Chameleon Boy sadly sings, 🎵 The Wedding Bell Blues 🎵

Yes, friends, it’s time to once again 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 Execution of Chameleon Boy!”
Adventure Comics #376, January, 1969
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Cover: Neal Adams

4 Stars

Plot

Previously, in Adventure Comics #375, we learned that a mysterious entity had challenged the mightiest Legionnaire to combat, and the team subsequently used the search for the members of another super-hero-team-temporarily-gone-bad as a tournament to identify their champion, with Bouncing Boy improbably claiming the title. Just when the entity abducts Bouncing Boy via a transporter ray, the real BB appears. Let’s pick up the action…

The ersatz Bouncing Boy is transported to the planet, Nadir, which is ruled by King Artros and his mighty knights. Nadirian society appears to be similar to that of Medieval Europe, but technological advances are hidden beneath a veneer of antiquity.

The Nadirians reveal that an evil and mighty baron, Kodar, is claiming the right to marry Princess Elwinda, and become heir to the throne. They had summoned the Legion’s champion as their only hope in battling Kodar. After defeating the baron, the victorious Legionnaire would take the royal maiden’s hand in marriage, himself.

To their surprise, the Nadirans’ high-tech equipment reveals Bouncing Boy is actually Chameleon Boy in disguise, who had assumed his teammate’s identity in the hopes of winning the aforementioned tournament by stealth. The Nadirians are shocked by CB’s alien appearance and call a council to deliberate on this “disturbing” revelation. In the meantime, CB changes into a bird and leaves his guarded quarters to drop in on Princess Elwinda in her private gardens. Romance quickly ensues, but the council resoundingly decides against the possibility of an “orange-skinned, alien freak” marrying the princess.

The Nadirians opt to battle Kodar and his powerful army themselves, but are quickly subdued. Just when all appears lost, Chameleon Boy enters the fray and, using his unique powers, defeats the evil baron. Grateful for his saving-intervention, King Artros grants that CB may marry his daughter.

⚠️ Warning: Brace yourself for the very awkward ending.

During all the shenanigans on Nadir, the Legion had been desperately scanning a multitude of dimensions in search of Chameleon Boy. They were shocked when they discovered a dimensional portal to Nadir and observed Chameleon Boy with his head on a chopping block with two knights holding raised axes overhead (see cover illustration). Brainiac 5 immediately transported Cham back to Legion headquarters and permanently sealed the portal. A furious Chameleon Boy then explained that the raised axes were part of the traditional Nadirian marriage ceremony. Instead of rescuing CB, the Legion had permanently put an end to his dreams of wedded bliss with Princess Elwinda. Ach. I hate when that happens.

Comments

This was an interesting conclusion to the two-part saga with some entertaining twists and turns, although the abrupt and awkwardly contrived ending was an unfortunate example of ham-fisted, Silver Age writing. I’m guessing Shooter was using the Nadirians’ repugnance with Chameleon Boy’s alien appearance as a subtle commentary on the very strained race relations in 1969 America.

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Huh?!?! Bouncing Boy the mightiest Legionnaire?!?!

It’s time to once again 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…

“King of the Legion!”
Adventure Comics #375, December, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Cover: Neal Adams

4 Stars

Plot

We open this story on a distant asteroid with a contingent of Legionnaires slowly approaching an unidentified group as if for combat. Naw, the Legion is only meeting another group of super-heroes, the Wanderers, who hail from a remote region of the Universe. Following the formalities, the Wanderers are returning home when their ship is engulfed by radiation from a strange space cloud. Hold that thought.

Back on Earth, the Legionnaires are occupied with routine tasks when Superboy encounters a strange gauntlet, which inscribes a giant message on an armor plate, challenging the mightiest Legionnaire to combat, which evokes a “Shades of Belshazzar!” from the startled Boy of Steel.

The Legionnaires subsequently bicker among themselves as to who should be their champion, but when the new Science Police Chief informs them that the space cloud incident has temporarily transformed the Wanderers into criminals, Element Lad suggests they turn the dragnet into a tournament to decide the mightiest member.

