Dead Legionnaires buried in space?

It’s time to once again 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…

“Burial in Space!”
Adventure Comics #379, April, 1969
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Inker: Jack Abel, Cover: Neal Adams

4 Stars

Plot

At the conclusion of our previous issue, Adventure Comics #378 (see here), five Legionnaires – Brainiac 5, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Superboy – teeter on the brink of death, with their enigmatic executioner gleefully celebrating over them, when suddenly, time mysteriously stops. Let’s pick up the action:

We learn that a strange alien from a highly-advanced race from the planet, Seeris, has intervened and stopped time at that specific location to momentarily save the dying Legionnaires. He had been hoping that the heroes could assist him with some unspecified problem, but their current condition makes that impossible. As he monitors the situation, another contingent of seven Legionnaires arrives at the team’s headquarters to find their five comrades and mistakenly assume them to be dead. The Seeron immediately transports to Legion headquarters and informs the heroes of all that transpired and proposes that he will cure their teammates if they will assist him with his problem.

The seven are quickly transported to Seeris where they are informed a warlike race of brutes has invaded the planet. The aggressors are of such low intelligence that they are almost impervious to the Seerons’ impressive mental powers. The Seerons are unable to resist the invaders because their complete emphasis on intellectual prowess over the centuries has rendered them physical weaklings and they have no defensive capabilities.

The seven Legionnaires – Chameleon Boy, Chemical King, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Star Boy, Timber Wolf, and Ultra Boy – agree to the deal and set out to stop the vanguard of the advancing horde. A battle ensues and the brutes prove to be more powerful than expected, forcing the Legionnaires to retreat.

In the meantime, ANOTHER contingent of the Legionnaires arrives at the team’s headquarters, also mistaking the five that are in stasis for being dead, and proceed to give them a burial with honors in space. Back on Seeris, the seven Legion members regroup and formulate a plan to build an impregnable fortress to stop the enemy’s advance. The brutes easily breech the citadel’s walls, but Ultra Boy is able to buy some time with his impressive powers. Ultra Boy then sends out an appeal to the entire Seeron race to join in the conflict despite their physical limitations. The sheer number of Seerons proves too much for the invaders and they are defeated.

In gratitude, the Seerons transport the septet back to Earth and send a “thought force” to end the localized time stasis and cure the five heroes of their poisoning. However, upon arriving, the seven discover their five teammates had been mistakenly buried in space. Taking a cue from Brainiac 5 in the last issue, Ultra Boy suggests they use the mysterious “Miracle Machine” and the quintet subsequently reappear at Legion headquarters, none the worse for wear. Who was it that poisoned the five Legionnaires in the first place? Come to find out it was only a penny-ante crook by the name of Alek Korlo. Sheesh!

Commentary

This was an entertaining conclusion to the two-issue tale. Perhaps the most interesting element of the saga was back in the previous issue when writer, Jim Shooter, employed a “park bench philosopher” to counsel the dying Princess Projectra to “accept the inevitable without brooding about it,” and to “think of what’s been good in your life…don’t bother regretting a moment and squeeze your last hours dry, too!” The lost certainly don’t have much to offer when it comes to dealing with death.

Below is a detail from the cover of this issue that I wanted to emphasize. Note what appears to be a minister in ceremonial robes sending off the apparently-dead Boy of Steel while holding a book clearly labeled “Bible.” Great! God gets His digs in even in a comic book from DC’s Silver Age!

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Detail from the cover showing a robed minister holding a clearly-labeled Bible!

Only one more issue to review in our Legion Silver Age series. That’ll be coming up in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, DC is currently in the process of reintroducing the fabled Legion franchise, so I’ll be replacing my bi-weekly reviews of Silver Age Legion tales with monthly reviews of new LSH stories hot off of DC’s presses.

