A Tribute to the of
This is going to be a bit backward. If you go back in the archives, to the very first review I did at the onset of this feature, you'll find my effort on Adventure #353. I mentioned there that it was an old childhood favorite and while it was the second part of a two-part story, I'd never had the luxury of access to a copy of its prelude, #352 from January of 1967. The webmaster's "inconsiderate" older brother, source of the majority of our original collection, hadn't purchased himself a copy, you see. Well, awhile back, I remedied the situation and since that is the only remaining loose end here in the history of The Silver Age Sage, (I believe), I thought I'd tie it up by spotlighting part one of the adventure when the Legion of Super-Heroes meet for the first time one of their most enduring and dangerous team of foes in the form of The Fatal Five.
Credit for this installment goes to: Mort Weisinger [Editor/co-author]; Jim Shooter [co-author/panel layouts]; Curt Swan & George Klein [cover and interior art].
The splash page shows off this fearsome quintet, as they appear to advance on our roster of Legion members to include Superboy, Sun Boy, Cosmic Boy, Ferro Lad and Princess Projectra.
The story itself begins in deep, dark space. The setting looks a bit like Deep Space 9, in fact. It's a radar outpost maintained by the United Planets and the poor schlub on duty is just picking up a blip. Once he eliminates the possibility that it's the relief shuttle, his eyes widen in horror: "No…No! It is really coming! The whole galaxy will be wiped out!"
Fade now to the Legion HQ where our heroes are watching a film/bio featuring each member of the Fatal Five beginning with The Persuader. Perhaps he was named by the same person who coined Samuel Colt's invention, "The Peacemaker." The Persuader is a large, muscular sort, with features reminiscent of Genghis Khan. He's a paid killer, gangland enforcer and all around galactic thug and is also the wielder of an atomic axe, which, by nuclear emissions can slice through anything, including energy. The 30th Century Science Police believe he is currently hanging his battle helmet on one of Jupiter's moons.
Next up is Tharok, a cyborg who is divided right down the center between his human and robot halves. Originally a petty thief from the planet Zadron, he was in the midst of stealing a miniature nuclear device when a guard fired his weapon, striking the bomb and instantly vaporizing Tharok's left side. Somehow they were able to keep him alive long enough to create the robot half, but in so doing they inadvertently increased his intellect and his lust for revenge on the law at large.
The latest figure on the catwalk is Sarya, better known as the Emerald Empress of the planet Vengar. Clad almost entirely in green, from her cloak to her gloves, thigh-high boots and even her hair, her criminal history encompasses everything from murder to piracy in space. The source of her power is the long-lost Emerald Eye of Ekron, an ancient civilization on her home planet that she discovered. The eye, which is literally a large floating eye with a green iris, possesses nearly unlimited power and Sarya used it to fulfill her ambitions, to include setting herself up as the tyrant of Vengar until the people rebelled and expelled her.
Number four in the line-up of evil is the most formidable and mysterious. It is Validus. His origin is unknown and he is a towering behemoth with a transparent skull showing his brain. He seems to be perpetually peeved and his rages manifest themselves in bolts of mental energy in the form of lightning. He is known to go on destructive rampages, but they seem to be completely random. He is in a galactic prison awaiting execution by a bombardment of anti-energy, the only thing believed capable of destroying the menace.
Before we get to the fifth and final member, I thought I'd mention another of those great ads that I enjoy so much in this issue. It's for the great Captain Action figure from Ideal Toys. "The Amazing 9-in-1 Super Hero" shows off all his potential guises as Superman, The Phantom, Sgt. Fury, Batman, The Lone Ranger, Captain America, Steve Canyon, Aquaman and Flash Gordon in addition to being simply Captain Action. Now be honest, who wouldn't want to find this under their Christmas tree? You can read a review of the Captain's 5 issue run in the archives section.
Okay, back to the task at hand. Introducing Mano of the planet Angtu. Angtu had a smoky, noxious atmosphere, poisonous to all but the natives and it is speculated that this could have caused Mano's strange condition, a glowing disc in the palm of his right hand that can completely annihilate anything it touches, save a special protective glove he wears. Hated and shunned by the other members of his race, he eventually grows to despise them. Consumed with bitterness, he reaches adulthood. Orphaned and friendless, he dons a space suit and destroys the very planet beneath him with ! the power of his hand. From that point forward he made a living as a galactic assassin until his capture.
