Friday, February 8, 2013

LSH Reread, part fourteen

(Covering Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 # 41-47, 1987-1988)

Major developments:

*The Legion tracks their mysterious foe Starfinger to a satellite. They battle him, his army, and his strange "Bond girl" bodyguards Starlight and Starbright. Starfinger self-destructs the station after badly injuring Colossal Boy and is presumed to have been killed.
*Longtime supporting player Laurel Kent reveals that she is not actually a descendant of Superman at all, but one of the immortal robot Manhunters (as in "No man escapes the...").
*Cham signs out on one of his Espionage Squad missions.
*The weird anti-energy lifeforms from Quislet's home universe abduct him and Wildfire through a black hole and attempt to punish him for stealing his exploration/survival vessel, but they escape.
*The egotistical blowhard Atmos, from Star Boy's home planet of Xanthu, applies for membership in the team. Chuck and Luorno recommend him for the Academy; he brashly turns them down.
*Three weird (and ponderous) aliens called the Lords of Luck reveal that they have been manipulating events in Garth, Ayla, and Mekt's lives, including the accident that gave them their lightning powers. They arrange for Mekt's escape from prison. Garth recaptures him.
*Brainy has been at work in his lab, but it's revealed that he and three others are quietly working on something on their own. Mon-El, distant and cold to Shady, is likely among them. Tellus unwittingly learns that Saturn Girl is also involved, and he coins it a "conspiracy." He confides in both Magnetic Kid and in his former teacher Luorno, not realizing that she is the fourth conspirator.
*Over the course of several identities and assignments, Cham works his way up Starfinger's criminal organization, confirming that he has survived and is still working his schemes.

Here's another run of the comic that doesn't really invite a great deal of comment. These are mostly pretty solid comics, and have aged well, but nothing in them really stands out as transcendent, either.

Well, there is Starfinger, I suppose. Good grief. I somehow remembered him as a powerful and entertaining villain. He isn't. He's ridiculous. He doesn't even begin to appear as though he's a scheming, dangerous planner, but rather a spoiled child. He is prone to utterly childish temper tantrums and fits of ego, and his whole position of "how dare the Legion interfere with my plans?!" is the sort of thing that somebody who grew up in a vacuum and never heard of superheroes would take. The "killing his underlings who fail him" angle is so overplayed that he appears less like Darth Vader and more like the sort of boss that no criminal would bother working for. There's got to be an easier way to make a dishonest living than working for this lunatic in his carnival costume!

Worse, Paul Levitz makes one of his very few letters page mistakes with Starfinger. Now, for years, Levitz has been one of the most entertaining figures in all of comics fandom when replying to reader input. He's been thoughtful, humble, honest, and accepting of fan praise and of criticism. He's defended his work in a professional and tactful way, and accepted the blame when things didn't work as well as he'd hoped. Somehow, though, he let one clue too many slip through the net. If Starfinger doesn't turn out to be the criminal whom Colossal Boy had captured in issue # 39's flashback issue, I'll be very surprised, because Levitz darn near spells it right out in neon.

The oversized episode with the Luck Lords is published as LSH's 30th Anniversary issue. Like some previous collections along the same lines, it features guest work by artists from earlier days, including some fine work by Dave Cockrum. I remember this issue very fondly and very particularly, because, when I came back to LSH in the 1990s, I bought this back issue, along with thirteen or fourteen others, from the quarter bin at a shop in Athens, Georgia, and enjoyed the heck out of it. One of the other issues came from about three years into the controversial 1990s run spearheaded by fans-turned-pros Tom and Mary Bierbaum.

Anyway, this anniversary issue showed that three bizarre, all-seeing aliens called the Lords of Luck had overseen and manipulated every event in Garth Ranzz's life. The other issue, which I read the same evening, showed that the Lords blinked and missed the fairly major event of Garth actually staying dead; the Bierbaums decided to claim that Garth had never been resurrected, and that all this time it had been the shapeshifting Legion of Super-Pets blob Proty masquerading as Garth. Uh-huh. I understand that this, and some of the other, shall we say, eyebrow-raising retcons endorsed by the Bierbaums were subsequently erased from contemporary continuity and canon. GOOD.

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