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You load sixteen tons, and whaddya get?… – Adventure Comics #360

November 9, 2010

 

As the orcs sang in the old Rankin/Bass Return of the King: “Where there’s a whip, there’s a way.”

The colorful cover, with its promise of a shackled Superboy and pals slaving in a gem mine, belied the numbingly predictable story inside. Jim Shooter, Curt Swan and George Klein crafted “The Legion Chain Gang,” and I was going to summarize it in my usual fashion, but there just didn’t seem to be anything unique or noteworthy about the plot. Here are the brief bullet points:

The Legion of Superheroes is outlawed.

Superboy, Mon-El and Ultra-Boy are exiled to the aforementioned gem mine.

The President of the United Planets has been replaced by a masquerading villain (Universo) and he’s mind-controlling people.

The Legion, with help from the Universo’s son (Rond Vidar), exposes the plot.

There are a select few highlights in this one. Here’s the on-the-run Legion discovering an “ancient” and convenient underground hideout of Lex Luthor:

The forlorn exiles look pretty glum in this panel (just in case you wanted more shackled Legionnaires):

Here we have the unmasking of Universo:

Finally, we have the thing that gives this book some broader significance, the (honorary) admission of Rond Vidar into the Legion:

Swan provides his usual soft and eye-pleasing art issue, but this story just left me cold. Shooter’s best days with the Legion were still to come, it would seem. Or maybe I’m just being a little bit cranky today — a distinct possibility. It’s not that the plot is bad — if it was, that would have been great, because bad comics are just as wonderful as good comics. But it’s the definition of average.

Anyway, enough of this.

“Another day older, and deeper in debt.”

7 Comments leave one →
  1. November 10, 2010 8:53 am

    Gee, I always loved this one. Different strokes, I guess. In the late 70s, they reprinted the whole story (originally two issues) in a special edition with a wraparound cover by Jim Starlin and…best of all…not a single advertisement in the whole thing. I ate it up with a spoon.

    Coincidentally a couple weeks ago our university library had a book sale and I picked up another copy of that reprint for 25 cents for my 7-year-old, who liked it as much as I did. He’s so into the Legion, he schooled me recently on the connection between the original Brainiac and Brainiac 5 (I had it all wrong), and correctly reeled off a list of which Legionnaires were dating which.

    There’s just something about the Legion that triggers the trivia-collecting gene.

    • November 10, 2010 9:47 am

      I think I just ran into this book on a bad day or something. That and the fact that the Legion were well past their prime when I was growing up — that never helps.

      I think the trivia angle is one of the things that puts me off about the Legion. There’s so much backstory between the characters and so much minutiae to digest, I feel like I’m studying for a bar exam every time I try to get acquainted with them.

      That’s funny about your son — “Out of the mouths of babes.”

      • November 12, 2010 2:40 pm

        Some books can pull off that “scads of backstory” schtick and some can’t. I remember discovering the Uncanny X-Men around issue 116 or so (lucky me!) and part of the thrill was the immediate realization that Marvel’s mutant population was as vast and trivia-laden as DC’s Legion, and that I had some fun ahead of me figuring it all out. Of course both strips are by now so bogged down with backstory that I’d give them both a wide berth, so there does seem to be a tipping point. Or maybe it comes down to the age of the reader; somewhere between “keep it simple” childhood and “where’d I leave the keys” maturity, there’s a sweet spot where young people love filling their heads with data and lore, whether it’s about comics, sports, rock bands, boy wizards, role-playing universes or whatever.

      • November 12, 2010 6:59 pm

        Agreed on all points.

  2. November 11, 2010 10:18 pm

    I understand being sour on the Legion, but this story is one that cemented me to hold out hope despite the Luthor Lair plot device. It isn’t great but its good. When a Legion story stinks, it rots but this 2-parter isn’t one of those. I think the Legion stinks and I complain about it all the time both about current issues and the fourth Showcase volume that is taking me a month and a half to read with no end in sight. Done right though… there’s more solid gold than fool’s gold. Long live the Legion, an acquired taste, perhaps. It’s the only book I buy anymore and this story is one of the reasons.

    • November 11, 2010 11:23 pm

      You know what? I may not like it, but I like the fact that other people do. If that makes any sense. Now, if only that lair of Luthor’s had a picture of Miss Tessmacher’s rack…

      • Larry L permalink
        August 17, 2012 4:09 pm

        It’s perfectly okay that you don’t like this story (which awed me when it debuted, and which still impresses me). As Dave Barry said, “Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and your opinion is wrong.”
        Now, where are my keys?

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