Retro Review: Tales Of The Legion Of Super-Heroes #314-325, Legion Of Super-Heroes Annual #3, and Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1 By Levitz, Giffen, Newell, Shoemaker, Jurgens & Others For DC Comics

Tales of The Legion of Super-Heroes #314-325, Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #3, and Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1 (August 1984 – July 1985)

Written by Paul Levitz (#314, 318-319, Annual #3, Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1), Mindy Newell (#321-323)

Co-Plotted and designed by Keith Giffen (#314-317, Annual #3, Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1)

Plot by Paul Levitz (#315-317, 320, 324-325)

Plot Assist by Paul Levitz (#321-323)

Dialogue by Mindy Newell (#315-317, 320, 324-325)

Pencilled by Terry Shoemaker (#314-319), George Tuska (#314-317), Dan Jurgens (#320-325), Ernie Colón (#324), Curt Swan (Annual #3), Keith Giffen (Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1)

Inked by Karl Kesel (#314-325, Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1), Romeo Tanghal (Annual #3)

Colour by Carl Gafford (#314-325, Annual #3, Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1)

Spoilers (from thirty-four to thirty-five years ago)

When The Legion moved to its baxter paper series and was relaunched, the numbering of the previous run (which had started life as Superboy, then became Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes) continued as Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes.  For the first year, it told new stories featuring the Leigon, before it began to reprint the stories from the baxter series.

As a kid, I never knew there were new stories in this book.  I started reading the Legion after this was cancelled, and had only ever picked up one issue of this book, which was a reprint of something I’d already read.  As such, I’m reading this first year’s worth for the first time, in the context of the Levitz/Giffen run, and the ongoing baxter title. Just from flipping through these comics, it’s clear that these were considered secondary, but there are just so many characters in this world that more space could only benefit them. 

Let’s track who turned up in the title:

The Legion of Super-Heroes

  • Sun Boy (Dirk Morgna; #314-315, 318, 320, 325, Annual #3)
  • Supergirl (Kara; #314-315)
  • Brainiac 5 (Querl Dox; #314-315, 318-319, 321-323, Annual #3)
  • Invisible Kid II (Jacques Foccart; #314-318, 324, Annual #3)
  • Lightning Lad (Garth Ranzz; #314,316, 321, Annual #3)
  • Saturn Girl (Imra Ardeen-Ranzz; #314, 316, 319, 321, Annual #3)
  • Invisible Kid I (not actually Lyle Norg; #314-316)
  • Blok (#314-316, 318, 325, Annual #3)
  • The White Witch (Mysa Nal; #314-316, 318, 324-325, Annual #3)
  • Dream Girl (Nura Nal; #314, 316-323, Annual #3)
  • Phantom Girl (Tinya Wazzo; #314, 325, Annual #3)
  • Cosmic Boy (Rokk Krinn; #316-318, Annual #3)
  • Bouncing Boy (Chuck Taine; #316-317, Annual #3)
  • Wildfire (Drake Burroughs; #316-318, 322-323, Annual #3)
  • Dawnstar (#316, 318-324, Annual #3)
  • Mon-El (Lar Gand; #316, 318-319, 324-325, Annual #3)
  • Element Lad (Jan Arrah; #316, 322, 325, Annual #3)
  • Duo Damsel (Luornu Durgo; #317)
  • Shadow Lass (Tasmia Mallor; #318-319, Annual #3)
  • Colossal Boy (Gim Allon; #318-320, 325, Annual #3)
  • Star Boy (Thom Kallor; #318-322, Annual #3)
  • Timber Wolf (#318-320, Annual #3)
  • Superboy (Clark Kent; #319)
  • Ultra Boy (Jo Nah; #324-325)
  • Shrinking Violet (Salu Digby; #324, Annual #3)
  • Chameleon Boy (Reep Daggle; Annual #3)
  • Matter-Eater Lad (Tenzil Kem; Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1)

Villains

  • Ontiir of Tsauron (Dark Circle; #314-315, 325)
  • The Dark Circle (#314-315, 319, 322-325)
  • Golgoth (Dark Circle; #314-315)
  • Mordru (#315-316, Annual #3)
  • Prince Evillo (#316)
  • The Dream Demon (#317)
  • The Persuader (#318-319, 324)
  • Lady Memory (#318-319)
  • Magpie (#320)
  • Universo (#320)
  • Awian (Reverend Mother of The Core, #322-323)
  • Rand (The Arm of Kol – The Core; #322-323)
  • Norak (Dark Circle; #325)
  • Starfinger (Dr. Larsh; Annual #3)
  • H’sbiah (Annual #3)
  • Darkseid (Annual #3)
  • Tusker (Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1)
  • Eyeful Ethel (Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1)
  • Pulsar Stargrave (Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1)

