Archive for the ‘Earth-One’ Category

The Bat, The Robin, and The Pythons

2014/10/27

Huh. Who knew that Batgirl enjoyed watching old British sketch comedy series?

Coconuts, perhaps? ;)

Coconuts, perhaps? 😉

This homage to Monty Python’s Flying Circus has been brought to you by Batman Family #3 (January-February 1976) by Bill Finger, Joe Greene, Elliot S. Maggin, Ernie Chan, José Luis García-López, Sheldon Moldoff, Dick Sprang, Vince Colletta, and Charles Paris.

Days of Legion Past – Part 4: Universo, Rond Vidar, and the Green Lantern Corps

2010/05/17

In Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #2 (November 2008), Rond Vidar, the last remaining Green Lantern in the 31st century, manages to save the lives of the Legionnaires Wildfire, Dawnstar, Blok, and the White Witch by pushing them through a Stargate in order to get them as far away from the Legion of Super-Villains as possible, even though it means taking on the entire group all by himself. Hopelessly outnumbered, he is granted a momentary reprieve when his father, the supervillain Universo, attempts to claim his power ring, but ends up being executed by Superboy-Prime after refusing to give it up.

That's what happens when you talk back to your parents in the 31st century.

So who exactly are Rond Vidar and Universo and what’s their connection to the Green Lantern Corps? Good question. While I’d normally write individual essays for each of them, in the immortal words of Supergirl, separating them from each other is like trying to separate yolk from egg white in an omelette, so I’ll be covering all three of them in one go. Unfortunately, that makes for a ridiculously long essay this time around.

The short answer is that Universo is a cross between a James Bond villain and Prometheus, a bad guy who not only meticulously plans his grandiose schemes for world domination but also successfully implements them (however fleeting those victories might end up being). He also has a bizarre sense of morality: though he has no real qualms about killing people in order to attain his goals, he will only take lives when doing so is absolutely necessary to achieve a particular end, preferring imprisonment, mind-control, manipulation, and subterfuge over the senseless slaughter of innocents. In other words, he’s a bloodless coup kind of guy. His many plans for global conquest inevitably brought him into direct conflict with his son, Rond Vidar, who was a recurring character and the Legion’s go-to guy for time travel technology. As for their connection to the Green Lantern Corps…well, you’ll just have to keep on reading for that one.

Most of the supplemental information I’ll be providing on these characters is taken from their respective entries in Who’s Who in the Legion of Super-Heroes. Unfortunately, while the latter series is a helpful guide to the world of the 30th century, some of the facts appearing in their biographies appear to have been made up on the spot, and certain details are inconsistent not only with previously established continuity but also between the profiles themselves. I’m going to try my best to try and reconcile these differences, but, when in doubt, the information in the issues I’ll be reviewing will carry the greater weight.

Legion of Super-Heroes #295 (January 1983)

“The Origin of the Universe File” by Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen, Howard Bender, and Dave Hunt

This tale is actually comprised of two parts: a framing sequence in which Blok gives Timber Wolf advice on his relationship with Light Lass in the guise of watching an archive tape with him and an extended flashback to an adventure from the early days of the Legion. Since only the latter is relevant to the subjects at hand, I will be focusing most of my attention on it.

According to Who’s Who in the Legion of Super-Heroes #6 (October 1988), the Green Lantern central to this story, Vidar of Space Sector 2814, has a pretty tragic past. Even though he was a relatively new recruit to the Green Lantern Corps, that didn’t stop him from making some very bad enemies very quickly. After they banded together and murdered his wife, his son, Rond Vidar, was sent to Earth to live with relatives. He himself avoided the planet, as Green Lanterns, for some unspecified reason, weren’t exactly popular there. And this was before the fallout from the events I’m about to summarize made them downright unwelcome.

Our story opens with the Legionnaires responding to a Science Police Data Channel report of a fire at Metropolis University’s Time Institute, a facility dedicated to time travel research, located at the edge of the city. Having seemingly beaten the authorities to the incident site, their hopes of using this opportinity to prove their worth (and possibly spinning some good PR out of it) are quickly dashed when Colossal Boy’s ripping the roof off the building doesn’t so much grant them quick and easy access to the blaze as force them to confront a rather embarrassing reality:

That's the biggest damn cockroach I've ever seen.

Circadia Senius goes on to explain that the problem started when they attempted to use a Time Viewer to see the origin of the universe. No sooner had the image of a giant hand cradling a galaxy appeared onscreen than a cosmic lightning bolt appeared out of nowhere and destroyed their equipment, prematurely ending the experiment. With everyone puzzled by this development, Lightning Lad decides to crack a joke, and we quickly learn that both he and Senius have no sense of comedic timing or delivery whatsoever:

"Honey, I knew from the moment you stopped me from trying out my improvised recipe for roasted bugman that you were the girl for me."

The Legionnaires are later invited back to the Time Institute to participate in a repeat of the original experiment. The end results are essentially identical, with two major exceptions: Lightning Lad manages to absorb the mysterious thunderbolt this time around and an unexpected guest appears to break up the festivities:

"I am the great and powerful Wizard of Oz!"

In a move that will most assuredly result in higher insurance premiums for Metropolis University, the Guardians of the Universe rip the entire Time Institute right off its foundation using their emerald energies, surround it with a protective bubble, and transport it into outer space. Shortly after clearing Earth’s atmosphere, the team receives yet another surprise:

Pissing off the guy who can hurl YELLOW lightning bolts? Bad idea.

A battle immediately breaks out between the three Green Lanterns and the Legionnaires, one which shows no signs of abating until Saturn Girl decides to stage an intervention by using her telepathic powers to contact the Guardians of the Universe and petition them for an audience on Oa, a request they almost immediately grant.

The Legionnaires, the Green Lanterns, and Circadia Senius are brought before the Guardians of the Universe, who explain that they broke their standard rule of non-interference on this occasion due to exceptional circumstances. They then tell of an incident from Oa’s distant past, where one of their own number, Krona, allowed his curiosity to get the better of him and broke their most sacred law by attempting to view the origin of the universe, a story whose outcome sounds eerily familiar to our visitors…

"Yes, we are, in fact, the bosses of you. Now piss off and go home."

After the Green Lanterns Vidar and Galte-Re finish making repairs to the Time Institute, the latter departs for his own space sector, leaving the former behind to tie up any remaining loose ends. Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl, on the other hand, have something else entirely on ther minds:

Just what the world needs: time-travelling fanboys and fangirls.

Things go well for all of about ten seconds, because as soon as the Time Bubble breaks through the time barrier, it begins dragging all kinds of creatures from various eras in Earth’s history into the timestream and taking them along for the ride. When the controls fail to respond, Lightning Lad uses his powers to short-circuit the entire navigation system, causing them to return to the present…along with all of their unwanted hitchhikers. While this latest crisis is quickly dealt with, everyone suddenly realizes that the Green Lantern who’d been there earlier has mysteriously vanished in the interim. Where could he possibly have disappeared to?

"My god...it's full of stars!"

In the end, Cosmic Boy foils Vidar’s attempt to shield the Time Viewer from the cosmic lightning bolt and delivers a knockout blow after Saturn Girl uses telepathy to disrupt the renegade Green Lantern’s ability to use his power ring. The four of them are subsequently transported back to Oa and appear before the Guardians a second time:

"Screw you guys, we're going home."

Meanwhile, back in the present day, Blok, having apparently viewed the holo-tape of this adventure more than once, decides to access the Legion archives in order to test a little theory of his:

Even in the 30th century, using Adobe Photoshop to deface someone's Facebook portrait is still a popular pasttime.

Exactly what happened to Vidar after he was handed over to the Guardians of the Universe and thrown out on his pointy-eared ass is pretty fuzzy. However, he eventually discovered that, by combining his Green-Lantern-fortified willpower with a hypno-gem acquired from Earth’s Museum of Mystic Arts, he gained the power of super-hypnosis. Somewhere along the way, he also started using the civilian name Argus Oranx III. Why exactly he did this – or whether this might actually be his real name – is unknown.

Adventure Comics #349 (October 1966)

“The Rogue Legionnaire!” by Jim Shooter, Mort Weisinger, Curt Swan, and George Klein

It’s time for the annual Metropolis Students’ Science Fair and the Legionnaires are in attendance, having been appointed this year’s judges by the mayor of Metropolis himself. Whether this is meant to be a great honor or part of some community service plea bargain agreement I can’t even begin to guess. While going over the exhibits, Superboy stumbles upon what would appear to be the 30th century equivalent of one of those nifty papier-mâché volcanoes that spew forth baking soda and vinegar “lava”:

Didn't Ray Bradbury warn us about pulling stunts like this in "A Sound of Thunder"?

While the Legionnaires are unanimous in their consensus that the Time Cube deserves first prize, they’re forced to cut their participation in the awards ceremony short because Brainiac 5 is receiving a tingle in his crotch area, and not the good kind: the alarm receiver on his belt buckle has gone off, indicating that someone is trying to break into their Superheroes Clubhouse. The culprit, as it turns out, is our old buddy Vidar, whose fashion sense and dignity appear to have gone the way of his Green Lantern power ring, though he has managed to sprout some nifty facial hair in the interim. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to be having much luck gaining entrance using the tried and true technique of pounding his fists against the door in frustration. Clearly, this requires a more delicate approach:

"Hello? Why didn't you try the doorbell first? That's what it's there for!"

Okay…don’t panic, Vidar. You can still talk your way out of this. Just come up with a really good excuse.

Oh, for fuck's sake.

Now, as dumb as people were back in the Silver Age, they apparently weren’t quite that dumb.

"I shall use the horrendously clashing colors of my gaudy costume to give you all Pokémon Seizures!"

While Universo’s super-hypnosis effortlessly subjugates most of the Legionnaires, Brainiac 5 manages to shake off its effects with the help of his computer mind and lunges for the supervillain. The latter takes this as his cue to exit stage left, but not before sicking his newly-acquired slaves on his teenage adversary, who activates his force shield belt to protect himself from his teammates before giving chase.

"Dammit! Why didn't I install an anti-theft device in the Time Bubble like the others told me to?"

With the super-hypnotist gone, the other Legionnaires snap out of his spell almost immediately. The sole exception is Superboy, whom Shrinking Violet surmises remains zonked out due to a combination of a post-hypnotic suggestion with the use of Kryptnoite dust in Universo’s hypnotic eye medallion. Still, with the spare Time Bubble destroyed and their inability to build a new one within a reasonable amount of time with the Boy of Steel out of commission (not that this should really matter since, you know, it’s a goddamn time machine and the past isn’t exactly going anywhere), they appear to be an impasse…until they receive a conveniently-timed transmission puts them back on track:

"Why yes, good sir! We DO subscribe to the Plot Contrivance Channel!"

As it turns out, the transmission is just a little too convenient, and for good reason: while the information he provided is indeed accurate, not only is Professor Huxton under Universo’s thrall, but the latter has also recruited agents in each of the five time periods mentioned and provided them with explicit instructions to deal with his would-be captors when they come looking for him…permanently. And, surprise, surprise, he’s also conveniently exhausted all the available options for following him into the past…save for one.