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Five Legionnaires must decide how to spend their final twelve hours

It’s time to once again 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…

“Twelve Hours to Live!”
Adventure Comics #378, March, 1969
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Inker: Jack Abel, Cover: Neal Adams

5 Stars

Plot

A small contingent of Legionnaires – Brainiac 5, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Superboy – are gathered at Legion Headquarters in Metropolis for a celebration; Brainiac 5’s birthday. As the quartet shares a toast to Brainac 5, he notices a strange powder coating the lining of his cup. He rushes to the lab and determines that he and his teammates have all been poisoned with a lethal substance for which there is no antidote and have only twelve hours to live (Superboy’s cup was specially treated with a Kryptonite-based poison, the only substance lethal to the Boy of Steel). Brainiac 5 suggests each person use their remaining time as they see fit and that they all reassemble in twelve hours to “face death together.”

Each Legionnaire chooses to spend their remaining hours differently. Braniac 5 returns back to the lab, racking his twelfth-level intellect for an antidote. Superboy returns to 20th century Smallville and his adoptive parents, the Kents, but grief overcomes him and he departs back to the 30th century to perform heroic good deeds as his final legacy. Duo Damsel spends her last hours with her parents, although without burdening them with her impending doom. Karate Kid opts to die battling crime and seeks out the most powerful team of villains in the Universe, the Fatal Five. With “nothing to lose,” the Kid is a formidable opponent, but the Five – Tharok, Mano, the Persuader, the Emerald Empress, and Validus – manage to escape. As for Princess Projectra, she sits alone on a park bench, overcome by grief, but a stranger intervenes who counsels her to “accept the inevitable without brooding about it.” Huh? Easy for him to say.

With time quickly running out, the Legionnaires glumly reassemble at their headquarters and Brainiac 5 sadly informs his teammates that he was unable to find an antidote in the interim. Superboy then writes the quintets’ collective legal will on a huge steel tablet using his “super-hard fingernail.” After Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra sign the will with a “laser stylus,” they, along with Superboy, weaken and collapse. As Brainiac 5 also begins to feel the poison’s effects, it occurs to him that the mysterious Miracle Machine (featured in Adventure Comics #367, see here) could possibly save the dying quintet. Braniac 5 struggles to make his way to the storage room, but can’t crack the impenetrable “inertron” casing that seals the device. As life slowly ebbs from the collapsed Legionnaires, a shadowy figure enters the headquarters. However, just as the mysterious villain celebrates his victory over the dying heroes, time suddenly stops and all remain motionless.

Is this the end for Brainiac 5, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Superboy? Who is the mysterious criminal who poisoned them and what force has stopped time for the dying Legionnaires and their executioner and why? We’ll have the answers to those questions in two weeks when we review the ominously titled, “Burial in Space,” in Adventure Comics #379.

Commentary

It’s strange that writer, Jim Shooter, chose to use the very same small contingent of Legionnaires that were featured in the preceding issue, Adventure Comics #377. It’s also interesting how Shooter portrays the different ways the fivesome individually attempt to cope with their impending deaths, especially Princess Projectra and the godless advice she received from the “park bench philosopher.” I’ll have more to say about that topic in next issue’s commentary. For the purposes of this review, I only devoted a few words to Karate Kid’s reckless suicide mission, single handedly battling the Fatal Five, but the minor plot line actually consumed eight full-pages of this issue. Superboy using his last ounce of strength to engrave the Legionnaires’ last will and testament on a mammoth steel tablet is a glaring example of over-the-top Silver Age melodramatics.

Dumb question: Am I missing something? Since Superboy and the other Legionnaires are able to time travel, why didn’t Superboy just go back a few minutes in time immediately after the poisoning and destroy the lethal beverage?

Count it down, my friends! Only two more Silver Age Legion tales left to review! and only 33 more days until DC reintroduces the Legion after a six-year hiatus with “Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #1,” due in comic shops Wednesday, Sept. 18.

Legion mercenaries? 💲💲💲

Yes, my blogger friends, it’s time to once again 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…

“Heroes for Hire!”
Adventure Comics #377, February, 1969
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Cover: Neal Adams

3 Stars

Plot

The story begins with the Science Police chasing a fugitive criminal to the planet, Modo. Legend has it that the entire planet is controlled by a powerful, evil entity, Modulus, and the incredulous officers quickly become believers when they are subdued.

