A Tribute to the of

Wa-a-a-a-ay back in the very beginning, I selected as my first silver age review effort my much-loved old favorite, Adventure #353.  When I look back at that first review I'm a little embarrassed as I think it was fairly amateurish and while I'm still definitely an amateur, I think I've made some improvements over the years.  At any rate, I had made mention in that review that the character of Ferro Lad had already become a stand-out in his brief, just eight issues begining with Adventure #346 July 1966, Legion career and that future issues would bear that out, despite his untimely demise while saving the universe in that edition of Adventure.  Now here we are at 90+ reviews later and I've never made good on my promise.  With that in mind, I've decided to review a pair of Adventure issues that, like the two before them, are two-part issues, but they can nearly stand on their own.  Coincidentally enough, the two issues followed #352 and #353 and while the setting has changed, notice on the cover of #354 that the most prominent figure depicted is that of Ferro Lad, or at least a monument of him.  So, please join me as we travel to the 30th Century and enjoy a visit with "The Adult Legionnaires!" in Adventure comics #354 from March of 1967.  Credit for this double length tale goes to: writer Jim Shooter, artists Curt Swan & George Klein and editor Mort Weisinger.

The story begins with Superman making a familiar trek through time and the rainbow-colored rings that indicate such.  He's a little curious as to why the Legion has contacted him, particularly at a time when they've all reached adulthood.  He's somewhat surprised at the changes that have come to Legion HQ over the years, to include the gallery of Legionnaires killed in action and then another hall with statues of those who have married.  Moments later he's greeted by Brainiac 5, sporting a little less hair, a few more lines in his face and smoking a pipe.  The Legionnaire takes Superman on a short tour of the complex and then takes the Man of Steel to the communications room to catch up on some old friends.  With the huge, two-way monitor, they peek in on the now married Phantom Woman and Ultra Man and their children.  Ultra Man is now a reservist and Phantom Woman has retired from the Legion.  They next view Mon-El as he hurtles through space.  He's also left the Legion to devote time to space exploration and making planets safe for future colonists.  Night Woman has married Cosmic Man and Light Lass is now the wife of Timber Wolf, who's still on the active roster.  Another "trip" on the monitor allows Superman to catch up briefly with Shrinking Violet and her husband, the former Duplicate Boy (who first appeared in Adventure Comics #324, September 1964 ) and their children.  One more virtual visit is in order, this time via the photon inverter, which allows quanta-entity versions of Brainiac 5 and Superman to pay a visit to the President of Bismoll, Tenzil Kem, or Matter-Eater-Lad back in his youth.  Three other trips in quick succession allow visits with the former Colossal Boy, who's lost his powers but now works for the Cosmic Directorate; Star Man and Dream Woman, now a couple on Xantho, where he's an astronomer and another former Legionnaire who lost his abilities, the erstwhile Bouncing Boy and his bride Duo Damsel.

At last it's time to meet up with the active members of the Legion, who now include Polar Man.  Due to the attrition in both the regular Legion and the Legion of Substitute Heroes (first seen in Adventure Comics #306 March 1963), the two groups have merged.  Time to get down to business as Cosmic Man, current leader of the Legion, describes the current difficulty.  The Legion has been under attack by someone who seems to know their every defense and weakness and has been systematically destroying the lab, arsenal and spaceport hangar.  The plan is to post a 24-hour guard to try and catch the malefactor. 

Meanwhile, in a command center located directly below Legion HQ, we see a shadowy figure monitoring the meeting and vowing vengeance against the LSH, all in his own good time.  Two weeks elapse with no further attacks and Superman tells Brainiac 5 that he can only spare one more week before returning to the 20th century.  (You'd think he could appear back in the 20th century whenever he chose, but far be it for me to screw up the plotline.)  Just then an emergency call is received from the Science Police regarding a collapsing expressway.  This looks like a job for Superman, but before he flies off, Brainiac 5 suggests it sounds like a diversion and he instead dispatches Cosmic Man, Element Man and Polar Man to the crisis.  Sure enough, while the trio averts the disaster, the lights go out at Legion HQ to close Part I.