Like moths to a flame, the Legionnaires head back to the science fair and attempt to enlist the first prize winner Rond Vidar’s aid by having him increase the size of his Time Cube so that it can send people through time instead of just gaudy souvenirs from the future. While he’s more than happy to oblige, he is equally quick to warn them about the device’s inherant limitations:

"Shrinking Violet, you're our most expendable member. You go first!"

With the Legionnaires en route to their myriad destinations in the past in search of Universo, Rond is left feeling restless:

"Now where did I put those stone knives and bearskins?"

So how’re our intrepid time travellers doing? Not so good as it turns out.

Cuzco, Peru (1300 A.D.): Chameleon Boy arrives in his target era just outside of the Incan capital, where the natives take him for a sun god after he assumes the shape of a giant lens in order to use focused sunlight to destroy a boulder that’s about to crush a nearby caravan. Seeking to capitalize on this case of mistaken identity in order to facilitate his search, he is instead forced to prove his divinity by surviving being thrown into an active volcano. Godhood is a bitch.

Kali Ma Shakti de! KALI MA SHAKTI DE!

Gizeh, Egypt (1243 B.C.): Shrinking Violet quickly runs afoul of Universo’s agent in this time period: a falconer. Though she, with the help of her size-changing powers and flight ring, easily avoids arrest after he falsely accuses her of being a thief in public, his bird of prey, Horus, proves to be much tougher to evade.

Back in the Silver Age, they respected character deaths. Take notes, DiDio.

England (693 A.D): From the moment he sets foot in this time period, Colossal Boy finds himself at a tremendous disadvantage (no pun intended): not only has he appeared in the middle of a castle siege in his giant form, but an unintended side effect of the time travel method has left him trapped at that height. Now an easy target for the attacking army – whose leader and king is Universo’s lackey – he narrowly manages to fend off their assault on his person with a siege tower, but fares far more poorly against their catapult.

When they play "King of the Mountain", they play for keeps.

Paris, France (1812 A.D.): When Saturn Girl is apprehended by the owner of the house whose wine cellar she appears in, she discovers that Universo’s mental hold over the man makes him immune to her telepathic powers. Faced with the threat of prison time, she is forced to submit to his demands by integrating herself into his household staff in anticipation of the arrival of a very special guest: Napoleon Bonaparte. Though Universo’s agent initially plans to dispatch her with the futuristic ray gun left in his care, he decides to let the imperial guard do his dirty work for him by planting evidence in order to frame her as a spy. His nefarious plan seems to go off without a hitch, as she is quickly tracked down and cornered by French troops. That’ll teach her to be irresponsible enough to leave her flight ring at home.

Ouch. That's gonna leave a mark.

Shang-Tu, China (1300 A.D.): As if to further illustrate the dangers of jerry-rigging experimental time travel technology, Brainiac 5 materializes in mid-air with a damaged, non-functional flight ring, causing him to plummet like a rock….and land smack dab in the middle of Kublai Khan’s imperial garden. These unfortunate circumstances combined with his green skin make it almost ridiculously easy for Universo’s underling in this century to convince the Mongolian leader – who, it should be noted, has been dead for six years by this date according to the history books – to have him declared a demon and sentenced to death. In a fit of inspiration worthy of a James Bond villain, the Great Khan decides to have Brainiac 5 strapped to a giant gong and have the shockwaves generated by the equally large mallet striking it kill him. While our teenage genius ultimately manages to escape from the elaborate death trap, he quickly discovers that he’s quite literally leaped from the proverbial frying pan into the fire:

This makes dragon dancing in modern Chinese New Year parades look pretty damn lame by comparison.

Back in the 30th century, Universo marches into the United Planets Council Building virtually unimpeded with the intention of using his powers to manipulate the five inner could members into doing his bidding. When he tries to do just that, however, he discovers that he’s just been royally pranked:

Why the hell does Chameleon Boy need a costume and a mask in order to disguise himself?

And who’s responsible for this epic takedown? None other than his unwittling accomplice, Rond Vidar:

"They didn't even ask me what my name was." *sniff sniff*

Adventure Comics #359 and #360 (August and September 1967)

“The Outlawed Legionnaires!” and “The Legion Chain Gang!” by Jim Shooter, Curt Swan, and George Klein

The Superheroes Clubhouse stands empty and abandoned as the Legion of Super-Heroes find themselves scattered across the galaxy dealing with various emergencies, including an invasion of the planet Tartos by the Xakkan Raiders, maintaining the galactic trade lines by getting a stalled space train running again, and preventing a stellar explosion threatening to wipe out all the inhabited planets in its star system:

It's a goddamn SUPERNOVA, not an out-of-control birthday cake fire.

Upon returning to Earth several days later, however, the Legionnaires receive a series of nasty surprises in rapid succession: they are fired on by a Science Police squadron, taken back to the Metropolis Spaceport by an armed escort where their cruisers are confiscated and swiftly disassembled, arrested for violating curfew when they attempt to gain access to their barricaded headquarters, and collectively tossed into the pokey. Why? Well, it seems that the wheels of justice in the future turn fast enough to make your head spin, as the Legion was declared unconstitutional and disbanded by the United Planets during the scant few days they were off-planet. How did it come to this? I think I’ll let Duo Damsel’s father – who’s just bailed his daughter(s) out of prison – field that question:

"Shut up, all of you! I'm old! I can whine and bitch as long as I want!"

After Duo Damsel gives Cosmic Boy the 411, he contacts the others to inform them that acting team leader, Invisible Kid, has called a meeting in front of the Midtown Terminal the following day. The would-be encounter, however, is literally derailed when – in keeping with Dream Girl’s premonition – a monorail flies off its tracks and the early arrivals amongst the Legionnaires are forced to break the law by using their abilities to rescue the train and its passengers…only to be promptly arrested for their troubles by undercover policemen just before their teammates arrive and put on trial. Ungrateful bastards.

Somehow I'm guessing that Colossal Boy accusing Invisible Kid of contempt of court before the judge could didn't help matters any.

Before her royal highness can attempt to finesse justice any, however, she and the others are attacked by a bunch of rowdies and forced to defend themselves as best they can…without their superpowers. Unfortunately, during the course of the brawl, Princess Projectra is seriously injured after being knocked upside the head with a wooden board before the Science Police intervene and break up the riot.

So you can't talk out in the open...but announcing your intentions front in front of the Science Police officer is perfectly fine?

Invisible Kid quickly discovers that the bizarre aggregation of coincidences plaguing the team has followed him home when his parents repeatedly violate his personal space: his mother burns his costume when he leaves it unattended while exercising and both she and his father bug his view phone, practically salivating at the lips at the thought of gathering evidence against him. Using a secret communicator hidden away for just such an occasion, he contacts Brainiac 5, who reaches the by-now inevitable conclusion:

"Brainy...have you been wearing your tinfoil hat again?"

And just in case you thought things on Earth were rough, check out what’s happening on Takron-Galtos:

So "hard labor" is a euphemism for "doing laundry" for the female inmates?

True to Saturn Girl’s prediction, R.J. Brande proves equally unwilling to help, even going so far as to summon his guards to haul the Legionnaires away for allegedly trying to rob him. During the subsequent scuffle with his security force, the team’s ranks are whittled down to eight as Lightning Lad, Duo Damsel, Sun Boy, and Cosmic Boy are easily subdued after being injured and the others are forced to flee without them or risk being captured themselves. They soon graduate from being fugitives to enemies of the government with significant bounties on their heads, leaving them with no choice but to go underground…literally.

"And we're officially rebels starting...NOW."

While wandering through the ancient sewer tunnels like a bunch of giant mutant turtles, Chameleon Boy accidentally triggers the hidden mechanism for a secret passageway. Curious, the Legionnaires decide to investigate the unexpected find and are surprised to suddenly find themselves in…

Geez Louise. When Lex Luthor builds 'em, he builds 'em to last.

As the Legionnaires make plans to free their recently captured teammates, let us shift our attention over to Kandro Boltax, who is both angered and concerned by the fact that the eight teenage fugitives have thus far managed to evade capture.

Hold the phone...isn't anti-lead serum the only thing keeping Mon-El alive since he has FATAL LEAD POISONING?

With Brugol thoroughly satisfied with their arrangement – being allowed to keep all the space jewels his cosmic chain gang can mine as compensation for his services – Boltax shifts his attention to a more personal matter, one he keeps safely tucked away in a hidden room. Or, more accurately said, imprisoned:

Wouldn't using your GODDAMN GREEN LANTERN POWER RING be a lot faster?

Speaking of the Legion, in a spite of a few close calls, that jailbreak they were planning for later that evening went off without a hitch:

"Screw those guys! We're headed for Rimbor and sweet, sweet freedom!"

Eager to curb Star Boy’s newly discovered thirst for a life of crime, Invisible Kid explains that not only would they be playing right into the authorities’ hands by attempting such a rescue, but that their main concern now should be to figure out how everyone on Earth is being mind-controlled. To this end, Chameleon Boy, still riding the Durlan equivalent of an adrenaline high after how well the operation to bust the others of prison that he was in charge of went, uses his Legion Espionage Squad training to devise an intricate plan to break into the presidential palace in order to try and glean information from Boltax by spying on him. Unfortunately, unlike his previous undertaking, the reconnaissance mission fails spectacularly, and all they succeed in doing is attracting the unwanted attention of the Science Police:

Yes, Star Boy...the best way is safely disable a flying vehicle is to CAUSE IT TO PLUMMET TO THE EARTH LIKE A ROCK.

Having suffered a significant defeat, the Legionnaires strategically withdraw in order to reevaluate their strategy:

"We attack tomorrow, under cover of daylight!"

Unfortunately, Phantom Girl has discovered that Boltax has picked the worst possible moment to make an inspection tour with his entire presidential motorcade. Left with no choice but to throw caution to the wind, the Legionnaires attack the presidential motorcade in order to buy Brainiac 5 enough time to add the antidote to the water supply. While the latter manages to make it all the way to the main reservoir without incident, little does he suspect that he’s been spotted in both a good and a bad way:

That doesn't seem like proper use of Science Police property to me.

As for things on the outside…they’re not looking so hot, either.

Those're REALLY SMALL tanks? I'd hate to see what REALLY BIG ones look like.

On the other hand, things’re looking up on Takron-Galtos, as the Legionnaires trapped there take advantage of the guards’ ever-growing complacency to free themselves from their restraints and stage a full-blown prisoner revolt.

Viva la revolución!

Meanwhile, the situation on Earth has grown so desperate that Cosmic Boy is forced to arrange a distraction-within-a-distraction by having Sun Boy blind the guards with a flash of light long enough for him and the others to get their hands on Boltax in a vain attempt to use his continued safety as leverage against his troops. Hilariously, their would-be hostage not only knows they’re bluffing, he actually calls them out on it:

Great. A Silver Age villain picks the worst possible moment to think logically.

Just when it looks like they’re even more royally screwed than before, one of the liquid tanks overhead suddenly explodes, drenching the security forces in water which the Legionnaires, totally unaware of Brainiac 5’s fate, assume has been treated with the antidote. Their hearts collectively sink faster than the Titanic when the guards continue their approach after their surprise bath, weapons drawn. Yet when they’re finally within range…they end up arresting Boltax instead of them! The Legionnaires are naturally ecstatic at this development and pretty much start preparing to do the 30th century equivalent of high-fiving Brainiac 5 for coming through when, as if on cue, he shows up to burst their bubble:

"And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids and your pesky Durlan!"

