Or – “The Legion Order Is Always A’Changin’…”

The upcoming cancellation of Legion of Super-Heroes has left me more than a little bit sad about the fate of my super-future friends.  (I also now owe Adriana and Kristen a dollar for intellectual property.)  Still, even if the New 52 won’t have a Legion to kick around anymore, there’s always a plethora of older stories that can be enjoyed at my leisure, and many of them even respect characters like Matter-Eater Lad, unlike Levitz most recent run.  Your Major Spoilers (retro) review awaits!

SUMMARY

Pros
Young Mike Grell doing funky seventies fashion and hair.
MATTER-EATER LAAAD!
Cons

The paper shortage made DC’s mid-70’s books a bit short.
The Legion of Rejects have a valid point about our heroes…

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

READER RATING!

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 3.50 out of 5)
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SLSH212CoverSUPERBOY STARRING THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #212
Script: Jim Shooter
Pencils: Mike Grell
Inks: Mike Grell
Colorist: Uncredited
Letters: Ben Oda
Editor: Murray Boltinoff
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 25 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $14.00

Previously in Superboy Starring The Legion Of Super-Heroes:  Three kids from the far-flung future joined forces (with a little help from their favorite multi-kabrillionaire) to carry the legacy of the legendary Superboy forward into a new century.  Their team grew by leaps and bounds, accepting members from all over the galaxy, and became the foremost crime-fighting entity in the entire United Planets.  Which is not to say that they haven’t have their losses and failures…  Witness the statue of fallen Legionnaire Ferro Lad, stationed right in front of their Weisinger Plaza headquarters.

SLSH2121Having just been rejected by the Legion, the Braalian who calls himself Magno Lad has an axe to grind against the LSH, and the rest of the “Legion of Super-Rejects” share that anger. To be honest, these particular kids, while not entirely justified in their anger, at least have some reason to be upset about being turned away from the team. Rather than being barred from membership because of insufficient power or lack of control, each of them has been rejected from the LSH because they share the inherent abilities of already-extant members of the team…

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The general lack of tact and ‘Deal With It, Bitches!’ attitude of Cosmic and Chameleon Boy doesn’t really help defuse the situation, either.  The Legion’s willingness to bend this rule (notably in the case of Superboy and Supergirl, but also for the lightning-powered Ranzz twins) when they feel like it leaves the six rejected heroes even more disenfranchised than ever, leading them to foolishly challenge their counterparts to fight for their slots on the team!

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Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy, Matter-Eater Lad, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl and Shrinking Violet are defeated by the new-comers, who combine the inherent powers of the Braalian, Durlan, Bismollian, Bgztlian, Imskian and/or Titanian races with new twists, such as Calorie Queen’s super-strength, Micro-Lad’s superior martial arts skills and Phantom Lad’s…  um…  being a boy, apparently?  (In their defense, it was the early 70s and that sort of foolishness was pretty common.)  Superboy’s arrival leads to a quick Kryptonian clean-up of the six rejects, but the Legionnaires are irritated at being challenged, and tell the Super-Rejects to meet them in the Plaza the following morning to challenge for their spots on the roster!

Another side-effect of this issue coming out of the ’70s was a general financial crisis, this one related to the price of the paper DC used to print their comics.  As this issue was preparing to go to print, the production team discovered that two pages had to be cut, as the company was lowering the page-count on all of their quarter titles.  However, thanks to company fanzine, The Amazing World of DC Comics, the page of story that was jettisoned from this issue DID see print, and it contains important character work for one of my favorite Legionnaires, the Bismollian dynamo Tenzil Kem.

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This is also a lovely moment for the only Legionnaire without any real superhuman powers, Karate Kid, entreating his pal to man up (or at least “lad” up) and fight for his place on the galaxy’s greatest super-team.  The six heroes meet their rivals bright and early the next morning, while Superboy and Karate Kid serve as seconds.  As the battle begins, Matter-Eater Lad races off the battlefield, making his teammates worry that he’s finally lost his nerve…

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Mike Grell hasn’t quite gotten into the full swing of his later Legion work (as you can tell by the fact that our heroes are mostly covered), but his art here is still fun and more than a little bit silly, with some awesome sideburns on display.  As for the battle, the Legionnaires show that their advantage comes in the form of teamwork, as they pull the old do-si-do and take out each other’s counterparts thanks to the use of their brains and a little teamwork.  Matter-Eater Lad ends the story ready to commit fully to his job as a Legionnaire…