Part II has our heroes still in the dark, but then a hooded figure bursts through a wall.  He apparently has infrared glasses and soon begins to put down the Legionnaires with mighty blows until Superman appears and fires a burst of heat vision.  The interloper swiftly captures Saturn Woman and threatens to snap her neck if he's not allowed to depart.  She tries an elbow to the ribs, but only succeeds in injuring herself against a steel-hard torso.  Superman agrees to let the trespasser escape and then the members of the Legion discuss matters.  Most puzzling is how the intruder can bypass the security system at Legion HQ.  They decide to check the files for former or renegade Legionnaires who might be likely suspects, but come up dry.  Later, Superman is walking the grounds among the monuments when he has an epiphany:  "There've been a few rotten apples in the Legion…but none of…hey…wait…dead Legionnaires…that's it!  Our battle…everything ties in!  I've solved the mystery…now I know who the mysterious vandal is!  I'll have to recheck the files to be sure…but…I think I have him!"

As we again join the mysterious figure in his command center, he is more determined than ever to destroy the Legion.  In the interim, Superman has consulted with Cosmic Man inside a room that cannot be monitored and shared his knowledge and a plan.  Another change of scene shows the mysterious figure working his way to the ventilator control room where he plants a reflex gas bomb that has it's intended effect of making the members of the Legion move in slow motion.  Superman, who is immune, is able to determine it's a reflex inhibiting vapor, but no sooner does he mention it than the hooded figure bursts through the wall and hurls green kryptonite staples at him, pinning him to the wall.  The gloating menace now takes his sweet time in dispatching the hobbled members of the Legion, one by one.  Clocking Element Man and then pouring a radioactive serum that temporarily robs him of his powers is the first maneuver.  Lightning Man fires some bolts toward the villain, but they are ineffective.  He notes, however, that they seem to be strangely attracted to their foe.  He is soon trussed up in rubber chains by the mysterious figure.  With great strength he then yanks up a piece of the very flooring, knocking Element Man, Saturn Woman and Brainiac 5 for a loop.  Just to further stack the deck, he places a specially designed blindfold on Saturn Woman that blocks her thought waves and removes Brainiac 5's belt so that he can't bring his force shield into play.  He's moving quickly as the gas is beginning to wear off.  Polar Man desperately tries to encase him in an iceburg, but before he can make it large enough, the intruder breaks free and knocks Polar Man down with a shard of the broken ice.  Finally he tosses a flame pellet at Cosmic Man to help nullify his magnetic powers. 

The mysterious figure gloats in triumph as Saturn Woman asks who he is and why he's done this.  He merely replies that he has a bomb that will soon destroy their headquarters and them with it and he'll not give them the satisfaction of knowing why or his identity.  Abruptly, Superman seems to revive and says they know who he is.  How is this possible after being exposed to Green Kryptonite for so long?  Because Cosmic Man is wearing the familiar red and blue uniform along with a full-head mask while Superman has donned the uniform of Cosmic Man.  Cosmic Man uses his magnetic powers to pin the fiend to the wall and now that the members of the Legion are recovered they unmask the villain.  Surprisingly it's a grown up Ferro Lad!  Superman explains it's not their friend, Andrew Nolan, but his twin brother, Douglas.  Saturn Woman uses her mental abilities to free Douglas from the control his mind had been under and he explains himself.  As twins, the two shared a psychic bond, so when Ferro Lad died, his brother knew and vowed vengeance against the Legion.  Before he could take action, however, he learned of the heroic circumstances of his brother's sacrifice and changed his attitude.  Strangely, however, his old hate had recently taken hold again to the point of obsession.  Due to that same psychic bond, Douglas knew all the secrets of the Legion and was able to access HQ to his heart's content.  Superman mentions that Ferro Lad had once told him of his twin and he was able to deduce matters from there.  Douglas Nolan then faints from the mental duress as the Legionnaires ponder who could have placed him under their control. 

Fade now to an undersea base thousands of miles away where the scene is being monitored by the Legion of Super Villains; Saturn Queen, Lightning Lord and Cosmic King.  Saturn Queen states that Saturn Woman has guessed they are responsible.  Cosmic King says he's just as glad, that he wants a first-hand crack at the LSH while Lightning Lord says he has plans for a final battle.  The writer advises us to check out the next issue for the conclusion to the story.