Guest Stars

  • Polar Boy (Legion of Substitute Heroes; #316, Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1)
  • Stone Boy (Legion of Substitute Heroes; #316, Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1)
  • Dev-Em (#317, 319, 322-325)
  • Monitor (#317, 319-320)
  • Harbinger (Lyla Michaels; #317, 319-320)
  • Duplicate Boy (Heroes of Lallor; #317)
  • Evolvo Lad (Heroes of Lallor; #317)
  • Life Lass (Heroes of Lallor; #317)
  • Gas Girl (Heroes of Lallor; #317)
  • Chlorophyll Kid (Legion of Substitute Heroes; Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1)
  • Fire Lad (Legion of Substitute Heroes; Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1)
  • Infectious Lass (Legion of Substitute Heroes; Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1)
  • Porcupine Pete (Legion of Substitute Heroes; Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1)
  • Colour Kid (Legion of Substitute Heroes; Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1)

Supporting Characters

  • Kimball Zendak (Science Police Chief; #314-315, 325)
  • Danielle Foccart (#314)
  • Ambassador Relnic (#314-315)
  • Doctor Gym’ll (Medicus-One; #315-316, 321, Annual #3)
  • Night Girl (Lydda Jath, Legion of Substitute Heroes; #316)
  • Graym Ranzz (#316, 321, Annual #3)
  • Comet Queen (Grava, Legion Academy; #316)
  • Magnetic Kid (Pol Krinn, Legion Academy; #316)
  • Laurel Kent (Legion Academy; #316, 324)
  • Computo (team servant; #317-318, 320, 322)
  • Shvaughn Erin (Science Police Legion Liaison Officer; #317-318, 323, Annual #3)
  • Shadow Kid (Grev Mallor; #318-319, Annual #3)
  • Gigi Cusimano (Science Police Executive Branch; #318, 320, 323-325, Annual #3, Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1)
  • Yera Allon (#320)
  • Jhodan (The Arm of Kol – The Core; #321-323)
  • Ina (Novitiate in The Core; #321-323)
  • Spliff (#321-323)
  • Mojai Desai (President of Earth; #323)
  • Garridan Ranzz (Annual #3)

Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:

