Yes, 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…
“The Devil’s Jury!”
Adventure Comics #370, July, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Curt Swan, Inker: Jack Abel
We pick up where left off last issue (see here); in 1930s Smallville with Legionnaires, Duo Damsel, Mon-El, Shadow Lass, and Superboy hunted down and cornered by the powerful sorcerer, Mordru the Merciless. Before executing the four heroes, Mordru boasts that he has destroyed the other members of the Legion and their headquarters back in 30th century Metropolis. But before Mordru can act, Superboy saves himself and his comrades by burrowing an escape tunnel at lightning speed. In order to thwart Mordru’s evil mental probing, the Boy of Steel uses a hypnosis ray to erase all memories of the Legion from the minds of the quartet and they quickly assimilate into Smallville’s citizenry.
Foiled in his attempt to locate the Legionnaires, Mordru summons his formidable army from the 30th century. To limit the search for the foursome, the powerful sorcerer isolates and lifts Smallville to the fringes of outer space. Mordru’s soldiers eventually apprehend the four teens as likely suspects, but release them when they manifest no knowledge of their hero identities.
In the meantime, Pete Ross, Clark Kent’s best friend and the only person on Earth who knows Clark’s true identity, is befuddled by his friend’s inaction in the face of such calamity. Surmising that Clark has somehow forgotten his identity, he devises a plan, with the help of Lana Lang as Insect Queen, to trigger his friend’s memory, which proves successful. Superboy then uses the aforementioned hypnosis ray to jolt Duo Damsel, Mon-El, and Shadow Lass back to full cognizance.
With Pete Ross disguised as Superboy and one of Duo Damsel’s selves masquerading as Shadow Lass, the Legionnaires attack Mordru’s army, but are defeated. In his cavernous lair on the outskirts of Smallville, the sorcerer prepares to execute the four, but the real Superboy and Shadow Lass, along with Insect Queen, attack and momentarily defeat Mordru. However, the sorcerer’s powers prove to be too formidable and all six teens are subdued.
The young prisoners are forced to stand before Mordru and a jury of the “greatest criminals of the 30th century” where they are unanimously found guilty of “numerous acts of anti-crime” and sentenced to a slow death in a sealed, underground vault. However, the jury foreman turns out to be a malcontent who enables the heroes to escape. Nevertheless, Mordru becomes aware of the breakout, and prepares to annihilate the heroes once and for all with a conjured “massive fireball of force.” Instead, the powerful fireball causes the cavern to collapse, entombing Mordru and freeing the six teens.
After the hypnosis ray is used once again to erase Lana’s knowledge of Clark Kent’s true identity, the four Legionnaires return to 30th century Metropolis expecting their fellow Legionnaires to have been annihilated as Mordru had claimed. Instead they discover that through the combined efforts of Princess Projectra, Dream Girl, and her sister, the White Witch, Mordru’s sorcerous attack had been neutralized and he was tricked into believing he was victorious.
This issue was a decent ending to the excellent introduction in Adventure #369, although the reader will inevitably ask themselves why Mordru went to all the trouble of staging a foregone jury trial after he had vanquished the Legionnaires. The novelty of seeing the Legionnaires navigate the 20th century along with cameos by honorary Legion member, Lana Lang, and reservist, Pete Ross was entertaining. The artwork in this issue is noticeably not up to Curt Swan’s usual high standards. Perhaps Shooter’s preliminary layouts were given too much prominence in this case? Swan was undoubtedly running out of steam at this point given all of his responsibilities at DC. His assignment as the Legion’s penciller would run out after two more issues.
I surely don’t endorse the presentation of sorcery, witchcraft, etc. in this and some of the other Legion tales. It’s strange that young writer, Jim Shooter, utilized “metaphysical” content in some of his stories when there were so many non-metaphysical possibilities in a fictional series based in the 30th century. But this preoccupation with the occult and non-Christian “spirituality” was as prevalent in 1968 as it is now. I’ll address this topic at more length at the end of this series.
Folks, only ten more issues to go in our thirty-five-issue, Legion Silver Age series. Let’s throttle back the rocket engines and begin our long descent to the Metropolis Spaceport!