blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes (1977) #241


Writer Paul Levitz’s A, B, and C plot structuring from Legion of Super-Heroes is famously good, so I’m really hoping what he’s doing in this issue is figuring that system out. The feature story starts with one plot—Mon-El and Wildfire leading a diplomatic mission—switches over to another with Brainiac 5 and Superboy—while both teams ignore a female science police trying to give them an important message.

Why do they ignore her? Well, because if it was important, they’d have sent a man, wouldn’t they?

That exceptional sexism comes from Brainiac 5 (having Brainiac 5 be a twelfth-level intellect who’s also a misogynist is unfortunate) and isn’t even the first jerk store move from the Legion in the story. It starts with Wildfire ignoring the science cop’s flying car and almost causing her to crash. Mon-El goes to save her, thinking about Wildfire’s infinite jerkiness but doesn’t hear the science cop try to give him her message. Apparently, Daxamite super-hearing isn’t as good as Kryptonian.

Mon-El then returns to space, where Wildfire blames the accident he caused on the science cop. At least he doesn’t make a lady drivers joke.

The science cop then goes to Legion headquarters, where an emergency calls them away (here’s where Brainy says the lady cop isn’t important enough to have a real message).

Mon-El’s team’s story is about doing security on a diplomacy planet. After an attack, the Legionnaires start suspecting there might be an inside job component to the attack, and then the story cuts away to Superboy’s team never to return. Starting a plot and putting it on pause isn’t the same as back burnering. Though, one last thing on that plot: Dawnstar. They established her as an elitist mercenary last issue, but she’s naive about corruption in this issue. Levitz only plotted that issue, didn’t script, but still, it’s incongruous and seems like it’s just there for Wildfire to be a justified dick to Dawnstar.

I mean, at least there’s some effort in the justifying.

The Superboy and company plot is about some space raiders they’re fighting and exposing the vacuum of space. Eventually, Chameleon Boy gets captured and interrogated by the floating brain thing on the cover. It’s a rather effective scene, maybe because Chameleon Boy’s entirely sympathetic. But, unfortunately, it seems like everyone else comes with a caveat this issue or is just such an ass they’re not sympathetic at all.

So the feature’s got three cliffhangers—the science cop’s urgent message, Mon-El’s diplomatic intrigue, Brainiac 5 uncovering an imminent attack on Earth (the story’s called Prologue to Earthwar. It’s entirely unclear if the imminent attack has anything to do with the first two cliffhangers; it may and would technically utilize Levitz’s plotting system, but it’d be in the cheapest possible way.

All those problems aside, however, the art’s by James Sherman and Bob McLeod and is gorgeous. They’ve got similar faces for everyone in close-up, but they’re good, expressive faces and more than the story needs. The action scenes are where the art excels; the movement and figure work are phenomenal. For superhero art, Sherman and McLeod are unstoppable. And more than enough to cover the iffy aspects of Levitz’s script.

Unfortunately, the art in the back-up’s nowhere near good enough to cover the script. It’s a Levitz plot, Paul Kupperberg script, Arvell Jones on pencils, Danny Bulanadi on inks. Jones and Bulanadi put in the work, especially on the sci-fi setting, but I don’t think even Sherman and McLeod could make the story palatable. It’s an endless twelve pages about Timber Wolf and Light Lass going to her home planet to help recapture her criminal brother, Lightning Lord, and it’s an excruciating bore.

There’s still some sexism to round out the experience between stories, with Light Lass a helpless damsel as her macho boyfriend, Timber Wolf (I’m not understanding the Legion’s policy on marriage now if all the Legionaries date amongst themselves), does all the work. Including strong-arming the local law enforcement into letting him destroy the planet and assault civilians. Seemingly innocent ones, as it turns out.

Kupperberg fills the pages with the exposition, all of it bad. It’s a grueling read.

I’m sure some Legionaries aren’t complete assholes, but apparently, Levitz never wants to do stories about them.

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