  • Ontiir’s trial begins on Weber’s World, and he surprises everyone by pleading guilty.  He claims that he was sent by the Science Police to infiltrate the Dark Circle, and was therefore doing his job when he helped the Emerald Empress take over the UP’s bureaucratic planet.  The Legionnaires watching the trial – Sun Boy, Supergirl, and Brainiac 5 are shocked. Chief Zendak is not able to corroborate Ontiir’s story, but it doesn’t matter because a Dark Circle vessel crashes into the courtroom to rescue him.  The Legionnaires are too busy helping keep the court officials and spectators safe to stop him. Invisible Kid has returned his sister Danielle home to Abidjan, and now wonders if there’s a place for him in the Legion since the first Invisible Kid has returned.  Supergirl lets Ambassador Relnic know that she and her companions are going to capture Ontiir. Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl board a commercial shuttle to Medicus One, but first stop a smuggler. Ontiir stands before the leadership of the Dark Circle, of which only Golgtoh is named, and claims that the Circle had told him to infiltrate the SP, which is why he worked against them during the Earthwar.  They have no proof of this, but it doesn’t matter as the three Legionnaires arrive and attack the Circle’s defenses. While fighting, Kara makes it clear she has feelings for Brainy. Jacques goes to visit Lyle, who appears very depressed, and claims he wants to die again.
  • In the back-up to #314, Blok is happy to see that the White Witch has finally stored a data tape narrating her history.  He locks the door to watch it without interruption. We learn that Mysa was born without the ability to see the future, like her sister Nura, and almost everyone else on Naltor.  Her mother died suddenly, news that affects Blok, making him cry. Phantom Girl comes in the room, sees he’s upset, and teases him lightly before leaving. After their mother’s funeral (a big deal, as she was High Seer), Nura took on her replacement as her teacher, and made reference to needing to help her younger sister.  Mysa refused this, choosing to instead go to Sorcerer’s World, where the Naltorians came from. Blok is surprised to learn that a ten-year-old would be so self-aware. Mysa comes, and tells him that she will tell him the rest of her story in person.
  • As Supergirl, Brainiac 5, and Sun Boy bust in on the Dark Circle’s trial of Ontiir, the Circle is outraged, being very private characters.  Supergirl tries to explain that they need to take Ontiir back to the UP, but when she tries to use her x-ray vision to see who is behind the Circle’s robes, all of the Circle members, on their entire planet, teleport away in the blink of an eye, taking Ontiir with them.  Invisible Kid II tries to recruit Doctor Gym’ll to help Invisible Kid I, but he refuses, being certain that Lyle is dead. When Jacques goes to see Lyle, who is still insisting he wants to die, he offers to go with him to the realm where he met him before. Brainy figures out that the Dark Circle must have used their sun’s power to teleport away.  Ambassador Relnic and Chief Zendak have a commandeered vessel enter Dark Circle space, looking to assist the Legionnaires. On their secret star orbiting facility, the Dark Circle attempt to continue Ontiir’s trial, and honestly, it’s hard to tell if he is a loyal double agent, or a liar. The Circle’s leadership insist that Ontiir kill himself, but just then Supergirl leads the trio of Legionnaire’s into the base, causing even more outrage.  The Circle’s leader (Golgoth?) takes off his robes, revealing that he’s a tentacled being, and there is a fight. Ontiir grabs a blaster, and is about to kill someone when Zendak and the SP bust in; Zendak shoots Ontiir, which the Circle points out, means they have nothing further to discuss. As our heroes return home, Supergirl decides that she should return to her own time and leaves.
  • The White Witch tells Blok more of her history.  She describes starting her tutelage on the Sorcerer’s World, where she gained the enmity of Mordru, for no good reason.  She spent years training, and showed up Mordru at one point. When it was time for her to take a major test, who did something to the flames that were supposed to reveal her true self, and she was revealed as an ugly crone, who the other sorcerers immediately rejected.
  • 1984’s Annual was numbered #3, continuing the numbering of the previous volume, but didn’t have the “Tales of” added to the front.  I decided to include it in this column instead of the Baxter series column, despite the fact that it continued and wrapped up stories from both series.  Saturn Girl is about to give birth, so Doctor Gym’ll has her moved to the delivery room. Walking through the halls of Medicus One, Lightning Lad runs into Doctor Larsh, who examined him in the last volume.  Larsh tries to capture him, and reveals himself to be the villain Starfinger, but Garth takes him out in no time. A squad of Legionnaires (The White Witch, Phantom Girl, Cosmic Boy, and Colossal Boy) are on Avalon, because Element Lad wonders if Mordru might have something to do with the Legion of Super-Villains, who are causing problems in the Baxter series.  They discover that Mordru is missing from the pit he was buried in after Darkseid stole his powers. We see that Mordru is in the possession of four mages, one of whom is a cat, and another of whom looks like it might be Ontiir, but he’s never named, and it’s racist to assume that all yellow lizardmen are the same guy. The mages work to free him from the rocky layer surrounding him.  Element Lad has Brainiac 5 and Sun Boy join him in orbit around Earth to destroy some incoming meteors, because Jan is worried that they could have been sent by Mordru. As Imra prepares to give birth, Doctor Gym’ll awkwardly references the fact that the parents to be never let him determine their baby’s gender, or even how many babies are being delivered (which, I would assume, would be impossible to not know during even the most cursory of examinations).  Dawnstar is tracking the LSV squad that stole the fusion powerspheres in the Baxter series, with Wildfire, Mon-El, Shadow Lass, Timber Wolf, and Chameleon Boy following (mostly in a cruiser). A yellow flame and some snakes appear around Shady, and she is teleported away; they suspect Mordru’s involvement. Invisible Kid (II) and Blok talk about the threat Mordru poses. Bouncing Boy is talking to Shadow Kid about his decision to leave the Legion Academy and return to Talok VIII when the same green portal takes him away.  