Reviews of Old Comics: Legion of Super-Heroes #303

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #303

September 1983

lsh 303Unashamedly, I am a huge fan of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The period that I first fell in love with the Legion was about the same time a lot of people did, the period around 1983-1984 when Legion of Super-Heroes became DC’s second best-selling title, right behind New Teen Titans. This issue comes from that period, almost smack in the middle of the Great Darkness Saga and the launch of the Legion’s Baxter series. I decided to go forward with this review after this site featured the excellent cosplay of Badluck Kitty as Supergirl. I had already started it but planned to finish it at a later date, as I’m in the middle of moving.

SYNOPSIS:

On Weber’s World, The Emerald Empress and a Dark Circle sympathizer Ontiir have captured and immobilized a team of Legionnaires, Shrinking Violet, Colossal Boy, Sun Boy, Brainiac 5 and Supergirl. The empress tortures the Legionnaires, breaking Sun Boy’s jaw in the process. The Empress orders their execution.

At Legion HQ, reservists Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel are left manning the monitor board as the remaining active Legionnaires take the new Legion cruisers to Karate Kid and Queen Projectra’s wedding. On the cruisers, Timber Wolf takes the opportunity to sulk at the communication console, confusing Blok, who is still not completely versed on human emotions, as noted by Shadow Lass and Phantom Girl, in a very catty fashion.

Supergirl uses her Super-Breath to activate Brainiac 5’s force shield belt, saving them from execution. Brainiac 5 then has Sun Boy and Supergirl destroy the equipment immobilizing them., and the Legionnaires escape, take out the guards and chase after the Empress and Ontiir. Brainiac 5 cautions them to stop to formulate a strategy and deduce a motive. Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet and Sun Boy go off after the Empress while Brainiac 5 and Supergirl go to the surface. Brainiac 5 confesses to missing Supergirl just as they reach the surface and discover that the Empress has put Weber’s World on a collision course with the United Planets main fleet.

This news arrives to Science Police Headquarters just as Chief Zendak is berating officer Gi Gi for giving the Durlan emigraion file to Element Lad and Officer Shvaughn Erin. He alerts Legion HQ, where Bouncing Boy alerts team leader Dream Girl who sends Mon-El and Wildfire to assist Brainiac 5, just in case he needs it. This angers Ultra Boy, who sees it as another slight at him for being left out of the loop on missions, and quits as Deputy Leader by sculpting a huge boulder as the words “Stuff It.”

On Weber’s World, Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet and Sun Boy reach the Empress at the Central Data Banks, which Violet is the first to recognize to Colossal Boy’s surprise. They attack, only to be seemingly stopped by the Empress controlling Weber’s World’s systems. The villains are distracted by the entire artificial planet being shaken by Supergirl trying to physically push it back, only to carve a tunnel through the planet. Brainiac 5 has her fly off and ricochet off the planet, knocking it off course. This severs the Empress’s connection with the data banks. Brainiac 5 and Supergirl then arrive to help stop the Empress, with Brainiac 5 using his Force Shield belt to hold off the Emerald Eye while Supergirl knocks our the Empress. Colossal Boy assists by keeping Ontiir from shooting Brainiac 5 in the back.

Unfortunately, the Empress has brought along some Kryptonite, which incapacitates Supergirl until Shrinking Violet knocks her out with a “Durlan Nerve-Cruncher.” Ontiir’s lackey tries to escape, only to stopped by Mon-El and Wildfire, who have just arrived in time to help clean up and set Sun Boy’s jaw.

On Orando, Karate Kid and Queen Projectra prepare for a grand wedding ceremony, hoping that there will be no disasters. Brainiac 5’s team travels to Orando, and Brainiac 5 takes the opportunity to tell Kara that the reason he’s been so sloppy in his thinking lately is the she distracts him, taking her aback.

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REVIEW:

The story is almost flawless. Paul Levitz uses a seemingly quick, easy story with a small team to build upon a couple of subplots, including a big one that he’s been working on for a couple of years. There are a few clues here, namely the “Durlan emigration file” and Shrinking Violet’s use of a “Durlan Nerve Cruncher.” Levitz did all this without getting in the way of an entertaining and exciting story. The villain choice of the Emerald Empress served to make her a threat in her own right, something that lasted for years, up until later stories made her a victim of the Emerald Eye. Here she is the villain and the Eye is a tool, that gives power to her villainy.

Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt do an exquisite job on the art, most notably using Sun Boy as a light source consistently and effectively. Wally Wood’s influence on Keith Giffen’s style here is unmistakable, and well served without seeming like a rip-off or an homage. The Emerald Empress is drawn consistently as regal and commanding. At times Mahlstedt’s use of duo-shading works better than others, but where it works it adds significantly to the story.

The use of colors by Carl Gafford is exquisite, especially given that this is the period before Photoshop. Clouds are done with color instead of lines, and the effects of the Emerald Eye and Brainiac 5’s force shield are rendered with color. The shading is done very well and doesn’t distract at all from the story, even adding to the storytelling at times.

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NOTES:

This issue has been collected in Legion of Super-Heroes: The Curse (ISBN #1401230989). This collection has the other issues from the great Shrinking Violet subplot and storyline and shows the evolution of Keith Giffen’s style as he showed signs of being influenced by Jose Muñoz.

If you just want to get this issue, you should be able to find it affordably, especially at a larger convention. I wouldn’t pay more than $2-3 for a Near Mint copy, and would recommend checking the bargain boxes.

Because I’m in the middle of moving and unable to get to a lot of stuff that I needed, the images in this review came from Supergirl Comic Book Commentary, a really neat blog that I’m going to take a closer look at.

FINAL RATING: 9 (out of a possible 10)