Reviews of Old Comics: Legion of Super-Heroes #307

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #307

January 1984

LOSHv2_30701I’m continuing my reviews of old Legion comics from the period that I started regularly buying Legion of Super-Heroes. This was also the time I started really collecting comics, so I think it’s a great starting point for learning what good comics really are. However, it didn’t always hit on all cylinders, and the story-line that started in this issue is an example of it.

SYNOPSIS:

A team consisting of Invisible Kid, Shadow Lass, Phantom Girl and Timber Wolf are investigating the destruction of Research Station Trewsk, primarily because one of Invisible Kid’s friends died there. As they’re leaving they spot something separating from one of the stars in the system, they look to be more powerful than anything that they’ve encountered before, and consisting of two humanoids. One of them grabs their Legion cruiser and throws it towards the other who stops it with a gesture and then flings it towards a barren asteroid nearby. Timber Wolf gets Invisible Kid and Shadow Lass out, but Phantom Girl makes an effort to save the cruiser just as it crashes.

Element Lad and Chameleon Boy return to Legion Headquarters after dropping Shrinking Violet off at Medicus One. Wildfire congratulates Element Lad on being elected Legion Leader, but Element Lad doesn’t believe it, thinking that Wildfire is making a joke.

On Khundia, Dream Girl is meeting with Ambassador Relnic about the tensions between not only the Khunds and the United Planets, but also between the Khunds and the Legion. Relnic hopes that the Khunds’ distrust of the Legion will make it easier for him to negotiate with them. Meanwhile Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl let Cosmic Boy know that they’re expecting a baby. Blok overhears the excitement just as a Khund named Gurkak breaks into the embassy to attack the Legionnaires, specifically Blok, for defeating the challenge court champion Kharlak. With the help of Cosmic Boy and Sun Boy, Blok makes short work of Gurkak and tosses him over the embassy wall.

Back in deep space, Phantom Girl was able to save the cruiser, although it took quite a bit of damage. Her and Shadow Lass are pondering on not having their immensely powerful boyfriends, Mon-El and Ultra Boy along. However, they have managed to track the energy trail of the creatures they encountered to Corvan IV. The cruiser is shot down, but the Legionnaires escape. As soon as they enter the atmosphere, they’re attacked by planetary defense, as their recognition signal is broken. Each hero tackles a defense ship in their own way, with Phantom Girl actually managing to commandeer one for their own use. They land in  a forest nearby a town, which Phantom Girl suggests she and Invisible Kid reconnoiter to look for traces of the energy creatures. Timber Wolf and Shadow Lass stay behind hidden in a cave, where Shadow Lass makes certain to remind Timber Wolf that it is not time for a romantic interlude.
Element Lad shows up at the quarters of Shvaughn Erin, interrupting a Scrabble game with her roommate GiGi has called Shvaughn on her fascination with the absent Element Lad. Gigig excuses herself and Element Lad shares with Shvaughn that Wildfire tried to play a joke on him, telling him he won the Legion leader election, but that he doesn’t know who actually won. (He did win the election.)
On Corvan IV, a torrential downpour has come up but in the town, Invisible Kid and Phantom Girl discover a wierd glow that is holding off the rain and mesmerizing the natives with a warning of a powerful enemy, urging them to defeat him before he can destroy them. Invisible Kid gets drawn in and momentarily loses his concentration becoming visible, sparking the natives to attack  them, thinking that they are the beast the voice warned them about. Phantom Girl and Invisible Kid are pulled out at super-speed by Ultra Boy who take them where Shadow Lass and Timber Wolf were waiting with Mon-El. The two got bored at Legion HQ and went to join their girlfriend’s mission.
On Khumdia, the negotiations break down as the Khundish warlord is notified that the planet has been invaded. The Legionnaires witness the Khunds’ defenses prove useless against the Prophet, a man floating in the sky warning them that an enemy of immense power will soon arrive and if the Khunds don’t destroy him then their planet will be no more.
Phantom Girl’s team follow the energy trail and notice that it’s leading directly to Khundia, and is from the Prophet.

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REVIEW:

This issue starts off an ambitious storyline very strongly. Levitz has gone on record saying that he was trying to do another “Great Darkness Saga” with a threat that was more powerful than Darkseid.  I think the problem comes from this threat being a brand new character. The subplots are well-handled, but it isn’t immediately obvious that Invisible Kid’s mission is going to coincide with the team on Khundia. That mission just seems like something the Legion does. It’s actually happened quite a bit over the years that we see the Legion as glorified bodyguards for diplomats.

His use of Corvan IV, last seen in a dreadful story in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #246, is absolutely wonderful, as it lets the Legion interact with aliens that do not heavily resemble humans. This period sees Levitz and his artists make the Legion’s universe fully integrated, with aliens of all shapes and sizes showing up either in the background or as supporting characters. A lot of this look is owed to Keith Giffen and his predecessor, Pat Broderick, but more so to Giffen.

The artwork by Giffen is very well done, but starting to show the evolution in his style that put off many fans. His work became more and more influenced by the work of Argentinian cartoonist Jose Muñoz. The layouts become mush more stylized, and serve the story very well. The page where the Legionnaires tackle the Corvan IV ships has a  lay out that is very innovative, although it does force the reader to break from the traditional left-to-right reading pattern but conveys the sense of simultaneous things happening brilliantly. Giffen also starts to make use of his style to make the Legionnaires distinctive in appearance, and most of all, makes costumes designed in the 1970s look fresh. Phantom Girl especially looks nice in her bell bottom costume, and not at all dated.

The layout is confusing at times, and the story seems to not be cohesive with the reveal of the Prophet as one of the energy beings Phantom Girl’s team encountered is not made clear except in a very wordy page that follows a splash page that is a grand reveal of his identity.

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NOTES:

This issue has been collected in Legion of Super-Heroes: The Curse (ISBN #1401230989). However, I’ve probably seen more copies of this issue than any other from this period. 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 comics. It should also be available for not much cash. It’s valued around the price of a new comic, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find it in dollar bins or cheaper.

FINAL RATING: 8 (out of a possible 10)