With Brian Bendis’ Fourboot Legion of Super-Heroes being a boring disappointment, I figured it was time to revive our retro Legion of Super-Heroes reviews and revel in the glory of the Legion’s storied history. Next up is Adventure Comics #282 that was published in March of 1961. To this point, Otto Binder had not revealed that many Legionnaires. And the few Legionnaires that we do get have largely vanilla personalities. Adventure Comics #282 stars Superboy, Starboy, and Lana Lang. This should be a good one. Let’s go ahead and hit this review!
Words: Otto Binder
Pencils: George Papp
Inks: George Papp
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Superboy doing some good deeds around Smallville. Lana Lang takes some pictures of Superboy. Superboy says hello to Lana, but does not have any time to talk to her. Lana is sad that Superboy did not notice her new dress that we wore just for him. (Dude. I have learned to always notice any new outfit that my wife wears. And I have learned to always say that the outfit looks nice. C’mon, Superboy!) Lana is sad that her romance with Superboy does not have a chance.
We cut to Lana watching Clark Kent, her next-door neighbor. We then see Clark using his x-ray vision to light Pa Kent’s cigar. (Ha! I love it! I wish my sons could do that for me!)
We shift to Lana watching a romance movie. In it, one of the actresses decides to make the man that she is interested in jealous so that he will pay more attention to her. Lana decides that this is a great idea and she needs to make Superboy jealous.
We shift to Superboy fixing the Smallville dam which has overflown. Suddenly, Superboy is trapped in a giant rock of solid ice. Superboy flies into a cliff to break all the ice and free himself. Then baked clay letters fly across the sky. The letters say, “Superboy meet me at Calvin’s Cave.”
Superboy flies over to the cave and is greeted by Star Boy. Star Boy explains that he is Thom Kallor from Xanthu. Starboy says that he is from the future. (The Legion’s future.) Star Boy got his powers by flying too close to the gases in the tail of a comet. (Makes sense.) Starboy then gained the same powers as Superboy. Star Boy then applied for membership to the Legion of Super-Heroes and was admitted into the Legion.
Star Boy says that two Xanthu criminals escaped. One of them used a stolen time-ship and fled here. Starboy says that he has already captured that criminal. However, the other criminal is back in the future on Xanthu and hiding in an underground maze of copper drain pipes. Starboy says that his x-ray vision cannot penetrate copper. We then see that Lana Lang is nearby and listening to the conversation.
Superboy says that he will go with Star Boy to the future to help him. Superboy flies off to go tell his “foster parents” that he is leaving for the future. (When was the last time that Clark referred to Ma and Pa Kent as his foster parents?) Superboy leaves and Lana approaches Star Boy. Lana says that she heard about Star Boy’s secret identity. Lana says that she won’t reveal Star Boy’s secret identity in front of the captured criminal if Star Boy agrees to do a favor for her. (Damn, Lana! You are vicious!)
Lana says that she has a crush on Superboy and asks Star Boy to pretend that he loves her so she can make Superboy jealous. Star Boy has no choice but to agree to do what Lana wants. We see Superboy arrive back at the cave. He eavesdrops on Star Boy and Lana’s conversation. Superboy realizes that Star Boy has no choice but to go along with Lana’s scheme, but that Superboy will teach Lana a lesson.
Star Boy, Superboy, and Lana then head off to the future. Lana does her best to make Superboy jealous by having Star Boy fawn all over her and talk about how she is so charming.
We arrive in the 30th century. Lana waits at Star Boy’s laboratory while Star Boy and Superboy go missing for the second criminal. Superboy uses his x-ray vision to find the criminal in the copper drain pipes under the city. Superboy grabs the criminal and takes him to the police.
We cut to later at Star Boy’s laboratory. Lana shows Superboy how Star Boy used his Super-Loom to weave her a dress made of flowing spider-web thread. Lana asks Superboy if her dress is stunning. Superboy ignores her and comments about how the rainbow bridge in the city is stunning.
