Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes (1977) #247

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This issue’s an object lesson in bad art and how it can ruin a story. Not the feature, which has Jack Abel inking Joe Staton, but only because it’s not a good story. Len Wein scripts, finishing last issue’s cliffhanger about the Fatal Five’s latest scheme against the Legion.

Only it’s not a scheme. The Fatal Five tried to help a developing planet along and get them admitted into the Federation, only the investigating Legionnaires realized they’d broken the Prime Directive. So the Fatal Five then attacked the superheroes. Previously, it was unclear it wasn’t an elaborate ruse; this issue clarifies—the supervillains thought they were doing the right thing, and when the Legion rejected them, they went as homicidal as usual.

Superboy can’t find any other Legionnaires to help, so he’s got to figure out a way to save the day himself. With better art, it might’ve been an okay story for him. His problem-solving isn’t bad; it’s just got terrible visuals, as do all the fights on the planet. With better inking, Staton’s layouts can have some charm. Well, within reason. Abel’s not up for the task. Not able, as it were.

Between the art and the patronizing, infantilizing plot—like, if the villains really don’t know taking a planet from the Stone Age to the Space Age in a week is wrong, I’m not sure they can comprehend why being villains is bad either—it’s a disappointing story. Though, obviously, with not terrible art, who knows.

But then the art’s even worse on the backup. Dave Hunt inks Staton. The figures need to be seen to be believed; I thought it was bad with the female Legionnaires (they’re scantily clad enough to showcase the godawful figure drawing), but then fully clothed Brainiac 5 has a massive, triangular chest in a third of his panels.

The story—written by Paul Levitz—is a cute anniversary story for the Legion, set during the election for the next leader. Brainiac 5 and Wildfire are campaigning against each other (and both abject dicks), but then strange, disastrous setbacks keep occurring. The punchline ought to be cute but instead comes off harsh and feckless because it’s affecting many people.

So, with better art, the second story would be improved. Hunt inking Staton, however, just leads to a charmless reading experience, with the goofy punchline no help.

It’s not a terrible comic, but it’s far from good.

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