blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Legion of Super-Heroes (1980) #268

Lsh268I’ve always had a soft spot for Steve Ditko’s art. Even thirty-ish years ago, when I was starting to recognize creators in Silver Age books—hunting down older comics to read—Ditko was already a reclusive, right-wing crank. No doubt complaining about wokeness since 1985. History’s just proven his being quiet about it was the only difference between him and many other comic creators.

Except, of course, the talent. Ditko’s art has an energy about it, even here in a Legion of Super-Heroes fill-in. Bob Wiacek inks, doing what he can in the medium and long shots, but there’s this bewildering mix of static and kinetic in the Karate Kid fight scenes. The figures seem stiff, but they move fluidly. And then there’s something weird about the close-ups; not sure if it’s too much Wiacek or not enough.

The outer space stuff is fantastic. Full stop. Steve Ditko’s 2001.

The story—by J.M. DeMatteis—is ambitious but not successful. DeMatteis introduces a wild villain—named Doctor Mayavale—who kidnaps some of the Legionnaires, saying they’ve got a history together from previous lifetimes. The issue plays out like a spec script for a “Star Trek” episode—hey, maybe a “Star Trek: Phase Two” episode—only with the three Legionnaires kind of having something to do with the story. Only not really, just for action scenes.

It’s an incredibly padded story, starting with a reference to current events in the series, then a bookend with Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl (I think; I’ve been reading these for months, and I’m still not sure on most of the names—though Cosmic Boy’s the one dressed like a male stripper). Speaking of Cosmic Boy, he then narrates the flashback–so much padding. Then the mind-boggling cosmic space-time odyssey fit into an “each hero in separate trouble” comic book template.

There’s some really iffy Native American cultural appropriation, which DeMatteis ratchets up throughout the story, and the resolution’s very pat—even for a Legion fill-in—but the issue’s got some charm. It’s silly to see some guy talk about the secrets of the universe when Steve Ditko’s drawing him as a General Custer wannabe. It’s like they knew the absurdism would actually help, so they amped it up.

The wrap-up bookend kills the momentum, but it’s a much better read than it ought to be.

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