In the preliminaries, Bouncing Boy, Element Lad, and Mon-El hunt Dartalg, with Bouncing Boy improbably nabbing the fugitive. Chameleon Boy, Chemical King, and Saturn Girl track down Ornitho with Cham eventually making the arrest. Karate Kid, Sun Boy, and Ultra Boy search for Quantum Queen* with Karate Kid claiming victory. Brainiac 5, Superboy, and Timber Wolf locate Immorto and it’s Superboy who apprehends the Wanderer.

In the semi-finals, Karate Kid and Superboy hunt Elvo, with the Boy of Steel claiming the prize. Chameleon Boy, accompanied by his shape-changing pet, Proty, and Bouncing Boy vie to capture Psyche, with Bouncing Boy once again the improbable winner (or is he?).

In the final match, Superboy and Bouncing Boy square off to capture Celebrand, but the leader of the Wanderers unexpectedly surrenders to Bouncing Boy!

Back at Legion headquarters, the members humbly submit to Bouncing Boy as the mightiest in their ranks, when he is suddenly transported away by the same mysterious challenger who was behind the gauntlet message. The next moment, the REAL Bouncing Boy stumbles into the room. So who did the mystery entity actually transport? Stay tuned for part two of the story in Adventure 376!

Comments

This was an entertaining tale with the Wanderers temporarily turning into villains, Superboy encountering a challenge based on an occurrence in the Book of Daniel, the tournament to determine who was the mightiest Legionnaire with Bouncing Boy as the (laughable) winner, and the mysterious ending. The scene where the vanquished Legionnaires cower beneath the victorious Bouncing Boy and rip off their uniform emblems as an act of submission (p.23 and cover) is the kind of over-the-top melodrama that occasionally leaked into Silver Age plots.

*Trivia alert: In “The Adult Legion,” Adventure Comics #354, March 1967, Shooter featured Quantum Queen as one of the future doomed Legionnaires.

Gang warfare in the 30th Century?

It’s time once again to climb aboard 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…

“Mission: Diabolical!”
Adventure Comics #374, November, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter; Penciller: Win Mortimer, Cover: Curt Swan

4 Stars

Plot

We open the story with various groups of Legionnaires scattered across the galaxy consumed in various leisure and crime-fighting activities. One by one, each contingent is abducted by some unseen enemy.

Back at the Legion’s headquarters in Metropolis, Earth, five of the team’s heroes – Ultra Boy, Dream Girl, Element Lad, Matter-Eater Lad, and Supergirl – are contacted by an entity who represents SCORPIUS, a powerful criminal space gang. The being informs the quintet that SCORPIUS is holding their teammates hostage and that they must eliminate five super-outlaws – Rogarth, Black Mace, Mystelor, Shagreck, and Qunto – who are working for a rival gang, TAURUS. Realizing the crooks have them “over a barrel,” the five heroes disguise themselves to avoid identification by the Science Police and engage the TAURUS super-outlaws, but the melee is broken up by the Legion of Substitute Heroes who aren’t privy to the extortion plot. The quintet retreats, but Polar Boy of the substitutes manages to recognize a couple of the disguised heroes. Polar Boy’s observation will lead the substitutes to launch an investigation that will ultimately pay dividends at the story’s end.

In the meantime, the five heroes contemplate how to infiltrate the top echelon of TAURUS. When Dream Girl ascertains the circumstances of the next attack by the five super-outlaws, Ultra Boy concocts a scheme to disguise himself as Black Mace in order to infiltrate TAURUS. The scheme backfires when Ultra Boy is knocked unconscious in the tussle, but Dream Girl is able to subdue Mystelor and, using a quick disguise, takes her place among the outlaws.

Aboard the super-outlaws’ spaceship, Dream Girl, as Mystelor, is able to stoke resentment against TAURUS’s leadership and the crooks decide to travel to TAURUS headquarters to demand proper compensation. However, they’re not aware that Dream Girl has secretly signaled her four Legion co-conspirators to follow along. At the rival gang’s headquarters, the leader of TAURUS is revealed to be R.J. Brande, the Legion’s billionaire benefactor! But is it really Brande? The Legionnaires come out of hiding and arrest “Brande” with no interference from the super-outlaws who are on strike for higher wages. The Legionnaires quickly determine the leader of TAURUS is not actually Brande, but is Chief of the Science Police, Zoltourus, who had kidnapped Brande and secretly used the billionaire’s vast funds to finance TAURUS’s operations.