Lana then orders Star Boy to get her some rare jewels to go with her dress. Super Boy takes a pile of rocks and uses his electrical vision to turn them into a massive diamond. Lana comments that it is too bad that Superboy does not have electrical vision. Lana says that it is wonderful how Star Boy is granting all of her wishes. Lana asks if Superboy realizes how much Star Boy adores her.
Superboy responds that Star Boy is just being polite and says why would Star Boy date Lana when any Xanthu girl would gladly date Star Boy. Lana calls Superboy a “Super-Idiot” and says that she is special and different. Lana says that Star Boy finds Earth girls more appealing than Xanthu girls.
Superboy then says that he is going to go sightseeing. Superboy then returns with Zynthia, a Xanthu girl that he met while sightseeing. Superboy says that Xanthu girls are so much better than Earth girls. Lana gets upset and realizes that her plan is backfiring on her.
The two couples then go sightseeing together. Zynthia asks Superboy to bring her a rare animal called a Parakat. (Think a giant tiger with weird eyes and a parakeet’s beak.) Superboy goes and finds one and spins it by itself tail until it is dizzy. The Parakat then tells Superboy that it is dizzy and to stop. Superboy is shocked that the creature can talk. Superboy then stops and realizes that he has another idea.
We cut to Star Boy’s lab, we see the Parakat telling Zynthia that she is so beautiful. Zynthia thanks Superboy and says that he is the best boyfriend. Zynthia asks Superboy to make Xanthu his home for now on.
The cat claws come out as Lana grabs Zynthia and calls her a “hussy” and says that Superboy has important jobs on Earth and cannot stay on Xanthu. (Hussy! What a great word. That word needs to make a comeback.)
Lana then fakes being lightheaded and claims that the Xanthu air must be bad for her and tells Superboy to take her back to Earth, quickly. Superboy makes a helmet for Lana to purify the air and that way she can stay on Xanthu with her love Star Boy.
Lana takes off the helmet and finally admits to her plan of threatening to reveal Star Boy’s secret identity in order to force Star Boy to pretend to like her in order to make Superboy jealous. But, all that has happened is that Lana is jealous of Zynthia.
Lana says that it was just a bluff, that she did not really know Star Boy’s secret identity. Lana says that both Superboy and Star Boy probably despise her now. (Yeah…that is a pretty safe bet.) Superboy says that he admires Lana for telling the truth and that Star Boy probably does, too.
Superboy reveals that Zynthia has just been pretending to like Superboy in order to teach Lana a lesson. Zynthia then reveals that she is actually Star Boy’s girlfriend. (Lord! Who is really with who?! Also, we know now who Star Boy dated before he fell in love with Dream Girl.)
Star Boy thanks Superboy for his help in catching the criminal. Superboy then puts Lana in a Time Sphere. The two then travel back to their time on Earth. They arrive in Smallville and Lana says that she has learned her lesson and that trickery does not pay.
Lana asks if they can be friends and if Superboy would go to the Teen-Time dance with her tonight. Superboy responds that he cannot since he has lots of super-jobs to do since they have been away from Earth. Superboy flies off and says that he will see Lana next week. (Damn, player! Way to act super low-key about everything.) Lana thinks about how she is right back to where she started with Superboy, but at least Zynthia is no longer near him. End of issue.
The Good: Adventure Comics #282 is a solid read. It is clear that Otto Binder and DC still largely viewed the Legion of Super-Heroes as nothing more than relatively minor characters. However, Adventure Comics #282 is important in that Binder continues to build up the roster of the Legion of Super-Heroes by delivering a new Legionnaire in the form of Star Boy. This issue continues the very slow build of the Legion franchise. There is clearly no sense of urgency since no one at DC is thinking of the Legionnaires as anything that important at all.