Back in Metropolis, a contingent of Legionnaires –  Brainiac 5, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Superboy – breaks up an attempted robbery of experimental mind gas from a research center. One of the criminals is captured and divulges that numerous criminal gangs utilize Modo as a base of operations because of Modulus’ protection.

Emboldened by their evil lord’s patronage, the criminal gangs of Modo wreak havoc throughout the galaxy with impunity. Meanwhile, in a shocking twist, the Legion begins to uncharacteristically extort money for their services. In a short period of time, the Legion amasses a fortune made up of various planetary currencies, storing it aboard one of its space cruisers. The teen heroes begin spending the money like drunken sailors at port, catching the attention of one of the Modo gangs.

Shortly afterwards, the gang attacks the Legion cruiser and tows it to Modo. However, Chemical King uses his powers to surreptitiously release the living crystalline currency from the planet Rojun that’s in stow. The metal-eating creatures, in turn, consume the protective casing of several other strange and volatile currencies. A chain reaction ensues, resulting in a paralysis ray that overpowers every criminal on the planet, including overlord, Modulus.

As the Science Police round up the dazed criminals, the Legionnaires celebrate the success of Brainiac 5’s improbable booby trap and resolve to return all of the money they had collected as part of the ruse.

Comments

Ach. What started out as a decent plot-line fell apart with the ham-fisted ending. Only three more Silver Age LSH issues left to review! Will writer, Jim Shooter, give us at least one more five-star tale?

Noteworthy: The full-page illustration on page 5 (see below) showing the effects of experimental mind gas on Brainiac 5 is a good example of late-60’s psychedelia art.

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Throwback Thursday: Did you ever wonder how early-Christianity devolved into Roman Catholic imperialism?

For today’s “Throwback Thursday” installment, we’re revisiting a re-edited post that was originally published back on August 9th, 2015.

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Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity
By James J. O’Donnell
Ecco/Harper Collins, 2015, 293 pp.

5 Stars

This book, by respected classicist historian, James J. O’Donnell, is an extremely interesting and informative examination of that period of the Roman Empire when the traditional pagan religion was gradually replaced by Christianity.

What Christians would refer to as Roman paganism was belief system in a large pantheon of gods, each of whom supposedly had jurisdiction over a particular realm, occupation, or activity (like the Catholic “saints” who followed). Prayers and sacrifices were offered to the capricious and unpredictable gods in temples throughout the empire in hopes of attaining success in business, warfare, and personal circumstances. People were apt to adopt the god/s favored by a particularly successful person in the hopes of replicating their good fortune. Paganism was an impersonal, pragmatic religion largely based on ritual and tradition. Zealots and “true believers” were few.

As Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, its adherents encountered persecution due to its peculiar monotheistic and exclusivist claims. Christians had also refused to worship the emperor, which resulted in severe persecution. However, Christianity grew despite the opposition (or because of it), and was eventually legalized by Emperor Constantine in 313 AD and proclaimed the official religion of the empire by Theodosius in 380 AD. Between 389 and 391, the emperor issued the “Theodosian decrees,” which proscribed extremely harsh penalties for all remaining pagan practitioners.

As an extremely important pillar in the empire’s structure, the church became increasingly institutionalized, taking on the imperial trappings of its patron and focusing on the accumulation of wealth and power. Personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, as taught in the New Testament, devolved into sacramental ritual, complex liturgy, exacting legalism, and evolving “traditions,” all tightly controlled by the ascending clergy-class.

O’Donnell does an excellent job of presenting the tensions between the dying, old religion and the new. However, he also addresses the many accommodations made by the new state church to the old religion once it gained the advantage. As pagan “converts” streamed into the church for reasons of social, political, and financial expediency, the church made concessions and absorbed (aka “Christianized”) many of the beliefs and practices of the preceding religion. I’ve already referred to the replacement of patron gods with patron “saints” (see here), but another illustrative example of this syncretism was the appropriation of the title of the pagan religion’s high priest, “Pontifex Maximus” (Latin: greatest priest), by the Roman bishop. 