The five super-heroes are suddenly transported back to SCORPIUS headquarters where they are joined by their released Legion comrades. Thinking the ordeal is over, the heroes quickly realize they’ve been double-crossed by the SCORPIUS gang, which intends to kill them all. Just as the Legionnaires’ doom seems certain, Polar Boy and the Legion of Substitute Heroes attack SCORPIUS headquarters and subdue the criminal gang.

Commentary

This tale was a bit convoluted and wasn’t among Shooter’s best efforts. The thought should occur to the inquisitive reader that if SCORPIUS is powerful enough to kidnap 21 Legionnaires, it should also be powerful enough to neutralize the five super-outlaws by itself. However, it was always interesting whenever the substitute heroes played a role in a story. I remember feeling sad for these Legion “rejects” whose powers obviously far exceeded those of regular Legion members, Matter-Eater Lad, Bouncing Boy, and Duo Damsel. Speaking of Matter-Eater Lad, I’m guessing that Shooter purposely chose him as well as Dream Girl, Element Lad, and Supergirl as four of the five main protagonists in this story in an attempt to compensate for their infrequent appearances relative to other Legionnaires.

Postscript #1: Whenever enthusiasts compile a list of the most ridiculous comic super-heroes of all time, Matter-Eater Lad is inevitably included.

Postscript #2: DC Comics discontinued its Legion of Super-Heroes series in 2013 because of low readership. However, over the last couple of years DC has been teasing Legion fans with hints of a series relaunch. Recently, I learned that DC will be reintroducing the Legion in LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: MILLENNIUM #1 due out at comic shops on Wednesday, September 4. This is the first of a two-part prelude that will be followed by a monthly, ongoing series from writer, Brian Michael Bendis, and artist, Ryan Sook.

 

A Legion Clunker

Yes, my friends, it’s time to once again 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 Tornado Twins!”
Adventure Comics #373, October, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Cover: Neal Adams

3 Stars

Plot

Seven of the Legionnaires – Brainiac 5, Element Lad, Karate Kid, Phantom Girl, Princess Projectra, Sun Boy, and Superboy – are enjoying various recreational activities when they’re suddenly summoned to a robbery in progress. However, when they arrive at the crime scene they discover the criminals have already been apprehended by a brother and sister, super-hero duo with the last name of “Allen.” Hmm, we may already know where this one is headed, right JLA fans? The Allen twins, Don and Dawn, smugly gloat about beating the Legion to the punch, which leads to a heated exchange between Don and Karate Kid.

The Legionnaires return to their headquarters with their tails tucked between their legs, but are soon called to another emergency; some worker robots have gone haywire at an iron mine, causing a partial cave-in and trapping some V.I.P. visitors. The Legionnaires confront the powerful robots, but are quickly overcome. The Allen twins show up, thrash the robots and save the visitors. The puzzled Legionnaires search for information about the mysterious twins, but find nothing unusual as the Metropolis media celebrates the new heroes and pronounces the Legion as “has-beens.”

Like beating a dead horse, the Legion is called to a third emergency at a chemical plant and are once again upstaged by the twins. Heated words are again exchanged between Don Allen and Karate Kid, which quickly escalates into an all-out rumble between the seven Legionnaires and the twins, with the Allens leaving the seven bloodied and battered. Does anyone else see a pattern developing here? Public confidence in the Legion is at an all-time low and still plummeting.

The Legion is then sent a, gulp, fourth emergency signal, but the heroes’ confidence is so shaken that they initially opt to stay inside their headquarters. However, they soon reconsider and investigate a seemingly-hostile alien spaceship parked in the middle of Metropolis. Yet, when they force their way inside the ship, they find a giant statue of the 20th century super-hero, the Flash aka Barry Allen. Don and Dawn soon arrive and explain they are descendants of Barry Allen and were artificially endowed with the Flash’s powers on a temporary basis in order to publicize the United Planets’ upcoming commemoration of “Flash Day.” After twenty-two pages of bitter acrimony, everyone suddenly shakes hands and goes about their business. Ugh!.