We see that Shadow Kid and Lass have been captured by the mages, who hope to use their darkness to restore Mordru’s powers (since Darkseid’s darkness is what took them away). The rocks begin to fall off of Mordru. The White Witch leads her squad in a ritual, and she determines that it’s not Mordru they face yet, but that he’s involved in things; she leads them to Sorcerer’s World. Dawnstar’s squad learns over the communicator where Shady was taken, and they head off. The mages enact a ritual that begins to spread darkness over the universe, which interferes with the cruiser that Dream Girl, Star Boy, and Shrinking Violet are in, and also makes it so that Gym’ll cannot see Imra, and has to deliver her child in the dark.  Mordru begins to wake up, but Mon-El, Wildfire, and Ultra Boy arrive, and free Shady and her cousin. The cat is about to blast the Legionnaires when the White Witch arrives, identifying the cat as H’sbiah, and stopping her. The Legionnaires make quick work of the mages, and the darkness goes away. On Medicus One, we see Garth and Imra with their infant, a boy. On Sorcerer’s World, the Legion delivers the again-sleeping Mordru and the mages to the teachers, who praise Mysa. The Legion flies off. On Medicus One, Garth and Imra talk about the fact that their baby, who is not named (but we know he is Graym) is a single birth, which means he takes after Imra’s side, although she had thought she’d telepathically detected another infant.  Somewhere, in two pages that look like they were drawn by Giffen, Darkseid has the Ranzz’s second child, who he stole while the room was full of darkness. He sends the child back in time, saying he’s going to change him so that he will be unrecognizable and an enemy of his parents. He calls him Validus, and talks about how this fulfills his curse (although it seems kind of petty and pointless, doesn’t it?).
  • Cosmic Boy has called in three of the Legion of Substitute Heroes – Night Girl, Polar Boy, and Stone Boy, to help him smash the smuggling ring that brought the nuke that was used on his family.  They fight some smugglers at the spaceport, but the being behind it all traps them on his ship and sends it flying into space. Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl take their baby from Medicus One, heading out to visit their families.  Bouncing Boy takes over the Mission Monitor Board from Invisible Kid, who tells him he wants to go help the first Invisible Kid. Rokk has trouble figuring out how to stop his and the Subs’ trip into space. The ship seems to be boobytrapped, and they can’t figure out how to stop it.  Jacques goes to visit Lyle, who still wants to be dead. He uses his powers to ‘pop’ out of existence with Lyle, returning to the Limbo they were in before. Chuck sees them leave, and then gets an alert on the monitor board. Cosmic Boy and Polar Boy create an escape pod with their powers, and push it out of the ship while Stone Boy turns to stone.  Next, Rokk sends out a magnetic signal. We see three of the Legion Academy kids – Comet Queen, Laurel Kent, and Magnetic Lad, Rokk’s brother, come to get them. In deep space, Wildfire feels weird, and then ‘pops’ away, leaving Dawnstar and Mon-El to worry.
  • The White Witch continues to tell Blok her origin story.  We learn how, turned old and ugly by Mordru, she was exiled by the Sorcerers, and fell under the sway of someone named Prince Evillo.  We learn that one Sorcerer contacted Dream Girl to tell her what happened, but he was killed by Mordru. Nura came to her rescue, and restored her beauty.  Leaving Blok, Mysa continues to question her worth to the Legion. We learn how she returned to the Sorcerers’ World, and returned to her studies, slowly growing antenna and turning white while she learned more, becoming very powerful.  She was supposed to stay on the World, but when she went to say goodbye to Nura, she got caught up in the fight with Darkseid, and decided to stay. She now feels worth and equal to the other Legionnaires.
  • Wildfire is confused to find himself in another world, and finds Invisible Kid surrounded by eel-like things and drowning in some water.  He saves him, and Jacques claims that Lyle is a devil. Dream Girl checks in with Cosmic Boy, Duo Damsel, and Bouncing Boy at Legion HQ. Rokk wonders what happened to the Invisible Kids.  As the Taines leave, an encounter with the Computo drone freaks Luornu out. Wildfire realizes that he’s human again, but Jacques continues to maintain that Lyle is evil. When he throws a stone at his head, Lyle transforms into a creature that starts chasing them.  They run to the portal back to their homeworld, but the creature catches them. Officer Shvaughn Erin is waiting to make a rendez-vous with someone out by an asteroid field. Her contact is Dev-Em, who is working with the Inter-Stellar Counter-Intelligence Corps. She has a secret mission for him, and he has some terrible flirting for her.  As he flies off, he thinks about how this mission is going to be difficult on her. He is observed by a craft hidden in the tail of a comet. The Monitor is surprised to see another Kryptonian, and discusses him his Lyla Michaels, his assistant who goes on to become Harbinger. The creature holds Drake and Jacques, then tosses them. Jacques makes Drake so angry that he basically forgets to be human, and turns back into his usual Wildfire self.  They realize that their thoughts have sway over reality in this world. When the creature, who calls himself the Dream Demon, comes at them again, a bunch of Legionnaires appear to fight him. It’s a trick, and it distracts him long enough to allow our heroes to get past him and through the portal. They find themselves on Shanghalla, the place where they bury their dead. They light a flame in front of Lyle Norg’s memorial.  
  • On Lallor, a news broadcast discusses how Duplicate Boy has apparently lost his powers and dropped out of the public eye.  The other Heroes of Lallor (Evolvo Lad, Gas Girl, and Life Lass) discuss his heartbreak after Shrinking Violet punched him.  They decide they should try to help him. Duplicate Boy sits by a lake and wallows in his misery, but when he hears a woman calling for help, and sees she’s about to be hit by a floating car that’s lost control, he jumps in and saves her, realizing that his powers worked.  The woman is thankful and flirtatious, and they go off together. We see that the other Heroes arranged the whole thing, and figure that now that he’s found a new woman, he’ll be fine. This story is problematic, isn’t it?