O’Donnell isn’t a believer, but he has provided an excellent introduction into the nuts and bolts of how the Christian church initially began its degeneration from the preaching of the Gospel and simple, saving faith in Jesus Christ into an iron-fisted, worldly institution focused on wealth, power, and absolute control, shielded by a veneer of ostentatious piety. Excellent. Highly recommended.

Postscript: I praise God for raising up the 16th-century Reformers to reclaim the Gospel of grace, however I believe there was always a remnant of genuine believers, even within the authoritarian Catholic institution, who were trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone.

The San Diego Padres’ First Half-Century

San Diego Padres: The First Half Century
Edited by Tom Larwin and Bill Nowlin
Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), 2019, 358 pp.

5 Stars

This year, the San Diego Padres are celebrating their 50th anniversary. I actually began following the Padres in 1970, their sophomore season. It’s been a bumpy ride, folks. San Diego is a smaller market compared to some of the higher-profile MLB cities, and the Padres just don’t have the money to regularly buy their way into the playoffs like the Dodger$ or Yankee$. But there’s several bright spots in the franchise’s history, like the trips to the World Series in 1984 and 1998.

Because residents of San Diego enjoy one of the finest climates in the U.S.A., they’re hard-pressed to sit in a stadium for three hours when there’s so many other things to do. The football Chargers moved from San Diego to Los Angeles in 2017 because the city wouldn’t help the team build a new stadium, but the fundamental issue was lack of fan support. Likewise, the Padres consistently draw below the MLB attendance average. Because of that lack of fan support, there just haven’t been many books written about the Padres over the years, so I’m grateful for this one, which commemorates the club’s fifty seasons.

There’s 66 chapters in this book collected under the following categories:

  • The Players – profiles of 25 former Padres
  • Managers, Executives, Media
  • Spring Training, Stadia, and The Chicken
  • Notable Padres Games
  • Facts, Figures, Trivia

I was happy to see the publication of this book, which celebrates the team’s first fifty years, and I thoroughly enjoyed some of the old memories. However, believe me when I tell you that ONLY an old Padres fan like myself would enjoy reading this fact-filled tome. One small criticism: Many of the player profiles include copious amounts of information about the players’ stints with other ball clubs, but most Padres’ fans would not be interested.

Postscript: At the All-Star break, the Padres had a promising 45-45 record. Since then, they’ve gone 5-11, losing five series in a row.

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.

Some good material, some bad material

Roman Catholicism & the Coming World Religion
By Pastor Billy Crone
Get A Life Media, 2019, 349 pp.

3 Stars

I’m always pleased to see new books published that critically examine Roman Catholicism, so I ordered “Roman Catholicism & the Coming World Religion” by Billy Crone as soon as I stumbled across it while browsing at Amazon.com. Billy Crone? He’s the pastor of an independent Baptist church in Las Vegas, NV and he has a slew of self-published book titles, most having to do with end-times eschatology, not my forte. The illustrations of the alien and UFO on the cover of this book had me a little worried because some eschatologists do get carried away.

This was an “interesting” book. It reads exactly like an extemporaneous Sunday School lecture and is chock full of colloquialisms. I strongly suspect Crone’s sermons/talks on various topics are transcribed almost directly into book form with very little editing.

There’s A LOT of really good information in this book for which Crone is to be commended, especially in regards to the evangelical church’s growing ecumenism with Rome. However, the author is also sometimes prone to overstatement, misstatement, exaggeration, and hyperbole. Catholic doctrine is not always presented as precisely as the RCC teaches it, allowing Catholic apologists to dismiss an otherwise decent effort. Some examples:

