This is an important issue in Legion history, for a few reasons, yet you’d never know it to look at it. The Legion isn’t even on the cover, and the splash page makes it look like just another gimmicky, I-don’t-believe-they-would-really-do-that, Silver Age story from the Mort Weisginger stable.
So the opening blurb tells us that Saturn Girl is “sweet.” Mmmm… would we call her sweet? Actually, we wouldn’t call her anything other than “Saturn Girl,” at this point in history. The distinct personalities of the different Legionnaires had yet to emerge. The closest we’ve come to it is having them make the “Bastard People” list, and there seems to be neither rhyme nor reason to who winds up there. Although, if I’m honest, Cosmic Boy seems to make it more often. Maybe it’s the pink tights making him self-conscious. But here we’re told that Saturn Girl is “sweet,” and that it’s a surprise when she becomes Legion leader and transforms into a harsh taskmaster.
This is interesting to fans who know the later stories. Personally, I always found Saturn Girl to be anything but sweet. Loving to Lightning Lad, sure; but pretty no-nonsense and highbrow. One wonders if this story caused fans to like her harsher personality, and writers to retain it. Of course, the events at the end of this story may also have woken her up to the harsh realities of life, and given her an edge.
We’re finally back in the 30th Century, the narration tells us, and it’s time for the Legion to elect a leader. Apparently, they’ve been doing this periodically for a while, but it’s never been mentioned. Indeed, I don’t recall it being mentioned that the Legion had a leader, although Cosmic Boy certainly acted the part in “The Fantastic Spy!” and is accepted as the team’s first leader.
In a high-tech fashion predicted fifty years before iPads came into common use, the Legionnaires vote by touching the image of the member they want for leader. It’s interesting that they don’t have secret ballots. The more we see of the Legion’s structure, the less I think I’d want to belong. They’re undemocratic as hell, mistreat non-members and each other, and really are a bunch of snobs.
Saturn Girl wins unanimously. Colossal Boy reflects to himself that “Voting for yourself is against Legion tradition!” We have to take his word for it, this being the first time we’ve seen an election. But, again, no member can be older than 18 and the founding members are still there, so how many elections could they have had? The new leader’s first act is to co-opt the Legion treasury for her own purposes. We’re shown a gift that the team was given recently that’s worth $200,000. She has it melted down to make medallions with her image on them.
A $200,000 gift? Wasn’t it just established in Bouncing Boy’s origin that the LSH doesn’t take compensation? This could have been handled consistently by having SG accept the gift over the objections of others, but, oh well…
So Saturn Girl uses the medallions to steal her cohorts’ powers, then orders them not to use their powers for different spans of days. All of this has something to do with a letter she received before the election, a letter she promptly destroyed. A distress call comes in, saying that the space criminal Zaryan is up to no good. We know his name was mentioned in the letter. Forbidding her fellows from following her, Saturn Girl flies off alone to face Zaryan, armed with all their powers. Lightning Lad, who “knows something,” follows.
What he knows is that the mysterious letter predicted the death of a Legionnaire fighting Zaryan. This was determined by “Computer Machine.” Saturn Girl is bound and determined to be the only one in the line of fire, knowing she’s going to die. That’s why she used her telepathy to force the entire Legion to vote for her. Lightning Lad knows all this because Mon-El could see everything from the Phantom Zone. He telepathically alerted Lightning Lad—just Lightning Lad, pretty much guaranteeing who was going to die. Mon-El can send telepathic messages from the Phantom Zone? Who knew?
“We all know that fate can’t be changed,” Saturn Girl says. Um, it’s not fate, it’s a mathematical prediction, and it has a margin for error. Fate is a mystical concept that a scientific group should not… ah, the hell with it. Somebody’s gotta die, and it’s Lightning Lad. He flies in, blows Zaryan to Kingdom Come (the concept, not the comic) and is struck by a freeze ray. Saturn Girl gets him home, and he dies in her arms.
Wow, THIS wasn’t emblazoned on the cover! Think of all the extra issues of this collector’s item classic they could have sold, if only the people of the 20th Century had known anything about marketing! “In this issue, a Legionnaire DIES!” Nope. Nadda. In fact, what’s on the cover is Superboy being a whiny little bitch.
“Is Lightning Lad really dead?” the closing narration asks us. “Is it possible that the super-science of the 30th Century can restore his life?” Of course, we’ve already seen that he lives to be an adult and marries Saturn Girl, but how many readers knew or remembered that? Still, the very suggestion of the possibility tells us they’re not really serious about this whole “death” thing.
What’s interesting—and not mentioned at all—is that Saturn Girl presumable is still Legion leader. No one questions whether or not someone who telepathically stole the election should remain in office. Probably because of the whole funeral thing going on. So, to stage a coup, telepathically take charge, then collude with a phantom and an evil emperor to kill your boyfriend. That kinda thing probably happens a lot more often than we realize.
Firsts: Death of a Legionnaire, Legion Election, Female team leader in any super-hero group
The post Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The Stolen Super-Powers!” (Adventure Comics #304, January, 1963) appeared first on Steven H. Wilson.