  • With issue 318, it looks like Keith Giffen is gone, as both co-plotter and “designer”.  The remaining members of the Legion (this happens when some of the team is lost after the fight with the Legion of Super-Villains) meet, and deputy leader Dream Girl discusses how small the team is now.  They are not sure how to search for their missing friends, but also aren’t too interested in expanding the ranks of the team with untrained novices. Cosmic Boy points out that many of them wouldn’t have meet the criteria now being used to select new Legionnaires.  On Talok VIII, Grev Mallor, Shadow Kid, infiltrates a group of rebels camped outside a major city. Spying, he learns that the rebels participate in ancestor worship, which is unusual. He is found by the Persuader, who knocks him down, and takes him to the rebel leader, a woman.  Gigi Cusimano and Shvaughn Erin shop while Shvaughn worries about Element Lad. Gigi is up to something, and goes looking for Colossal Boy at his home, knowing that his wife is off planet, and flirts with him when she finds him. Mon-El spends his time using the computers to search for their missing friends.  Shadow Lass comes to him, telling him that she is worried about her cousin. Soon she and Mon-El are flying to Talok VIII, annoyed that Dream Girl wouldn’t spare them any more Legionnaires. On Talok VIII, the rebels begin their attack on the city while Persuader and his boss, Lady Memory, watch. Mon-El and Shady arrive and start to force back the attack.  On Earth, Brainiac 5 tries to boost Dawnstar’s powers to help her find the missing Legionnaires, but Timber Wolf is distracted by Computo and almost destroys the equipment. The Talokian rebels can’t stop Mon-El. Shady faces off against the Persuader, using her shadow powers to blind him. She finds her cousin tied up. Brainy gets his device working, and charges up Dawnstar’s abilities, but she still can’t find their friends.  On Talok VIII, Grev tells Shady who they are facing – Lady Memory, who confronts the champions. She says that Shady’s forebears killed her ancestors, and now she wants revenge. When Mon-El tries to intervene, her touch brings forward his centuries of memories, and he falls screaming.
  • Mon-El flies through space, plagued by all the memories Lady Memory has awakened in him.  On Talok VIII, Lady Memory is about to lead her forces into the main city. Somehow, Colossal Boy, Timber Wolf, and Star Boy are watching this from a Legion cruiser, wondering where Mon-El is as they are en route to helping.  They discover the Mon-El is dealing with his problems and they worry they are understaffed. The Monitor and Lyla Michaels watch this too, and it sounds like they are working for some clients who want them to procure an item. They look in on Legion HQ, where Brainiac 5 continues to try to upgrade Dawnstar’s powers so they can find their missing friends.  Dream Girl comes to watch their progress. Colossal Boy and the others catch up to Mon-El, and have a hard time bringing him down. Star Boy traps him in a bubble of heavy gravity. Lady Memory wants Shadow Lass and Shadow Kid to watch her take over, and she and Shady argue about motivations, and then it looks like Memory is going to kill her. On the Dark Circle’s planet, Dev-Em knocks out a guard and steals his armor, so he can go undercover.  Star Boy and his crew try to figure out how to get through to Mon-El, and even contact Saturn Girl for help, but since her telepathy doesn’t work across the galaxy, she can’t do much, but has an idea. Shady and Memory fight, and Shady knocks her out. The Persuader is about to kill Shadow Kid, but Mon-El, restored to normal, arrives to save him. The other Legionnaires arrive too, and help put down the rebellion. Mon-El captures Lady Memory. A little later, as they are cleaning up, Superboy arrives and we learn that he snapped Mon-El out of his fugue by showing him the Phantom Zone projector, which seems kind of lame.  Mon-El thinks about how he wants to explore space again. Dawnstar gets a sense of where the missing Legionnaires are, but Brainy’s machines overload before she can nail down their location.
  • A master thief called the Magpie goes on a tour of Metropolis (given by the guy that looks like the Green Arrow we’ve seen before) as a way of scoping out the Legion’s HQ.  He sees Dawnstar leave with someone in a one-man cruiser, and sees Colossal Boy and Sun Boy on the roof waving good-bye. We see those two sign out for the night. The Magpie enters the HQ using a dematerializer, making him appear like Phantom Girl to the security scanners.  He avoids some security devices he wasn’t prepared for, and uses a scanner to make the system think he’s Chief Zendak. He makes his way through various halls displaying dead Legionnaires, their enemies, and then enters a room of statues of Legionnaires on leave. He narrowly avoids Timber Wolf, who has come to talk to the statue of Light Lass.  Magpie couldn’t find the item he’s there to steal where he first thought it would be, so has to go to the other possible location, which allows us to study a two-page spread of the entire Headquarters. He enters Brainiac 5’s lab, and finds the microchip he’s looking for. Dream Girl and Star Boy know he’s there because Dreamy took a nap, and they move to stop him.  They fight, and Star Boy makes his dematerializer too heavy to lift. He teleports away, which is not supposed to be able to happen in Brainy’s lab. We learn that Magpie was working for the Monitor, who was in turn stealing the timechip for Universo. Monitor explains to Universo that he couldn’t get it, but that villain is fine with it, since he’s moved on to other plans.  Timber Wolf yells at Computo, and then Timber Wolf can’t get through a door (this last page of the story isn’t clear to me).
  • Sun Boy is out at a very 80s futuristic club, trying to pick up a girl from Venus.  He notices Colossal Boy in a booth, sitting with Gigi Cusimano, and gets suspicious that Gim is cheating on his wife.  The woman he’s picking up gets jealous, and while they make out, Dirk sees Gim and Gigi cuddling. The next morning, he confronts Gim in the gym, but Gim claims that he was innocently hanging out with a friend.  Next, Dirk goes to confront Gigi, who is at first happy to see him, but gets angry at his accusations, especially since Sun Boy has stopped calling her. She blows off his invitation to go on a date. A couple of days later, Gigi is with the Allons, and we learn that the whole thing was a set-up, and that Yera was posing as the Venusian girl.  Really, this story is kind of problematic on a few levels.