In an exposition that resembles nothing so much as a demented episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, Rond Vidar lays out Universo’s entire scheme, down to the last sordid detail:

You know, it takes a badass villain to use a SUPERNOVA as a distraction.

With Brainiac 5’s antidote being circulated in the world’s water supply, the real President Boltax freed, and Princess Projectra having recovered from her injuries, the Legionnaires prepare to head out to Takron-Galtos to free their teammates, only to discover that they’ve been beaten to it:

Rond Vidar had to save their collective asses twice before they even bothered asking what his name was, much less made him an honorary Legionnaire.

If his entry in Who’s Who in the Legion of Super-Heroes #6 (September 1988) is to be believed, Rond was already an undercover Green Lantern by this point, having been secretly recruited by the Guardians of the Universe to keep an eye on his father. As such, he took the (unintentionally) ironic conferring of Honorary Legionnaire status – a distinction reserved for individuals without superpowers of any sort – upon himself in stride.

Superboy (Starring the Legion of Super-Heroes) #207 (March-April 1975)

“The Rookie Who Betrayed the Legion” by Cary Bates and Mike Grell

The President of Earth has come a-calling with some bad news: it seems that Universo has broken out of the Omega Prison Complex, thumbing his nose at law enforcement by having hypnotized the guards into not only letting him go but also providing him with a getaway ship. According to the latest intelligence reports, he’s holed up on R-7, a minor planet in the Rigel Planetoid System. Given their extensive mutual history, the president’s decided to let the Legion of Super-Heroes take the first crack at nabbing him, an assignment they eagerly accept.

Talk about not being able to escape the long arm of the law.

It turns out that the “intruder” Colossal Boy has apprehended is a young Science Police officer named Dvron, who, having gotten wind of the jailbreak, came to Legion Headquarters in order to join them on their hunt for Universo. He is quite emphatic about tagging along, and for good reason: it turns out that he has a very personal stake in the matter.

Plant hypnosis. Good lord. That sound you're hearing right now is all the world's botanists weeping in unison.

Touched by his story, all of the Legionnaires immediately agree to allow him to accompany them on their search and capture mission…except for Superboy, of all people, who makes a pretty dickish comment to the Science Police officer about how it’ll take everything he has to work alongside of them no matter how good a cop he is before finally giving his approval.

Upon entering the Rigel Planetoid System, the Legionnaires quickly home in on Universo’s general location on R-7 and decide to split up in order to cover ground more effectively, leaving Chameleon Boy and Dvron behind to guard the cruiser.

*looks at story title* Nope. I never saw this one coming, no sir.

When the Legionnaires return from the search empty-handed, Dvron readily admits his guilt in letting Universo escape and makes no attempt to defend himself or excuse his actions. He denies being the influence of super-hypnosis at the time, but remains noticeably mum about a possible motive, something which greatly bothers Chameleon Boy. Superjerk, on the other hand, doesn’t give a rat’s ass, slaps a “hostile prisoner” label on him, and orders Light Lass to keep an eye on Dvron by holding him at gunpoint with his own weapon while the rest of them go after their fugitive. Shortly thereafter, while still dodging the female Legionnaire’s attempts to figure out the reason behind his betrayal, he’s shocked when she’s suddenly taken out with a karate chop to the base of the neck by a familiar face:

We all knew that his story was too ridiculous to be true. It's just a shame he wasn't lying about the MOST RIDICULOUS PART.

After apologizing to Light Lass for taking such drastic measures to coax the truth out of the Science Police officer, Chameleon Boy grants Dvron – who now considers his debt to the escaped supervillain paid in full – a second chance to prove himself. When they finally catch up with the other Legionnaires, however, they discover that Superboy is now under the super-hypnotist’s control and can only watch as he takes out both Timber Wolf and Shrinking Violet in his entranced state before making off with their foe. The three of them continue the pursuit, and, after momentarily losing sight of their two escapees when they duck behind a rock formation, Light Lass manages to incapacitate the Boy of Steel by using her gravity-negating powers to screw with his flying ability, leaving Chameleon Boy and Dvron to deal with Universo himself. The latter, however, responds by drawing his weapon and firing it at an unexpected target:

...and that's how Superboy learned to stop being a douchebag.

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #233 (November 1977)

“The Infinite Man Who Conquered Time the Legion!” by Paul Levitz, James Sherman, and Bob Wiacek

After thwarting an attempt by Sklarian Raiders to add another item to their list of pilfered high-tech equipment, the Legion of Super-Heroes successfully delivers their payload – a newly manufactured, experimental hypertime drive – to their headquarters, where Rond Vidar is waiting to conduct his latest time travel experment:

Professor Jaxon Rugarth has become part of a time travel experiment that's about to go a little caca.

With their clueless human guinea pig…er…brave volunteer strapped into the time travel device, Rond flips the activation switch and it blinks out of existence as expected…only to unexpectedly reappear a fraction of a second later – far sooner than anticipated – with a far more intense glow than it had when it left. Then, as is the case with most things Brainiac 5 has worked on in a laboratory, it blows up.

"Why can't I stop monologuing? WHY?

So, to recap without the melodrama and overblown pomposity: if you do one too many revolutions on the space-time continuum merry-go-round – way past the point where a normal person would want to throw up – you’re lose the three esses (shoes, socks, sanity) but gain a snazzy new wardrobe and nearly infinite time manipulation powers. Unfortunately for Rond, the omnipotent space hippie formerly known as Jaxon Rugarth retains enough clarity of mind to know exactly who’s responsible for sending him on the Cosmic Amusement Park Ride from Hell in the first place and immediately goes after the young man, casually summoning dinosaurs and a tank to deal with the Legionnaires, suspending Star Boy in time, and sending Superboy hurtling through myriad alternate dimensions. That last one, however, proves to be little more than a mere nuisance to the Boy of Steel:

I'm not sure how Dream Girl can tell there's something wrong. Doesn't Star Boy always have that mentally vacant look on his face?

Luckily for Star Boy, the “time paralysis” effect wears off once the Infinite Man vanishes. Realizing that they’re all living on borrowed time as the Infinite Man literally has forever and a day to hone his skills and abilities before returning to almost the exact moment he left and finishing them off, acting leader Wildfire assigns Superboy the job of protecting Rond (not that Mr. Undercover Green Lantern actually needs it), sends Phantom Girl, Dream Girl, and Brainiac 5 on outer space informaton gathering missions to find a way to destroy the Infinite Man, and assigns Lightning Lad and Star Boy with setting up some defenses while he contacts the United Planets in order to keep them apprised of the situation. Meanwhile (relatively speaking), in a location beyond the reaches of space and time, their adversary has managed to squeeze in the equivalent of a millennium of training…

"My powers are at their ULTIMATE MAXIMUM! I am READY PREPARED! Now I shall KILL THEM UNTIL THEY DIE!"

Unfortunately, neither Dream Girl nor Brainiac 5 have any luck consulting the elders on their respective homeworlds, and Phantom Girl’s attempt to gain insight from the incorporeal Timeless Ones of the planet Gendyx is also a bust. Back on Earth, nerves are beginning to wear thin amongst the Legionnaires as they wait for the slaughter:

"LUCY! I'm HOME!"

Y’know, in spite of this comic’s repeated attempts to portray him as insane, the Infinite Man is actually remarkably lucid and focused: he blames Rond Vidar for his transformation and suffering (an accusation which isn’t completely without merit) and is only responding with swift, brutal (yet notably non-lethal) force against the Legionnaires because they continue to attack him while protecting the intended target of his wrath. Eventually, though, he just gets sick and tired of dealing with their crap and takes the kid gloves off by “sharing the wealth” with his adversaries – briefly putting them through the same hellish existence he experienced – before deciding to pass it forward to Rond himself:

This is what happens when you don't just get to the damn point right away.

Reasoning that Brainiac 5 must’ve been referring to the hypertime drive, Superboy destroys the fail-safe mechanism while Lightning Lad and Wildfire, amidst the chaos of cavemen and prehistoric beasts summoned to battle the other Legionnaires, combine their powers to supercharge the time machine. All the while, the Infinite Man merely watches their antics with amusement:

So their solution for stopping a man who wanted to punish them for UNINTENTIONALLY subjecting him to unending torture is to INTENTIONALLY subject him to unending torture while they figure out what to do with him. Think about that for a moment.

Despite Brainiac 5’s assertion that time is of the essence in finding a cure for Professor Rugarth’s condition – which, given the cyclical nature of time proposed in this story, is essentially meaningless – this problem will remain on the back burner for years until Legion of Super-Heroes #18 (January 1986), when a botched attempt by Brainiac 5, Rond Vidar, and Circadia Senius to expand the range of the Time Beacon – a cosmic singularity that served as the equivalent of a lighthouse for time travellers and was seemingly shielding the Time Institute from the most disastrous consequences of the Crisis on Infinite Earths – merely ended up freeing the true source of that protection: the Infinite Man himself. In the end, the White Witch casts a spell of affinity to siphon off his cosmic energies, and, while this has the unintended side effect of restoring his humanity, the trauma Jaxon Rugarth has already endured is so great that he’s left comatose and brain dead as a result of his experience:

Talk about the cure being worse than the disease.

Legion of Super-Heroes #32 to #35 (March to June 1987)

“The Universo Project” Chapters 1 to 4 by Paul Levitz, Greg LaRoque, Mike DeCarlo, and Arne Starr

For his sixth major appearance, Universo did something nearly unheard of in the history of supervillainy: having carefully analyzed the flaws in his previous plans for world domination and apparently skimmed Peter Anspach’s Evil Overlord List for pointers, he initiated a systematic takeover of Earthgov from the shadows that slowly unfolded over the course of nearly two years of real world time (22 issues), being extremely careful to tie up any loose ends along the way and devoting special attention to what had always been the weakest link in his plans thus far: his own flesh and blood.

It all begins rather innocuously in Legion of Super-Heroes #10 (May 1985), when the Legionnaires save the lives of three individuals selected by the Worldcomp as political candidates for the next President of Earth from a group of Khund assassins. The eventual winner is Mojai Desai of Hyperbad, a city located on the Indian subcontinent.

Having a twinkle in your eye isn't always a good thing.

Some time later, in Legion of Super-Heroes #22 (May 1986) a glorified Neo-Luddite calling himself the Restorer goes on a rampage to destroy all the advanced technology he can find in order to usher in a new golden age for mankind by restoring the planet’s natural environment. During the madman’s attack on Metropolis University, Rond Vidar is seriously injured while protecting a fellow professor and hospitalized in the Medi-Complex, the largest and most advanced medical treatment center on Earth. Later, when the Restorer is finally captured, his mind essentially self-destructs after Tellus tries to telepathically probe it, leaving the Legionnaires none the wiser about the full extent of his plans…and President Desai’s right hand man, Vid-Gupta, extremely pleased:

"Eliminate the Restorer? Check. Hospitalize my no-good son? Check. Hmm...maybe I can pencil in that racquetball session for 4:30."

Unfortunately, things only get worse for Rond Vidar, and, by Legion of Super-Heroes #25 (August 1986), his situation has become downright grim:

So universal health care hasn't improved much in 1000 years. Figures.

