Adventure Comics #312
‘The Super-Sacrifice of the Legionnaires’
By Edmond Hamilton and John Forte.
The front cover image gives the story away:
Returning to the idea that it might be possible to resurrect
Lightning Lad, we see six Legionnaires each willing to lay down their lives for
him. Well, we’ve been faked-out before with his resurrection (it turned out to
be his twin sister impersonating him), so I’m not for one minute buying that
they will be successful. But look at the six members for a moment. Out of all
the Legionnaires, why these six?
Lightning Lass, of course, she’s his twin sister and so
devoted to him that she actually impersonated him for a while after he died (ok,
she’s probably a bit unbalanced).
Saturn Girl, yes, Lightning Lad sacrificed himself to save
her life, and mainly because she was acting like a complete idiot at the time,
and I think she’s still feeling guilt for that.
Superboy, well, obviously, if anyone is going to sacrifice
his life to save anybody, not just a close friend, then it’s Superboy.
Ditto for Mon-El, who has shown himself to be unfailingly noble
and heroic in the Superboy mould.
Sun Boy? Hmm. Sun boy has always been a bit of a grandstander.
I imagine that if all the others suddenly offered themselves as sacrifices, he
would have to join in, to keep in the spotlight. Plus, look at all the
times he’s suddenly taken charge even when the elected Legion leader is
standing right next to him. I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole thing wasn’t
Sun Boy’s idea. Idiot.
Chameleon Boy? This is the one that really baffles me. We
never saw any close ties between Chameleon Boy and Lightning Lad, and although
Chameleon Boy is just as heroic as any Legionnaire I don’t get why it’s he who standing
there ready to give up his life.
The other interesting thing about the cover concept is that
they’re clearly sharing the ‘chance’ that they will die. It’s like Russian roulette
with Lightning Lad’s life as the prize. In a way that’s a lot more disturbing
than a single hero sacrificing himself for a friend.
So much for the cover. I don’t think I’ve got the energy
left to review the story after all that!
But it’s a typically excellent Edmond Hamilton story, packed
with inventive detail and yet telling the story in a succinct 15 pages. Hamilton
recaps Lightning Lad’s sacrifice, and reveals that Mon-El has been to his home planet
Daxam, a planet of scientific geniuses, to find, basically, a cure for death.
I would like to have seen an exploration of Mon-El’s visit
to Daxam, considering that he hasn’t seen it for 1,000 years. But that’s a different
story, and Hamilton wouldn’t do it justice by shoehorning it into this
narrative, so he wisely doesn’t even mention it.
Mon-El says that he didn’t find a cure, but Saturn Girl’s
telepathy tells her that he’s holding out on them. But why? It makes no sense!
Then, after some interludes on various interesting alien worlds
and an astounding super-feat by Superboy:
(plus an off-the-cuff science lesson, because Hamilton’s a
proper science fiction writer) the truth is revealed, and of course it’s
exactly what we learned on the cover: there is a way to resurrect Lightning
Lad, but it will involve a sacrifice.
The conclusion of the story sees a remarkable round of
self-sacrificing one-upmanship. Mon-El kept the method secret because he wanted
to sacrifice himself. Saturn Girl immediately offers to be the one, and of
course Sun Boy is not to be outdone. And I think I’ve figured out the reason behind
Chameleon Boy’s involvement:
He didn’t actually volunteer, did he? But who can say no to
Superboy? So, without wanting to denigrate Cham’s bravery, I do feel he was
railroaded into it.
Not be out-sacrificed, Saturn Girl rigs the game by using a special
‘wand’ that is guaranteed to attract lightning in preference to the others,
ensuring it is her life that is given up for Lightning Lad. And so it
transpires, and so she dies as Lightning Lad comes back to life.
But, in a final twist (but not a deus ex machina, as
Hamilton has carefully foreshadowed it), it’s Proty, Chameleon Boy’s telepathic,
shape-changing pet, who has taken Saturn Girl’s place.
So everything works out for everybody (except poor Proty).
Proty shows himself to be a hero as worthy as any of the Legionnaires, and it’s
a shame he didn’t live to join the Legion of Super-Pets—I think there would
have been a good stories to tell there. And as a parting thought, I leave you
with this: Proty’s sacrifice doesn’t diminish the heroism of the Legionnaires,
who were all ready to make the same sacrifice, but it does show that he was
more clever than any of them.