Switch now to Adventure Comics #355 from April of 1967 and as you can see from the cover scan "It's the Super-Heroes versus the Super Villains in…"The War of the Legions!'"  Note that it's Superman on the cover rather than Superboy and the three figures hovering nearby look familiar and yet…

I love that splash page!  A full out brawl is going on between the adult Legion of Super-Heroes and the Legion of Super Villains while a pair of figures are advancing toward them in a sort of futuristic armor, one bearing an "L" and the other an "M" pledging their help, but to whom?  I should also point out the roll call, containing (alphabetically, of course) Brainiac 5, Cosmic Man, Element Man, Lightning Man, Polar Man, Saturn Woman and Superman. 

The opening scene takes us below the surface of the North Atlantic where a domed structure sits, housing the Legion of Super Villains, Lightning Lord, Saturn Woman and Cosmic King.  They're watching a video display of Superman and Cosmic man, having recently captured their puppet emissary, Ferro Man, who had been under the hypnotic control of Saturn Woman.  Cosmic King comments that the Legion has beaten them at every turn, but Lightning Lord has a plan and some reinforcements that he ushers into the room.  He says the first step will be to capture a Legionnaire, but before we learn more of his plot, the scene changes to LSH headquarters where Superman is telling his fellow members that he needs to get back to the 20th century to attend to some business.  Brainiac 5 escorts the Man of Might to Time Lane Control, an area specially designated for those traveling through time to and from the 30th century.  Superman enters the 20th century lane and bids his fellow Legionnaire farewell.  No sooner is he gone, however, than Brainiac 5 notices a sphere hovering nearby.  In the next moment a mechanical arm flies out, seizing him.  It is only then that he recognizes the emblem on the craft as that of the Legion of Super Villains. 

Back at Legion HQ, Cosmic Man, Lightning Man and Saturn Woman are discussing the fact that their cohort has not yet returned when a huge image of Lightning Lord's face appears on the wall, announcing they've abducted Brainiac 5.  Envelopes with instructions materialize in each Legionnaires hands and the image warns them to carry out their tasks if they wish to see their friend again.  The next panel reveals the presence of Element Man and Polar Man who also have received envelopes.  Each enclosed sheet of paper directs them to a destination, to be arrived at in the next 15 minutes.  Without hesitation, the heroes leave for their various locations. 

First we join Cosmic Man in Echo Canyon, a perfect natural echo chamber.  He's only there moments when a forceful burst of sound knocks him to the ground.  He then meets Echo, the Master of Sound and one of the newest members of the Legion of Super Villains.  For his next trick, Echo releases powerful vibrations from his hands, causing the floor beneath Cosmic Man to crumble.  Fortunately his flight ring saves him from a nasty fall, but there doesn't appear to be any iron nearby that he can manipulate with his magnetic powers.  Then an idea occurs to our hero.  He muses that the Oxygen and Nitrogen in the air are slightly paramagnetic.  He focuses his powers on the region directly around Echo, magnetizing the air away from him and causing the fiend to black out.  Cosmic Man removes the card from Echo that has Brainiac 5's location on it and promptly departs Echo Canyon. 

We now segue to Saturn Woman, who is arriving at the Universe Tower, a popular and crowded attraction at the fair.  There she finds Saturn Queen with a group of people nearby.  Saturn Woman cautions Saturn Queen that her E.S.P. powers can fight off her foe's Super-Hypnotism, but that doesn't faze the villainess in the slightest as she sends the mob to bring Saturn Woman down.  Before she's completely overwhelmed, Saturn Woman beams a mental suggestion to the sleep centers of the people, sending them off into a harmless slumber.  A quick judo demonstration wraps things up with Saturn Queen.

Fade now to the power plant of the Metropolis Electric Company where Garth Ranzz, aka Lightning Man is making his way toward his older brother Mekt, aka Lightning Lord, who is increasing his own power of lightning by drawing from the generators in the plant.  To demonstrate, Lightning Lord sends a couple of blasts down at his brother with nearly devastating effect.  Thinking quickly, Lightning Man uses a carefully placed burst to counter the current in the wires feeding the dynamo.  This creates a feedback that sidelines Mekt and ends the battle. 

