Or – “Y’know What’s Weird? I STILL Miss Punk Rock Storm…”

Retro Reviews, by their very nature, are a free-range beastie, as I have more than a century of comic books from which to choose, from hundreds of different companies.  Of course, I was born in the year 1970, and began reading comics in a magical far-off world called 1981. (**Cue Rodrigo singing ‘A Flock Of Seagulls.’**)

Because of that timing, I find that when I think of the comics that mean the most to me, many of them come from my early adolescent collecting years from ’81-’87 , leading up to the point where *I* believe the Bronze Age of Comics ended.  Last week’s review was one of my earliest introductions to the sprawling multi-level world of the X-Men, so it would seem only natural that this week we take a look at the heroes that I consider to be their closest equivalent in the DCU.  And, seeing has how we’re in a particular sweet spot of comics history, we might as well stay right there in the summer of ’83…

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #300
Writer(s): Keith Giffen/Paul Levitz
Pencil(s): Keith Giffen/Kurt Schaffenberger/Howard Bender/Curt Swan/Dave Cockrum/James Sherman/Joe Staton
Inker(s): Larry Mahlstedt/Kurt Schaffenberger/Frank Giacoia/Dan Adkins/Dave Cockrum/James Sherman/Dick Giordano
Cover Artist(s): Carmine Infantino/Paris Cullins/George Perez/Joe Kubert/Kurt Schaffenberger/Jose Luis Garcia-Lope/Don Heck/Jim Aparo/Jan Duursema/Gene Colan/Dave Cockrum/Walter Simonson/George Tusk/Jim Sherman/Howard Chaykin/Curt Swan/Howard Bender/Keith Giffen/Dick Giordano/Larry Mahlstedt/Gil Kan/Trevor von Eeden/Joe Orlando/Ross Andru/Ernie Colon/Joe Staton/Bob Oksner/George Perez/Jim Aparo/Frank Giacoia/Dave Cockrum/Mike DeCarlo/Jim Sherman/Dave Hunt/Dick Giordano/Gil Kane/Trevor von Eeden/Joe Orlando/Dan Adkins/Romeo Tanghal/Ernie Colon/Joe Staton
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Karen Berger
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $1.50
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $6.00

Previously, in Legion of Super-Heroes:  Young Clark Kent was dumbfounded on the day when three teens arrived from the far future to recruit him to a special superhero club that they created in his image.  Over the years, the Legion of Super-Heroes grew to a galaxy-spanning organization more than twenty heroes strong, even outgrowing Superboy himself.  One of their greatest tragedies came when a creature called a Sun-Eater threatened the Earth, and a young hero named Ferro Lad gave his life to save the Earth from certain destruction (and, not coincidentally, to save Superboy’s life.)  It was later revealed that Ferro Lad had a twin brother who shared his powers as well as his horrible disfigurement, and it is his story that we are about to learn today.  We open with Kal-El himself spinning forward through the timestream to hang out with his Legionnaire pals again…

Superboy may seem paranoid here, but given what DID happen at the wedding of Lightning Lad & Saturn Girl, he really does have a point.  The thing that I’m most struck by here is the casual palling around that the Legionnaires do (something that I rather miss in the current LSH run, though it’s slowly starting to reassert itself) and the fact that Supergirl is drawn here as a dead ringer for my friend Marie.  Their missing green pal, Brainiac 5, is holed up at the Time Institute, dealing with what Ultra Boy calls a “debt of honor” to an old friend:  Douglas Nolan, brother of fallen Legionnaire Ferro Lad.

Douglas is here in what I believe to be his first chronological appearance, though he did appear in one of the legendary tales of the “Adult Legion” back in the late-1960s.  (More on that, later…)  In any case, Douglas has found his mind overwhelmed with visions of alternate realities, worlds where the Legion’s history was different, seemingly searching for something that no one understands.  Thanks to the wizardry of reserve Legionnaire Rond Vidar, the massive minds assembled can view these realities as Douglas does, starting with a world where Lex Luthor has captured Pete Ross and Lana Lang (each themselves an honorary Legionnaire in the core reality.)  Even though the Legionnaires arrive to save the day, thanks to Pete’s signal device, Superboy has some bad news for his future pals…

Those who remember their Legion history (and recognize art styles) may recognize the artwork of Kurt Schaffenberger, legendary artist of the Silver Age.  Brainiac is troubled by this vision, but his discomfort grows as Douglas makes contact with the next tableau, one which revisits one of the Legion’s most tragic hours.  Of course, this version of things seems to be even more heart-rending…

The deaths of Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lady, Invisible Kid, Mon-El, Shrinking Violet, Element Lad and Brainiac 5 at the hands of Computo have left the team shaken to the very core, as once again, we see a portion of Legion history drawn by the artist most identified with it.  Though penciler Howard Bender was one of the primary LSH artists in the Adventure Comics era of the early 60s, he did not, to my memory, draw Adventure #341, the issue wherein Computo goes nuts, I think that was, at least partially, Curt Swan.  Either way, the new Legion, bolstered by the implementation of Polar Boy’s Substitute Legion, sets off to face Computo in combat, and find the monster grabbing Triplicate Girl, as it did in our reality.  Things play out differently in this world (with the exception of Trips getting disintegrated again) but not necessarily better for the Legion…

This reality cuts a little close to home for Brainiac, as Computo is one of his greatest failures, and Douglas Nolan nearly loses control at the horror of this latest vision.  While the greatest minds of the 30th Century work on Mr. Nolan’s nightmares, we cut to Mon-El and Shadow Lass, far away on a world called “The Science Asteroid.”