  • Mindy Newell becomes the sole writer (with plot assist from Levitz) with issue 321, and the change is obvious.  Dawnstar flies through space, followed by Brainiac 5 in a small craft, trying to find the Legionnaires that are missing.  She senses them on a planet, and moves ahead, but Brainy’s ship is suffering problems that might have been caused by flying too close to a nebula or something.  Dawny admires the world, which is pretty primitive by her standards; she is shot by some arrows and falls. Brainy’s ship crashes. Dawnstar is found by some guys speaking a language she doesn’t understand; they believe she is a messenger of Kol, their god, but they want to eat her either way.  On Earth, Dream Girl worries about the Legion’s membership issues, with so many Legionnaires off-duty. Star Boy comes to tell her how great a leader she is, but then tries to convince her to go on vacation with him again, which makes her angry. In a temple on the planet Dawny and Brainy are on, a priest named Jhodan takes off his hood, which means he can talk again.  He and his novitiate, Ina, are heading out into the communities to follow their gods will or something. The girl is excited to be able to speak, and we learn she is in love with Jhodan. Brainy decides he needs to look for Dawnstar on foot (I’m not sure why he doesn’t use his flight ring). He finds wheat strains from 24th century Earth, and gets attacked by natives, who he runs from, since he only now realizes his forcefield belt and flight ring don’t work on this planet.  He realizes he’s not good at survival stuff. Doctor Gym’ll gives Saturn Girl a checkup, and tells her that as a mother her place is at home. Dawnstar is in a cage, and the people who trapped her are worrying about the impending visit of The Core, which I guess is Jhodan. Jhodan and Ina ride Tauntauns through a village, and Jhodan gets angry when people try to give them flowers. Brainy is in rough shape and lost, and decides to follow a rabbit, but instead does some strange dance moves and collapses.  Later, he wakes up and realizes that someone has wrapped a blanket around him. That someone is a guy named Spliff (earlier, one of the people who holds Dawnstar prisoner talked about eating ganja, so there’s something fishy about this issue) who speaks in American English, and acts like he might be a paranoid schizophrenic. The Core comes to the cave where Dawnstar is, and Jhodan is impressed with her and frees her (before he does some weird dance moves too – I think maybe Dan Jurgens just wasn’t good with movement at this point in his career), which makes Ina jealous.  Dawnstar’s mind is clouded. Brainy goes to sleep wondering about Dawnstar, while she chats with Jhodan even though they can’t understand one another, and Ina plots her death.
  • The Reverend Mother of the Core declares Jhodan and Ina as enemies of Kol (I’m not all that sure why).  Dawnstar tries to escape but her injuries keep her from flying away (I guess her flight ring is also not working?); Ina tries to kill her and they fight until Jhodan puts a stop to it.  Brainiac 5 goes skinny dipping, but doesn’t clean his clothes, which bugs Spliff. Brainy watches Spliff pray, and suspects a connection to Earth. Dream Girl and Element Lad talk about the team, and Wildfire gets angry that Dawnstar is missing.  Dawnstar rides with Jhodan on his tauntaun, while Ina seethes. Jhodan blames their lack of food on his novitiate, and sends her to hunt so he can pray, as he does every few kilometres. He freaks out when there is thunder. The rest of the Core prepare to hunt for him, at Awian, the Reverend Mother’s, behest.  When one of the locals tells Awian that he dreamed about a green-skinned man, she worries about a prophecy or something. Spliff’s prays result in some dragon-type creatures dropping food, manna, in a basket at his feet. The Core catches up to Jhodan and attack. Dawnstar flies away, but then comes back to help Jhodan, because she is confused about how she feels about him.  As she enters the fight, she ends up with a sword in her hand, and one of her opponents falls on it. She is very upset that she has killed. On the Black Circle’s planet, Dev-Em, who is still undercover, tries to send a message to Shvaughn Erin. He doesn’t know that the Black Circle is on to him, but we do. Spliff leads Brainy into a village, and when everyone is upset by Brainy’s green skin, sticks up for him so now everyone likes him.  Brainy explores, and enters a temple where he finds a computer reel from Earth under the altar. Jhodan comforts Dawnstar (although they don’t speak the same language), and Ina storms off. Dream Girl gets mad at Star Boy fro being patronizing to her, and refuses to goes out with him that night. Brainy steals the computer reel, and then follows all the locals, who are running to the centre of town, where everyone is bowing down to Jhodan and Dawnstar.
  • We learn that a plague is spreading across the planet, and the people are blaming Dawnstar and Jhodan for it.  Dawny and Brainy are happy to see one another, but Jhodan is jealous of their embrace, and tackles Brainy, causing him to drop the stolen computer reel.  Dawnstar tries to calm things down, and learns that Brainy can understand Jhodan. Spliff finds the computer reel, and is angry that Brainy robbed it. Awian accepts Ina back into the Core, and we learn that Jhodan is her son; strange weather upsets her.  Shvaughn Erin is bored waiting for word from Dev-Em; Gigi Cusimano shows up to spell her off. Everyone talks at Spliff’s place, and he continues to refer to himself in the third person. Brainy upsets Jhodan by explaining that his sacred object was made by people, and that Kol doesn’t exist.  Dawnstar goes to comfort him, and they are stoned by the villagers; just then, a tornado hits. Brainy thinks it’s a coincidence, but Spliff thinks it’s a sign, and that they have to go to Awian at the temple. As they travel, they learn just how many children are dying, and how angry the locals are at them.  Awian sends people to kill them, including Rand and Ina. Ina is very ill herself, and when the two groups meet and fight a bit, there’s an earthquake. Dawny saves Rand’s life, while Brainy realizes what Ina is sick from, and wants to get antibiotics from his ship. Awian captures everyone, putting the Legionnaires and Spliff on a torture rack, where Brainy explains that he and Dawny brought microbes with them that the people on this planet have no immunity to.  The Dark Circle capture Dev-Em, and claim that his scorn for the Legion will aid their plans. Awian talks to Jhodan and Rand, who both stick up for Dawnstar; she takes her son aside to talk to him. A little later, he appears before the people, denouncing the Legionnaires, and says they are free to go. He somehow drops the computer reel, which Brainy grabs. We don’t see how they make it off the planet, given that their ship was trashed before, but a month later, Brainy goes to see the President of Earth, Desai, who tells him that they released a vaccine into the planet’s atmosphere.  Brainy wants to join an expedition to the planet, as he doesn’t understand the geological and weather events happening there. Dawnstar soaks in the tub, thinking about Jhodan (her love for him never makes sense to me). When Wildfire comes to see her, she is cold to him; the issue ends with her looking off into space thinking about Jhodan.