Switching scenes yet again, we find Polar Man on a volcanic plain on the island of Java.  Things already look a bit grim for our hero as the Hades-like landscape is having an adverse affect on his cold power.  In the next panel his nemesis arrives in the form of Beauty Blaze and she wastes no time demonstrating her power of fire, surrounding him in a blazing ring.  He hunkers down and uses his cold power to cool the lava rock beneath him enough to crack it, deftly escaping below the flames into a tunnel.  Flanking his opponent, he encases her in ice, ending the contest. 

We now arrive at a chemical laboratory where Element Man makes his meeting with Cosmic King.  The super villain wastes no time in converting a nearby table into chlorine gas.  Apparently, despite his similar name and garb, this costumed figures powers are more like Element Man's than Cosmic Man's.  Element Man promptly counters his move by changing some of the air near the chlorine to sodium which renders the chlorine harmless as salt.  He quickly follows up the maneuver by converting the floor beneath Cosmic King to mercury.  The villain then threatens to change a near by workbench to plutonium if Element Man takes another step.  The hero moves forward anyway and delivers a roundhouse blow as the puzzled Cosmic King notes that nothing happened.  The thoughts of Element Man let us in on the answer, which is that he'd taken the precaution of transmuting nearby objects into cadmium, which absorbs plutonium neutrons.  Obviously all those science courses paid off. 

Another scene change takes us back to the undersea headquarters of the Legion of Super Villains where the five members are assembled, along with their prisoner, Brainiac 5, incarcerated in a nearby glass chamber, observing the arrival of the Legionnaires via their monitor.  Lightning Lord gloats that they've fallen for their ruse, having only managed to defeat solid, life-like images of the Super Villains created by the same machine that had projected his visage originally casting down the gauntlet.  Once the heroes converge on the chamber, they see that their fellow member is trying to warn them, but is unable to do so.  The Legion of Super Villains then springs the trap and the battle begins.  Due to the element of surprise and their being weakened by their previous battles, the heroes soon succumb to the onslaught.  Reveling in victory, Lightning Lord proclaims the Legion of Super Villains supreme, but the celebration is short-lived.  The two armored figures we saw on the splash page appear and swiftly engage the criminals.  The taller of the two uses simultaneous talents, making Cosmic King super heavy and Echo super light, while his partner makes short work of Beauty Blaze and Saturn Woman with magic. 

The Legionnaires are then revived and their benefactors remove their helmets to reveal themselves.  "I'm Lex Luthor!  I used my scientific know-how to give myself the powers of two former Legionnaires…Star Boy and Light Lass!"  "And I am Mr. Mxyzptlk!"  It turns out these two are the 30th century descendents of two of Superman's greatest foes.  Their goal was to overcome the reputations of their ancestors by joining the Legion and they felt this would be a way to prove themselves after tracking them down to the lair of the super villains.  They used the lead suits to conceal themselves so that they wouldn't be automatically discriminated against.  Their application to join is accepted on the spot and the tale ends.

The second story in this magazine is entitled "The Six-Legged Legionnaire!" by Otto Binder and Swan & Klein.  I'll go over it briefly.

It begins in Smallville, home of Superboy, where the famed Boy of Steel really and truly ducks into a telephone booth to change back to his civilian identity of Clark Kent.  Unfortunately Lana Lang spots him and she announces as much, but decides to let him keep his secret and leaves.  As a reward, Superboy brings her with him to the 30th century where he has a Legion meeting to attend.  She has brought along her Insect Queen uniform and the biogenetic-ring that allows her to change into any insect she desires.  It was a gift from a grateful alien whose life she once saved, see Superboy #124, October 1965.  Soon she finds herself in life-saving mode again when she spots an aircraft in distress.  Changing from a butterfly girl to a foam bug, she extinguishes the blaze and the craft lands safely.  Among the passengers is Dream Girl, enroute to the meeting at LSH HQ.  She comments that no legionnaire could have done a better job, which gets Lana's thoughts in motion.  The impetuous girl decides to apply for Legion membership!  After a demonstration of the insects she can become, she is dismissed due to the fact that her powers are from a ring and not natural. 