Weeeeelll, now that you mention it, I suppose it’s not entirely accurate to say “Shadow Lass” anymore…

Remember how we talked about that “Adult Legion” story?  Years before, when Jim Shooter was writing the LSH, he created the Adult Legion story to play with the time element in his stories, as Valiant fans may recall Shooter is wont to do.  One of the throwaway bits in those stories was an image of the Hall of Fallen Legionnaires, featuring a statue of a deceased future Legionnaire called Shadow Woman.  In fact, Andrew’s latest vision is an alternate version of that very same “Future Of The Future” storyline…

This reality once again proves to be tragic, as Princess Projectra, Saturn Girl, Matter-Eater Lad and others have fallen in battle, and a disheartened Sun Boy and Karate Kid attempt to come to grips with their Legion’s losses.  Of course, this Curt-Swan-drawn reality can’t hold a candle to the horror of the next…

The Legion’s discussion turns into a fight, the fight into a vote, and Superman is seen leaving Legion HQ in anger, and even our Brainiac 5 knows that things have reached the point of no return.  The Legionnaires have chosen to give up their vow against killing, and join the United Planets militia in battle against the Khundian armadas.

I can’t help but think that Tyroc’s death here is just more abuse heaped on a character whose presence in the Legion has long been a fractious one…  Either way, Douglas’ mental state and the realities that he is viewing become more and more violent and horrifying, as we travel to a world where Mordru’s attack (colloquially known as the “Earthwar”) on the United Planets has been even more successful and terrifying.  This one even gives me the willies…

Seeing Cosmic Boy torn to shreds like that (ON-PANEL, no less) is terrible, but the next reality, one in which Blok joins the Legion still under the mental control of the evil Dark Man, is even worse, as the traitorous Legionnaire manages what even Nemesis Kid couldn’t…

With this latest reality, Brainiac 5 suddenly has an epiphany, realizing what it is that Douglas is seeking throughout the realities.  Turning the machinery up  to 11 (a trick he learned from Coluan philosopher Nij-L 2-f N-L), Brainiac finally helps Douglas to find his heart’s desire…

…a world that he can call home.  (Not coincidentally, it bears a striking resemblance to the continuity of one of the earliest Adult Legion stories, as well…)  Douglas disappears into the timestream, and leaves Brainiac with an uncharacteristic contentment, and perhaps a new philosophical place in the world, while Shadow Lass escapes death on the Science Asteroid, seemingly proving that the Adult Legion’s future is truly just an alternate reality.  Soon after, all the Legionnaires meet in Weisinger Plaza for their anniversary celebration…

(Click for giant awesomeness!)

…although, I might add, they never quite tell us what anniversary it is.  There’s no way that it’s the actual 25th Anniversary, but even so, it’s wonderful to see so many Legionnaires assembled in one place without there being a funeral going on.  The addition of the Heroes of Lallor, the Wanderers, Dev-Em, Elastic Lad and the Legion of Substitute Heroes makes me think that somewhere in the galaxy there is a very happy Legion of Super-Villains running amok across Omicron XII.  This issue is one of my favorite Legion issues, not just for the continuity porn, but for the look into Brainiac’s mind, the cameos of Bouncing Boy, Matter-Eater Lad and Supergirl, as well as the celebratory aspects of the whole story.  This is right in the middle of Levitz and Giffen’s most successful run on the title, soon after the Great Darkness Saga, and a point wherein they took it upon themselves to once and for all unsnarl the continuity knots that the LSH’s early appearances created.  Legion of Super-Heroes #300 is a lovely story, well-drawn and heavily researched, but most importantly, an issue that works as well for new readers as veteran Legionnaire consumers, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★★☆

 

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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9 Comments

  1. Brainy Pirate
    April 9, 2012 at 12:54 am — Reply

    I remember being on vacation when this issue came out and having to hunt for a convenience store that carried it in their comics rack–and then the bliss of finding it and that poring over that wonderful cover trying to figure out who every artist is…

    I don’t think I even knew at the point about the Adult Legion stories — the suspense that was supposed to drive the Shady/Mon subplot completely escaped me — I remember hating her white skin and bathing cap haircut. What an odd moment that story must have been for readers too young to realize she was supposed to die!

    Thanks for the rewind!

