhunt and target plot for the Legion and Ultra Boy, but then a detective subplot for Chameleon Boy. They come together nicely at the end, resolving things well enough for a good cliffhanger and the promise of future repercussions.
Some of the characters are red herring suspicious, with the actual reveal being a cheat where the comic kept vital information from the reader. It’s okay—the surprise is decent—but it works slightly against the Chameleon Boy subplot.
The issue mixes things up nicely, though if two issues from now it’s just another renegade Legionnaire, it’ll be disappointing. Also, how do you do character development when you’ve got fifteen characters in crisis every issue? Even when the issue implies a character having some thoughtfulness, there’s never anyway followup. Even protagonist Ultra Boy ends up real shallow.
But still, the mystery’s engaging enough to get it through.
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