Star Boy is a great character who, unfortunately, often gets overlooked and discounted compared to other Legionnaires. The only Legionnaires who appeared earlier than Star Boy are Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Colossal Boy, Chameleon Boy, and Invisible Kid. That is it. This places Star Boy in rarified air. However, most readers never view Star Boy on the same level as some of the other classic Silver Age Legionnaires. Nor does Star Boy ever seem to carry the same pedigree that some of the other classic Silver Age characters. It is unfortunate because Thom is an awesome character.
Now, it should be noted that in Adventure Comics #282, Thom is basically a carbon copy of Superboy. It is not until later that Thom gains his unique and interesting gravity-based superpowers. Binder also writes Thom’s personality more like Superboy in this issue. That certainly changes as Star Boy’s character evolves.
What continues to be enjoyable about these Silver Age Legion stories is the phenomenal plotting and pacing of the stories. Binder delivers a tightly plotted story that is absolutely packed full of content. Seriously. Binder places more plot progression in a single page than Brian Bendis does in an entire issue over in the current Legion of Super-Heroes title. The difference is stunning.
Binder delivers the story in such a compressed fashion and at a lively pace. Binder covers a ton of ground in this single story. Binder constructs the story in a logical fashion as this single issue has a clear beginning, middle, and end that gives the reader an enjoyable one-shot story. Binder delivers several well-timed plot twists and turns along the way that adds plenty of excitement into the story. Everything unfolds in a logical fashion.
Binder also loads up Adventure Comics #282 with plenty of wild and highly creative concepts and creatures. I love the unchained imagination that runs through the Silver Age. Binder never tries to give realistic explanations for what happens. It does not matter. It is a superhero comic book and the reader is expected to check their cold and rational mind at the door and simply enjoy the fun and zany ride.
Binder delivers basic character work in this story. All of the character work is done in broad strokes. Binder never gets too deep into the various personalities. None of the character work rises to the same level of detail that readers get in modern comic books.
Superboy is his generic white-bread likable self. He neither offends nor interests me. Star Boy gets saddled with the exact same personality as Superboy. In fact, the only character that demonstrates a strong and identifiable personality is Lana Lang. And what a personality that Binder gives Lana! Lana is incredibly unlikeable. Lana is deceitful and manipulative in how she treats Star Boy and Superboy. Lana is basically the epitome of toxic femininity.
Of course, in the end, Binder ties up everything neatly and nobody is cross with anyone else. Lana learns her lesson, apologizes for her actions, and vows to be a better person. Star Boy and Superboy come away impressed with Lana’s honesty and decision to be better. Everyone ends as friends. It is clear that Binder is writing to a younger audience as he delivers a positive ending with a lesson to the younger reader on how lying and manipulation never pay off. A good moral to the story for the kids. I will take a good moral of the story over being beaten over the head about how I should submit to the author’s personal politics.
George Papp delivers plenty of classic artwork. Papp’s art has clean lines that make for a pleasant looking issue. The panel layouts are highly structured and rigid, however, Papp injects plenty of excitement and Silver Age fun into each panel.
The Bad: Adventure Comics #282 continues the trend of under-developed Legionnaires. Star Boy does not display much of a unique personality that would set him apart from Superboy. In fact, Star Boy does not even get unique superpowers to set him apart from Superboy.
The other trend that continues with this issue is the tendency to keep the number of Legionnaires that appear in a story at a minimum. Star Boy is the only Legionnaire in this issue outside of a single panel that shows Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl. At this point, the large roster of the Legion is still something that DC only alludes to instead of actually showing the reader.
Another negative trend is that the Legionnaires continue to exist more as dopes and simple plot devices for Superboy’s story. At this point, DC does not appear interested in developing the Legionnaires into actual characters designed to get the reader invested in them.
Overall: Adventure Comics #282 was another solid read. Binder delivers a dense story that is intelligently plotted and briskly paced. This is a pleasant self-contained one-shot story. This issue is a nice read for new Legion fans since they get an opportunity to learn the origin of Star Boy.
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