  • In regards to the dogma of papal infallibility, Crone writes, “They (Catholics) would have you believe their popes are always right 100% of the time” (p.190). The Roman church actually teaches its pope are infallible only when they declare a doctrine ex cathedra, i.e., from the chair of Peter, with the full authority of their alleged papal office. Catholic theologians are often at odds as to which papal declarations are actually infallible, but that’s another topic.
  • Crone chides pope Francis for criticizing president Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. He states that Vatican City has a wall around it, so Francis is a hypocrite for reprimanding Trump (p. 262). Well, the Vatican’s walls were erected in the ninth-century to protect it from the Saracen pirates, but the ancient walls are certainly not what they used to be. Of the six entrances into Vatican City, three are wide open to the public.
  • In the section on Purgatory, Crone states, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that the RCC kept Mother Teresa (d. 1997) waiting in Purgatory for nineteen years until they finally got around to canonizing her in 2016 (p. 301). A Catholic apologist would reply that canonization doesn’t send anyone to Heaven, it’s only a supposed confirmation that they’re already there.
  • Crone errs most egregiously by including and referencing the bogus “Jesuit Extreme Oath of Induction” (p.96-97). The alleged “secret oath” was first published in 1689 by Protestant, Robert Ware, in his book, “Foxes and Firebrands,” and has been repeated by careless Protestant polemicists and conspiracy theorists (e.g., Jack Chick Publications, Tony Alamo, etc.) for four centuries.

There are many other similar exaggerations and careless errors in this book. Catholicism has more than enough problems to answer for with its verifiable history and its doctrines as it presents them. Critics don’t need to exaggerate or misstate the facts to show the anti-Biblical teachings and history of Catholicism.

There are many more reliable rebuttals of Roman Catholicism available. One of the best is James G. McCarthy’s, “The Gospel According to Rome,” which I re-reviewed only yesterday. See here.

Postscript: Pastor Crone thankfully does not mention aliens or UFOs within the text.

Sociological forces that turned Lourdes into a national and continental phenomenon

The Happening at Lourdes: The Sociology of the Grotto
By Alan Neame
Simon and Schuster, 1967, 323 pp.

5 Stars

I recently submitted a post about the alleged Marian apparitions at the Massabielle Grotto in Lourdes, France in 1858 (see here), which prompted me to check our local library system to see if they had any books on the topic and found this fifty-two-year-old gem. Don’t let the age of the book dissuade you. Its revelations are still quite pertinent.

Author, Alan Neame, takes a very skeptical view of the Lourdes apparitions. Some of the cogent points include:

  • Fourteen-year-old Lourdes visionary, Bernadette Soubirous, had been thoroughly indoctrinated into Catholic Mariolatry and was quite familiar with the Marian myths that originated in the nearby towns of Bétharram and La Sallete, where Mary had allegedly appeared to two children just twelve years previous in 1846. The peasant folk of the French Pyranees region were steeped in religious superstition/cultism to a degree that would be shocking to a 21st century observer.
  • Devotees of the Lourdes cult often cite Bernadette’s claim that the apparition referred to herself as the “Immaculate Conception” during its sixteenth appearance as a proof of authenticity. Pope Pius IX had declared the Immaculate Conception of Mary as dogma only four years before in 1854 and they argue that Bernadette, an illiterate, could not possibly have learned of this dogma prior to the alleged visitation. The author points out that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception had been declared a Holy Day of Obligation one-hundred-and-fifty-years previous in 1708 by pope Clement XI and that all Catholics, especially those steeped in Mariolatry like the Soubirous family, were intimately aware of the doctrine.
  • French Catholic conservatives/traditionalists seized upon the Lourdes apparitions as a symbol of resistance to the militant secular state and the ongoing national political upheaval. The French National Pilgrimages (FNP) to Lourdes, which began in 1872, would become a rallying event for French political and religious conservatism. The rise of Lourdes as a national and European shrine coincided with the fall of the Papal States to the forces of Italian unification. Catholic conservatives from all across Europe would make the journey to Lourdes in symbolic support of the papacy and Roman Catholic traditionalism.
  • Interestingly, Bernadette Soubirous and all of the other Marian visionaries had contrasting versions of the apparition’s physical features and clothing.
  • After the apparitions were accepted as authentic by the church, the local parish priest, Dominique Peyramale, fought with the diocese to retain control of the grotto site. The apparition site eventually came under diocesan control and then the control of the French Catholic church. Credulous Lourdes devotees are oblivious to the “behind-the-scenes” ecclesiastical infighting among clerics over control of the apparition site that Neame examines with a good amount of detail.

