Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Review: Tales Of The Legion Of Super-Heroes #314

We're two weeks away from the release of Supergirl #52 which will re-imagine the Supergirl/Brainiac 5 relationship. And so I continue my review of the Kara/Querl romance during the Paul Levitz years on the Legion of Super-Heroes. I'm closing in on the end of this run of reviews as there are only two more issues of Legion which guest-starred the pre-Crisis Earth-one Supergirl.

Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #314, released in the middle of 1984, was a creative team effort between LSH legends Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen. The two co-plotted the story with Levitz writing the dialogue and Giffen supplying the artistic breakdowns of the issue. Finished art was done by Terry Shoemaker and Karl Kesel.

The issue also represents something of an historic moment for the Legion, from a publishing point of view. This was the first issue tagged with the 'Tales of ...' title. Earlier that month, Legion of Super-Heroes #1, the 'direct market only' Baxter paper series had been released. 'Tales' would run original material for a year and then began reprinting the Baxter series for the mainstream market of convenience stores, etc. It's hard to remember just how small the direct market was back then.

But onto the story.

'The trial of Ontiir' picks up the storyline which had finished in Legion of Superheroes #303. (I reviewed that issue here.)

Ontiir, the apparently duplicitous Science Police officer working in cahoots with the Dark Circle and the Emerald Empress, is being tried by the United Planets for treason. In a shocking turn of events, Ontiir tells the court that he was ordered to betray the Science Police ... that he was ordered to pretend to be a double agent so he could infiltrate the Dark Circle as a spy.

The Legionnaires on that mission are present as witnesses and are incredulous at this explanation. After all, Sun Boy, Brainiac 5, and Supergirl were all captured and nearly executed by Ontiir and the Dark Circle. Sun Boy had his jaw smashed. With such close calls, the Legion can't believe that Ontiir is telling the truth ... although they are willing to wait out the testimony.

Unfortunately, the proceedings are short lived. When Chief Zendak of the Science Police can't produce the files that would support Ontiir's claims, Ontiir calls on his other friends.

The court room is literally split asunder as a Dark Circle ship crashes into the building. You can really feel Giffen's influence on the top panel.

While this is, in effect, a jail break, the Legionnaires never lose sight of their top priority. They focus first on saving the jurors and other innocents by the Dark Circle attack.

During the confusion, Ontiir is able to escape, spirited away by a Dark Circle cruiser.

While the Weber's World politicians start discussing what the United Planets next move should be, Supergirl decides to take the fight to the Circle. She wants Ontiir to face justice! Funny how much better this declaration comes off that the recent similar on in Cry For Justice.

It is great to see Supergirl be so pro-active. She really takes matters into her own hands ... and takes Brainy and Sun Boy with her. She doesn't want to get slowed down by politics and prose when action needs to happen. Levitz always treated Supergirl right.

And he knew his other characters as well, giving them individuality. I mean, only the womanizing Sun Boy would be bold enough to tweak Supergirl's cheek and call her cute.

Ontiir faces a similar trial on the Dark Circle home world. Amazingly, he claims he is loyal to them ... just as he professed his loyalty to the United Planets moments before. The Circle questions his fidelity and feel that Ontiir betrayed them to the United Planets. It sounds as though Ontiir was originally Dark Circle, was sent to the SciPo for deep cover, but then stopped communicating with the Circle for some time.

You get the sense that Ontiir was playing both sides of the field. I wonder if even he knew who he was really working for. Or if he was just enjoying the benefits of working both sides of the street.

His story is convoluted enough to flummox the Circle just as it confused the United Planets. Where do Ontiir's true loyalties lie?

The second half of this chapter really mirrors the first half. Now Ontiir's trial by the Dark Circle is interrupted by the United Planets and the Legion. But are the Legion there to rescue him? Or capture him?

The Circle remember that the last time the Legion dared invade their home space was when they had killed Chemical King (way back in Legion of Super-Heroes #228). Does that history of avenging one of their own mean Ontiir is a UP ally? Or does it mean they are angry enough to chase a traitor?

Either way, the Legion doesn't usually invade. This isn't a simple mission that Supergirl has started; this is a big deal.

The Dark Circle defenses seem pretty light for protecting the borders of an inter-galactic cult and its homeworld. Or maybe it is simply that a ticked off Kryptonian can do a lot of damage.

I absolutely adore Brainy's look here. It isn't often that we see a giddy Brainiac 5. He loves watching Supergirl tear through the Dark Circle fleet. I also think it is great to see Supergirl just rip the ships apart. Shoemaker and Kesel do a good job giving some energy and dynamism to these scenes.

With the outer defenses crushed, Supergirl scoops up Sun Boy and Brainy and zips to the Dark Circle's homeworld's surface.

It is a wonderful splash page with a very happy Supergirl. We don't always get to see a happy Supergirl, enjoying herself as a hero. She loves letting loose with her powers. She loves being in the Legion.

And she loves Brainy ... even if she only implies it rather than coming right out and saying it. In classic Brainy fashion, he is paralyzed by her words and simply can't respond. And on that note, the first part of this two part story ends.

I have to say, on re-reading these issues for these reviews, it is clear that Levitz had a fondness for Supergirl. She is always portrayed in a heroic and positive manner ... up beat, adventurous, pro-active, driven, and powerful. This issue really showcases her character.

This story has the bonus of her interacting closely with Brainy. We see how easy she is able to voice her feelings, how at ease she is around him. And we also get to see how he plays off of her, how uncomfortable he feels responding to her emotions.

The art here works well with Shoemaker and Kesel doing well with the action sequences. They draw a nice energetic Supergirl.

This was Supergirl's last Legion mission so matters in her history. I'd put it as medium importance in a Supergirl collection. These issues run $1-3 at conventions or on-line. They are worth it.

Overall grade: B+


valerie21601 said...

If I remember right the story ends with Ontiir dead and no one knows the real truth. Kara has a personal crisis of her own, it feeling like she had a major failure and feels inadequate because of it. She decides to take off on the spur of the moment. Brainy tries to say something to comfort her but too late.

I read somewhere if Levitz had gotten his way and got Kara back as Sensor Girl. One of the issues she and they would have faced, is her feeling inadequate when she can't stop things from going bad. With plans for them to mature together in their emotions and their love.

Sigh! Perhaps we can petition Levitz for an Elsewhere Worlds graphic novel, where instead of Projectra, it's Kara behind the mask when the Emerald Empress de-masks her? And he shows what could have been for our favorite couple if he had done it his way?

Mauricio said...

I have it too. :D

Anj said...

If I remember right the story ends with Ontiir dead and no one knows the real truth. Kara has a personal crisis of her own, it feeling like she had a major failure and feels inadequate because of it. She decides to take off on the spur of the moment. Brainy tries to say something to comfort her but too late.

I'll be reviewing part 2 of the story sometime soon, but your recollections are on the money.

TalOs said...

valerie21601: I just truly love that Elseworld idea! :-D