Superboy #86 delivers the next appearance of the Legion of Super-Heroes. So far the Legionnaires are still largely underdeveloped and have not assumed a particularly important role in any of the stories. Superboy is the star of the show and the focus remains on him. The Legionnaires have just been some fun and unusual window dressing. Does that finally being to change with Superboy #86? Let’s do this review and find out!
Words: Jerry Siegel
Art: George Papp
Published: January, 1961
Story Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Clark giving Pa Kent a tour of some of his memorabilia from his adventures. Among his items are a Valentine’s Day card from Lana Lang (Awww, that’s cute.) and a lock of hair from Lex Luthor before he became bald. (WHAT THE HELL?!? What kind of creepy shit is this?! The best part is that Pa Kent responds by saying, Strange, son…!” You think?!)
Pa Kent says that it is an odd coincidence that Lana Lang and Lex Luthor both have L.L. for their initials. Clark then shows his dad of three statues of Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad. Clark points out that Lighting Lad’s initials are L.L., too. (Well, I guess his codename has L.L. initials, but Lighting Lad’s real name is Garth Ranzz, so his initials are real G.R.)
Clark comments how he received this statues from the Legion of Super-Heroes after their last adventure on Superboy World. (That would be Adventure Comics #267.)
We cut to Lex in his lab. He has created a min-helmet that lets him control rock specimens as if the rocks are alive and intelligent. Lex can even make the rocks fly. Lex decides that this new technology will help him destroy Superboy.
We shift to Superboy on patrol. He uses his telescopic vision to look into the stars. Superboy spies two asteroids flying side-by-side. One of the asteroids has a giant hand of stone on it. Superboy flies into space and lands on the asteroid.
We see Lex watching Superboy on the asteroid via a screen in his lab. Lex then uses his mind-helmet to control the giant stone fist and attack Superboy. Lex then summons Kryptonite rocks from the second asteroid. The Kryptonite rocks fly over to Superboy. The Kryptonite form the shape of men and then Lex controls them like puppets. Lex uses the Kryptonite rock men to beat up Superboy.
We shift to Lana Lang wondering what incredible experiment Lex is working on now. Lana sneaks into Lex’s lab. Lana sees a large lever in the power room and wonders what would happen if she pulled it. The narrator tells us that if Lana pulled the lever then it would have destroyed Lex’s mind-helmet and saved Superboy because the lever is part of a self-destruct system for the lab.
Before Lana can decide to pull the lever, the power goes out in the lab and Lana gets scared and immediately leaves the lab. Lex then replaces a blown fuse and the power comes back on in his lab.
We then see Krypton “flying back to Earth while romping through outer-space.” (You know. How super-dogs do.) Krypto spies Superboy being attacked. Krypto decides top use his super-breath to super-puff Superboy far out into space to safety. But, Lex creates a massive Kryptonite rock man and grabs Krypto.
Lex then has all of the Kryptonite rocks fall all over Superboy and Krypto and pin them to the ground. Superboy and Krypto then begin to say their last goodbyes to each other. Lex then looks at himself in the mirror and congratulates himself for finally killing Superboy.
Suddenly, Superboy and Krypto crash through the wall into Lex’s lab. Lex exclaims that it was impossible for Superboy and Krypto to escape the Kryptonite rocks. We then see Lighting Lad opening the door to the lab and walk in. (Sooooo…if the door was open and Lighting Lad was able to enter that way then why did Superboy and Krypto decide to smash through the wall. Or, why didn’t Lightning Lad just fly into the lab through the hole that Superboy and Krypto made?)
Superboy reveals that Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl witnesses Superboy’s plight on the Legion’s time-viewer. The Legionnaires sent Lighting Lad to help Superboy. Lightning Lad arrived at the asteroid and blasted all of the Kryptonite rocks away from Superboy and Krypto.
Superboy says that Lex’s mind-mischief had caused a shift in the balance of the two asteroid’s gravities. Therefore, as the heroes fly off of the asteroid, the two asteroids collide with each other. Superboy thinks how he and Krypto would have been hurled free of the Kryptonite by the collision. That Lighting Lad’s rescue did not change fate. That they would have been saved anyway. (Wow…..way to make the appearance of the Legionnaires seem utterly pointless…)
We then see Lighting Lad destroying the machine that controls Lex’s mind-helmet while Krypto stares at Lex and says, “GRR-R-R!” (Yeah! What Krypto said! Take that, Lex!) Lex cries that his machine is made of rare materials and that he will never be able to rebuild it again.
