So, right up front, Polar Boy is not a Bastard Person, as the cover might lead some to believe. There is a scene in the story in which he proposes to “battle the Legion to a showdown” (Huh? Run that by me again?), indeed, it’s a direct reproduction / reduction of the cover, shrunk down to one-panel size; but he has a really good reason for his proposal.
That reason is largely that the Legion of Super-Heroes members are being the most bastardly of Bastard People. It’s way over the top.
I was a little surprised that we were told, both in the intro text and in the course of the story, that the Legion doesn’t know that there is a Legion of Substitute Heroes. In the Subs first adventure, they clearly approached the Legionnaires and offered to help on a mission:
But, looking back, I see that Polar Boy was careful to, “Offer them our help without letting them know that we’ve formed a substitute Legion!”
As we begin the story, the Subs see that the Legionnaires are leaving Earth. They see it, because they have a video monitor trained on Legion Headquarters, and are watching everything their idols do. Serious? Spy cameras trained on your celebrity idols? Dude! This is way beyond creepy fan behavior. Y’all are stalkers, is what you are.
We learn, for the first time, that Night Girl has designs on Cosmic Boy, and, indeed, only tried to join the Legion so she could be near him. And now she’s hiding in a cave, watching him on a secret camera…
Wow. I wonder how many angles she has the shower-cam programmed for.
As the Legionnaires flee Earth (probably in search of a little damn privacy!), a robot probe enters the atmosphere. The Subs intercept it, and discover it’s of alien origin—possibly the forerunner of an invasion. They anonymously inform their idols. Then, determined to help, they try to build robot protectors for Earth. They come out of the closet—er, cave—and demo these to the Legion.
The Legion’s rejection—of both the robots and the Subs—sets a new record for Bastard-People-ness. Sun Boy calls them incompetents, Brainiac 5 calls them bumblers, and then they order the Subs to disband or be disbanded by force. Yeah, ’cause there’s nothing overtly authoritarian about one private club ordering another to disband. Geez, Legionnaires, did Lawyer Lad teach you nothing? Oh, right, you rejected him.
The Subs flee to the Moon, where the find an abandoned, underground city, built eons past by an unknown race. Holy Uatu the Watcher, Batman! And yes, this story came after the first appearance of the Watcher and his hidden city in the Blue Area of the Moon over in Fantastic Four #13. Not that it was a new idea there, either. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Moon Men certainly developed it decades earlier. Still, it’s a very nice touch. But Night Girl gives away their new hideout almost as soon as they find it, because she has to give Cosmic Boy one more chance.
Eventually the subs discover that they’re not fighting the Legion at all, but Bastard People from Another World who have taken their place. The Subs shine in defeating this would-be invasion, and, in the end, the Legion still doesn’t know of their existence.
Other than that, wow, Polar Boy is short! Or Night Girl is tall! Probably both.
Firsts: Night Girl & Cosmic Boy