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…only to suddenly leave the team due to being drafted for public office.  The LSH never does give Calorie Queen a chance as a member, but eventually she winds up as Tenzil’s own majordomo/executive assistant on Bismoll.  Interestingly, the editor’s note references the original “Future Legion” story, which eventually gets removed from the “official” continuity of the future.  The backup story in this issue is also somewhat notable for debuting two important Legion-related team-ups.  The first is the utterly deadly (and seriously naked) combination of Shadow Lass (darkness generator) and Night Girl (superhuman powerhouse, but only in the dark.)

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If anybody who wrote the LSH had any sense, they’d have permanently teamed these two up with the Legion espionage squad and turned them into an unstoppable force of nature.  The other notable pairing also involves Night Girl, who finds that her long-time crush on Cosmic Boy isn’t quite as unrequited as she had come to believe…

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It’s a sweet moment that is only a little bit diminished by Night Girl getting put in the distressed damsel role, but it’s the launching point for one of the Legion’s longest-lasting romances, one that led to at least one universal iteration of the couple getting married.  (When it comes to Legion history, there’s seldom any such thing as an absolute answer, even about something as simple as the heroes’ state of being.)  This issue does help to mitigate my sadness about the loss of the Legion ongoing, reminding me that we’ve still got nearly sixty years of stories to choose from if I need my 30th Century fix.  Superboy Starring The Legion Of Super-Heroes #212 is a rather run-of-the-mill seventies Legion tale, but one with a clever hook and some nice bits and pieces swirling around that central conceit, even if it’s not quite up to the standards of today’s dark-and-moody storytelling, earning 3 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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7 Comments

  1. July 22, 2013 at 3:22 am — Reply

    This was my very first Legion story! I remember being confused by the similarities in Saturn Girl’s and Calorie Queen’s costumes (nearly identical from the waist up) and wondering why the just-defeated Calorie Queen was saying “our Tenzil” in the last panel.

    Fun fact: Sometime in 2000, when DC was preparing the next volume of the Legion Archives which by coincidence reprinted this issue (volume 11, which came out in 2001), Paul Levitz was a lurker on rec.arts.comics.dc.lsh on Usenet (he occasionally posted). In a discussion of which issues we thought would be in the next volume, someone (maybe me?) brought up that deleted page you posted above starring Matter-Eater Lad, how we hoped that the new volume would include that page. Levitz later told us that he went to production and made sure that the page – he had no idea there had been a deleted page in the first place – made it into the Archive. So volume 11 has the page in color for the first time.

    • July 22, 2013 at 11:39 am — Reply

      See what you miss when you “read the original issssssuuuuues?” :)

  2. July 22, 2013 at 6:03 am — Reply

    Just a quick note, you didn’t tag this under “reviews” so it just shows up in the retro reviews list, not the general reviews list.

    I liked this review a lot, it’s hard not to feel for the ‘rejects’ in this issue. It makes the LSH feels like a “No Homers” club.

    • July 22, 2013 at 11:38 am — Reply

      Man, I hate when that happens.

      Both of “that.” And, yeah, Calorie Queen and Magno Lad especially seemed to get a raw deal, since they proved to be more skilled and powerful than their counterparts and hers left the Legion IMMEDIATELY afterward…

  3. July 23, 2013 at 9:21 am — Reply

    This was one of my early Legion issues that I purchased from a booth at the U.S. 1 Fleamarket now immortalized in Kevin Smiths Mallrats (I lived 10 minutes away). I picked up many old Legion issues stacked on shelves (Not in bags or boards) from that place.
    That 70’s run was great, and though I started following in the Late 80’s, I picked up many of the back issues and like everyone has their own Doctor, this is My Legion.
    Long Live the LEGION!!!

  4. Oldcomicfan
    July 25, 2013 at 8:16 pm — Reply

    The 70s marked the end of the Legion I loved. Dark and Gritty has never served the Legion well. Bright and goofy has always been the Legion’s forte. True some of the transition stories with characters getting killed and/or married or both were breathtakingly bold in their day, but I always wondered, since they had time bubbles, why the surviving Legion members didn’t just go back and stop the disasters from happening.

    • July 26, 2013 at 7:23 pm — Reply

      Time Lords wouldn’t permit them.

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