Commentary

Aside from the pitiful “The Revolt of the Super-Pets” (Adventure Comics, 364), this issue might be the hokiest Legion tale we’ve reviewed to this point. A “Flash Day” in the 30th century? C’mon! Seriously? The feigned animosity featured in this story was a well-worn plot device in DC’s Silver Age-era. Win Mortimer’s pencils are a step down from Curt Swan’s, but still much better than latter-day Legion artwork. It’s great to see Element Lad in a story for a change. For some strange reason, he was one of the least-featured Legionnaires. Maybe it was the pink leotards?

A memorable Legion tale in more ways than one

It’s hard to believe that it’s already 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…

“School for Super-Villains!”
Adventure Comics #372, September, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Curt Swan, Inker: Jack Abel, Cover: Neal Adams

5 Stars

Plot

A couple of weeks ago, we witnessed Colossal Boy being expelled from the Legion in disgrace for stealing classified training material. Unbeknownst to the Legion, he had been blackmailed by mysterious criminals who were holding his parents captive.

As the action picks up, Colossal Boy dejectedly walks the streets of Metropolis deciding on his next step when he is accosted by Science Police. He escapes, but accidentaly drops his mother’s “life jewel” in the tussle. The criminals subsequently reconnect with the fugitive ex-Legionnaire and offer him a new deal.

In the meantime, Brainiac 5 deduces the recovered “life jewel” can guide the team to Colossal Boy’s mother for some answers. Shrinking Violet diminishes to sub-molecular size and follows the beams connecting the life jewel with its owner across the galaxy. The beams lead her to a distant planet and a training center for the newly-created Legion of Super-Villains run by Tarik the Mute, with Colossal Boy as the reluctant trainer. Violet returns to Earth and informs the Legion of her findings, including the real reason why Colossal Boy turned traitor. Brainiac 5 devises a plan in which Superboy and Chameleon Boy and candidates, Chemical King and Timber Wolf, infiltrate and subdue the collection of super-criminals and free Colossal Boy’s parents.

With Superboy and Chameleon Boy in disguise, the quartet stage a phony battle with the Science Police on Mars in hopes of attracting the attention of Tarik’s recruiter. The ruse works and the four are transported to the super-villains’ training center. The heroes observe several disgruntled Legion-rejects from the past including Nemesis Kid, Spider Girl, Radiation Roy, Ronn Kar, and Lightning Lord; Legionnaire Lightning Lad’s brother. However, Colossal Boy recognizes Superboy, and, out of fear for his parents’ safety, sounds the alarm. A battle ensues and the super-villains overcome the super-heroes. Tarik condemns the four to death, but as they await their execution the following day, Superboy conceives of a plan. But will it work?

At dawn, Tarik orders Colossal Boy to use a ray gun to turn the Boy of Steel into glass, just like his parents. When the teen titan hesitates, Tarik pulls the trigger and an executioner immediately shatters Superboy into a million pieces with a sledge hammer (see cover photo). Enraged by Superboy’s death, Colossal Boy snaps and joins the three remaining heroes in battling the villains. In the melee, Timber Wolf radios Legion Headquarters for reinforcements and Duo Damsel, Phantom Girl, Starboy, and Ultra Boy quickly come to the rescue like a 30th century cavalry. Just as Tarik prepares to smash Colossal Boy’s crystallized parents, Superboy KOs him with a steely left hook. Huh? Superboy? Turns out Chameleon Boy and Superboy had disguised themselves as each other prior to the dawn execution and CB had dodged the ray gun, changed himself to glass, and then into broken glass at the appropriate times.

The criminals are taken into custody, Colossal Boy’s parents are restored to normal, and he’s voted back into the Legion along with new members, Chemical King and Timber Wolf.

Commentary

This was an entertaining story, especially since it includes the origin of the Legion of Super-Villains and the introduction of Chemical King and Timber Wolf as Legion members. The abrupt and overly-simple ending was admittedly a bit lame, but quite par for the course for the Silver Age era. This issue is significant for a couple of more reasons. It was Curt Swan’s last outing as the Legion’s penciller. His drawings would be judged as stark and too simple today, but his classic lines put him at the very top of the DC’s pencillers of that era. This was also my last Legion comic book at that time. I began following the Legion in November, 1966 in Adventure Comics #350 and would continue for twenty-two issues, but I reluctantly quit comics after that because I was entering into seventh-grade and reading comics was definitely “not cool” as it would become a couple of decades later (and comic book plots would become so convoluted, no seventh-grader could possibly follow them). But don’t worry, we still have eight more Legion installments to review before DC ended the franchise’s tenure in Adventure Comics with the May, 1969 issue.

