Tales Of The Legion #319 – Reviews Of Old Comics
It’s time to get back to covering the Legion of Super-Heroes stories that hooked me in the 1980’s. When last we left the Legion of this Era, Tales of the Legion was focusing on Shadow Lass and Mon-El returning to Talok VIII. There, they ran afoul of Lady Memory, the inheritor of a legacy of hatred of the Mallor family.
As I recall, this came out when I was in eighth grade. The cover made an impact on me, and when it came time to decorate a field trip journal for school, I did the Legion, copying this cover and adding the rest of the Legion. My classmates were impressed, but my teachers really hated that I didn’t illustrate the theme of the field trip, Washington, DC. They expected me to draw something really nice on my journal cover, but super-heroes wasn’t it. It was beautifully colored, though, a rarity for the journals my class had. Enough of that , though, let’s get onto the comic.
Writer: Paul Levitz
Penciller: Terry Shoemaker
Inker: Karl Kesel
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Letterer: Adam Kubert
Mon-El is flying through space, trying to cope with suddenly remembering a millennia in the Phantom Zone caused by the touch of Lady Memory. On Talok VIII, Lady Memory proclaims victory to her followers. Persuader asks about their captives, Shadow Lass and her cousin Shadow Kid.
Timber Wolf, Star Boy and Colossal Boy are viewing the scene on Talok VIII on their way to rescue them, but are perplexed by Mon-El’s absence. Timber Wolf tracks him and finds him near them, apparently driven mad. Star Boy points out that Dream Girl didn’t send Mon-El and Shadow Lass with any help because Mon-El wouldn’t need it. She then sent the three of them because the couple didn’t report in, and now the three of them have to stop the most powerful Legionnaire gone mad.
Elsewhere, the Monitor and his assistant Lyla are observing the situation. They have been asked by a mysterious client to obtain an item from Legion Headquarters, which their equipment lets them look into with no trouble. Inside, Brainiac 5 is trying to strengthen Dawnstar’s tracking powers. They need to find the missing Legionnaires, but have had no luck so far. Dream Girl shows up to observe as the process is attempted again.
In space, Timber Wolf, Colossal Boy and Star Boy wait for Mon-El to approach. Star Boy uses his power to increase Mon-El’s mass to keep him from flying away quickly. Colossal Boy grabs him, but falls down, not accounting for the massive weight. Timber Wolf attempts to help, but is thrown away. Star Boy increases Mon-El’s mass to simulate his home planet of Daxam, which should hold him in place.
On Talok VIII, Lady Memory is rallying the hill people with a rousing speech. She orders Persuader to free Shadow Lass from her bonds. Lady Memory wants to kill Shadow Lass herself. She boasts to be the reincarnation of her people’s memory. Her slaying Shadow Lass will be a sacrifice to her ancient gods.
In Dark Circle territory, Dev-Em knocks a guard unconscious to take his uniform. He uses a distorter to take the guard’s place.
Mon-El is in protective custody, but he’s still insane. Star Boy contacts Saturn Girl who can’t help with her telepathy from so far away. However, she does have an idea. It does have risks, though. Star Boy agrees to try it, since being a Legionnaire is risky enough.
Shadow Lass and Lady Memory are fighting hand to hand. Shadow Lass responds to Lady Memory’s taunts by proclaiming that Talok has moved away from the barbarism of her ancestor’s beliefs. Talok VII has moved past the barbarism of human sacrifice. Unable to beat Shadow Lass in combat, she uses her powers to bring out painful memories. Shadow Lass hides in a dome of shadow. Lady Memory charges in only to be knocked out by Shadow Lass, who has overcome her memories.
Persuader taunts Shadow Lass, raising his axe to kill her cousin. Just as the blade is coming down, Mon-el swoops in to block it. The shock wave throws Persuader to the ground. Colossal Boy and Timber Wolf capture and disarm Persuader. Star Boy holds off the hill people army until Mon-El can throw them away in a whirlwind. Using heat vision and super-breath, he then captures Lady Memory in a cage of hardened sand.
As the Legionnaires clean up, Mon-El tells Shadow Lass how he broke the madness Lady Memory drove him to. Superboy lands, explaining that he came from the twentieth century at Saturn Girl’s request. He re-staged the time he sent Mon-El into the Phantom Zone, bringing him to his senses. Mon-El flies off, musing on the time in the future when he and SHadow Lass can explore the vastness of space together.
At Legion Headquarters, Brainiac 5’s experiment is apparently a success. Dawnstar gets a sense of the missing Legionnaires. Unfortunately, the equipment shorts out and she loses the trail. Brainiac 5 vows to repeat the brief success.
Paul Levitz’s story is good, but forgettable.Ultimately, this is framed as a Shadow Lass story, but Mon-El takes it over. That’s the problem with a lot of Legion stories by a lot of writers. For a Legionnaire with lesser powers to shine, it has to be explained why Mon-El or one of the other powerful Legionnaires can’t assist. With Shadow Lass, Mon-El is a given to be in the story. His temporary insanity because of Phantom Zone memories is something that comes up again and again. One can read only so many stories about how Mon-El spent a thousand years in the Phantom Zone. I’ve been re-reading the Five Years Later stories again, and in the fourth issue, there’s a great explanation for this reaction to the trauma. Reading this issue, it’s easy to see that in effect.
The fight between Shadow Lass and Lady Memory is well done, although, Lady Memory’s motivations never quite ring as valid to start a revolution. The weird thing about Talok VIII, is that the hill people are so under-represented, the Legion never takes a moment to solve the larger problem of why they constantly feel the need to conquer the city government. Mon-El dumps them back in the hills and writes them off.
Everything I said last time about Terry Shoemaker’s artwork remains true. This issue, Dawnstar gets the treatment of looking more like her age. A couple of effects get applied to his artwork to work with the story. It works to different degrees, but he does make his blacks very black, notably with Shadow Lass’s costume. I really like this version of her costume, since it doesn’t bear too much skin. About the time that Greg Laroque came onto as artist, it was made a little more feminine, but remained a full, black bodysuit.
It seems that too many artists resort to putting her into some variation of a bikini or bathing suit. There is a tradition that if there is something unique about a character’s skin they have to show it off. In Legion, it doesn’t make sense, because Brainiac 5 and Chameleon Boy wear full-body costumes for the majority of the time, across most incarnations. Putting Shadow Lass into a swimsuit doesn’t serve a purpose. I appreciate Barry Kitson for doing something different in the Threeboot, but like Laroque, he felt the need to bear her navel. I don’t have a solution for this dilemma except to do something along the lines of what Keith Giffen designed in this costume.
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. If you want to read it digitally, then you can find it on Comixology and DC Universe. DC hasn’t collected this issue yet. That’s a real shame.
Final Rating: 8.0 (out of 10)