A Tribute to the of
By the time this particular edition of the Silver Age Sage hits the web we'll have recently experienced a major phenomenon in the cosmos, namely the closest brush that the Earth has had with Mars, our next nearest celestial neighbor, in 60,000 years. I've noticed in the wee hours that you can clearly see the red presence of Mars in the pre-dawn skies.
Now I wish I had a good Martian Manhunter story to spotlight this time in honor of the event, but perhaps I've found the next best thing. Fortunately due to the ever-present science fiction influence in these classic tales it's not difficult to find a space-themed tome. In fact, it's another great team-up tale, originally presented in Mystery in Space #90 from March of 1964. It further involves the close proxmity of celestial bodies, but I don't want to spoil things yet. The credits list is fairly substantial. Master storyteller Gardner Fox is on the job again and the pencils are done on what appears to be a tag-team basis. Carmine Infantino takes care of matters on the cover and chapters 1 and 3 while Murphy Anderson takes over on chapter two while simultaneously doing all the inking details. Our daring heroes for "Planets in Peril!" are Adam Strange and Hawkman, with, of course their partners Alanna of Rann and Hawkgirl. It should be noted that this is a first time pairing for these characters.
Let's begin on the planet Rann, where their greatest hero is an earthman named Adam Strange. Currently it's a scene of domestic tranquility as Adam is about to enjoy a home-cooked meal of roasted Ranagarian Quail prepared by his ladylove, Alanna. Alanna flips on the tele-viewer and the announcer states that a new planet has suddenly appeared in the Alpha-Centauri system, directly opposite Rann on the other side of the sun. A quick shot of the planet from the station's space observatory camera reveals to a stunned Adam that it's the Earth, 26 trillion miles from its natural orbit! Quickly the two lovebirds head for the home of Alanna's father, Sardath , the renowned Rann scientist.
As the couple arrives, Alanna's father is preparing to launch his spacecraft to further investigate. While lifting off, Adam speculates about why they've not heard from the JLA. Alanna suggests that perhaps they're on a case that's taken them away. (See Justice League of America #25, February, 1964; "Outcasts of Infinity!") She then looks upon the Earth and says she's always wanted to visit, but never dreamed it would be this way. Next, a message from the space radio tells the research ship that they've discovered the Earth arrived via Zeta beam, Adam's usual mode of travel between the two heavenly bodies. This baffles the trio further as the next zeta beam isn't due for a couple of weeks, it's too narrow to affect the entire Earth and in theory it would have placed the planet square into the normal orbit of Rann, which would of course have had disastrous results. Soon yet another message from the radio. They've discovered that the Earth is moving at an accelerated rate of orbit, which will cause it to collide with Rann in about a week. The Rann scientist explains Roche's Limit, which is the critical distance two space bodies, like planets or moons, can approach one another without danger. Once this limit is breached, gravitational forces will shatter both worlds into fragments. Not good. The radio crackles to life one more time as Adam ponders a plan of action. Apparently some strange objects never before seen on Rann have appeared. Objects that are made of stone and metal. The ship is soon steered back toward Rann and Alanna's father says that he suspects the trouble has originated on Rann itself. He further elaborates that he has been intensely studying the zeta beam and has discovered how to suspend it. (Editor's note: See Mystery in Space #89, February, 1964; "Siren of the Space Ark!") He is now on the verge of discovering how to remove it from matter, animate or inanimate. By that method, he could possibly remove the zeta beam radiation from the Earth, returning it to its natural space, but the problem is how to generate power on that scale.