Star Trek / Legion of Super-Heroes Crossover: Mr. Spock, meet Brainiac 5

Star Trek / Legion of Super-Heroes
Written by Chris Roberson, Pencils by Jeffrey Moy, Inks by Philip Moy, Colors by Romulo Farjardo, Jr.
IDW Publishing and DC Comics, 2012, 152 pages

4 Stars

What do you get when you mix the crew of the original Star Trek television series (1966-1969) with DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes? Writer, Chris Roberson, explored that fascinating concept in this crossover graphic novel, which compiles six separate installments published monthly from October 2011 to March 2012.

Plot

Chapter One

The story begins with six Legionnaires – Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, and Shadow Lass – traveling in a time bubble from a mission back to the 31st century. Something goes wrong with the craft and Brainy struggles to make an emergency “landing.” Meanwhile, back in the 23rd century, the senior officers of the USS Enterprise – Captain James T. Kirk, Lieutenant Commander Spock, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, and officers Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov – enter the ship’s transporter expecting to enjoy some shore leave in San Francisco. What about Scotty? Hey, somebody has to stay behind and run the ship. The Legionnaires and Star Fleet officers reappear in different locales on 23rd century Earth; the Legion immediately harassed by an angry mob and the Trekkers confronted by hostile military units, but both Brainy and Spock deduce it’s a different Universe!

Chapter Two

We learn that a mysterious emperor controls the Imperial Planets from his palace on Earth and his forces relentlessly subjugate additional worlds. The Legion escapes the mob via their super-powers and the Trekkers escape the Imperial army via a shuttlecraft. Brainy leads the Legion contingent on a hunt for the source of two “temporal disturbances” registering on his “chronometer,” when the sextet is suddenly confronted by the equally surprised Trekkers (i.e., temporal disturbance #1).

Chapter Three 

A confrontation ensues between the Legionnaires and Trekkers, but serious damage is averted when cooler heads (Brainiac 5 and Spock) prevail. After the formal introductions, the two teams begin to discuss possible solutions to the timestream problem when they are attacked by the “new universe” version of the Legion’s classic foe, the Fatal Five (replete with some Star Trek elements), in service to the Imperial Planets. The attackers are defeated by the Legionnaires’ powers in combination with the Trekkers’ technology. The two teams then adopt a joint plan: three LSHers and three Trekkers will take a jury-rigged time machine to try and fix the time line at the “point of historical divergence” while Team B checks out temporal disturbance #2.

Chapter Four

Team A (Brainy, Spock, Bones, McCoy, Checkov, Cosmic Boy, and Saturn Girl) don’t get too far with their time machine jalopy and “crash land” in the pre-historical past where they are confronted by primitive tribesmen. Team B (Kirk, Uhura, Sulu, Shadow Lass, Lightning Lad, and Chameleon Boy) follows their sensors to the headquarters of the Imperial Planets where the emperor, informed of their approach, awaits. Both teams come face to face with the same “immortal” being known by various names in different eras: Vandal Savage/Flint/Vandar the Emperor.

Chapter Five

On pre-historic Earth, Vandal Savage imprisons Team A. Shortly afterwards, a young girl helps the six escape. Who is she? The girl is actually being mind-controlled and leads the team to a powerful being, although captive, who has been secretly playing a major role in this story from the start. The being reveals himself to be the powerful Q (a character in the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager Star Trek series), who has been forced to do the bidding of Vandal Savage/Flint/Vandar. Forward to the 23rd century; Vandar initially fetes Team B, but then reveals his intent to forcibly extract information from them about the future so that he can manipulate the present reality accordingly.