Soon the Legion receives a distress signal from Ice City in Antarctica, so a team is dispatched that includes Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy and Shrinking Violet.  Lana asks Dream Girl to use her powers of premonition to see if the team will encounter trouble.  She replies that they will, indeed have trouble, but also that if Lana becomes a Moth Maid, she'll cause an indiscernible tragedy. 

Superboy decides to follow his friends and Lana tags along.  Once in the colonized Ice City, they discover the source of trouble.  Oggar-Kon, a condemned criminal from another world, had been encased in a block of ice and placed in an orbit around the Earth.  His orbit was disturbed by a meteor and he landed in Antarctica, only partially frozen and able to escape his prison.  With the power of mind over matter at his disposal, he's begun a campaign to take over Ice City. 

The Legion springs into action as a now huge Colossal Boy builds a wall of ice blocks to stop Oggar-Kon's hot wind machine.  The alien uses his spaceship to create a dark cloud around Colossal Boy.  Lana the Insect Queen quickly becomes a firefly girl to avert tragedy as Colossal Boy had nearly gone into a crevasse.  She next tags along as Shrinking Violet follows Oggar-Kon's ship.  The criminal is alerted to her presence by a strange sentinel plant, so Shrinking Violet shrinks out of the range of his ray gun.  Unfortunately, he has instant plant seeds that quickly crea te a new menace for our tiny heroine in the form of a Venus flytrap.  Insect Queen to the rescue again as a leaf-cutting bee, to lop the top from the flytrap.  The criminal's chicanery still isn't at an end, though, as he dusts Superboy with Kryptonite dust.  Lana again responds, this time as a Sphinx Moth, with a hovering ability similar to that of a hummingbird, allowing her to blow the dust from the weakened Superboy's body.  Bad luck strikes, however, as her bio-ring flies from her hand.  Meanwhile, using his ability to rapidly change shape, Chameleon Boy nabs the ship of Oggar Kon and the villain himself. 

Now it's a search for Lana's ring by the Legion, but after a solid hour, no luck.  Finally, Light Lass causes all loose objects in the area to be lighter than air.  At that moment, Superboy's cape rises and it's discovered that the ring had fallen into his cape pouch. 

The concluding panel takes us back to Smallville where an overjoyed Lana Lang, alias Insect Queen admires her document proclaiming her a member of the Legion Reserve as a token of gratitude.          

I enjoyed the main story in this two-issue set a great deal. The various touches the writer used to make things fresh and different were many.  We see the Legion in later years of adulthood, with the inclusion of Polar Man, a former substitute.  The Legion of Super Villains, though only one had the same powers as his namesake (Lightning Lord) was an inspired challenge for them and the major twist at the end by introducing heroic versions of Lex Luthor and Mr. Mxyzptlk were also enjoyable.  Did you notice something?  I don't think it was an accident that the three original, primary members of the Legion of Super Villains mirror the founding members of the Legion of Super-Heroes back in Adventure #247 April 1958.  I believe the correct literary term for this is "doppelganger."  Granted, this wasn't the first appearance of the LSV (that occured in Superman #147, August 1961), but it was still an interesting little method that I wanted to point out.  The story had plenty of action, too, even though it went a little fast for my taste.  Each individual battle was wrapped up in 5 panels or less.  Of course I also realize that this second comic contained two complete stories within its covers, so you couldn't stretch things out too far.   The accompanying tale wasn't bad, but I think it was rightly used as a backup story rather than the main tale for this magazine.  Overall, I'll rate this story, contained in two issues a 9 on my 10-point scale.

One final note, this yarn saw print again in the Bronze Age title DC Super-Stars #3 dated May 1976.  

I'll be back, as usual, in about two weeks with another review from the great Silver Age of DC comics.  If you're so inclined, you're invited to shoot me an e-mail at silveragesage@thesilverlantern.com.  I welcome comments, questions and even requests for a future feature.

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2004 by B.D.S.

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