  • The Statement of Ownership for 1984 cites an average press run of 305 000, with average newsstand returns of 161 000.
  • Gigi Cusimano, still stationed outside Dark Circle space, calls for help when she hears an attack on a nearby planet that serves as a base for the UP.  Ultra Boy, the White Witch, and Mon-El come, but the planet is pretty trashed, and there are no survivors. Gigi believes this is the work of Dev-Em, and is pretty angry.  This upsets the Legionnaires, and Mon-El and Jo start cleaning things up to work through their thoughts. Mon-El also thinks it could have been a Daxamite responsible for this destruction.  Gigi learns of another attack taking place, so the Legionnaires head there. Back at HQ, Dawnstar continues to pine for Jhodan. Laurel Kent comes to visit her, and tries to cheer her up. The Legionnaires find a figure in a Dark Circle outfit trashing a space port.  As Mysa works to rescue people, the guys attack. The villain knocks Ultra Boy for a loop, and then sets a cruiser to explode to get Mon-El to stop following him. The Persuader is delivered to Takron-Galtos, where the warden tells him that rules have changed on the prison planet.  The three Legionnaires follow their enemy’s trail to Dark Circle space, where they are attacked by five masked figures, all as powerful as Dev-Em. Mysa’s magic is very effective against him, and soon they are all captured. Removing the masks, the Legionnaires learn that they are all Dev-Em.  Just then a Dark Circle vessel appears, and they see that the real Dev-Em is a prisoner, and that his green skin suggests he is being poisoned with kryptonite. The Dark Circle demands the Legionnaires surrender.  
  • Invisible Kid gets his own backup, pencilled by Ernie Colón.  His friend works in carto-holography in Côte d’Ivoire, and needs his help because every time he tries to map the planet Orsde, their equipment goes crazy and explodes.  His friend thinks they have poltergeists, but Jacques has another idea. He heads back to HQ to chat with Shrinking Violet for a bit, before returning to his friend with some new equipment.  It turns out that a pair of Imskians have been sabotaging the equipment, to make sure that no one learns that they have terrorist bases on Orsde. Jacques captures them in a vacuum cleaner, and feels good about himself.
  • Mon-El, Ultra Boy, and the White Witch decide to free Dev-Em from the Dark Circle, and manage to fly away at light speed before the villains can react.  Waiting in her ship, Gigi Cusimano is contacted by a celebrity gossip reporter, who wants to know about her relationship with Sun Boy; she gets angry, and we learn that he got Zendak to move her to Bismoll in the Legion of Substitute-Heroes Special that I assumed came after this issue, not before.  Mon-El and the others arrive, and explain to her that Dev-Em was cloned, and is dying from kryptonite poisoning. Mon-El knows how to help him, as their races are genetic cousins. Colossal Boy works out, and Sun Boy gives him a hard time before telling him they have a mission. A squad made up of CB, Dirk, Element Lad, Phantom Girl, and Blok head out to back up Mon-El’s squad.  Those three heroes, joined by the revived Dev-Em, head back into Dark Circle territory, not comfortable leaving them with cloned Kryptonians. We learn that the Dark Circle is made up of five people and hundreds of their clones. The five original Dark Circle council members argue; when the Legion arrives, they try to escape and have their Dev-Em clones attack. Mysa recognizes one of the Circle, and manages to work a spell that has Dev-Em absorb his clones like he’s Jamie Madrox.  Chief Zendak talks to Gigi, telling her that he’s going to bring her back to Earth, and hinting that she should date Dev-Em. Element Lad’s squad attacks the ship carrying away the inner Circle, and the heroes take them out quickly. The guy that Mysa recognized does something, and they learn that every Dark Circle clone, including that guy, has dropped dead. Later, Gigi walks Dev-Em out of the SP headquarters on Earth, as he considers Zendak’s offer to join the SP; Gigi is clearly attracted to him.  Blok updates the holofiles while Mysa waits for him, and gives him a gift. They settle in to watch some recent files, and cuddle. This is the last issue of Tales to have new material; after this it begins to reprint the offset series.
  • In a spirit very similar to Marvel’s Assistant Editor’s Month comics of the same era, DC put out a one-off Legion of Substitute Heroes Special that reunited Levitz and Giffen, and clearly did nothing to rein in their wilder impulses.  A Protean sings a song about the Subs, the team put together by Polar Boy of heroes rejected from membership in the actual Legion, usually because their powers were too weird or silly. On Bismoll, Senator Tenzil Kem (aka the Legionnaire Matter-Eater Lad, who somehow wasn’t too weird or silly to get rejected) has put in a call for the Subs to come to his planet, fearful that their new planetary computer system will be a problem.  The system looks like a bunch of old school Computos, so he’s probably right. As they (i.e., Polar Boy, Stone Boy, Cholophyll Kid, Fire Lad, Infectious Lass, Porcupine Pete) get ready to leave, they are all surprised to learn that Colour Kid has woken up that day transformed into a female. Gigi Cusimano is transferred to serve as the Sub’s liaison officer, which she is not happy about. Two villains, Eyeful Ethel and Tusker, move to do some damage to the Bismollian computers as a way of securing their villainous reputation, but instead see the more villainous Pulsar Stargrave returned to life by the computers.  The entire planet is blacked out. The Subs fool around, and run out of gas before arriving at the planet. Matter Eater Lad discovers Stargrave’s plans, and tries to stop him by biting off his nose. The Subs are stranded on a space station, and we learn that Colour Kid’s gender swap was caused by Infectious Lass, inadvertently. Stargrave continues to prepare to take over the planet, and then Paul Levitz steps in, insisting that the Subs get to Bismoll in a letter to Keith Giffen. Next, we see them each get one-page strips that explain their powers, and show them turning up all over Bismoll, and being mostly ineffective.  Stargrave keeps trying to kill Tenzil, until Polar Boy turns up and helps him get away. Tusker tries to stop Stargrave, and is about to be killed when Polar Boy freezes Stargrave to absolute zero. He blasts his way free, but then the scene cuts away. We learn from a news broadcast that as Stargrave melted the ice, Tenzil dropped Stone Boy on him, splitting his robotic body in two. We check in with each Sub again, but that’s basically it.