Chapter Six

Emperor Vandar tortures three members of Team B close to death, but with no results, and prepares to interrogate the remaining three. Kirk buys time by chiding Vandar and eliciting unrestrained emotion. Back on pre-historic Earth, Brainy and Spock discuss with Q possible ways to free him from the control of Vandal Savage. Vandal and his savage tribesmen interrupt the deliberations, but when Cosmic Boy releases the “inhibitor collars” from the warriors, they resort back to intertribal squabbling. Spock and Brainy free Q from his confinement and the powerful being immediately “fixes” the time line. We next see the six Legionnaires back in their time bubble headed to the 31st century and the six Star Fleet officers beginning their shore leave in 23rd century San Francisco, both groups completely unaware of their alter-Universe adventure.

Commentary

I enjoyed this crossover quite a bit. Fans of the Legion and/or Star Trek will appreciate the many details Roberson includes from both franchises. The intellectual sparring between Brainy and Spock is not to be missed. Kirk’s brash bravado is also well-characterized. The artwork is a big step-up compared to the illustrations of the Legion’s latter years, especially Romulo Farjardo, Jr.’s striking coloring.

The plot of this story was a bit convoluted with the various timelines and the alter-Universe. But that’s the name of the game these days. I cut my teeth on comics during DC’s Silver Age, when time was linear, reality was reality, and there was only one Universe. But DC and comics in general are in a precarious financial situation and reboots with changing characters and different dimensions and Universes are intended to keep things perpetually in flux for younger minds that are less satisfied with linear predictability.

Justice League (and a Legionnaire) vs. The Fatal Five

DC Comics pulled the plug on the Legion of Super-Heroes’ own comic book series back in 2013, but the teen heroes from the 31st century have been busy making cameo appearances in a variety of other venues, including the very recent…

Justice League vs. The Fatal Five
Directed by Sam Liu
Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment, 2019, 77 minutes

4 Stars

Plot

In the 31st century, three members of the galaxy’s most powerful crime team, the Fatal Five, break into the Legion’s headquarters in Metropolis, and abscond with a time-travel sphere with Star Boy clinging on for dear life. Their destination? 20th century Earth. But Star Boy is able to place the villains in state of stasis before the vehicle crashes. Superman recovers the sphere and brings it to Justice League of America’s headquarters.

Meanwhile, the stranded Star Boy has some big problems. He suffers from a form of schizophrenia and his medication is back in the 31st century. His increasingly erratic behavior results in being sent to prison.

Mister Terrific of the Justice League inadvertently releases the three members of the Five – Mano, Tharok, and the Persuader –  and they immediately search for Jessica Cruz, one of the Green Lanterns, who has some mental health issues of her own. What do Mano, Tharok, and the Persuader want with a Green Lantern and where are the other two members of the Five; Emerald Empress and Validus?

The unstable Star Boy breaks out of prison using his impressive mass-altering powers and defends Jessica from the villainous trio. The Justice League – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Mister Terrific and trainee, Miss Martian –  soon join in the fray and the crooks are forced to flee.

The JLers set up a mind-meld and ascertain from Star Boy’s memories that Emerald Empress and Validus were apprehended by the Legion in the 31st century and sent to the 21st century to be imprisoned in the only facility strong enough to hold them; the Green Lantern Corps’ impenetrable Sciencells on the planet Oa. Ah, so that’s it! The villains need Green Lantern Jessica to lead them to their imprisoned comrades.

Mano sends an ultimatum to the JLers: turn over Jessica or explosives will detonated in cities throughout the world. Metropolis is suddenly rocked by powerful blasts, forcing the JLers to flee, and Jessica is impelled to lead the villains to Oa and the Sciencells where Validus and the Emerald Empress and her powerful Emerald Eye are freed following a tussle with two Green Lantern guards. Jessica’s Green Lantern ring is destroyed in the melee, rending her powerless. The Emerald Empress then super-charges the powers of the Eye using the Green Lanterns’ Central Power Battery.

The Five return to Earth and the Princess initiates her plan to use the Eye to destroy the Sun, thus annihilating Earth and eliminating the Legion as future antagonists. The JLers intervene, but succumb to the power of the Five. Just when all seems lost, Jessica finds her nerve back on Oa and reassembles her Green Lantern ring and reclaims her powers. She returns to Earth and apprehends the Five. However, the Eye is already well on its way to a cataclysmic rendezvous with the Sun. Superman, Jessica, and Star Boy give chase, but it’s too late, the Eye plunges into the Sun and it begins to fracture. Star Boy sacrifices himself and flies into the Sun, knowing his powers to alter mass can reverse the fracturing process and save Earth.