Back at Ranagar, Adam and his Alanna strap on jet packs to investigate the mysterious alien objects. Unbeknownst to them, they are being observed remotely by Oran Dargg, a man of ambition who has been studying and modifying the zeta beam and whose goal is to be the ruler of Rann. He pulls a lever and we then join the pair as they discover the objects, which turn out to be famous earth artifacts to include the ancient coliseum of Rome, the Iwo Jima memorial and the Sphinx. In the next amazing moment, the objects take flight, becoming formidable airborne weapons under the control of Dargg, whose sinister plot is revealed to the readers as he smugly recounts how he used the zeta beam to bring the Earth here and he now manipulates these objects as a way to bring Adam Strange low. Adam tries firing on the Sphinx, but his ray gun has little effect. As the ancient Egyptian sculpture closes in on him, he flies desperately into the coliseum and out the other side as the two objects collide with great force. Unfortunately Adam isn't out of danger yet as this time the Iwo Jima statue hurtles toward him. Before contact, however, he fades away as the zeta beam radiation in him is diminished to the point that he returns to Earth. Alanna heads for a space ship so she can rendezvous with her sweetheart on the now nearby planet and Part I closes.
Part II brings us to a new splash page scene high above the northernmost part of the United States as Hawkman and Hawkgirl, from a very high altitude are observing an incredible sight. Lake Superior is being lifted from the Earth, much as the other items were.
The next page reveals that the people of Earth are aware of their strange predicament, but are at a loss as to what to do. Our Thanagarian friends, Carter and Shiera Hall, old hands at space travel, decide to investigate in their more formidable roles of Hawkman and Hawkgirl with the aid of their spacecraft. Using their highly advanced on board scientific instruments, they detect the strange zeta beam radiation and make for Rann, while simultaneously Alanna is flying in her craft toward Earth. During their journey, Hawkman and Hawkgirl employ the amazing Absorbascon apparatus that allows them to learn the language of Rann and some pertinent facts to prepare them prior to their arrival. Soon they are approaching Rann and they see the mass of water that was Lake Superior suspended over the city of Ranagar. On the surface, the people hear the amplified voice of Oran Dargg as he takes responsibility for bringing the Earth to this space sector to jeopardize Rann. He also advises them to abandon their thoughts of stopping him or he'll release the water of the lake, pulverizing the city.
Aboard their spacecraft, the duo from Thanagar discusses a plan. Using their ship, which is also equipped to travel underwater, they plunge into the former lake and deploy time-controlled depth charges. Upon their detonation, the water is dissipated to such a degree that it comes down harmlessly as an intense downpour of rain.
Sardath uses a public address system to call on the savior ship so that they can offer their gratitude. Hawkman and Hawkgirl descend using their mighty wings and identify themselves as being from Earth. Sardath suggests that perhaps they know Adam Strange. The Earth heroes confirm that they do indeed know of him and our editor, Julius Schwartz lets us know the tie-in to Mystery in Space #87, November, 1963; "Amazing Thefts of the I.Q. Gang!"
The Rann scientist fills in the two heroes and he says that thanks to their intervention he can now send the army in to try and defeat Oran Dargg. Carter mentions Roche's Limit and its danger to the two worlds, which is a distance of 10,000 miles. Sardath then explains to the two about the zeta beam and its properties and how what began as a radio beam now functions as a teleportation ray. They quickly realize this is the radiation they had detected aboard their spacecraft. The Rann scientist further elaborates on his efforts to manipulate the zeta radiation, but says he must try and capture Dargg's inventions to manage the project.
As the army moves toward Dargg's enclave, the evil one continues to resist, this time uprooting Mount Everest from the surface of the Earth to use as a weapon. The hovering mountain in place, it begins to slowly discharge boulders to rain down upon the army. The winged wonders leap to the rescue again, this time using portable meteor blasters from their ship to disintegrate the falling debris. Flying and firing furiously, the pair is able to successfully spare the army from harm.
As they return to their vessel to put the blasters away, they vow to pursue Oran Dargg and hope to meet up with Adam Strange in the process. Hawkgirl confirms that with the Justice League on a mission in space, it's up to Adam and them.
Part III begins with the reunion of Alanna with Adam on a tropical isle. Alanna revels momentarily in her presence on Earth, but they soon re-board her aircraft to return to Rann to face the menace of Oran Dargg.
