Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The Secret of the Mystery Legionnaire” (Adventure Comics #305, February, 1963)

The vultures are here. Lightning Lad is dead, and the first thought on the minds of the people of the 30th Century is apparently, “Can I have his job?” A number of teenagers show up at the Clubhouse to apply for his open membership in the Legion.

Wow.

This is the second occurrence of “throwaway applicants,” and this one is more detailed than the last. We see Antennae Boy, who can pick up and share radio transmissions from the past. We hear that Kennedy was elected President again. That’s ADORABLE. And morbid, because, well, the creative team had no idea what was coming in just a few months. Kennedys being elected President was something of an in-joke in the science fiction community through the late Sixties. Even after JFK’s assassination, authors continued to list as “future history” that a Kennedy was in office for most of the rest of the 20th Century. Kinda shows the futility of being so certain in your knowledge of the future. Anyway, Cosmic Boy’s kind of a dick to AB, but, honestly, it’s not a useful power, now is it?

Dynamo Lad claims he can generate lightning just like the fallen Lightning Lad. He demonstrates by destroying a flying billboard, and the Legionnaires are just a-twitter. They love destruction of property! It’s okay, he tells them, he’ll pay for the damage. “I’m rich!” That turns out to be a lie, actually. He’s a reporter. Reporters are never rich.

But Saturn Girl pulls wire cutters from her utility belt and snips a random wire under DL’s cape. His powers vanish. He was wearing a battery and sending signals to blow up explosives in the sign. Good thing that battery didn’t drive, like, his artificial heart or anything:

“Saturn Girl! You killed him!”

“It’s okay—I’m rich.”

By the way, the sign advertised the Daily Planet, the world’s foremost “microfilm newspaper.” Yeesh!

The final applicant is Legionnaire Lemon (Firsts: Applicants named after citrus fruits) AKA Marvel Lad. (“Uh. Mort? There’s a letter here from Stan Lee’s attorney…”) He has all the powers of Superboy and Mon-El. He’s also a pompous tool. But he gets to undertake the standard three tests to become a Legionnaire. He defeats the Sun Eater. (Wait, what? Really? By himself? Yes, the original “Sun Eater” is a shaggy green monster whom Marvel Lad just beats the crap out of, not the dreaded, malevolent cloud that would later claim the life of Ferro Lad.) It’s convenient that, just in time for Marvel Lad’s try-out, Earth is about to die as its sun is consumed. It’s also convenient that he was able to stop that. Like to see Antennae Boy do that.

Marvel Lad clears away some generic space monsters, and, finally… oh, it hurts to say it… creates a new element. Yes, that’s right. He creates a compound which is unique at the atomic level. He takes some protons and neutrons, and he—no, wait… he grabs a lump of silver, a lump of gold, and a lump of iron, squeezes them, and creates “Element 152,” an anti-gravity metal which floats away. He explains that the atomic weights of silver, gold and iron are 47, 79 and 26, respectively. Add them together, and you get 152.

So Mr. Siegel did pass math. Chemistry, however, seems to have eluded him. Those numbers are the atomic numbers of the given elements, not their atomic weights. And, if you’re going to create an actual element, you have to manipulate particles at the subatomic level, not “squeeze them together.” Sorry, I’m the first to say let your imagination run wild, but bad science is bad science.

So Marvel Lad is just Mon-El. Get it? Mon-El = Lemon? Brainiac 5 has cured him of his lead poisoning (caused, we’re told, by “Lead radiation,” oh, the pain, the pain…) and he can now join up. His applicant test was just a way to pass the 24 hours he and Brainy needed to prove the cure was permanent.

So, Mon-El’s out of the Zone. He makes one last visit there to rub his freedom in the other Zone-denizens’ faces. Wow… he is a Legionnaire! And now everyone’s happy. No, wait, Lightning Lad is dead!

Hey… maybe Mon-El can fix that!

Firsts: First creation of a new element by a scientifically illiterate strongman using his fists

Bastard People Count: Well, Cosmic Boy, as usual, Dynamo Boy for destroying property, Saturn Girl, for cutting wires when she didn’t know what they did, all the Legionnaires who thought exploding signs were a good idea, Mon-El for taunting the prisoners… Yeah, pretty much everyone’s a bastard this time.

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