In the final scene, the JLA members are joined by a contingent of Legionnaires from the 31st century to honor the fallen Star Boy.

Comments

Hey, I enjoyed this animated film quite a bit! It was a good story and I appreciated the LSH tie-ins. The inclusion of once-taboo mental health topics into the story-line was interesting. The “Clutch Cargo” animation was extremely stiff, but that’s what fans of DC’s low-budget, direct-to-video, super-hero animated films have come to expect. Last July, we reviewed the origin of the Fatal Five in Adventure Comics #352 (see here) and the sacrifice of Ferro Lad to save the Sun, so it was interesting to see another Legionnaire sacrifice his life for the same purpose, although this time the Fatal Five were opponents rather than reluctant allies. It was strange to see Mano portrayed as the leader of the Five in this film, when Tharok, with his half-computer brain, was the historical leader of the evil quintet. Good stuff. Lots of fun for an old DC Comics Silver Age fan. Legionnaires making cameo appearances include Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Dawnstar, Mon-El, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, and Tyroc.

Colossal Boy betrays the Legion?

It’s the beginning of the month, so that means it’s time to once again 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 Colossal Failure!”
Adventure Comics #371, August, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Curt Swan, Inker: Jack Abel.

5 Stars

Plot

After a routine day at Legion headquarters, Gim Allon, aka Colossal Boy, heads home for an evening of rest and relaxation with his parents. Two strangers show up at the door claiming to be journalists and ask the famous super-hero and his parents for an interview. But the men’s 3-D camera is actually a ray machine that transforms the parents into glass. The couple are somehow still alive in this fragile form, but the villains tell Allon they will destroy them unless he divulges the secrets of the Legion’s candidate training and testing process. Not privy to that information, Allon reluctantly agrees to acquire it.

In the Legion’s very next emergency mission, Colossal Boy purposely displays uncharacteristic incompetence resulting in the Legion’s newly elected leader, Ultra Boy, ordering him to attend re-training classes. Bouncing Boy notices Allon’s strange satisfaction with the demotion and several days later, after Colossal Boy has begun his retraining regime, breaks into his comrade’s apartment in search of clues, only to find a stash of classified candidate training documents. Allon is brought before the Legion council and charged with conspiracy. He offers no defense and is found guilty. The story ends with Colossal Boy being expelled from the Legion and walking dejectedly out of the team’s headquarters. Is this the end of Colossal Boy? Who were those thugs working for? Find out in a couple of weeks when we review Adventure #372.

Comments

This is a good intro to an interesting two-part saga. With the large number of Legion members, a story that focuses primarily on one member is always a nice change of pace. One of the more memorable events in this story is Shooter’s introduction of Chemical King as an aspiring Legion candidate. In our review of the Adult Legion in Adventure #354 last August (see here), we learned that Chemical King would join the Legion and subsequently sacrifice his life “to prevent World War VII.”


Also included in this issue is the lame secondary story below:

“When Superboy Walked Out on the Legion!”
Writer: Ed Hamilton, Penciller: George Papp, Cover art: Neal Adams

2 Stars

Plot

Strange aliens from the planet Thrann visit Smallville and put the town’s entire populace into a deep slumber with a sleep ray. When Superboy confronts them, the visitors inform him that they desire that he be one of Thrann’s resident super-heroes. Fearful that the scientifically advanced Thrannians could wreak havoc on Earth if he refuses, Superboy reluctantly complies. At that moment, a contingent of Legionnaires show up at Smallville saying they need Superboy’s help with an emergency in the 30th century, but the Boy of Steel declines, saying he’s joining a new super-hero team. On their way back to their planet, the Thrannians pick up five additional heroes from different worlds using the same gentle extortion. Assembled together at Thrann, the super-heroes gradually warm to their new environs, but the sextet still miss their home planets. A quarrel soon breaks out between Superboy and the other five, and the Thrannians reluctantly advise the entire group to go back to their own worlds. Behind closed doors, the group celebrates the results of their staged quarrel and return to their own planets.

