Yes, my 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…
“No Escape from the Circle of Death!”
Adventure Comics #367, April, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Curt Swan
Cover art: Neal Adams
At the conclusion of our last story, the Legion claimed victory in their nasty conflict with the Fatal Five, but their humble clubhouse was in ruins. This tale begins with a tour of the Legion’s impressive, new, partially-constructed headquarters, completely financed by the United Planets (U.P.). Contributions of the latest crime fighting technology and equipment from the grateful worlds of the galaxy continue to arrive at the Legion’s new home. Brainiac 5 is puzzled as to the function of one particular gift, and decides to have it placed in storage for the interim. Memo to self: keep this mystery gift in mind!
Unbeknownst to the Legionnaires, they are being observed by the leaders of the “Dark Circle,” an alliance of five planets whose aim is to control Earth and the U.P. One of the leaders notes that with the Fatal Five having absconded with two of the three keys needed to operate the U.P. Universal Weapons Control Panel in the Presidential Palace, and with the Legion’s members either on leave or preoccupied with the construction of their new headquarters, Earth is in an extremely vulnerable position.
Speaking of Legionnaires on leave, we follow Karate Kid to Tokyo where he revisits the elderly sensei who raised him from infancy and taught him karate. The reunion is interrupted by a major explosion which nearly kills the old man. The Kid quickly ascertains Tokyo is being invaded by an alien army; the forces of the Dark Circle alliance. He engages the aggressors, but is seriously outnumbered. He contacts the Legion for reinforcements, but is told Metropolis is being invaded as well as other major cities around the world.
We then switch back to Metropolis where a small contingent of Legionnaires – Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy, Duo Damsel, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, and Superboy – are struggling to defend the city. As the forces of the Dark Circle gain the advantage and capture his teammates, an unarmed Brainiac 5 races to the new headquarter’s storage area, hoping to find a suitable weapon amongst the many donations. While Brainiac 5 searches the crates, the invaders draw nearer and the Coluan offhandedly wishes Karate Kid were there to buy him more time. Immediately, the Kid appears out of thin air and neutralizes the attackers.
Brainiac 5, with his twelfth-level intellect, quickly ascertains Karate Kid’s appearance was made possible by the strange gift he had dismissed earlier. He sits in front of the uncrated machine and “concentrates the power of his mighty mind.” After “long moments,” the machine emits powerful radiations that hurl the invaders off the Earth, through space, and back to their worlds. If that weren’t improbable enough, subsequent rays from the machine complete construction of the Legion’s headquarters! Superboy and the other Legionnaires are amazed by the “miracle machine” that “converts thoughts into reality.” B5 surmises the device was a gift from the Controllers in gratitude for vanquishing one of their rogue members (see the details in my review of Adventure #357 here). At that very moment, one of the Controllers appears before the Legion and confirms Brainiac 5’s astute deduction. However, because of the machine’s potential for great harm, the Legion elects to seal it inside a cube of impenetrable inertron, “until mankind is ready to use it wisely.”
Shooter delivered an excellent tale with this single issue. It was interesting to see some of the details of the new headquarters, insights into Karate Kid’s past (Silver Age Legion tales were notorious for their lack of character development because of the large number of members), and links to previous stories involving the Fatal Five and the Controllers. Kudos to Shooter for squeezing so much action into one issue, although the “miracle machine” is a bit “over the top.” Will the hokey device ever appear in another Legion tale? Yup, some research revealed it has appeared a total of six times in Legion lore, the last time in 2009.