Yes, friends, it’s time once again to climb into our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…
“Escape of the Fatal Five!”
Adventure Comics #365, February, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Curt Swan
After three somewhat lame stories, Jim Shooter gets back on track with this classic, two-part tale.
A small contingent of Legionnaires – Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy, Karate Kid, and Superboy – are summoned to United Planets headquarters. They are informed that, over the course of six months, the peaceful planet of Talok VIII has been transformed into a belligerent, warlike world that’s become a threat to the galaxy. The heroes’ assignment is to find out who or what brought about the drastic change. Shadow Lass, the teen heroine of Talok VIII who was on a faraway mission during her planet’s strange metamorphosis, will guide the Legionnaires.
The heroes stealthily land on Talok VIII and begin their overland journey to the capital city, unaware that they are being observed by the Talokites, who are being directed by an other-dimensional mastermind entity. As the Legionnaires become exhausted by their long trek, the Talokites are ordered to create an oasis for the heroes with food and water to ensure the team will be in “perfect fighting shape” when they arrive at the capital.
After their respite, the heroes make their way into the citadel that guards the city. Suddenly, powerful rays transport Shadow Lass and the four Legionnaires to seemingly inescapable and deadly circumstances: Karate Kid inside a giant, hollow diamond with a dwindling air supply; Cosmic Boy in an enclosed room with five non-metallic spheres furiously hurtling at him, Superboy in a pressure sphere, Brainiac 5 in a chamber with spiked walls closing in, and Shadow Lass imprisoned in a brightly lit room that saps her powers and life. Each of the quintet battles to survive, but begins to succumb to their deadly situation. Mustering every ounce of their remaining strength and powers, all five are able to break free.
Unbeknownst to the heroes, the energy they used to free themselves had been harnessed by the Talokites and used to shatter the dimensional barrier that imprisoned the mastermind and his accomplices, who just so happen to be Tharok and the rest of the Fatal Five – The Emerald Empress, Mano, The Persuader, and Validus – last seen together in Adventure Comics #353. While imprisoned in an alter-dimension, Tharok located a window, which opened on Talok VIII, but was still impassable. He was able to control the minds of the Talokites in order to hatch his plot to ensnare the Legion and use their powers to free him and his comrades.
The five heroes search the citadel for clues as to what had happened and discover the dimensional portal. Brainiac 5 surmises the Fatal Five are at the root of the mayhem, but before the team can formulate a plan, five-thousand Talokite soldiers controlled by Tharok swing open the wide doors of the citadel and attack them.
Is this the end of the Legionnaires and Shadow Lass? If the heroes were somehow able to defeat the Talokite army, the immense powers of the Fatal Five would await them. Find out the fate of the Legionnaires in Adventure Comics, #366, “The Fight for the Championship of the Universe!”
It’s great to see Shooter back in fine form accompanied by Curt Swan’s master pencils. This issue marks the debut of Shadow Lass. Ring a bell? Back in Adventure 354, the tale of the Adult Legion, it was revealed that Shadow Woman would die “saving the Science Asteroid.” Introducing a doomed character was a very interesting ploy. It’s also delightful to see the reemergence of the Fatal Five, collectively one of the Legion’s all-time most powerful opponents.
Trivia: Curt Swan drew all of the covers of the Adventure issues we’ve reviewed prior to this one. Neal Adams, who would go on to become the quintessential Batman artist, drew this cover and most of those remaining in our series.