I can understand why DC chose to run a second LSH title at this time, especially given the title’s popularity (having a third of the sales in today’s market would guarantee at least five Legion team and/or solo titles).  That said, the quality of this series was all over the place during this year, as the book moved from a carefully interwoven extension of the main title to feeling largely like it was a storehouse for inventory stories.

Having the extra space gave this title room to dig into and develop under-used characters like the White Witch and Invisible Kid, but its success was closely tied to how involved Paul Levitz was in the writing and planning of the issues.  Mindy Newell came along about halfway through to provide dialogue, and that’s when my enjoyment of the book started to tank some. Her dialogue was often stiff or felt very dated (always a problem when a book is set in the future, yet sounds off-kilter in the present).  When Newell took over for the Dawnstar/Brainiac 5 story, things got a lot more confusing, and the story just plain didn’t work for me at all. I still don’t understand what Dawnstar saw in Jhodan…

There are some plotlines that aren’t resolved here, such as what was causing the geologic and weather events on Jhodan’s world, but I imagine that many will be resolved in future issues of the main title (if not that particular example).  

Art-wise, this book was perfectly fine, without being impressive.  Terry Shoemaker is an undersung artist, often showing up in titles that I’m writing these columns for.  Dan Jurgens is not a favourite of mine, but his earlier work is preferable to his later work for me.  

The Legion of Super-Heroes Annual featuring Saturn Girl giving birth is an odd stand-out, in that it probably should have the ‘Tales of’ logo on it.  The ending of that issue, with the revelation that the Ranzz’s secret twin was turned into Validus by Darkseid, is one of the darkest moments I’ve ever seen in comics, and it’s amazing that it’s not addressed for the rest of the year.  I think that one of the biggest losses of this title was that Keith Giffen stepped away from the Legion for a while; the bleakness of that plot point feels like something he’d come up with. That’s why it was so nice to see him return for the Substitutes special, which feels like a preview of the humour that made his Justice League run so unique.

I am going to have my first column on the deluxe format title soon, and that will go into more depth with regards to specific characters’ developments, as I’m having a hard time separating the two books in my mind at the moment, and because the most important things happened there.

If you’d like to see the archives of all of my retro review columns, click here.

The only one of these books to be collected is the Annual, which can be found here:

The Legion of Super-Heroes – The Curse Deluxe Edition

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