  2. Matt S.
    April 9, 2012 at 8:05 am — Reply

    I remember when this issue 1st came out and I read it over and over and over again until the cover came off & the pages started falling out. Although the alternate timelines were different from what really happened, #300 was my 1st real introduction to the full wonder of the Legion history & is one of the things (along with subsequent Legion Checklists and world building extras that would appear at the end of issues after the letters columns as well as the chronological classic silver aged reprints in Adventure Comics & Blue Ribbon Digest) that cemented my love of the Legion and it’s complicated, engrossing history/continuity. #300 still remains one of my favorite single issues of any comic book.

  3. Slappy
    April 9, 2012 at 8:11 am — Reply

    This was my first issue of Legion of Super Heroes. I bought it at a “Spot” at the first row back and three spots to the left at the Rt. 1 Flea Market in New Brunswick NJ. (though it is now a Loews Movie Theater, it is immortalized in Mallrats by Kevin Smith).
    This was my introduction and first “fix” of LSH. I already knew much about them by reading Who’s Who in the DC Universe, but this book really stands up.
    A few years later, by parents got me this issue for Christmas knowing I was at this point a full blow CB junkie. That made this all that much more special because they took the time to find something they thought would be older and unowned by me. (My backissue collection was small at this time).
    thank you Mr. Peterson for flooding me with such fine memories.

  4. J_Michael_T
    April 9, 2012 at 12:49 pm — Reply

    Great review. I own this issue and it is a treasured copy. I remember how funny it was for me to obsess about what Ferro Lad looked like under his helmet and the glimpse of his brother’s visage really made this issue for me (weird, huh? Then again, I felt the same about Negative Man).

    • April 9, 2012 at 5:27 pm — Reply

      I completely understand. What was under Ferro Lad’s mask has always been a strange fascination for me, as well… Especially if you believe Shooter’s claims that he was initially just going to be African-American, but the editors wouldn’t allow it…

      • J_Michael_T
        April 9, 2012 at 5:41 pm — Reply

        Not to go off on a tangent (which I now will do) but it was always ironic that for a group as diverse as the Legion (green, orange, blue, and ‘misc’ colored beings!) this was such a big deal. Enter Tyroc and the way he was handled… Do you think maybe the editors did not want to ‘force’ a character into the mix just for the sake of being PC? I was not disappointed at all with the reveal — I thought that the ‘alien’ face for the brothers made sense in this context. In fact, it felt like they accomplished what they set out to do and gave Ferro Lad’s death a nice sense of closure for the reader.

        I also enjoyed revisiting the Legion ‘alternate timelines’. It seems like the Adult Legion started off as a lark that then got swept into Legion lore after other writer’s decided to go down that road and play with some ideas. Were there any earlier attempt to do this with other comic book characters or was the ‘Adult Legion’ one of the earlier stories to do this? I just now remember Moore’s ‘Whatever happened to Superman’ working with that theme (very successfully!).

        Loved this issue! Thanks for reviewing it.

  5. Adam Murray
    August 8, 2012 at 4:44 pm — Reply

    Oh Man!

    Matthew, I am so sorry I missed this review! I don’t know how it slipped past me… I feel like you gave me a present and I didn’t notice the big gift wrapped package on my table for months :(

    Thank you for doing this one… Now you have reviewed the 3 favorite comics of my childhood:
    In no particular order:

    1) “Who is Donna Troy?” – My favorite hero as a child (Robin) actually helps his friend in the most loving, but non-romantic, way. The fact that Donna has that all-to-realistic breakdown upon finding her Mom in a city (Newport News) just a few miles from where I grew up (Norfolk) was just icing on the cake.

    2) Rom #43 – The first time you asked the Spoilerites for ideas for Retro Reviews, I submitted this and was stunned that you selected it. This was my first ROM comic, and one of my first comics ever. The O Henry storyline alongside the rotting bodies overwhelmed my 9 year old brain!

    3) Legion #300 – This was actually my first Legion comic… I think this is the exact opposite of the so-called “Good Jumping On Point” described today. But, for me, the fascination of NOT knowing what was going on just drove me to go back and learn as much about them as I could. That Polar Boy moment vs Computo remains my favorite act of comic book heroism…
    I think it actually prompted my first reply on the Major Spoilers site back in the Golden Age of the Hero Histories :)
    Something about the hero pressing the self destruct button (ie: projecting absolute zero) in the face of his enemy still amazes me. The fact that he knew he was going down AND he knew he was taking Colossal Boy with him (one of his idols) and STILL he acted without hesitation… Truly the stuff of Legend :)

    Thank you again for all the Retro Reviews…

    As I have described them before, they are the best way of reliving ones childhood since Rod Serling last held a late night game of “Kick the Can” :)

  6. Stephen Wacker
    December 30, 2015 at 7:48 pm — Reply

    In case you missed it, this 2 page spread of the entire team features my favorite comic book Easter eggs of all time.

    It’s just behind Sun-Boy…

    SW

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