Lighting Lad then hops back in his Time Sphere and heads back to the future. Superboy says that hopefully Lex will abandon his mad desire to destroy Superboy. That maybe Lex has learned his lesson. (Ummm…so no trying to have Lex arrested or anything?)
We then cut to Lex staring at his destroyed machine. Lex says that if a Legion of Super-Heroes will exist centuries in the future then a Legion of Super-Villains probably exists in the future, too. Lex says that he will get in contact with them and they will help him destroy Superboy. End of issue.
The Good: Superboy #86 is not the best read at all. The part of this story that I enjoyed the most would be Krypto. I love Krypto’s character and Jerry Siegel writes a properly brave and loyal super-dog. I love that Krypto gets thought bubbles! And the scene where Superboy and Krypto are saying their last goodbyes via thought bubbles? Perfect.
Siegel also does a nice job with the plotting and pacing of this story. Superboy #86 offers a dense read that is tightly plotted and moves forward at a brisk and purposeful pave. Siegel crafts a concise and well constructed one-shot story.
George Papp serves up plenty of enjoyable artwork. Papp’s clean lined style make for a classic looking super hero story that is easy to follow. I particularly enjoyed all of the facial expressions that Papp gave Lex in this story.
The Bad: Superboy #86 is not a stellar step forward for the Legion of Super-Heroes franchise. In fact, this issue presents the same issues that plagued the Legion franchise for years to come while they were regulated to the status of supporting characters to Superboy. More often than not, the Legion is made to seem secondary at best to simply useless at worst when compared to Superboy. The Legionnaires struggle to claim the spotlight until they finally supplant Superboy on his own title.
Superboy #86 illustrates the beginning of this long running problem that dogged so many early Legion of Super-Heroes stories. Siegel does an awful job writing the Legion in this issue. Siegel has Lighting Lad save Superboy and Krypto. And then, in the next panel, Siegel has Superboy realize that he and Krypto were going to be saved anyway once the two asteroid’s collided. Siegel even uses the words that Lighting Lad did nothing to change destiny and that Superboy and Krypto were going to be saved anyway.
This is stunningly awful writing. With this move, Siegel completely cuts the legs out from under Lightning Lad’s character. Siegel makes Lightning Lad utterly pointless and useless to this story. Immediately, Lighting Lad is little more than window dressing that is not at all essential to the story. I have rarely seen a writer completely rob a character of their impact or importance to a story. It is stunning.
This is just horrible story-telling. This robs the reader of believing that Superboy and Krypto were in genuine peril. And that Lighting Lad played and integral part of this story with his heroic rescuing of Superboy and Krypto. Instead, the reader comes away with the feeling that Superboy and Krypto were never in any type of genuine danger and that Lightning Lad’s role in this story was a completely pointless plot-line.
Superboy #86 continues the feeling in the reader that the Legion of Super-Heroes are still underdeveloped and occasional support characters. DC is still not sure what they have with the Legion of Super-Heroes and not much effort is bring placed into fleshing out and growing the franchise at this point.
We also get the beginning of continuity problems in just the fourth appearance of the Legion of SuperHeroes. In Superboy #86, Siegel has Clark reference the his adventures with the Legionnaires on Superboy Planet from Adventure Comics #867. However, in Action Comics #267, which came out after Adventure Comics #267 and before Superboy #86, Siegel had the Legionnaires who appeared to Supergirl say that they were the children of the Legionnaires who had an adventure with Superboy.
So, we now know that the Legionnaires in Superboy #86 are not the ones from Action Comics #267. Or maybe they are the same Legionnaires and Siegel has simply forgotten what he said in Action Comics #267. Or, Siegel is just ignoring his story from Action Comics #267 and is going forward like this is the same Legion. At any rate, Siegel unnecessarily complicates the issue and will now have to spend time either totally ignoring this continuity gaffe or trying to explain it away.
Overall: Superboy #86 was a disappointing Legion of Super-Heroes story. At this point, the Legion is still largely undeveloped and nothing more than occasional supporting cast members to Superboy. In fact, Superboy #86 marks as regression for the Legion of Super-Heroes franchise compared to their three prior appearances.