Legion of Super-Heroes #4 – Reviews of Old Comics
As I’ve said before, I’ve tried to keep a pattern to Reviews of Old Comics, but the last attempt to write a DC review that wasn’t the Legion was so daunting that it delayed the schedule for three weeks. For me to write these regularly, and have something every week, especially for Patreon supporters, it needs to be fun for me to write. If that means we get an entire month of Legion reviews, then so be it. I’m not promising that this feature is going to turn into a bog version of the Legion of Substitute Podcasters podcast, because I want to hit on some Howard the Duck, golden age Phantom Lady, Uncanny X-Men, and the very first Superman comic that I ever read.
This week, we’re going back to the Baxter run of the Legion. Last time we covered the Legion, there was a stop-off in Tales of the Legion wrapping up the Invisible Kid/Lyle Norg subplot. The cover shows us a bloody hand above Karate Kid’s legion symbol from the Super-Villain’s wheel of Legion symbols that served as their checklist for Legionnaires to kill. It doesn’t look good for Karate Kid.
Plotters: Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen
Writer: Paul Levitz
Designer: Kieth Giffen
Penciller: Steve Lightle
Inker: Larry Mahlstedt
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Letterer: John Costanza
A stork rages over Orando where the Legion of Super-Villains meet following their passage into a place between universes. Lightning Lord sees it as a roar of approval, but many in the Super-Villains do not. Tyr wants to kill more Legionnaires, not just capture eight of them as they flee from one universe to another without Legionnaires. Lightning Lord and Sun Emperor break up a building fight. Nemesis Kid agrees to use this time between dimensions to allow a group sympathetic to Tyr’s arguement to use one of Zymyr’s ships to strike at the Legionnaires.
Back where Orando used to be, the remaining Legionnaires ponder what has happened to Orando. Since Dawnstar cannot track them, Brainiac 5 deduces that the polymer screen and powershpheres enabled the Super-Villains to transport Orando to another dimension. As to their motives, too many lives are being held hostage to that question.
On Orando, Light Lass wakes up and in frustration, slams the power dampeners on her hands against the door. They explode, taking the door, but not her hands with them. She comes across the seven Legionnaires the Super-Villains have captured. They are locked in a device to nullify their powers. all of them unconscious except for Karate Kid and Projectra. Light Lass goes to try to contact the rest of the Legion. Karate Kid decides to fight the machine, since his powers are the result of years of training. With much focus and effort, he breaks free.
A team of Super-Villains leave Orando, not realizing that Light Lass has stowed away on their ship. Just as they’re about to emerge into their home dimension and blast the Legionnaires near where Orando vanished, Light Lass pulls some wiring, short-circuiting the controls, taking out three of the villains. Terrus and Titania spot her and as they approach what they think is an easy target, the legionnaire reveals that she has her original Lightning powers back by shocking them unconscious. Lightning Lass can’t make out the controls, but there is an auto-pilot to return the ship to Orando.
On Earth Cosmic Boy reassures Dream Girl that the planet is safe with the Academy students and the Substitute Heroes eager to defend it from the Super-Villains.
On Orando, the previously captive Legionnaires fly up to the Powerspheres to try and stop the Super-Villains from finishing the teleportation of Orando. Seeing Nemesis Kid below, Karate Kid drops to confront him. The Legionnaires find the powerspheres guarded by Cosmic King and a small team of Super-Villains. Projectra flees to find Karate Kid.
Karate Kid fights Nemesis Kid, who adapts Karate Kid’s own fighting ability. The fight is brutal, with Nemesis Kid having the upper hand due to his power, but Karate Kid being defiant. The Legionnaires on the powersphere seem to be over-matched due the Daxamite Ol-Vir. Projectra intervenes in Karate Kid and Nemesis Kid’s fight. As Karate Kid lies beaten, Nemesis Kid can use his power to have immunity to her illusions. Karate Kid defends his wife, but Nemesis Kid adapts to surpass Karate Kid’s abilities again, beating him severely. Karate Kid gets a good shot in, incapacitating Nemesis Kid long enough to get his flight ring back. Projectra begs him to run away or be killed, but instead, he uses the flight ring to charge Nemesis Kid and fly into one of the powerspheres, causing it to explode, killing Karate Kid.
Element Lad’s group of Legionnaires are beaten. Karate Kid is dead. Lightning Lass is alone on her way back to Orando.
I like how this has a Legion that is outnumbered and overpowered. It’s appropriate that the Legionnaire that shines the most in this is Karate Kid. Of course, he doesn’t fare well, and neither does the Legion. Element Lad leads well, but when faced with surprise opponents in the Super-Villains, especially one capable of negating his formidable powers, he lets his team do their own thing. It’s called teamwork. Having everyone square off against their own opponents doesn’t work.
Karate Kid’s sacrifice is heroic, but ultimately, pointless. Taking out one powersphere doesn’t stop the shifting of Orando to another universe, or do anything to stop the Super-Villains. His battle also illustrates how out of place he is in the Legion. Karate Kid may have spent a lifetime mastering his control of the martial arts, but Nemesis Kid beats him nearly to death with a super-power. Years of building Karate Kid as a legitimate contribution to the Legion are overshadowed by the example of Ol-Vir. When a child with Mon-El’s powers taking out one of the more powerful Legionnaires, the contribution of someone like Karate Kid gets lessened.
Sadly, if Karate Kid and Projectra had worked together, Nemesis Kid could have been beaten since he states, and as they already know, that his powers work against a single opponent. Karate Kid’s death only serves to kill a character that at least one Legion creator has said he didn’t like, and didn’t think belonged in the Legion. It’s unnecessary.
Light Lass’s understanding that she has her lightning powers back comes very suddenly, almost unexplained. When she leaves the other captive Legionnaires, she assumes her power is still making things weightless. I think the short-circuiting of the villains’ ship controls lets her know she has the lightning powers back, but it’s not explained clearly. Perhaps this can be explained by Steve Lightle working over Giffen’s layouts.
I still like Steve Lightle’s artwork, but there are times when there are technical problems aside from the storytelling. Proportions seem off when a character’s hand is in the foreground. At times, Lightning Lass looks a little too lean. Overall, though, everything looks nice. Steve Lightle does not spare detail. There are panels that are artistic brilliance like the panel with Tyr that I’ve included above, and when Lightning Lass takes out Titania and Terrus. There are problems but they’re overshadowed by the good elements in this comic. The worst parts are not as bad as the exceptional parts are good.
If you’re looking for the issue itself, then you should be able to find it with a little searching. Don’t pay more than a few dollars for it, as you can probably find a copy in bargain boxes.
(FULL DISCLOSURE: The Recommended Reading links to pages on Amazon where you can buy those books and support Needless Essentials through their Associates program.)
Final Rating: 8.0 (out of 10)