Review: Superboy #203

Superboy #203 cover
Cover by Nick Cardy

Superboy #203
Published and © by DC, July-August 1974

Title: “Massacre by Remote Control”
Synopsis: Validus attacks! Invisible lovers! The evil of Tharok’s mechanical brain! All this – and a Legionnaire dies!

Writer: Cary Bates
Artist: Mike Grell

Review: It’s hard to imagine a time when a regular cast member’s death didn’t warrant a mention on the cover. Then again, heroes dying wasn’t anything new for the Legion. What was new this issue was “Iron” Mike Grell, taking over as penciler after a one-issue stint inking previous artist Dave Cockrum. Both gentlemen deserve a lot of credit for giving a visual overhaul to a franchise that was starting to show its age. Writer Cary Bates does his part here, too, delivering a script rich with both action and characterization. A strong issue from one of the Legion’s better periods.

Grade: A-

Second opinion: “Entertaining and tragic story. … It’s first-rate comic book adventure.” – Jim Kingman, Comic Effect #25, Winter 2000 … “We’ve had the debut of Mike Grell, an artist who is seldom more than competent on the Legion, despite producing some very good art elsewhere.” – Howard Stangroom, Comics Unlimited #39, September 1976 … “Significant for a death, an unpredictable mood despite the large cast. … Recommended.” – The Slings & Arrows Comic Guide (second edition), 2003

Cool factor: Mike Grell’s art. Truly one of the definitive Legion artists, along with Cockrum and, of course, Keith Giffen.
Not-so-cool factor: The “invisible world” concept is a little too convenient for the story.

Notable: Death of the Invisible Kid. … The “Super Talk” editor’s note makes it pretty clear the Legion powers-that-be weren’t very happy with Cockrum leaving the book; rumor has it the artist would go on to do alright at Marvel.

Character quotable: “Those gargantuan … powerful fingers – c-crushing the life out of me …” – Lyle Norg, the original Invisible Kid

A word from the artist: “After a tryout, inking over Dave Cockrum’s pencils on a short story in Superboy #202, (editor) Murray (Boltinoff) gave me the good news – ‘Congratulations, you got the job.’ – and the bad – ‘Oh, and by the way, you can expect to get hate mail because you’re not only replacing the most popular artist we’ve ever had on the series, we’re also killing off one of the main characters in your first issue.’ ” – Mike Grell, from the “Foreword” to “The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives: Volume 11,” 2001

Editor’s note: This review was originally published by Comics Bronze Age on April 1, 2009.

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