Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read: Revenge of the Knave from Krypton (Adventure Comics #320, May, 1964)

Dev-Em is back! Who? What’s a Dev-Em?

Superboy readers in 1964 would have remembered “The Knave from Krypton” from about three years earlier, when he taunted Superboy in Adventure Comics #287 and #288. He’s the juvenile delinquent who lived next door to Jor-El and Lara on Krypton, and who, when his attempts to steal Jor-El’s rocket plans were foiled by baby Kal-El, placed himself and his parents in suspended animation in a lead-coated bomb shelter. They all survived the destruction of Krypton and landed on Earth 15 years later.

What is Dev-Em doing in the 30th Century? Um… we’re never actually told.

Happy to escape his life as Clark Kent, Superboy arrives at Legion HQ as they’re interviewing a new applicant. Radiation Roy, in his first appearance, reveals he paid a fortune to gain radiation-emitting powers in order to join the Legion. After his powers go out of control, he seems contrite and determined to improve his mastery of them so he can apply to the Legion again. In his next appearance, he’ll be an embittered member of the Legion of Super-Villains. Wonder what happened?

That Roy refers to the Legion as the “Super Hero Club” is a dead giveaway that Jerry Siegel is writing this script. Also that it begins in Smallville, with an unrelated incident of Clark’s schoolmates making fun of him. Is this supposed to establish Clark’s frustration, that he thinks he’s escaping bullies, and is about to be confronted by an even greater one in Dev-Em?

For confronted he is by this nemesis from the past, who almost ruined his life. We’re re-told the story in six pages reprinted from those two previous issues. The transition from John Forte art to George Papp art is jarring, especially since Papp drew Dev-Em as a skinny, pencil-necked little twerp, and Forte makes him look like just another buff Legion stalwart. Forte also changes his costume, which is no problem, except that, on page 9, non-flashback Dev-Em is shown in the same short sleeved costume he wore in the 1960s, and on page 10 he suddenly has long sleeves and a cape!

Dev-Em explains that he has reformed and joined the Interstellar Counter-Intelligence Corps, in the service of which he’s trying to take down the Molock the Merciless, leader of the Cosmic Spy League. He wants to offer Molock some Legion secrets in order to be able to infiltrate his organization. The Legion agree, but they suggest sending Superboy instead, disguised as Dev-Em.

For some reason, never explained, Superboy takes the train to Molock’s lair, reflecting that he has to stay under cover. But… Molock already knows Dev-Em is super-powered, so… Huh?

Superboy delivers his faked Legion secrets, and Molock pays him in gold. Gold kryptonite, that is, which permanently robs a Kryptonian of his powers. Only it’s not gold kryptonite, it’s Proty II, whom Dev-Em slipped into Superboy’s pocket, knowing that Molock had gold K and might use it.

The mission is successful, and Dev-Em really is reformed. He declines membership in the Legion (who already have four Kryptonian-powered members anyway!) to stay with the ICC.

It’s not really revenge, now is it? It’s just kind of a… return. Another case of Mort Weisinger’s sensational cover not being quite played out in the story.

Questions left unanswered:

How and why did Dev-Em come to the 30th Century?

What happened to Dev-Em’s parents?

What causes someone as thoroughly nasty as Dev-Em to turn hero?

Roll Call: Superboy, Sun Boy, Element Lad, Brainiac 5, Lightning Lad, Chameleon Boy, Mon-El – Wow! No Saturn Girl or any female Legionnaire!

 

 

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