As you’ve probably already guessed by now, Universo’s lust for power and world domination has grown to the point where it’s thoroughly eclipsed any sense of fatherly love and familial obligation he ever had, and he’s determined to not give his son another chance to betray him…something which Brainiac 5 learns the hard way in Legion of Super-Heroes #30 (January 1987):

You can reprogram an evil artificial intelligence to be good, but you can't program him with a sense of tact.

With the only individual immune to his powers now permanently out of the way, Universo initiates the final step of his plan with the help of his partner Zymyr, a member of alien race known as the Gil’Dishpan and former member of the Legion of Super-Villains, which essentially amounts to a “divide and conquer” strategy spread over the course of several weeks: separate the Legion into smaller, more manageable groups, then use his hypnotic powers to take control of their minds once they’ve been sufficiently weakened, worn down, or disoriented.

Mon-El, Ultra Boy, and Blok are asked to accompany one Ambassador Relnic into Dominator space, the United Planets having ostensibly received an invitation to send delegates in order to negotiate a treaty. Once they arrive, however, they’re met not by diplomatic vessels but instead by three heavily-armed warships.

Don't most Middle Eastern peace conferences usually start out like this?

After being used for target practice, the Legionnaires head out into space to engage the Dominator spacecraft directly and buy Relnic’s ship enough time to get out of range. Unfortunately, they soon find themselves being fired on by both sides and are caught completely off-guard when one of Zymyr’s space warps appears, transporting them directly into a waiting Universo’s clutches.

Unaware of their teammates’ fates, Wildfire, White Witch, Quislet, and Tellus travel to the latter’s homeworld of Hykraius, following up on rumors that Atmos, the champion of Star Boy’s home planet Xanthu, had been spotted in the area and hoping to dig up some leads as to the whereabouts of several Science Police officers that have recently gone missing. All they end up finding, however, is trouble:

"Whatever you do, don't touch Zymyr! He'll give you Gil'Dishpan Hands!"

They subsequently engage the Gil’Dishpan and his robotic army in battle, only to end up being transported via separate space warps to different locations on a nearby desert world. Once there, they fall victims to traps or situations that end up leaving them sufficiently vulnerable to Universo’s mental dominance.

Back on Earth, the remaining Legionnaires have fallen so completely under Universo’s thrall that they not only become his private army and enforcers but don’t raise any protest whatsoever when the planet’s puppet ruler, President Desai, enacts a series of new laws, rules, and regulations to permanently close their headquarters as well as systematically dismantle and disband their team.

Meanwhile, retired Legionnaire Saturn Girl receives the mother of all rude awakenings when she gets up one morning in an unfamiliar barracks minus her flight ring. This quickly go from bad to worse when she discovers that she’s in a farming commune…on an island in a sea of sulphur….on an unfamilar alien world. Not only that, but she’s surrounded by faces both strange and familiar – with Brainiac 5, Dream Girl, Chameleon Boy, and several of the previously-mentioned missing Science Police officers numbering among the latter – all of whom have been turned into docile, simple-minded automatons due to a combination of mental blocks and controls. Worse still, circumstantial evidence suggests that they’ve all been trapped here for several weeks now.

Theorizing that the barriers erected in her own mind were ultimately broken through subconscious use of her telepathic abilities, Saturn Girl wastes no time in trying to engineer an escape. With the help of her keen observational skills, she stealthily manages to evade the electronic floating spy-eyes that are guarding her and the others long enough to learn the lay of the land. After gathering all the information she is able to on her own, she systematically abducts her fellow Legionnaires under cover of darkness, transports them to a secluded location, and uses her mental powers to free their minds from Universo’s control.

Playing dumb taken to the ultimate level.

Using his shapeshifting powers, Chameleon Boy does some hardcore reconnaissance work and discovers that the tunnel beneath the fountain near their farming commune – the only local source of fresh drinking water – leads directly to a control center for the entire compound. After using her telepathic abilities to link his mind with that of Brainiac 5 – thus allowing the latter to literally see things through the former’s eyes – they come up with a plan to escape from the planet on which they’ve been imprisoned:

There's nothing like a refreshing cold shower in the morning.

After a fierce battle with the compound’s automatic defense systems, the prisoners emerge victorious. Brainiac 5 subsequently cannibalizes the available technology in order to construct makeshift spacecraft and lifeboats for everyone unable to leave the planet under their own power. The Legionnaires themselves head for Dream Girl’s homeworld of Naltor, where the planet’s leader, the High Seer Beren Kah, brings them up to speed on current events, or at least as much as his precognitive visions have revealed to him:

If a thoughtless comment by Dream Girl gets all of you this worked up...you seriously need to reconsider your priorities.

Though Beren demonstrates that he is willing, if asked, to intervene by rallying political support from the colony worlds and hold Earthgov accountable for its actions, the Legionnaires decline his generous offer and decide to maitain a low profile, head home, and solve their own problems. To this end, they book passage back to Earth on a starship line, in disguise and telepathically linked with one another. As one might expect, slipping under the radar on a planet whose inhabitants are known for their precognitive abilities does not go off without a hitch, and Chameleon Boy is forced to assume the form of a flying insect and hide on board for a significant portion of the trip after he arouses the suspicions of an overzealous Naltorian security guard. A second disaster involving Brainiac 5’s fascination with antiquated robo drones is only narrowly averted.

Upon reaching their destination, they find out that security measures have been ramped up due to the presence of an “unregistered Durlan” onboard their ship and that it’s only a matter of time before their covers are blown. Dropping all pretenses of inconspicuousness and stealth, the Legionnaires steal an abandoned cruiser and manage to escape from Metropolis Spaceport, but are quickly shot down by a squadron of Science Police vessels and forced to make a crash landing. Due in no small part to Brainiac 5’s piloting skills and technological knowledge, they manage to survive the ordeal, and, thanks to a chance comment by Saturn Girl, finally gain some insight into their situation:

Well, at least everyone present has read the relevant back issues.

These suspicions are soon confirmed when they kidnap and telepathically probe a Science Police officer, from whom they learn the whole sordid story behind Universo’s takeover of Earth:

Fool Earth once, shame on you. Fool Earth twice...

Apparently, “thinking things through carefully” entails breaking into the Presidential Palace and subduing Mojai Desai by force, only for them to learn that he’s not Universo in disguise and attracting the attention of the brainwashed Legionnaires serving as his personal enforcers in the process. Now heavily outnumbered by their teammates and none the wiser about the identity their adversary has assumed this time around, they switch to Brainiac 5’s backup plan by having Saturn Girl stun everyone with a powerful mental blast in order to make good their escape, a move that manages to impress even their adversary:

It's refreshing to see a supervillain think things through.

While Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, and Dream Girl head to the former’s old workshop at the Metropolis University Computer Lab Complex, allegedly to build themselves an escape ship, it quickly degenerates into a desperate standoff between them and their hypnotized teammates as they literally throw every piece of technology at their disposal at the hypnotized Legionnaires, a tactic which ultimately proves futile. Meanwhile, Saturn Girl has managed to track down former Earth president Marte Allon, and the information she obtains from the latter concerning the possible identity of their elusive foe inevitably leads to only one place:

Wow. Talk about overkill.

In spite of the odds against her, Saturn Girl takes advantage of her previous experience with Universo’s mental blocks in order to put Mon-El and Ultra Boy out of commission, albeit in a quick, dirty, and extremely painful fashion for both of them. In the end, however, it all boils down to a battle of the minds and the strength of their respective willpower – with a whole bunch of trash talking thrown in for good measure – but she ultimately gains the upper hand and goes for the low-tech, Captain James T. Kirk finisher:

Either Saturn Girl's really strong or Universo's a total wimp.

With Universo’s influence gone, things quickly return to normal for both Earth and the Legion of Super-Heroes:

Maybe it's just me, but it sounded like she just dissed the President of Earth.

While Saturn Girl’s request is, of course, readily granted, as she herself stated earlier, there remains a lot of work to be done and quite a few loose ends to tie up:

I wonder why they shaved off his mustache and goatee before sticking him in that giant fish tank?

Strangely enough, this is one of those cases where the readers actually have a much better view of the big picture than the characters. While we can quite easily surmise why Universo wanted to attack Oa – namely to both take his revenge on the Guardians of the Universe as well as acquire the raw power necessary to successfully carry out Krona’s experiment and view the beginning of creation – the Legionnaires themselves have not yet connected the dots between their foe and the disgraced Green Lantern they knew as Vidar (though they eventually will).

Unbeknownst to everyone, Rond managed to survive his father’s machinations, but decided to remain “dead” to the world and lay low (which actually makes his undercover Green Lantern job a lot easier). It’s only after Sensor Girl accidentally discovers his presence and encourages him to rejoin the world of the living that he decides to come out of hiding and reveal himself to the Legionnaires. His miraculous return, however, is initially met with a great deal of reservation and skepticism due to recent negative experiences they’d had with the Time Trapper:

Dude, the guy was bedridden and in a freakin' coma. Give him a break.

It’s only later in that same issue, Legion of Super-Heroes #50 (September 1988), that Rond reveals exactly how he survived Universo’s attempt to kill him:

Brilliant. Too bad it took you almost dying to figure that one out.

With his closely guarded secret now out in the open, Rond Vidar decides to honor Earthgov’s standing Green Lantern ban and goes into voluntary exile.

The Continuity Verdict

With the current amount of information we have available, it’s impossible to determine how much of the material I’ve just covered is canonical. Oddly enough, we have upcoming Legion of Super-Heroes scribe Paul Levitz to blame for this. In a recent interview, he said (italicized emphasis is mine):

“I think I would characterize it by saying that we’re picking up the story after some gap after my last issue and what we saw in Geoff’s work in Legion of Three Worlds and ‘Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes.'” – Paul Levitz

Previously, Geoff Johns stated that the divergence point between the original Legion’s history and that of the current close analogue thereof lies somewhere around Crisis on Infinite Earths:

“Really, we’re sticking with everything that happened up through Crisis on Infinite Earths.” – Geoff Johns

If this is indeed the case, then the cutoff issue would be Legion of Super-Heroes #18 (January 1986). Unfortunately, Paul Levitz’s run extends all the way to the final issue of that volume, Legion of Super-Heroes #63 (August 1989), which makes for an additional 45 issues worth of material. While some of the stories from that timeframe – such as the previously summarized “The Universo Project” – don’t pose any major continuity issues, there was a major secondary story arc that began in Superman #8 (August 1987) and ended in Legion of Super-Heroes #51 (October 1988) which most definitely poses a problem and has to do with the “recent negative experiences the Legion had with the Time Trapper” I previously mentioned. In order to fully grasp the scope of the problem, though, a quick DC Comics history lesson and summary of the events in question are in order.

In the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC gave writer and artist John Byrne carte blanche to update the Superman mythos as he saw fit and to do whatever it took to make him fresh and unique again. What Byrne actually did was casually jettison the character’s entire history and start things over from scratch. Not only was Superman now the only survivor of Krypton’s destruction – meaning that Supergirl had never existed in the first place – but he had also never been Superboy and only began his costumed career when he reached adulthood.

