Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #314


Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #314 (Aug, 1984)
A Review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

The cover grabs your attention with an effectively moody illustration by Larry Mahlstedt and Dick Giordano. The cover also effectively showcases the two stories in this issue.

title: "The Trial of Ontiir"
writer/plotter: Paul Levitz
plotter: Keith Giffen
penciller:Terry Shoemaker 
inker: Karl Kesel
letterer: Adam Kubert
colorist: Carl Gafford
editor: Karen Berger


Mission Monitor Board:  
Sun Boy, Supergirl, Brainiac Five, Invisible Kid, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad

Opponents: 
The Dark Circle 

Synopsis:
If there is a reason that this issues feels similar to Legion of Super-Heroes #303, it's because its something of a type of sequel to that story. A Science Police officer named Ontiir, who appeared to be working for the Emerald Empress in that story, is now on trial for espionage. The Science Police and United Planet government believes he is a spy for the Dark Circle. His plea, however, is that he was a double agent assigned by the Science Police to infiltrate them. When Science Police Chief Kimball Zendak is called to the stand and swears there were no such orders, Ontiir calls in a Dark Circle cruiser that snatches him from the court. Supergirl, in a fit of pique, grabs her team-mates and pursues Ontiir to the Dark Circle's homeland. 

Also, Invisible Kid II confronts Invisible Kid I, having met him in a "dimension beyond reality." Lyle Norg is in a severe state of depression, watching Validus kill him over and over again in a holosphere. Lastly, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad head towards Medicus One to have their baby, stopping a smuggler on their way.


Commentary: 
This is a fun story. You don't have to know Legion history to know that darkly robed aliens called "the dark circle" are bad guys. Plus, they actually tell you that the last time the fought the Legion was when they were responsible for the death of Chemical King. So you know they are no good. Ontiir makes a great character to hang a story on. Is he a double agent, and if he is, whose side is he really on? Hopefully next issue we'll find out.
Paul does a good job with the three main Legionnaires. Supergirl is having a good time just hanging out with her friends. In fact, in one panel after she destroys a Dark Circle border patrol she says, "I love letting lose with my powers this way---!" She doesn't like that Ontiir escapes, so she takes it upon herself to chase after him. Brainiac Five is logical and Sun Boy is up for anything. Although there are only three of them, one of the Dark Circle actually whines that they are causing so much damage.

Invisible Kid II, on the other hand, is portrayed as being more of a cypher. He drops his sister off with his family, and then anxiously confronts the original Invisible Kid I, who all but ignores him. I suppose this is supposed to create an interest in this storyline, but to me it feels flat. These three pages would have been better served if something had actually happened. 
The art by Terry Shoemaker and Karl Kesel is easy on the eyes. They make every character look mostly unique, and they handle humans, aliens, architecture, and technology with equal expertise. Check out the crowd scenes at the trial, or at the space port, if you want to see the details they put into their work. On page six, for example, just for fun, Shoemaker include a visual "editor's note" as it were, showing Legion flight-ring on Invisible Kid's hand. Sure, there are a few too many half-page and full-page spreads for my taste, but those were probably there to pad the story. They're not unattractive, so I can't really complain.

**********Second Story**********

title: "A Witch Shall Be Born"
writer/plotter: Paul Levitz
plotter: Keith Giffen
penciller: George Tuska 
inker: Karl Kesel
letterer: John Costanza
colorist: Carl Gafford
editor: Karen Berger


Mission Monitor Board:  
 Blok, White Witch, Phantom Girl

Opponents: none


Synopsis: 
Blok has decided to spend his time recuperating by watching holo-vids, so is delighted to find that White Witch has supplied historical data for the Legion archive. The flashbacks start with the birth of Mysa, second daughter to the High Seer of the planet Naltor. However, on a planet where future vision is the norm, Mysa is born without the gift of "Cassandra's blessing." When she is ten years old, their mother dies. Nura (future Dream Girl) becomes the acolyte of the new High Seer, but Mysa decides to leave Naltor for their ancestral home planet of the Sorcerers' World.

Commentary: 
This is a cute little story and a nice match up between Blok, the guy with the rough exterior and a heart of gold, and the dainty-looking White Witch, who is actually a pillar of strength. Paul Levitt gives us two especially nice moments. One is when Phantom Girl interrupts Blok and sees that he is crying over the death of the girls' mother. There is an affection shown between them that tells us a lot about both Phantom Girl and Blok. It was nice to see. Then later, taking a break between holo-vids, White Witch herself arrives and then offers to tell the rest of her story to Blok personally. For some reasons, these two totally dissimilar characters mesh well together.
My one question is about the children's father. He is never mentioned or shown at all. Although their mother was the leader of their people, was their father killed? Was he just a sperm donor? It felt odd that he wasn't mentioned at all, especially when their mother died and made them orphans. 


Status: 
This issue has not yet been reprinted.

4 comments:

  1. I am definitely a big fan of this issue and covered the Supergirl side of things on my Supergirl site here: http://comicboxcommentary.blogspot.com/2010/04/review-tales-of-legion-of-super-heroes.html

    I love the White Witch/Blok relationship and will have some commentary on the 5YL side of things.

    It is great to see Kara fighting with the Legion, hugging Brainy, etc.

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  2. Man, I loved Terry Shoemaker's work on the Legion. Such a short run, but a very memorable one, for me at least.

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  3. I think Naltor was occasionally a matriarchal society, so it's possible that Mysa-Dad was just there for the gametes, and he might not have been Nura-Dad. On a planet where everyone can see the future, you know who's Mr. Right, and who's Mr. Right Now.

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