Commentary

This story was originally presented in Superboy #101 (December 1962) as “The Valhalla of Super-Companions.” Two panels were added to the original layouts for this issue in order to force-fit an awkward Legion connection. This is a very simple story with simple artwork typical of super-hero comics in 1962. It’s rather surprising that the cover is connected to the much-inferior secondary story rather than to the primary Colossal Boy saga.

Argh! Those “massive fireballs of force” will getcha every time.

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

Plot

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.

Commentary

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!

Wait!!! Don’t touch the spindle wheel on that vault! Ach, too late.

My inbox is bursting at the seams with emails from readers asking when the next Legion installment will be posted (Not!), so without any further ado, let’s 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…

“Mordru the Merciless!”
Adventure Comics #369, June, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Curt Swan
Cover art: Neal Adams, Inker: Jack Abel

Plot

Our story begins with Legion members, Duo Damsel, Mon-El, Shadow Lass, and Superboy, desperately fleeing Legion headquarters and the 30th-century via a time-cube to 20th-century Smallville, home of Superboy. In a subsequent flashback, we learn that Shadow Lass had inadvertently helped release Mordru the Merciless from a vault in the Legion headquarters’ subbasement where he was being held prisoner. Mon-El explains that Mordru had mastered the ultimate mystic powers of his sorcerers’ world and was gradually subjugating planet after planet in the galaxy. When Mordru set his sights on Earth, the Legion opposed him and were eventually able to imprison him inside an airless steel block, where he remained until newcomer Shadow Lass’s rookie mistake.

Safe for the moment in circa 1930s Smallville, the quartet knows that Mordru will soon be searching for them and arrange to blend into the town’s woodwork as quickly as they can. Mon-El stays with Superboy’s adoptive parents, the Kents, as a brush salesman cousin. Shadow Lass, with make-up covering her blue skin, stays with Lana Lang (Clark’s girlfriend) and her family as an exchange student, and Duo Damsel fibs her way into staying with Police Chief Parker and his family, pretending to be a distant relative.

Mordru quickly traces the team to Smallville and conjures up an evil darkness that methodically searches every crevice of the town for the heroes. Shadow Lass is able to shield her comrades with a protective shadow, but Mordru’s darkness turns some of Smallville’s citizens into his obedient spies.

Several catastrophes seem to overtake the town, but turn out to be only illusions. The heroes correctly surmise Mordru was trying to force their hand. Then, several real emergencies do occur, but Superboy and the other Legionnaires continue to hide their identities. However, another emergency overtakes Smallville when gangster, King Carter, and his entourage of henchmen roll into town and the King decides to make it his base of operations. The heroes’ hands are tied as the crook extorts tribute money from the town’s small businesses, but Pa Kent organizes a rebellion and the citizens successfully overthrow Carter and his thugs. Inspired by the example of the brave townsfolk, the Legionnaires ditch their disguises and decide to return to the 30th-century to confront Mordru head-on. Little do the heroes know they are being spied upon by Lana Lang, who is under Mordru’s control. In a matter of seconds, the teens are confronted by the powerful and angry sorcerer himself.

How can the foursome possibly escape their most powerful foe? Is this the end of the Legion? Find out in a couple of weeks when we review “The Devil’s Jury!” in Adventure Comics #370.

Commentary

Once again, Shooter does the incredible by introducing Mordru the Merciless, one of the Legion franchise’s most formidable and enduring enemies. This was such a good story with a lot of personal interaction (always rare for a Legion tale), including Duo Damsel’s unrequited crush on Superboy. When Legion fans talk about the franchise’s top-ten tales, this is one that’s always in the mix and not just because of the plot-line. Neal Adam’s cover is probably the best in our 35-issue review series. Curt Swan’s pencil’s are top-notch as usual, but in this issue, Jack Abel, joins on as the Legion’s inker and the results are extraordinary! Wow! Abel’s use of “chiaroscuro” (the use of strong contrasts between light and dark) is masterful and strongly enhances this story of the sinister master sorcerer.

Trivia alert: Shooter identified Mordru’s home planet as “Xerox.” The same-named, Rochester-based, copier company was already successful by 1968, meaning that Shooter’s problematic designation somehow slipped by the editor.

Credibility alert: Would we really expect to find vaults with mechanical spindle wheel handles in the 30th-century?