Most evangelicals have no idea of just how popular pilgrimage destinations like Lourdes once were in Catholic-majority countries. In the small city (population: 13,946), there are still 200 souvenir shops and the second-highest number of hotel rooms in France after Paris. But the number of pilgrims has declined steeply in recent years. Lourdes used to boast of six million pilgrims per year only a decade ago, but the number is now half that.

“The Happening at Lourdes: The Sociology of the Grotto” is a revealing examination of the rampant cultic devotion to Mary that gripped Southwest France at the time of Bernadette’s alleged visions and of the forces that turned the Massabielle Grotto into a beloved symbol of religious and political traditionalism and conservatism in France and beyond. For anyone interested in the “back story” behind this “Mecca” of Marian cultism, this book is quite illuminating. Highly recommended.

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This old aerial photo shows the massive railroad facilities that were installed at Lourdes to handle the 16,000 pilgrims who descended upon the humble town daily. Those are all passenger trains. The grandiose Marian shrine complex (123 acres) in the distance is circled in yellow.

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.

Throwback Thursday: Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment

For today’s “Throwback Thursday” installment, we’re going to take a look back at this post, which was first published on August 19, 2015 and has been only slightly revised.

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Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment
by Gregg R. Allison
Crossway, 2014, 496 pages

5 Stars

At a time when some evangelical pastors and para-church leaders are ignoring doctrinal distinctives in the interest of “Christian” unity, noted evangelical theologian, Gregg R. Allison, gives us “Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment,” a clinical examination of the many differences between Bible Christianity and Roman Catholicism.

Allison begins by outlining Rome’s two major theological constructs: the nature-grace interconnection which posits the concrete conferring of grace through nature (e.g., priests, sacraments, sacramentals, shrines, relics, etc.) and the Christ-Church interconnection, whereby the Catholic church presents itself as the prolongation of the incarnation of Christ. Allison then examines Rome’s catechism, reviewing each major doctrine in light of the aforementioned constructs and how they compare to God’s Word and evangelical theology. The author notes that Catholicism and evangelicalism agree on some doctrinal issues, but disagree on a myriad of others. Most importantly, Catholicism teaches salvation by sacramental grace and merit while evangelicals profess Biblical salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. There is no bridge over this theological chasm despite the best efforts of some accommodating, doctrine-light evangelicals.

This new book is a VERY welcome addition to the evangelical-Catholic debate. Every evangelical pastor who works with Catholics and ex-Catholics should own a copy. Many of the Protestant books about Catholicism written in the past were uncharitable and did not present Rome’s doctrines accurately. Allison’s tone leans toward the irenic almost to a fault, but he’s also firm in his critique of Catholicism’s un-Biblical and anti-Biblical doctrines.

Unfortunately, Allison ends this book on a bit of a disappointing note. After spending the first 450 pages carefully analyzing Rome’s errors, he avoids drawing any overall conclusions. Does he believe Rome is at its foundation a Christian church that happens to teach many doctrines not found in the Bible (see Norman Geisler) or does he believe Catholicism is an apostate church that turned from the Gospel of Jesus Christ to legalism and ritualism and that no person can be saved by adhering to its standard theology? After reading the first 450 pages the reader will definitely assume Allison’s position is the latter, but, unfortunately, for reasons only he knows, he’s not willing to commit himself in a forthright summation and conclusion. Instead, the six-page final chapter offers evangelicals advice on how to share the Gospel with Catholics. That criticism aside, this book is a timely and intelligent clarification of Catholic teaching for evangelicals, some of whom are disturbingly too eager to embrace a “church” they actually know very little about.

Available from Amazon here. Please note: This book is definitely on the academic side and wouldn’t appeal to a number of readers. For an excellent book on Roman Catholicism that will appeal to the general reader, tune in to next week’s installment of Throwback Thursday!