Reviews of Old Comics: Legion of Super-Heroes #304

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #304

October 1983

LOSHv2_304This issue was my first regular issue of the Legion that I bought, so it’s stuck with me. It seems really odd since there’s very little actual focus on the Legion.

SYNOPSIS:

Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel resume their teaching at the Legion Academy, and notify the students that with the resignations of Karate Kid and Queen Projectra following their wedding, the time is ripe for the Legion to recruit new members. The stusents are eager, although some of them don’t qualify under the “no duplicate powers” clause the Legion has, specifically Shadow Kid and although he doesn’t mention it, Magnetic Lad. Wildfire comes in and informs Bouncing Boy that Dream Girl wants new Legion recruits Invisible Kid and the White Witch to receive Academy training. Wildfire storms off after some private discussion about the role of the Academy in training not only future Legionnaires, but heroes as well.

Element Lad, Shvaughn Erin, Brainiac 5, and Chameleon Boy meet in secret to plot how to expose a Durlan imposter masquerading as Shrinking Violet, and hopefully rescue the real Violet.

Bouncing Boy leads a team of Academy students Power Boy, Laurel Kent, Invisible Kid and the White Witch to the Metropolis Spaceport to recapture some escaped animals. The students split up to take on the three beasts, with Power Boy and Invisible Kid working together to take down the Flasher Beast after getting temporarily blinded by it. Laurel Kent recaptures the Schnauzerphant by treating it like a puppy. The White Witch takes down the Earthquake Beast by turning its power against itself. Back at the Academy, Duo Damsel criticizes their performance as they didn’t work in teams.

Outside, Shadow Kid and Magnetic Kid bond over the roles as younger relatives of active Legionnaires. Inside, Laurel Kent and Comet Queen chat with the White Witch, and mention their distaste for Wildfire, but White Witch doesn’t take the bait to join in criticism.

Shadow Lass and Timber Wolf stop a theft of transplant organs, but are upstaged by Wildfire. Timber Wolf remarks that he can’t get mad with what Wildfire is going through and Shadow Lass mentions that Timber Wolf should know, making him a little mad. At the Academy, Nightwind and Lamprey were watching and express their sympathy for Wildfire, mentioning that the Academy has a student restricted to a special wing.

Chameleon Boy ushers Colossal Boy and the now revealed to us impostor Shrinking Violet on board a Legion Cruiser for a mission to Imsk, Violet’s homeworld. Shvaughn Erin watches them leave and congratulates Star Boy on being the new Deputy Leader. He walks off on his way to chair a meeting of Legionnaires to discuss potential new recruits.

As they meet, the female Academy students get into an argument about Comet Queen and Laurel Kent’s derision of Wildfire. Their fight is broken up by Power Boy and Magnetic Kid. Invisible Kid and the White Witch walk in and tell the students that they have respect for Wildfire and will share with them why via White Witch’s powers.

In a flashback, Dawnstar leaves Earth to go on a grand tour to find her soul-mate but wishing that she did not have to, since she is so close to Wildfire, but he has no body in his suit, being just formless anti-energy. As she leaves, Wildfire wishing he could tell her not to go, explodes his containment suit in frustration.

The notes of Star Boy’s meeting recounts that the discussions of dead Legionnaires has moved them to not accept any new members in fear that none of them are ready, for fear that they would be adding another dead Legionnaire before it is absolutely necessary.

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REVIEW:

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click to embiggen

This story is written very well, almost exceptionally well. Paul Levitz makes me care about characters that I know virtually nothing about and at the same time develop a subplot to a near boiling point and add a layer of complexity to a character that was almost completely a two-dimensional hothead. The only flaw is that so much focus is given to the Academy students that I recall twelve year-old me picking up the next few issues and wondering where these characters were.

Keith Giffen does an admirable job of illustrating this script and conveying the emotional impact of the story. The final panels panning around the statues of Triplicate Girl, Ferro Lad, Chemical King and the first Invisible Kid are a masterful use of cinematic storytelling. He also fits in some wonderfully Kirby-inspired Organ Thieves, and follows it with masterfully showing a blow-by-blow fight between Timber Wolf and a robot.

In this issue, he updated the costumes for Lamprey and Nightwind, but also makes the Mike Grell-inspired costume for Laurel Kent work in this setting. If it makes sense for a character to wear next to nothing, it’s going to be the invulnerable one. In lounging around, she wears a frock that is reminiscent of Superman’s cape, very appropriate, given her origin as Superman’s descendant. It’s probably best she didn’t become a Legionnaire, because eventually she would have had to update that costume. Appearing only a few times again before her demise in the Millennium crossover meant she could keep the barely-there costume.

The inks and colors mesh well, although the art team would do better in later issues of depicting Invisible Kid’s powers, but here, the slightly lighter coloring is almost lost. The place it all meshes wonderfully is on page 21 (posted on the right), where all members of the art team work together to depict the White Witch’s powers in a way that helps reinforce the climax of the real story here.

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NOTES:

This issue has been collected in Legion of Super-Heroes: The Curse (ISBN #1401230989). However, at this point, Legion was a very well-selling title for DC and it should be easy to find at a large convention or a shop with an extensive back-issue collection that isn’t flooded with 90’s glut comics. You should be able to get a copy for very little cash. Comicspriceguide.com has this listed for $3.00, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find it in dollar bins or cheaper.

FINAL RATING: 9 (out of a possible 10)