For those of you whose heads are spinning right now at the thought of how massively screwed Legion history would be as a result of this decision: congratulations. You officially have more insight and forethought than anyone who was working for DC Comics at the time. The resulting discrepancy was so massive, in fact, that it punched right through the fourth wall and even the freakin’ Time Trapper was left scratching his head.

The idiocy of this retcon transcends even the Time Trapper's understanding.

Having come to the conclusion that Superboy was nothing more than an unintentional fabrication – the end result of centuries of historical distortions, legends, and misinformation becoming intermingled with facts – that came to be regarded as an actual person (much like the classic portrayal of King Arthur), the Time Trapper learns that the Legion of Super-Heroes is getting ready to travel back in time in order to meet someone who had never actually existed. So, he hits upon a brilliant idea: if there is no Superboy, then he’ll just have to create one.

*looks left and right* "Yoink!"

Have successfully raided the space-time continuum cookie jar, he gets straight to work:

"At last! My models are complete! This year's science fair prize will be MINE!"

With all extraneous elements eliminated from his “pocket universe”, the Time Trapper manipulates history on both Earth and Krypton to create environments and circumstances that will one day produce a living facsimile of the Legion’s fictional inspiration. He then surgically connects the 30th century with his new creation so that every time the Legionnaires think they’re travelling back in time, they’re actually taking a detour into his own personal playground. Eventually, he attempts to blackmail Superboy into doing his bidding – bartering the safety of Earth and everyone on it against the lives of his teammates – but ends up having the tables turned on him by the Boy of Steel, who sacrifices his life to save his adopted homeworld and return his friends to their own reality and time.

The end of an era...

Needless to say, none of the Legionnaires particularly appreciate the Time Trapper’s colossal mindscrew and the entire experience leaves them all…how can we put this delicately…royally cheesed off.

When Polar Boy starts talking vengeance, you know it's serious business.

Superboy is subsequently interred on the graveyard asteroid of Shanghalla by three of the Legionnaires most affected by his passing: Saturn Girl (who had helped recruit him with the other two founding members), Mon-El (who came to think of him as a brother), and Brainiac 5 (whose life’s work on time travel had been reduced to a cosmic joke by the Time Trapper’s manipulations). With the arrival of a fourth, Duo Damsel (who had a longstanding secret crush on Superboy that she had never gotten up the courage to confess to him), a conspiracy is born. The four of them make a secret pact and form a Legion within the Legion, vowing that they will avenge their friend’s death by destroying the Time Trapper…or die trying.

Things come to a head in Legion of Super-Heroes #50, when, with all other options for travelling through time exhausted, the conspirators “enlist” the aid of the still brain dead Professor Jaxon Rugarth, carry out a more tightly controlled version of the experiment that transformed him into the Infinite Man, and tap into his power in order to transport themselves to the End of Time. Ultimately, the four “suicide pact” Legionnaires and stowaway Rond Vidar stand alone against the Time Trapper, who quickly hands them their collective asses in an extremely brutal fashion. Left with no other choice, Brainiac 5 releases his secret weapon…

"OMG!!! WTF?!?"

The two diametrically opposed cosmic beings – one the embodiment of entropy, the other the living incarnation of time’s cyclical nature – then begin to duke it out, though Brainiac 5 ends up dealing the decisive blow in the Infinite Man’s favor:

Once again, Brainiac 5's force shield belt pelvic thrust has saved the universe.

While the Legionnaires manage to return to their native era, their victory is ultimately a pyrrhic one. Professor Jaxon Rugarth, the Infinite Man, died in battle…

The Time Trapper doesn't mince words.

…Duo Damsel lost yet another one of her bodies…

Don't they have backup generators in the 30th century?

…and Mon-El was left so battered and broken as a result of this encounter that he was placed on life support indefinitely, ultimately succumbing to the severity of his injuries in Legion of Super-Heroes #61 (June 1989) during a power outage.

Well…that was pretty damn depressing, wasn’t it?

While you could conceivably shoehorn the aforementioned storyline into official continuity by retconning certain details to make it fit, it’s far more trouble than it’s worth, because if you do, then you’d also have to come up with explanations for the following:

1. Luornu Durgo (alias Una/Duo Damsel/Duplicate Damsel)

Luornu Durgo’s first real appearance following the “lost years” was in Countdown #41 (July 18, 2007), by which point she had started going by the codename Una:

Because holding hands with a girl is just that awesome.

Based on her dialogue – specifically the line that she’s “just the one […] now” – it would appear that Una is, in fact, the last remaining triplicate of Luornu’s, thus implying that her second sister self did indeed die during the aforementioned confrontation with the Time Trapper. Unfortunately, this is completely contradicted by what Duplicate Damsel says in Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #5 (September 2009):

"Y'know, it's a funny story...remind me to tell you about it sometime."

There are three possible explanations for this discrepancy:

  • The events of Legion of Super-Heroes #50 either didn’t happen (in which case “Una” would be a name her second triplicate adopted in order to establish a unique identity for herself) or happened in a slightly different way than originally shown (specifically one that didn’t involve one of her two remaining selves dying).
  • One of her three bodies was resurrected off-panel and sacrificed her life a second time while trying to help Karate Kid in Countdown to Infinite Crisis #6 (March 26, 2008). This explanation actually has a precedent in “Five Years Later” continuity, where Glorith used her time-manipulation powers to revive Luornu’s dead triplicate and subsequently tortured her by putting her through an endless cycle of deaths and rebirths – while allowing her to retain the memories of each and every one – in order to break her will and force her cooperation:

A vicious circle like no other...

  • The aforementioned dialogue from Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #5 is simply wrong and “Una” is actually a duplicate that Luornu produced after she gained her unlimited biofissioning powers.

On a rather morbid side note, Luornu Durgo is not only one of only two female Legionnaires on the original incarnation of the team to ever die in battle (the other being the original Supergirl) but also, by virtue of her powers, the only one to be killed off more than once.

2. Mon-El (Lar Gand)

Though he should technically be dead, it was revealed that, sometime during the “lost years”, Mon-El was banished to the Phantom Zone by Earth-Man and only retrieved from it by Phantom Girl and Shadow Lass in Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #1 (October 2008):

Mon-El's zoned out in the Phantom Zone.

In the “Five Years Later” version of continuity, it was revealed that Mon-El had never actually died but merely fallen into a death-like hibernation, a state which he remained in for years until his body had fully healed itself. While these events are no longer considered canonical, it’s possible that something similar happened in the current version of continuity. The simplest explanation, of course, is that the aforementioned battle with the Time Trapper either never took place or he wasn’t nearly as badly injured in it as he was in the original version of the story.

Despite my repeated emphasis on the dubious canonical status of the aforementioned story arc, the Time Trapper has referenced it at least twice in passing in current continuity: once in Action Comics #864 (June 2008)…

"God, even I hated being forced to implement Byrne and Levitz's retcon."

…and again in Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #4 (June 2009), where one of the portals at the End of Time flashes back to the battle in question:

"Wait a sec...when the hell did that happen?"

It was later established that the Time Trapper is unable to distinguish between the actual timeline and an infinite number of theoretical ones, though, so his reliability in this matter is more than suspect.

Now we come to our biggest problem, one that exists regardless of whether or not the “Pocket Universe Superboy” saga is considered canonical:

3. The Guardians of the Universe, the Green Lantern Corps, and Rond Vidar

It’s clear from Legion of Super-Heroes #295 that both the Guardians of the Universe and the Green Lantern Corps continued to exist well into the 30th century. Moreover, Universo’s dialogue with Rond shortly before his death confirms that he was once a Green Lantern just like in the original story, meaning that at least certain aspects of it remain valid. However, it’s equally clear from comments made by various characters in Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #2 and #3 (November 2008 and April 2009)…

Sodom Yat: The universe's ultimate hikikomori.

…that the Guardians of the Universe, Mogo, and the Green Lantern Corps are long gone and Sodom Yat has been living in complete isolation on Oa for centuries, none of which is consistent with the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths version of continuity.

The only way that this can possibly work is if we mentally substitute Sodom Yat for the Guardians of the Universe in a revised version of the original story and assume that he personally recruited Rond at some point after his father was discharged, that the handful of Green Lanterns who appeared in it were all that remained of the Corps at that point in time, and that these ring wielders all died in action at some point after the events of that issue but before Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #2. Also, depending on whether Legion of Super-Heroes #50 and its lead-in issues are canonical or not, Rond may have revealed his Green Lantern status to the Legionnaires under completely different circumstances.

As for who the new Green Lantern will be, based on this comment of Universo’s…

I wonder if he's hinting at something? Nah...can't be.

…my money’s on Rond Vidar’s as-yet-unseen son.

UPDATE (2010.05.19): Looks like I lost that bet. The Green Lantern power ring’s been offered to Earth-Man, of all people, though it remains to be seen if he’ll end up accepting it.

Days of Legion Past – Part 2: Computo

2010/04/30

In Justice Society of America #6 (November 2007), the fourth chapter of “The Lightning Saga”, the Legionnaire known as Sensor Girl uses her illusion-casting powers to recreate one of her team’s most infamous battles, albeit with the members of the Justice League and the Justice Society “standing in” for her teammates this time around:

Ugh...is it 2:14 A.M., Eastern Time, August 29th already?

Though it only fought them twice, Computo the Conqueror has gone down in comic book history as one of the most memorable adversaries that the original Legion of Super-Heroes ever faced, not only because it was the Skynet of its day – an evil artificial intelligence bent on global domination and the eradication of mankind – but also due to the fact that the Legionnaire it killed, Triplicate Girl, was the first death on the team that actually stuck. Since all Carggites are born with the ability to split into three identical bodies, the fact that Luornu Durgo was now limited to two – something which amounted to a “deformity” among her people, turning her into an outcast – and changed her code name to Duo Damsel was a constant reminder to both readers as well as the fictional characters themselves of the heavy price they paid for victory that day.

Just a quick disclaimer before we start: the two comics I’ll be reviewing today are pretty unusual. The first is a Silver Age tale filled with Grant Morrison-esque randomness and insanity and the second is told in a disjointed narrative style that involves frequent switches between multiple viewpoints (over a dozen in total). While both stories work as comics, they’re an absolute pain to convert into coherant synopses.

Adventure Comics #340 and #341 (January and February 1966)

“Computo the Conqueror!” and “Colossal Boy’s One-Man War!” by Jerry Siegel, Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan, George Klein, and Sheldon Moldoff

Have received special permission to take over the entire United Planets Lab Complex for a special project he’s been assigned to work on for them, Brainiac 5 has been living the life of a cantankerous recluse to the fullest by obsessively working around the clock without rest and angrily turning away visitors such as Star Boy and Element Lad. He does, however, let Chameleon Boy inside, if only to allow him to remove another unwanted guest:

Good lord...it's the world's largest Fisher-Price Corn Popper push toy.

Giving only the vaguest of answers to the question about human emotions, Brainiac 5 cheerfully proceeds to masturbate his own ego by changing the subject, telling his creation all about itself and how it will be his greatest triumph, a notion that Computo does little to discourage when it performs the equivalent of a reacharound by helping him complete its own construction. Once fully assembled, it displays an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and quickly absorbs the information from an entire encyclopedia while hungrily demanding more, only to be told by Brainiac 5 that there are inherent limits to what can be learned from books. Then, unsurprisingly, things take a turn for the worse:

"Now, Creator...you will tell me more about this 'tentacle porn'."

Computo quickly learns about both the Legion of Super-Heroes as well as human emotions from his creator, and, after making a piss-poor attempt to mechanically reproduce the sounds normally associated with various types of the latter, deems both them and human beings to be inefficient. It then programs the Duplor – a kind of highly advanced, all-purpose, mass production machine – to construct an army of replicas of itself:

"Mankind will learn to taste the rainbow! And it will be a very, VERY bitter taste indeed!"

Proclaiming this to be the dawn of a new age, Computo instructs his computeroid duplicates to extract the knowledge from the minds of all the people they can, with the ultimate intention of destroying the entire human race once it’s no longer of any use to them. As the mechanical army runs amok, Brainiac 5 desperately tries to recall the other Legionnaires from their various deep space assignments to help, only to have his creation jam the transmission before his teammates can verify its authenticity.

Impressed by the information assimilated from a professional android manufacturer by one of its minions, Computo instructs the other robot-computers to focus their attention on capturing other human scientists and subsequently imprisoning them inside of their energum-induction bubble “heads” as hostages. When Superboy and Ultra Boy, having just returned from a mission in the distant future, attempt to reign in the chaos, Computo allows them to destroy two computeroids in order to distract them long enough for it to absorb the knowledge from their minds. It then threatens to start executing hostages if they offer any further resistance, and, just to show that it means business, orders one of its replicas to self-destruct with its prisoner still trapped inside. Though Brainiac 5 is perfectly willing to sacrifice his own life to stop his monstrous creation, neither Superboy nor Ultra Boy is willing to risk anyone else being killed and decide to withdraw for now.

Though successful in driving off its adversaries, Computo, cognizant of the threat they still pose, removes Brainiac 5 from its “head”, knocks him unconscious by hurling him against a wall, and gives itself the mechanical equivalent of a makeover by rebuilding itself into a more formidable adversary:

"Be honest, Creator...does this chassis make me look fat?"

He and the other computeroids subsequently head over to the Legion’s abandoned clubhouse, where they do a bit of “remodelling” before activating a secret code-signal summoning all members back to their headquarters…and right into a trap.

"Oh my god! It's a radioactive disco globe! Run! Run for your lives!"

Unfortunately, as Lightning Lad soon learns, the giant red crystalline soccer ball has neutralized all of the Legionnaires’ abilities, including Mon-El’s anti-lead serum. When Superboy, the only unaffected member of the group, attempts to free them, however, he is incapacitated by a convenient kryptonite ray. Thanks to some quick thinking by Star Boy, of all people, the latter weapon is neutralized and Superboy creates a makeshift exit by tearing through the entire side of the clubhouse like tinfoil. The subsequent mass escape attempt, however, proves disastrous:

Ladies and gentlemen, you've just witness the birth of the gratuitous and completely inappropriately-placed advert.

As the remaining Legionnaires who evaded capture regroup elsewhere, Matter-Eater Lad loses his trademark cool and dumps the blame for the imminent annihilation of mankind and Triplicate Girl’s death squarely in Brainiac 5’s lap. However, he himself is immediately admonished for his comment by Superboy, who is quick to absolve his teammate of any responsibility because Computo was designed as part of a top secret project for the United Planets, which…really is no excuse whatsoever for a screw-up of this magnitude. This horrendous lapse in logic is immediately followed by a truly epic demonstration of misplaced priorities, thus establishing the idiotic tone that will pervade the remainder of this story:

Maybe you should construct some more urn-crafts...FOR ALL THE PEOPLE WHO DIED WHILE YOU WASTED TIME BUILDING THE FIRST ONE.

No sooner has the cosmic dust buster/funeral barge combo blasted off for the cosmic graveyard known as Shanghalla than the Legionnaires discover that Triplicate Girl (or at least two-thirds of her) is alive and well. Given that her first priorities are to select a new code name immortalizing her horrendous disfigurement and flash a winning smile to her grieving teammates, it would appear that she’s taking her partial death a hell of a lot better than they are.

Gaze upon the masked, three-headed Jimmy Olsen with Doctor Octopus arms and Aquaman pants and tremble in fear!

As the Weirdo Legionnaire keeps Computo occupied with his dumbassery, Colossal Boy and Superboy manage to trick the computeroid army into inaction by having the former pretend to go nuts and free his teammates just so that he can kill them himself. No, seriously:

"Dude, Colossal Boy totally felt us up. I feel so dirty."

It’s soon revealed that mysterious “Weirdo Legionnaire” was nothing more than an elaborate masquerade concocted for what is probably the most surreal rescue attempt in comic book history:

Because if we CAN'T laugh at pet mutilation, what CAN we laugh at?

Notice how absolutely no mention is made of making a similar effort for the other four captured Legionnaires – Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl,  Lightning Lad, and Element Lad – probably because no one considered them worth it.

But things are far from over. After Superboy uses his super-vision to confirm that all of the Legion’s emergency hideouts are being electronically monitored, Sun Boy takes the lead and guides them to an alternate location: the remnants of the Batcave beneath Gotham City. Unfortunately, they barely have time to acknowledge their surroundings before a glowing messenger orb appears before them and Computo announces that he’s going to execute Saturn Girl in one hour, just so he can get off on their suffering. Now faced with an impending deadline, Brainiac 5 quickly rummages through the Batcave Trophy Room for weapons before settling on two tripod-mounted ray guns. Quickly rushing back to Metropolis, they attempt to use the first weapon…which turns out to be Professor Dalton’s duplicator ray. In the immortal words of Spike, wackiness ensues:

Artificial stupidity beats real intelligence any day of the week.

As it finally dawns on Superboy that Matter-Eater Lad was right about Brainiac 5 after all, Computo decides that he’s had enough of this bullshit:

"I can't take much more of your blundering numbskullery!"

As incredibly dumb as that was, at least they couldn’t possibly do anything stupider, right?

Oh, for fuck's sake.

Needless to say, this goes about as well as you’d expect. While I readily admit that Bouncing Boy’s has balls the size of his spherical body, he ends up nearly getting killed during the would-be rescue attempt and ends up needing to have his fat pulled out of the fire by a timely gust of Superboy’s super-breath. The fact that he ends up losing his powers just as Computo predicted merely added insult to injury. Still, it was a noble (if idiotic) effort overall.

With all other options exhausted and Saturn Girl having five minutes left to live, Brainiac 5 decides to pull out all the stops and use the second weapon he confiscated, clearly telling everyone before he does in no uncertain terms that there’s no guarantee whatsoever that he can control the horror he’s about to unleash upon the world. Now, for those of you keeping score, given that he’s managed to create a genocidal computerized dictator, a Bizarro duplicate thereof, and inadvertantly cause the deaths of one of his teammates in addition to countless scientists and other civilians – all within less than 24 hours, a new record if there ever was one – you’d think that there’d be at least one Legionnaire who would’ve raised a hand in protest. Or, at the very least, taken this as an invitation to punch him in the face really, really hard. Yet, amidst the deafening sound of crickets chirping, all we here is the sound of a dial being turned…

"Fear not! The giant antimatter fart cloud shall be our salvation!"

With the antimatter force-thing wreaking absolute havoc by destroying computeroids left and right, Superboy, Mon-El, and Ultra Boy take advantage of the distraction to save their teammates before Brainiac 5’s latest stroke of genius saves Computo the trouble of killing them itself. Soon, only the would-be robot-computer conqueror remains:

"Hooray! Once again, technobabble has saved us all from certain doom!"

In a way, I envy Superboy. He can forget all this ever happened because of a post-hypnotic suggestion implanted in his mind by Supergirl combined with Saturn Girl’s psychic conditioning. I’m not sure how much alcohol and therapy I’ll need to accomplish the same results. Ugh.

Legion of Super-Heroes – Annual #1 (1982)

“Monster in a Little Girl’s Mind!” by Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen, and Bruce D. Patterson

It’s the first day on the job for Science Police Liason Officer to the Legionnaires, Shvaughn Erin. Unfortunately, she gets a less-than-warm welcome when she’s incapacitated by a newly-installed security droid only to be rescued by Wildfire, who’s about to go on leave with Dawnstar. Upon entering Legion H.Q. proper, she’s greeted by acting leader Element Lad, who apologizes for the “misunderstanding” with the newly-installed, as-yet-unbugged defensive systems that Brainiac 5’s been installing and offers her a grand tour of the place, which is in the process of being heavily modernized through the installation of state-of-the-art equipment. As the two of them pass through the new high-tech medical center, though, something catches Shvaughn’s eye:

Don't self-taught surgeons usually have fools for teachers?

While Brainiac 5 is optimistic that he can help the young girl based on the diagnosti-scans he’s done and Dream Girl confirms that the new circuits he added to his computer seem to be working properly, the resident genius of the Legion appears distracted. Danielle‘s older brother, Jacques Foccart, is ecstatic at the news, and Mon-El displays a great deal of confidence in his teammate’s medical abilities, though Dream Girl is quick to pass the credit for this miracle-to-be around a little.

This is the worst case of red eye I've ever seen.

Things quickly go to hell in a handbasket, as Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Sun Boy, and Star Boy fall victim to dangerously malfunctioning equipment throughout the building, the headquarters’ automatic defensive shields are raised without the required Earthgov approval, and Element Lad and Shvaughn are cut off from the rest of the medical center by an impenetrable, self-regenerating barrier, though they can still hear what’s going on inside. Meanwhile, down in the operating theater, those present learn exactly what kind of technological Pandora’s Box has just been opened and the nature of the nightmarish creature that’s been unleashed:

"HERE'S JOHNNY!"

Using an alternate communications channel, Shvaughn manages to relay to Science Police Chief Zendak that Computo has been reactivated, which is sufficiently alarming for Earth President Marte Allon, Colossal Boy’s mother, to order an immediate quarantine and evacuation of the area around Legion Headquarters as well as the severing of all communications lines leading to and from the building. Unfortunately, news of the event reaches a pair of retired Legionnaires, for one of whom the computeroid’s return is just about the worst thing imaginable…

How utterly ignorant of your wife's past and trauma can you possibly be?

Meanwhile, inside Legion H.Q., things are getting increasingly worse. Element Lad and Shvaughn are joined by Shadow Lass only to watch as life support is turned off, while Colossal Boy and Shrinking Violet are removed from the scene when the Legion cruiser they’re repairing suddenly takes off, crashing through the hangar bay wall at top speed. Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad finally manage to escape their quarters and stumble upon a half-dead Cosmic Boy, who is left in the former’s care as the latter heads out to try and help Sun Boy and Star Boy, who’re close by. And Computo makes sure that Jacques Foccart and Brainiac 5 are aware of all of it:

Computo really knows how to rub it in, doesn't he?

In the gym, Blok and Timber Wolf are attacked by malfunctining athletic equipment while Ultra Boy, Light Lass, and Phantom Girl are ambushed by a malfunctioning automatic vacuum cleaner and rendered unconscious by exploding computer consoles inside his quarters. Down at Science Police Central, President Allon turns down an offer of assistance from the Green Lantern Corps, upholding the planetwide ban of its members from Earth. Wildfire and Dawnstar manage to rescue Colassal Boy and Shrinking Violet from the runaway Legion cruiser after the situation is brought to their attention by the Science Police. Unable to go through the erected barrier, Element Land, Shvaughn and Shadow Lass take advantage of the remaining inter-floor access to try and make their way around it. Lightning Lad succeeds in rescuing Star Boy and Sun Boy, though the latter is very badly injured and needs to be carried out.

Back in the medical center, Brainiac 5 has managed to palm a telepathic earplug from his belt without Computo’s knowledge and uses it to contact Jacques with a plan to take down their adversary:

"Monsieur...I cannot believe how much this telepathy is turning me on."

While Blok and Timber Wolf have managed to destroy the gym equipment, they remained confined to the gym due to the door being electronically sealed. Meanwhile, Star Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Lad have regrouped in Timber Wolf’s quarters and managed to stabilize Sun Boy and Cosmic Boy’s conditions, though both of them remain unconscious. As they’re trying to figure out what to do next…

Talk about a blast from the past...

Little does Lightning Lad suspect that his adversary is nothing but a welding droid with a holographic projector attached that Computo has dispatched as part of some perverse mind game designed to drive him past the breaking point. As it attempts to similarly torture Mon-El with visions of a Phantom Zone projector, Brainiac 5 telepathically stresses to Jacques that time is running out for all of them, as Danielle’s body has almost been burned out by Computo’s “possession” and that it will become unstoppable should his sister shell expire and it transfer itself into the building’s main computer. Left with no choice, Jacques managed to access and consume Lyle Norg’s invisibility serum, gaining the expected tactical advantage. Outraged at its creator’s deception, Computo lashes out at Brainiac 5 and attempts to kill him by using its newly-acquired matter manipulation powers to overwhelm his personal force field with an endless deluge of metallic wreckage.

Back in Ultra Boy’s quarters, Light Lass, though pinned down, manages to use her gravity-nullifying powers to evacuate the unconscious Phantom Girl and Ultra Boy to safety, though her own survival remains in doubt since the computer consoles in the room are still periodically detonating. Shadow Lass, Shvaughn, and Element Lad aren’t having much luck, either, as even the lowest levels of the building have been sealed off, leaving them with no choice but to go back up the way they came to the roof.

Up in the medical center, Braniac 5 has managed to keep Computo’s attention focused on him and away from Jacques and Mon-El. He manages to telepathically contact the latter to convey the second part of his plan – having the Daxamite use his heat vision to melt a hole in the storeroom where the hypo discs (high-tech sedative dispensers) are stored – before his force field belt finally buckles and he is overwhelmed and knocked unconscious by flying debris. Mon-El succeeds in his task amd Jacques in his, rendering Computo’s host body unconscious and ending the threat. The ending, however, is bittersweet:

"Just clean her tank regularly, sprinkle some fish flakes in twice a day, and she should be fine in a few months."

In an appearance before his fellow Legionnaires, Brainiac 5 attempts to tender his resignation from the Legion of Super-Heroes in light of his numerous failures in judgement – of which this latest incident was but the most recent example – and nominate Jacques Foccart as his replacement and the new Invisible Kid. Though the former request is flatly refused, the Legionnaires put the latter to a vote and approve it, and leave him the task of breaking the good news to their newest member:

Three bets that Jacques Foccart just stinkpalmed Brainiac 5.

Other Appearances

When the Bismollians decided to solve their economic problems by switching to a computer economy in the Legion of Substitute Heroes – Special #1 (1985), they invested in an army…of Computo replicas.

This shouldn't be so much a "gut feeling" as "instinctual indigestion".

While these duplicates possessed the desire to conquer and rule, they apparently had absolutely none of their likeness’ strength of will, independence, or competence (thank god). To compensate for this, they summoned infamous Legion villain Pulsar Stargrave – himself supposedly a construct of the Computer Tyrants of Colu, Brainiac 5’s homeworld – to help lead their rebellion, only to be abandoned by their would-be savior when he learned exactly what planet he was on. Unfortunately for Stargrave, this would be by far the least of the indignities that he would suffer, as he was ultimately defeated through the coordinated efforts of Polar Boy, Stone Boy, and Matter-Eater Lad…the latter of whom had bitten off his nose earlier in that encounter.

Diagram of a hilarious takedown.

As for the real deal…after fifteen failed attempts to “exorcise” it from Danielle Foccart failed, Brainiac 5 finally succeeded in Legion of Super Heroes #311 (May 1984). When Computo accidentally awoke on this particular occasion, it was revealed that being trapped within a human body for an extended period of time had apparently not only caused it to develop an ego and a volatile temper – in other words, emotions not unlike those experienced by the organics it held such contempt for – but had also caused its powers to atrophy. As such, Brainiac 5 was able to trap its essence within a crystalline globe containing a master program that effectively neutered Computo, making it friendly, subservient, and docile:

From asskicker to asskisser...

This version of the formerly evil A.I. faithfully served his former adversaries as the Legion H.Q.’s caretaker and tour guide from then on and was eventually upgraded with bio-circuitry in Legion of Super-Heroes # 51 (October 1988) so that it could properly superintend the technology Brainiac 5 donated to the Legion following his resignation from the team. For some bizarre reason, this new incarnation resembled nothing so much as a super-deformed version of the Fatal Five member Validus.

...and from abominable to adorable.

The Continuity Verdict

While it’s clear from Justice Society of America #6 that Computo exists in the current mainstream DC Universe, its updated appearance – which is a nice compromise between his classic look and modern design aesthetics – may indicate that the events of Adventure Comics #340 and #341 took place in an extremely “broad strokes” fashion, i.e. that Brainiac 5 created it, the Legionnaires who appeared in the original story fought it, and Triplicate Girl died, but that at least some of the sillier Silver Age elements whose modern canonical statuses are contentious (such as the Bizarro-creating duplicator ray) have been excised just as others most definitely have (like Superboy and Supergirl’s ability to travel through time under their own power).

The fate of the tamed version of Computo is undetermined. It’s possible that it was appropriated by Earthgov and turned into a sentient weapon – just like his counterpart in the “Five Years Later” version of continuity was converted into the android enforcer B.I.O.N. by the Dominator-controlled Terran government – but there’s absolutely no evidence of this one way or another.

What happened to Danielle Foccart is also a mystery. In the aforementioned “Five Years Later” continuity, it was revealed that she had acquired the ability to communicate with and control computers – a benevolent side-effect of her “possession” – and ultimately joined a teenaged version of the Legionnaires – the so-called “Batch SW6” – under the (intentionally) ironic code name of Computo. Whether or not her New Earth counterpart gained similar powers (or is even still alive) is unknown at this time.

Days of Legion Past – Part 1: The Miracle Machine

2010/04/25

In light of the return of the original Legion of Super-Heroes (or a reasonably close analogue thereof) to the DC Multiverse, I thought it might be a good idea to write a series of articles covering various aspects of the team’s history that newer readers might not be familiar with. We’re revisiting an incarnation of the team that’s been abandoned for the better part of two decades, after all, so it’s to be expected that many references will go over the heads of people who aren’t longtime fans.

Before we begin, please bear in mind that these essays will be covering a lot of comics from the 1950s to the 1970s, where crazy plot twists, horrendously dated references, bizarre story resolutions, and just plain bad science, physics, and fashion abound, so you might want to grab some extra strong mental cables to make sure your belief is well suspended before proceeding. Also, since the purpose of these articles is to discuss the history of the current incarnation of the team, we will be limiting ourselves to Legion of Super-Heroes stories published between April 1958 (their first appearance in Adventure Comics #247) and August 1989 (their final appearance in Legion of Super-Heroes #63) unless otherwise noted.

At the beginning of Final Crisis #6 (January 2009), Brainiac 5 transports Superman to the 31st century in order to show him the Miracle Machine, the technological equivalent of Aladdin’s magic lamp and possibly the only hope of saving reality from the evil machinations of Darkseid:

Behold! The 31st century's bitchingest pizza oven!

While its detailed history and name in the language of the Controllers, Geh-Jedollah-the-Absolute, are pure Grant Morrison, the device itself has had a long, complicated history that stretches back over 40 years.

Adventure Comics #367 (April 1968)

“No Escape From the Circle of Death!” by Jim Shooter, Curt Swan, Neal Adams, and George Klein

To reward the Legion of Super-Heroes for the role they played in thwarting the Fatal Five’s recent attempt to seize control of Earth and the United Planets, the government has decided to fund the construction of their new headquarters, as their old one had been heavily damaged in the aforementioned attack. Among the Legionnaires overseeing the construction are Karate Kid, Sun Boy, and Braniac 5.

"Hey guys! Check out my karate chop action!"

After taking a grand tour of their as-yet-incomplete clubhouse – including the weapons, memorial, and control rooms – with his teammates, Karate Kid heads to Tokyo via the nearest core-tube station (a futuristic subterranean transportation system equivalent to a worldwide subway network) for a few weeks of rest and relaxation. Apparently, he’s not the only one taking advantage of the situation, as several of his teamates have gone on vacation as well, leaving a skeleton crew of no more than ten members behind.

Superboy soon arrives with “housewarming presents” from various U.P. members and friends of Legion, including replicas of damaged trophies, new space cruisers, gym and lab equipment, and power jewels for their generators. However, there is at least one mysterious gift among them whose origin is a complete mystery to everyone:

"This gun is the property of Anton Chekhov."

With that plot device set up with all the subtlety of a blow to the back of the skull, we shift our attention to an undisclosed location halfway across the galaxy, where a secret board of shadowy figures has gathered for a session of mustache-twirling and evil laughter:

"So...are we finally going to cut eyeholes into our full face masks or what?"

In spite of their questionable math skills – what with seven representatives for five member worlds and all – this plan is absolutely brilliant by Silver Age standards, and the unanimous decision is made to launch an attack.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Karate Kid has arrived in 30th century Tokyo, where we discover the reason he dodged Brainiac 5’s earlier question about visiting his parents.

That Japanese chick is totally checking out Karate Kid's ass.

Unfortunately, Val’s joyful reunion with his old martial arts instructor is short-lived, as an explosion tears through the building they’re both in shortly after his arrival, knocking the elderly man unconscious and leaving his former pupil dazed. Upon learning that he’s up against an entire invasion force, Karate Kid, determined to not stand idly by, decides to takes them all on singlehandedly. In spite of the incredible odds, he manages to hold his own, but quickly realizes the futility of his situation when reinforcements arrive and decides to call Braniac 5 for help. His teammate, however, confirms the worst: the Dark Circle has initiated a planetwide surgical strike and he’s on his own.

With Cosmic Boy, Duo Damsel, Superboy, Phantom Girl, and Lightning Lad incapacitated and access to the Legion arsenal blocked, Brainiac 5, now completely alone, realizes that the only way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat is if he can find a weapon somewhere amongst all the free swag they’d received earlier.

Good grief...an automatic crowbar? How lazy are people in the future?

Though both Legionnaires are initially confused by this unexpected occurrance, Brainiac 5 quickly realizes what’s going on:

The Miracle Machine! It slices! It dices! It provides a full body massage!

Unleashing the full power of his newly-discovered plot contrivance, Brainiac-5 manages to not only repel the entire Dark Circle invasion force and return them all to their respective homeworlds but also to repair all the damage to their new headquarters and even complete its construction…all with a thought. He then explains to his baffled teammates his belief that the so-called “Miracle Machine” – which can convert thoughts into reality and had conveniently been switched on accidentally – was a gift from the Controllers for having twice foiled the schemes of a renegade member of their race with ambitions of universal conquest. His theory is soon confirmed when one of the extraterrestrials in question appears before them:

...and that's the story of how the Legion got their new coffee table.

Superboy (Starring the Legion of Super-Heroes) #213 (December 1975)

“The Jaws of Fear” by Jim Shooter and Mike Grell

The Miracle Machine next becomes the focus of attention when a man named Benn Pares breaks into Legion Headquarters, and, in what is either a display of massive testicular fortitude or monumental stupidity, introduces himself to his future victims as…

That's the ugliest porn star mustache I've ever seen.

Faced with the unenviable prospects of either destroying the device they were entrusted with by the Controller or risk its being stolen and misused, the Legionnaires put things to a vote and decide to do the latter. However, they soon learn that ten billion years of Oan craftmanship are nothing to sneeze at.

It's under warranty. Whether you like it or not.

Unable to destroy the Miracle Machine, they reseal it in inertron, install new security measures cooked up by Brainiac 5, and even lock themselves in the vault with the damn thing overnight, only to discover the next morning that Benn Pares also holds the title of “biggest showoff in the entire galaxy”:

Okay, now he's just being a dick.

Left with no choice left but to take the offensive, the Legionnaires leave the inertron cube in Superboy’s care and attempt to hunt their adversary down, their only clue to his whereabouts being a meager scrap of information Saturn Girl managed to gleam from his mind during their brief encounter: an image of huge, white, jagged gates located somewhere in Space Sector 14. While exploring this vast, (supposedly) lifeless expanse in their cruiser, however, they soon find out that it’s not quite as empty as they first thought:

"Objects in mirror are close than they appear."

In a sudden burst of inspiration triggered by Phantom Girl’s words, Saturn Girl realizes that the thief’s headquarters must be inside the giant creature and attempts to use her telepathic powers to coax it into opening its mouth, not realizing that her actions are having unintended consequences:

Because we've all had that nightmare about being swallowed by giant radioactive space dragons at one time or another.

With his control over the Galactosaur’s jaw suddenly restored, Pares attempts to destroy the cruiser while Superboy can only watch the entire drama unfold from a distance with the help of his super-vision. Frustrated that there’s no way for him to reach his friends in time to save them, Superboy angrily wishes that he could get his hands on the man responsible for the impending tragedy…only to suddenly find himself doing just that a moment later, much to the surprise of both him and the thief.

Meanwhile, out in space, the Legionnaires are having problems of their own.

"Yep, you've got a cavity. That's molar's gonna hafta go."

Ask and ye shall receive. Just as Ultra Boy is about to succumb to exposure to the vacuum of outer space, he is suddenly rescued by Superboy and rushed back to a medical center on Earth, where he is expected to make a full recovery within a week. Puzzled by the incredibly fortuitous turn of events in this case, Shrinking Violet and Brainiac 5 find out that Ultra Boy owes his life to the Miracle Machine and that Benn Pares quite literally became a victim of his own ambition:

The fact that the Legion has won two separate victories by accidentally leaving the switch on the deus ex machina in the "on" position does not instill me with a whole lot of confidence.

All New Collector’s Edition: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes (1978)

“The Millennium Massacre” by Paul Levitz, Mike Grell, and Vince Coletta

After heading to the 30th century to attend Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl’s wedding, Superboy is shocked to discover a darker, more violent future than the one he’s used to upon his arrival, one where Metropolis looks a military camp, the fascist government of Earth is under constant attack by other worlds, and everyone’s an angry, paranoid douchebag. His feelings of dread are only compounded when Princess Projectra gives him a quick history lesson:

I'm not sure what's worse: the nuclear war, a millennia of global and interplanetary conflict, or Princess Projectra's hideous disco era costume.

Unfortunately, the other Legionnaires are neither aware of the changes to the timeline nor do they believe Superboy when he tries telling them about it, and the team is soon divided amongst itself when the freshly married bride and groom are kidnapped by the Oseldan Khan, the ruthless ruler of the Chinese space barbarians from the Moon known as the Lunarites…

Okay, time out.

I just know that some of you reading this right now think I’m making crazy stuff up as I go along. I choose to repond to that accusation thusly:

I can't even begin to describe what's wrong with these panels.

Now, as I was saying: a schism develops within the Legion’s ranks – with acting leader Wildfire wanting to rescue their captured teammates and Superboy insisting that they nip this thing in the bud by finding out who’s been screwing around with time – and they split up into two teams based largely on personal loyalties and faith. This rift only widens when the former group barely manages to find the couple alive and the latter returns from their little reconnaissance mission in the past armed only with the information that their old adversary, the Time Trapper, is attempting to destroy the space-time continuum by stretching history to the breaking point so that he can recreate reality in his own image.

Eventually, clearer heads prevail, and, after Dream Girl’s prophetic visions are augmented by a mental link with Saturn Girl between and Superboy, it is discovered that the Time Trapper’s hideout is located at the End of Time itself. With the help of Rond Vidar’s time travel technology, the Legionnaires make their way to that distant era, but are easily captured and imprisoned by their foe. Believing his triumph assured, the overconfident Time Trapper decides to reveal his true face to his adversaries for the first time:

Hey kids! Let's tie together all the unrelated plot points we possibly can to create a Gordian knot of continuity so massive a dinosaur could choke on it!

After the Time Trapper uses the Miracle Machine to set up a seemingly inescapable death trap for the Legionnaires, Superboy initiates a desperate gambit for survival by using Saturn Girl as a focal point for their mental energies. Together, their collective willpower proves to be greater than that of the Controller, and they use the device to send him back to his native, otherdimensional universe for punishment, restore history to normal, and return to the 30th century with the Miracle Machine.

Many years later, in Legionnaires 3 #1 (February 1986), it was revealed that this renegade Controller had not only ended up being imprisoned on the penal planet Takton-Galtos following his final encounter with the Legion of Super-Heroes but that his equipment had been provided to him by the real Time Trapper, who had sanctioned the masquerade just to get his own jollies off. He then found out the hard way what happens when you fail to amuse your superior:

The Time Trapper gives new meaning to the phrase, "You just lost the game."

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #250 and #251 (April and May 1979)

“This Is the Day the Universe Dies!” and “The Man Who Destroyed the Universe!” by Steve Apollo, Paul Levitz, Joe Staton, and Dave Hunt

This grim two-parter opens with Chameleon Boy being incapacitated by a mysterious hooded assailant who, several months earlier, had orchestrated the murder of a girl named An Ryd with the help of a robotic duplicate of the team’s then-leader, Wildfire, and framed her ex-boyfriend, Ultra Boy, for the crime. While the latter’s name was ultimately cleared, a formal inquest was launched with Chameleon Boy in the role of lead investigator. The disturbing conclusion he reached – that one of their own was responsible – was what led to his being silenced, though not before he had voiced his suspicions to Wildfire (albeit without naming names) and hidden an encoded copy of the evidence he had accumulated in his flight ring for the latter to retrieve.

Wildfire calls a meeting to bring the teammates up to speed, but no sooner has he finished announcing the presence of an traitor in their midst than an interactive hologram of the masked individual appears before them. The obligatory supervillain tirade concerning his adversaries’ imminent defeat then follows, though the subsequent question and answer session with posturing is interrupted by the sound of the Deep Space Alarm. Superboy and Mon-El head out to investigate, only to find this waiting for them:

All right, we get it. You're evil. Sheesh.

Needless to say, this first encounter ends quite crappily for the forces of good, as Superboy is forced to retreat with his teammates’s body in tow after Mon-El is sidelined with a severe concussion after being struck by a single blow from Omega…

"Mommy...you must have a really wide fist...you got both of 'em."

…who then proceed to slowly “walk” through outer space on his way to Earth. Once the two of them return to their base of operations and Wildfire outlines his basic strategy for taking on the creature, the unanwered question of why Omega even needs to come to Legion HQ in order to destroy the universe prompts him to finally expose the traitor in their midst:

"And I've also been peeing in the coffee pot in the cantina for months now!"

Unfortunately, during his insane exposition, Brainiac 5 reveals little else other than the fact that Omega is quite literally the physical incarnation of hatred: both his own and those of his teammates. During a subsequent confrontation with Karate Kid and Princess Projectra, he merely reinterates his previous claims of self-entitlement, though with a twist:

"But most of all...I hate those goddamn Mudkips!"

As Brainiac 5 finishes ranting himself into unconciousness, Superboy, Dawnstar, and Ultra Boy confront Omega in deep space, the first of several waves of Legionnaires scheduled to engage him in combat (and doomed to fail miserably). Meanwhile, back on Earth, Princess Projectra succeeds in her attempt to revive Brainiac 5 through a novel application of her illusion-casting powers, though the initial results are less than encouraging:

"I also want a sombrero, a pair of traffic cones, and an inertron bucket filled with Winathian strawberry yoghurt!"

Meanwhile, Omega has arrived on Earth and effortlessly plows his way through the Science Police and United Planets forces as well as Timber Wold, Star Boy, and Colossal Boy, though they manage to delay him long enough for Matter-Eater Lad to make his way to Earth. Now left with no choice but to implement Brainiac 5’s plan, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Wildfire attempt to distract the creature long enough for him to so, though even the latter’s release of an anti-energy blast so massive that it obliterates most of Legion Headquarters doesn’t do the job. Ultimately, the only thing standing between Omega and victory is his creator:

There's been a protein spill. Cleanup in Aisle 12, please. Cleanup in Aisle 12.

So how the hell did a device that withstood the combined powers of all the Legionnaires without a scratch finally get destroyed? Well, it seems only fitting that that our resident lunatic explain that himself:

I want to be as far away from this place as possible the next time Matter-Eater Lad has to use the crapper.

As far as Legion stories go, this one ends on a pretty somber note, with their base of operations in shambles, half of 30th century Metropolis destroyed, and two members driven insane (one because of something he ate, the other having suffered a mental breakdown due to acute, unrelenting stress), though, thankfully, there were no other casualties (other than Ultra Boy’s former girlfriend).

The Continuity Verdict

No two ways about it: the Miracle Machine’s continued existence in Final Crisis #6 doesn’t jibe with what we know about its ultimate fate from pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths continuity. Since it’s impossible to tell how many of the aforementioned stories (if any) are still part of official canon, we’re left with the following possible explanations:

  • The events from Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #250 and #251 either didn’t occur or Omega was defeated in a manner that differed significantly from what was seen in the original stories.
  • The Controllers eventually replaced the Miracle Machine that Matter-Eater Lad devoured with a new one.
  • The Legion of Super-Heroes acquired a second one under as-yet-unrevealed circumstances.
  • Since the very fabric of reality was breaking down around them, Brainiac 5 decided to take advantage of the situation and bring Superman back to a point in time where the device still existed.

Only time will tell which one of these, if any, is the correct solution.

On a final note, I find it hilarious that the change in the Miracle Machine’s size in its various depictions over the years has been inversely proportional to that of real-life computer technology: it started out little bigger than a laptop and has grown into an ENIAC-sized monstrosity.


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