In a short time, the craft encounters the winged figures of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Adam and Alanna quickly join them in flight with the aid of their jet packs. As each pair is brought up to speed, they take flight as one to head off any further attacks by Dargg. Unfortunately, Oran Dargg has continued to monitor them and has employed his ability to teleport again, sending them off in pairs to try and escape his carefully prepared snares.
We first join Adam and Alanna who find themselves in a vast metal chamber. A disembodied voice informs them that they dare not move or they will activate a hidden magnetic bomb. The quick-thinking Adam removes his cross belt to improvise a rope. He attaches his ray gun to the end and begins to swing it around, explaining to Alanna that the metal in the gun should be attracted to the magnetic bomb, enough to cause the swinging pistol to dip in its arc. Soon he discovers it is near the space his sweetheart occupies. He instructs her to jet up quickly when he begins to fire his gun so that he can destroy the material in the explosive. His theory works as they both become airborne. He then uses his weapon to blast a hole in the roof, allowing their escape.
Next stop, the trapped Hawkman and Hawkgirl who find themselves at the bottom of a rocky gorge criss-crossed by deadly light rays. Once again the sinister voice explains the plight. The rays have the power to disintegrate anything that crosses their path. Hawkman tests the rays by flinging a rock into them. It soon becomes so much dust. He tries throwing another rock at a swifter pace, but with the same result. Hawkman suddenly realizes that the dust must somehow be impervious to the effect of the beams. He uses the dust mixed with water to form a paste to coat another rock and sure enough, it flies through the rays with no harm. The winged wonders then throw more rocks up into the beams to create enough dust to coat their bodies until they, too, escape their trap. No sooner do they do so then Adam and Alanna arrive.
Oran Dargg, meanwhile, convinced that his airtight plans have destroyed both sets of heroes, has delivered an ultimatum to Rann to acknowledge him as ruler or to perish. To his great surprise, however, Adam Strange and Hawkman arrive to apprehend him. He makes a desperate lunge for his apparatus and manages to destroy it before his capture.
Grimly, the heroes ponder their next move without the luxury of Dargg's technology. Sardath offers his prototype weapon he designed to nullify the zeta beam, but doubts it has enough range to do the job. Adam quickly offers to fly into space and get as close to the Earth as possible to allow it to function. Donning an air supply, he rockets into space and fires. To the relief of all, the mission is successful! Adam then returns to the surface of Rann where the weapon is employed to return the Earth objects to their rightful place. (I don't know how the shattered coliseum was restored, but I guess all things are possible.) Sardath then queries Adam about how he'll return to Earth now that no zeta beam radiation is in his system. Alanna reminds him that if he remains on Rann for a year, he'll perish. Yet another handy editor's note refers the reader to Mystery in Space #75, May, 1962; "The Planet That Came To A Standstill!" Hawkman says Adam can return with them in their ship, which still has a zeta beam charge.
The story ends on a romantic note as Adam, referring to the husband and wife team of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, proposes marriage to a delighted Alanna.
I found this to be a thoroughly excellent story. Even though Adam Strange and Hawkman and Hawkgirl were sort of niche heroes in the DC Universe, this was an engaging, imaginative story, successfully combining some of the best elements of the era, including science fiction, some genuine science in Roche's Limit, action, a team-up and the superb, realistic artwork of Murphy Anderson. Who but Gardner Fox could have come up with moving the entire planet Earth 26 trillion miles for a truly unique setting? Wonderful stuff that easily earns a top rating of 10 on the scale. I recommend reading it for yourself if afforded the opportunity.
A fresh review of this classic era will be here in about two weeks, as is our custom. You won't want to miss it. I also welcome comments, suggestions and feedback of all sorts at email@example.com. Thanks for joining us on this latest journey into the finest offerings of the special time we know and love as the Silver Age of DC comics.
Long live the Silver Age!
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