Legion of Super-Heroes #274 (April, 1981)
“The Exaggerated Death of Ultra Boy”
Writer – Gerry Conway
Penciller – Steve Ditko
Inker – Frank Chiaramonte
Letterer – John Costanza
Colorist – Gene D’Angelo
Editor – Jack C. Harris
Cover Price: $0.50
Last week, we witnessed (discussed, even!) the apparent death of Ultra Boy at the hands of Pulsar Stargrave… but c’mon, we know better… right?
We open with a decidedly not dead Ultra Boy aimlessly floating through the cosmos. Elsewhere, the Legion of Super-Heroes are already holding a funeral (before an empty grave)… they sure don’t mess around! Lightning Lad, who we just learned knows a thing or two about dying reads the eulogy, before leading the Legion back to headquarters where Jo’s main squeeze Phantom Girl dedicates an Ultra Boy statue in the Legion’s Hall of Heroes.
We return to floatin’ Jo Nah as he passes through a Sun/solar flare. He then passes into the view of a yellow spacecraft… which snares him in its tractor-beam and pulls him on board.
Back with the Legion, Saturn Girl approaches Tinya to give her condolences. Phantom Girl lashes out, calling her concern empty… and even referring to Imra as “the Ice Maiden”. She then recounts the story of Jo’s murder while sobbing. Saturn Girl then helps her by stirring happy memories of her time with Jo… which finally brings her around.
Meanwhile, Jo Nah is splashed in the face with water… quite the rude awakening. As he pulls himself up, he realizes he’s surrounded by quite the gaggle of aliens… and they’re looking for a fight. Ultra Boy lives up to his name, and beats them up but good.
The aliens redouble their efforts and dog-pile the poor lad. We then meet Captain Frake… the Punky Brewster of space pirates, and she seems to have taken a liking to our handsome Legionnaire.
The next morning, the Legionnaires assemble at their Metropolis headquarters. Lightning Lad offers Phantom Girl time off if she feels she needs it… she insists she feels okay. Suddenly a space alarm sounds… there’s something going down roundabout the Pluto orbit.
Elsewhere… perhaps roundabout the Pluto orbit… we rejoin Captain Frake as she welcomes a new-look Ultra Boy, complete with a sorta-kinda Puffy Shirt! He shares with her as much as he can remember about being blasted to atoms at the hands of a certain green-skinned fella… and how he knows the ring that he wears is very important to him… even though it’s (conveniently) been melted to slag. Frake decides to test Jo’s invulnerability by blasting him square in the chest with her ray gun… and wouldn’tcha know it, he’s pretty invulnerable!
She then asks him to test his strength by punching a stone bust (of herself). Bada-bing bada-boom… he pulverizes it to powder. Then… they make out!
We rejoin the Legion as they approach… roundabouts Pluto. They find a freighter about to be attacked by space pirates, and so Cosmic Boy takes aim and fires off a salvo at a certain yellow spacecraft. Frake instructs Jo to don a space pirate outfit (which looks like something a radioactive Jimmy Olsen might wear), and take care of their assailants.
On board the Legion ship, Karate Kid responds to the breach… and finds Cosmic Boy has already been kayoed. He then walks directly into Space Pirate Ultra Boy’s fist. At command, Lightning Lad issues an order for Phantom Girl to intervene… while Saturn Girl stands by, with a rather shocked look on her face.
Tinya responds, suiting up in a pink spacesuit. She phases through the hull and sneaks up behind the invading space pirate. She then phases her hands into the “baddie’s” back… but gets back-handed before she can fully solidify.
Jo turns and gets a good look at his would-be attacker, and… hmm… maybe some memories begin to stir? He leaves her laying, and zips back to Frake’s ship.
Some time passes, and we join the Legionnaires in the medic beds… seems like they spend a lot of time there! While her teammates convalesce, Saturn Girl can’t shake the feeling that she recognized that invader from earlier. We wrap up with Ultra Boy laying in Captain Frake’s lap… still unsure of who or what he was.
Being a long-time Soap Opera
fan viewer guy whose wife watches them… ahem… this felt very much like a cosmic version of same. Having Ultra Boy… an amnesiac Ultra Boy, floating through the cosmos while his friends mourn his passing… that’s something straight out of Days of Our Lives… minus the cosmos, of course…
We get the “near-miss” of Jo and Tinya here… which I really dug. Also, Saturn Girl sorta-kinda knowing what’s going down… but her relationship with Phantom Girl is kinda strained… so, is it her place to say anything and risk getting her hopes up? Really good stuff here!
The S.S. Punky Brewster bunch was pretty fun. Having Jo take down the crew of geeks was neat… and his unconscious (?) ability to use his “one superpower at a time” when needed was cool to see. I mean, he doesn’t know what his powers are at this point, right? It’s just lucky for him he was able to become invulnerable when Frake blasted him in the chest!
Overall… I’m having a lot of fun checking out this era of Legion. If I were to pick nits… the Ditko art leaves a bit to be desired. Reaction shots here felt a bit sterile and unfeeling… I can’t help but to think that certain scenes here would have come across far better with added facial-emotion.
Still, though… I’d say this is definitely worth a read! This issue has been collected as part of the Steve Ditko Omnibus, Volume 2 (2012) and is also available digitally.