Friday, January 5, 2018

Review: Superboy And The Legion of Super-Heroes #255

Hey all!

A snow-pocalypse has slightly altered the schedule of the blog so my review of Superman #38 has been delayed  from today into next week. As a result, please enjoy this look back at Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #255.

I have been looking for a Legion book to review on this site for a bit. Most know I love the Legion and I have been waiting for the team to get a proper reboot in the Rebirth era.

And given my recent lamenting of the 'going back in time to visit Krypton' storyline in Action Comics these days, this issue seemed like a quirky little book to go to for a review. There isn't any Supergirl in this post. But not only do you get a visit to Krypton and the El family before the planet blows up, you get plenty of angsty teenage Clark. As a bonus, you get Shrinking Violet in her mod green jumpsuit! What's not to love?

This is a near-perfect example of a Bronze Age done in one story, zipping through any number of plot points with startling alacrity. And this book starts more like a Superboy solo book than a Legion tale. It takes a while for everything to mesh. But once it does, it is a wild ride.

"The Super-Spectacles Swipe" was written by Gerry Conway with art by Joe Staton and Vince Colletta. This was the writer/artist team of this particular era of the team, a run neither revered nor despised for the most part. Staton's cartoonier style is blunted a bit by Colletta's more blocky house style.  I did love the little role call we'd see at the top of the opening splash we would get in this time.

The book opens with Superboy remembering that he promised Pa to help with inventory at the Kent general store. So off he zips.

The opening few pages are an interesting conversation between Pa and Clark. Clark is a bit lackadaisical in his protecting his identity. He barely puts on his glasses and is easily carrying crates of canned goods. It is enough to make Pa worried. Even Jonathan knows that glasses alone are a dumb disguise.

I do like that Clark says that he has a whole act. It isn't just the glasses. It's also his voice, his walk, the whole gamut. I like that.

But all that acting doesn't stop that crate carry from being a problem. When a young Lana Lang comes in, Clark has to think fast, emptying the crates with a super-speed thump, sending the cans through the floor and into the basement.

I don't recall reading too many stories about Clark being sick of having to play the role of the bespectacled, mild-mannered, kid. But Conway milks it here. I love this first panel of Clark putting the glasses down and wishing he never had to put them back again.

Be careful what you wish for Clark because without you seeing a bulbous alien sneaks in and pilfers them, replacing them with another pair.

It turns out the new pair are plain old glasses. When in class, Clark has to use his heat vision for a long distance rescue melting the new lenses. With Lana about to pounce and see the molten glass, Clark has to act the klutz. He stomps on the new glasses and runs out of the class.

I guess that is smart thinking from Clark.

What happens next is a pretty big info dump explaining the plot and the alien thief.

In the future, someone broke into the Superman museum and stole a Luthor designed time ray.

The Legion is called in to investigate. Even they are confused when something as powerful as real phantom zone projector was left untouched. Seems a bit risky to have a working model of that there.

Then again, there is a slice of cake there too!

Later that day, the people of Tokyo simply vanish. The Legion wonders if they were sent into the Phantom Zone given the recent theft in the museum. But the projector only shows that the people are there in spirit form. They can't be solidified. Some other weapon was used to do that.

At this point the bulbous alien from Smallville shows up in his ship. He is Gorgli and he was behind the disappearance of the Tokyo citizens. He used some ray to send them into another dimension.

He will free them but only if Earth turns over 10000 people that he can sell as slaves. Turns out our opposable thumbs are great for labor!

The UP and eventually the Legion get called in to try to stop this alien but his weapons and shield, made with some light energy provbed too much.

Now I know Wildfire and Cos are pretty powerful. But Vi and Shady aren't the strongest of Legionnaires. Where are everyone else? Boy Mon-El and Ultra Boy could have helped. But I wonder if Tinya might have been the best weapon, slipping through the shield?

Defeated, the team heads back to the Superman Museum where they figure out that the stolen time ray went back to Smallville.

It is clear that the alien is using the Kryptonian lenses to somehow power his device. Maybe Superboy's added strength will even the odds.

Even Superboy's powers can't help. It looks like the alien might win.

But then the Legion gets an idea. Maybe they need a Kryptonian lens as well to build their own weapon. This idea comes upon them with three pages left in the book! This would be a six issue arc these days.

So the Legion team heads back in time, before Krypton exploded, and head into Jor-El's lab all sneaky to steal some Kryptonian glass.

Okay. What about a lens store? Or a glass factory? Did they really need to head into Jor-El's lab as the scientist is working on Kal's rocket?? Seems riskier than keeping a phantom zone projector in a museum.

Despite her espionage skills, Vi is caught in the act by baby Kal.

With the new lens in their possession, the team heads back to 2976 and somehow make a weapon of their own. (Who designed it? Superboy? Wildfire?) Whoever made it made it well. Flooded with energy from Wildfire and Superboy, the Legion cannon smashes through the Gorgli's shield, destroying the enslaver's ship. Superboy grabs the alien. Soon all is well. That happened fast!

For me, the best part of the issue is the last panel. I love Vi in that Dave Cockrum designed one-piece. So seeing her lying on that lens and Superboy recognizing her from when they met when he was a toddler was a nice touch.

So that is a return trip to Krypton I don't mind. 2+ pages. Superman/boy/girl not there. No worries about rewriting time. But outside of that, this story is almost too bonkers to follow.

And what do you think that cake is from? Superman's wedding maybe??

Overall grade: B (so silly)


Anonymous said...

Clark Kent sets his glasses aside and an alien from the future teleports in and steals them. Only in the Bronze Age, folks.

"Then again, there is a slice of cake there too!"

They stole a Phantom Zone Projector and left a slice of cake untouched? What kind of thieving scum they are?

"Hel-lo, pretty lady"? This is our Clark. Polite to a fault, even when he is three.

The plot is typically nutty, but it moves at a brisk pace. In this era of decompresion and padding it looks amazing how much plot could fit in those issues. Nowadays, this story would a three-parter, at least.

Nice story.

"And what do you think that cake is from? Superman's wedding maybe??"

I'm going to make a completely wild guess and tell it's from Supergirl's sixteenth birthday. (May I suggest to review AC #270?)

Martin Gray said...

I remember this one.

i like the alien design, he looks like Clea's hairdo crossed with an unborn pig. And talking of hair, I like how Staton gives Vi a haircut so she can fit the roll call box.

I love that note, 'as told in countless issues of Superman'.

Vi's request about covering her with darkness while she shrank made no sense! Jor-El and Lara are not looking at them. Just a way to remind us Shady has powers? It looks like Colletta erased any 'ink in black here' lines Staton drew.

Anthony said...

The cake's probably from the giant cake Superboy baked on his last day in Smallville, as seen in various backstory retellings, including 1974's "Limited Collector's Edition" C31. It was part of Superboy's going-away present/party for the town. Most of the people opted to save the cake sealed under glass as a souvenir vs. eating it.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.
Mart- your description of the alien is spot on.

And thanks for all the cake ideas!! I will put Anthony's suggestion in my head as canon moving forward.