Legion of Super-Heroes #273 (March, 1981)
“A Murderer–Among Us?”
Writer – Gerry Conway
Penciller – Jimmy Janes
Inker – Frank Chiaramonte
Letterer – Ben Oda
Colorist – Bob LeRose
Editor – Jack C. Harris
Cover Price: $0.50
Had so much fun yesterday, why not do another random Legion issue?
We open at the United Earth Council Headquarters where one of the Legionnaires is standing “trial” for… murder! Newly-seated President of Earth, Marte Allon (mother of Colossal Boy) informs the Legion that murder is against the charter the Legionnaires themselves submitted to the council… meaning the group needs to disband! Colossal Boy wonders what could possibly have come over his mother since winning the election… and she points to the supposed guilty party… if the cover didn’t tip you off, we’re talkin’ bout Brainiac-5!
Now, wait just a second… who do they think Brainy killed? Wellll, I didn’t realize it when I grabbed this one off the pile, but this is a callback to an issue we discussed this past Spring, Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #239 (1978). If you recall (or click the link), that issue is a murder-mystery starring Ultra Boy… who was believed to have killed a woman named An Ryd in a seedy motel on Rimbor. The Prosecutor General fills us in on the happenings of the case in the interim… Brainiac-5 was implanted with a mental illness of sorts, and is believed to have committed the murder while “insane”, which in their minds doesn’t make him any less guilty… or something. I’ll concede I haven’t read (m)any of the in-between issues, so I could be completely off-base.
Brainiac throws up his hands and leaves, saying that until he can prove his innocence, he’s going to have quit the team. Pretty stand-up gesture by our green-skinned pal… and as the door shuts behind him, we can see that Chameleon Boy is deep in thought.
Once the “trial” concludes, the Legionnaires head outside to plan their next move. Chameleon Boy takes charge and suggests they devote their efforts to uncovering and capturing An Ryd’s true killer… believing Cham is referring to him, Ultra Boy takes a bit of exception to the remark. You may wanna dial it back Jo, that’s really no way to play innocent, pal. We shift to Timber Wolf, who has been suffering headaches… perhaps a sign that he is devolving? Not too sure, he just says that his “time in civilization” might be ending.
After the Legionnaires leave, we find that Colossal Boy has chosen to remain… hopeful to get a few words with President Mom. She blows him off… and he goes full-on “I never asked to be born” teen-ager.
A day passes, and we rejoin (some of) our pals on Rimbor… the scene of the crime. Star Boy and Chameleon Boy split off from Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl to enter the seedy motel where Ryd was killed. Inside, Cham shape shifts into a Rigellian Seeker-Hound to do some sniffin’… and comes up with bupkis. Their investigation is interrupted by a blast from outside. Star Boy takes a shot to the gut and goes down. Cham shape-shifts into an Amphiboid (for whatever reason) and gets taken down as well. He looks into the eyes of the real murderer… before being blasted in the face.
We shift to Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl, who have just bribed a Rimbor official in order to take a peek at the records of the comings and goings on the planet during the time in question. They come up with nada… which is not entirely bad news, as it also illustrates that Brainiac-5 wasn’t on-planet when the murder was committed. Although… if you’re heading somewhere with the express purpose of killing somebody, you might not go through the normal travel channels, right?
Anyhoo, we check in with the official they kids bribed as he goes to enjoy a puff on his pipe. Suddenly a green-handed man approaches and offers him “a light”… before choking the life out of him!
Hearing the man scream, Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl rush outside… where they find themselves standing before Pulsar Stargrave! Who? Well, I recognize him more as original-recipe Brainiac… or, is he?
A fight is on… and it’s one that Stargrave controls handily. During the scuffle, he explains that he’s out to get Brainiac-5 for rejecting a partnership… and further, sullying the reputation of the name “Brainiac”. At one point, Phantom Girl is kayoed… and Ultra Boy rushes to her aid. Brainiac mocks his “pathetic human emotionalism” before blasting him to particles with his nova-hot eyebeams. Well, that got hardcore pretty quick.
We catch up with Brainiac-5 on board a tiny ship as he runs scenarios through his head… he can’t figure out how he’s been “suckered”. Checking his on-board radar screen, he can tell that four of his friends… plus one more are now on planet Rimbor. Before checking out that strange fifth blip, he decides to check in on the Legionnaires, and boy have they seen better days.
As he chats up his injured teammates, he shares his conclusion that Stargrave is the one behind all of this. I guess they don’t call him Brainiac (5) for nothing! Brainy heads out to face the baddie all by his lonesome. It’s also during this scene that we learn that Ultra Boy… is dead! Wasn’t expecting that!
We join Brainy at the site of the battle between the Legion of Super-Heroes and Ultra Boy (when they believed him to be a murdering fugitive)… and wouldn’tcha know it, this is exactly where he finds ol’ Stargrave! Brainy locks them both in a forcefield… and claims that they will spend eternity there. Stargrave ain’t diggin’ that one bit, and decides to kill them both by going super-nova. Little does he know, however, that Brainy actually set up two force fields… one around them both, with a second just surrounding himself (which protects him from the blast)!
Another excellent issue of Legion of Super-Heroes. Was shocked to see this one following up on the An Ryd storyline from a few years earlier… it’s always fun when a random pick from the pile is part and parcel of a previous plot! Sufferin’ succotash…
I definitely feel like I missed a thing or a dozen in the interim… and to be fair, there are nearly fifty issues between the two we’ve discussed… but never felt entirely lost. I’ve said it before (and likely will again… because that’s what I do), the Legion always seemed like such a daunting reading project… one I was put off from by the ginormous cast and the amount of reboots/redos/un-dos they’d suffered.
I never really “got” the X-Men comparison… as I found it quite easy to make sense of the mutants (until somewhat recently, anyway), while the Legion may as well have been written in
Greek Interlac (ehh? ehh?). In picking two random issues, in this case #227 (1978) and #273 (1981), I sorta begin to “get” the comparison.
Like the X-Men, Legion feels like a Lazy-Susan of subplots. It’s a feeling of constant motion… though, not necessarily always forward. Nods are given to past arcs/stories, while future stories bubble away in the background. Pop-in readers, like myself at this juncture, get a full story… with hints of what came before and (more importantly) what’s to come. Long-time readers get wonderful pay-offs that reward their patience and loyalty to the title.
Just looking at this issue… sub-plots include Colossal Boy and President Mom, Timber Wolf’s headaches, and the death of Ultra Boy… they all serve and “season” the main Brainiac/Stargrave plot, without distracting from it. This feels very Claremontian… which, I suppose might’ve been Conway-ian first!
Let’s chat up the ending for a bit. This is my only, from a structural standpoint (as if I have any idea what that means), sorta-kinda complaint. It’s not really a slight on Conway, but more the way DC’s Bronze-Age books had a way of giving really abrupt and anti-climactic endings. It’s like, we get all this build-up… for a two-page fight… then, it’s over. Not that I needed a few issues of the green guys duking it out or anything… this just felt a bit underwhelming.
I will say, however, that I appreciated the fact that… while Brainiac-5 may have facilitated and concocted the situation, he did not actually kill Stargrave. So, even in cleaning up the mess, he didn’t break from the Legion’s by-laws. That was really cool.
I’d say overall that this issue was a great success. As mentioned, sub-plots continue to bubble away… and all of them are pretty interesting, and have the potential to anchor future issues without feeling all that out of place. I don’t say it enough, but I enjoyed the art. Maybe not quite as much as I dug Starlin’s work in that earlier issue, but definitely nothing to sneeze at. This issue is available digitally.
Interesting (mini) Ads: