Thursday, February 12, 2009

Retro-View: Legion of Super-Heroes #260 (Feb. 1980; DC Comics)

The 1970’s had really come to a crashing halt for Superboy in DC Comics Legion of Super-Heroes title. Not only had the Boy of Steel lost his long-running series to his 30th century team-mates, ceding over the numbering of his own book to the Legionnaires, but he was also effectively shown the door on that issues cover as he permanently returned to his 20th century timeframe(#259;Jan.1980).

The shape of things to come became apparent in Legion of Super-Heroes #260 (Feb. 1980) with “Come to the Circus and Die!” a swift seventeen-pager from writer Gerry Conway and artists Joe Staton & John Calnan. Part murder-mystery, the issue begins with the death of an alien gymnast, who disintegrates during his performance for the Bacaro Bailey Interstellar Traveling Carnival Show. It seems that his isn’t the first death by violence that the carnies have experienced lately, so with the assistance of Earth-Gov, the Legion is quickly assigned the task of ferreting out the identity of the killer.

Of course, with only seventeen pages to tell the tale, there is still time to stop the incoming crash of a robot shuttle that’s out of control. Not one to sit around on their laurels, the Legion quickly springs into action, mops up the debris and then settles in to plot their mission strategy.

Soon, Star Boy, Princess Projectra, Brainiac 5, Phantom Girl, Mon-El and Timber Wolf infiltrate the carnival to trap the mystery killer from behind the scenes. Following two additional acts of mayhem, the Legionnaires settle upon three suspects within the ranks of the traveling circus. Ultimately, the resident juggler, Imik of Cygnus 4, is pegged as the villain, but as the issue closes, Brainy has an intuition that the “real” killer is still lurking about. Canny readers have already deduced the very same thing; since unlike the Legionnaires, we can plainly see the armed culprit standing among the shadows of an overhead catwalk, meaning that next issues “Space Circus of Death” will probably continue the interstellar merriment.

The writing by Conway is pretty plebian, and rather par for the course, considering when it was published. The Dave Cockrum & Mike Grell period was long over, even though the Legion members still wore their groovy 1970’s costumes and new penciller Joe Staton must have turned in some very loose layouts for this issue; unfortunately John Calnan didn’t do very much with them. Calnan is a name that I remember, but his inking is so “cookie-cutter” that is easily dismissed. There is only one decent thing about the entire issue, and that is Dick Giordano’s cover, and even that is a fairly middle of the road effort.

1 comment:

Robert McKinney said...

I used to have that one. I wish I could disagree with you on it, but sadly ... I can't. :-(