Now that the documentary is complete, the Legion members depart for home while Superboy takes the watch at headquarters. Hours later, the President of the United Planet's Inner Council contacts Superboy and pleads for him to round up every available Legionnaire immediately. As the members return, Superboy announces that "It" is coming. For the benefit of the new Legionnaires, Ferro Lad and Princess Projectra, (they and Karate Kid became part of the team in Adventure Comics #346 [07/66]) Superboy explains about the Sun-eater, a large, cloud-like object that drifts through space, consuming suns, star systems and sometimes entire galaxies, growing and becoming more powerful as it goes along. It was spotted by the outpost and is now working its way into our galaxy and will likely head straight for our solar system's sun. They estimate a week before it reaches Sol and the Legionnaires decide to try and enlist the aid of other heroes throughout the threatened galaxy. Through a series of messaging systems, they are disappointed however when their pleas are either ignored or the other heroes are unable to assist for various reasons. Frustrated, they note that a star has winked out of existence and the Sun-eater is on it's way. With the other Legion members in a distant dimension and the call for help unheeded, they wonder what to do. Cosmic Boy then comes up with the idea of enlisting the aid of super-powered villains, such as The Fatal Five. Part I closes.
Part II opens on the five heroes heading for the far reaches of the galaxy to round up the members of The Fatal Five. We follow Cosmic Boy first as he seeks out the space citadel of Tharok. Breaking through with the power of his super magnetism, he explains the situation to Tharok, promising him a full pardon if he will aid them in the successful destruction of the Sun-eater. Tharok agrees and we then join Superboy on the world of Craggok, where the civilization is equivalent to Earth's middle ages. The populace has somehow chained the Emerald Empress to a stake and has set about burning the "witch." Superboy's appearance causes them to scatter and he whisks Sarya up and away to a nearby hill where he asks why she didn't use the Emerald Eye to free herself. She explains that the Eye had been affected by the radiations of a green glowing mineral that she placed in a lead pocket in her cape, but it hadn't yet recovered. The mineral, unfortunately for Superboy, is kryptonite. As he collapses, he quickly explains why he's come for her. Upon hearing of the offer of amnesty, she agrees to help.
Sun Boy has arrived, meanwhile, at the planet Bismari and enters the holding cell of Validus. When he enters and realizes he comes to about the top of Validus' boot, he gets a bit nervous, but proposes that he can offer Validus his freedom in exchange for assistance. Rather than face his execution on the morrow, Validus agrees to accompany the Legionnaire.
The next panel shows a grim Sun Boy at the controls of his cruiser with Validus huddled up nearby. I think there might have been an editorial goof here, too as the text above the panel states: "And so, as the two leave Vrokk and head for Earth…" Wasn't it Bismari? I guess it's tough to keep all those planets straight.
Segue now to the 12th moon of Jupiter where Princess Projectra is observing The Persuader as he threatens his prisoner, the Governor-General of Jupiter. Calling upon her ability to cast realistic illusions, Princess Projectra distracts the Persuader long enough to allow the Governor-General to escape. She then gives the criminal the same offer of a full pardon for his cooperation. Another villain signs on.
Now to the other side of the galaxy where Ferro Lad has come upon a bizarre scene. Mano is attached to a rocket guillotine, floating in space. Members of the Space Police surround him and the blade is beginning its rocket-powered descent where it will chop off his hand. Hurtling forward, Ferro Lad uses his ability to turn his body to iron and smashes the blade before it reaches its target. The police quickly surround and restrain Ferro Lad, but he explains whom he represents and gives his pitch to Mano. The criminal quickly agrees (and who wouldn't, given the alternative?) and the two enter the Warp ship to go back to Earth.
The final enlarged panel shows a profile of each hero and villain imposed over a space scene centered on the Sun-eater with this text: "The Legionnaires and their evil allies face the most awesome, terrifying menace of all time, in a titanic battle that rocks the universe! Don't miss Conquest of Earth!" In the corner we read: "Not the end…"
As you know, the galaxy was successfully saved, but at great cost in the next issue of Adventure. If you haven't read or have forgotten that review, go back to the archives to my very first one and while I hope my technique has improved a bit since then, you might enjoy reading that synopsis as well.
Rounding out this issue is the text only feature "Know Your Legionnaires!" You can read it by clicking HERE.
The Legion of Super-heroes has long been a favorite of mine. Curt Swan's superb artwork and his use of the enlarged panels to emphasize the introduction of the characters made this an enjoyable visual journey [FYI: Later in 1967 in an effort to save on engraving costs the size of an art board's useable image area was reduced from 12"x18" to 10"x15"]. Combining the science fiction of the 30th century space travel and the introduction of five new and imaginative villains who proved to have staying power later on made for a very good read, even if it was a dreaded two-part story. The rating is a 9 for this effort.
Here's hoping 2003 is a good year for you readers out there. I look forward to more silver mining as we explore this historic age in comics together. Please join the Webmaster and I again in about two weeks for the next edition. Remember also to take advantage of the feedback mechanism here at firstname.lastname@example.org. I enjoy hearing from you.
Long live the Silver Age!
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