Here’s a story which you need to be able to put aside logic in order to enjoy. And there are things to enjoy in this story, as long as you don’t mind your favorite character being marginalized in order to make the Substitute Legionnaires look good. ‘Cause, believe me, with the possible exception of Colossal Boy, no regular member of the Legion comes out of this story looking good.
A bellicose planet called Throon begins using force rays from a deadly citadel (The Citadel of Doom!) on the planet’s surface to cripple spaceships. They cripple any ship which passes within 30 Million Miles of their world. The Science Police lament that this will cripple interstellar commerce, and, indeed, we are shown planets in the galaxy where children ask why there is no food, and parents say because no one can deliver food to us via space travel.
Sun Boy becomes a tyrant and sets several of his colleagues adrift to die in space. Now that’s an attention-grabber! This story is all over the map, plot and character-wise, but it does have a saving grace in its introduction of an actual thought-provoking topic.
Light Lass’s costume has yet to change—it still has lightning bolts coming down the shoulders. Guess it took her a while to settle on an image that went with her new powers. And is this, in fact, the first Legion story without Saturn Girl? Not counting the solo-adventures with Ultra-Boy, Star Boy and Mon-El? I’ll have to go back and look.
Sun Boy is placed in charge of a mission to out-migrate a race of xenon-breathing people whose planet is about to die. In the course of it, he makes some mistakes, but won’t listen when his friends express concern. Finally, they’ve had enough and attempt to take over the ship. He casts them into space in a boat with not enough food, air or fuel.
This issue looks to be especially geared towards new readers. The cover promises an origins and powers feature, and the opening page has Superboy providing introductions, including the names and powers of several members, on the first page. He does this in alleged conversation:
“Hello, Phantom Girl! I see you’re practicing your power of walking through walls!”
Phantom Girl is finally included in a story, speaking and everything. And it’s good, in her case, that she gets such an intro. Readers had probably forgotten her. But she’s important here, because this is an Ultra Boy-centric story, and her heretofore unknown admiration for / attraction to him is key.
Ultra Boy’s origin is retold, explaining how he was swallowed by an energy beast in space, and gained “penetra vision.” This time, though, the origin says that “Later, I discovered” more powers. But it still says he discovered them prior to joining the Legion, which doesn’t quite mesh with his first appearance. This is the first story to cement all of his powers in place and establish that he can only use one at a time.
The Legionnaires leave Earth to give a presentation at a conference, satisfied that all is well because their wrist monitors are tied into the Universe Monitor at their clubhouse. It shows them, ostensibly, everything that’s going on all over the universe. It was a gift from the people of Thar in return for all the help the Legion has given them. It’s never mentioned in the story that the people of Thar are Polar Boy’s people.
Clever alien criminals, planning to loot all of the glass on Earth for use in producing deadly weapons, send a faked signal to the Legion’s wrist monitors, showing them all is well in Metropolis, even as they’re sucking up literally every shard of glass in the city.
Enter the Legion of Substitute Heroes, of whose existence the main Legion is unaware. They fight off the invaders and save Earth’s glass. (You can’t make this stuff up. Unless you’re Edmond Hamilton, of course.)
On the cover of this issue, the villain proclaims that he will destroy all 18 members of the Legion. Hmmm…. There are 20. Maybe he’s not counting Superboy (to whom he’s speaking) and Supergirl? In addition to quoting a number that isn’t necessary and getting it wrong, the cover presents one of the most confusing scenes in the story, as I’ll explain in a bit.
The Legion had pretty well taken over the covers of Adventure Comics as of #311. Superboy still got the odd cover to himself, but the Legion, who had up till then appeared only occasionally on the cover, was the subject more often than not. 11 od the 12 covers after #311 were Legion covers.
John Forte is back on pencils this issue, and Lightning Lad, who wasn’t even discussed last time, even though he’d just come back to life (which is a pretty big deal) is highlighted on the cover and takes an active part.
Two applicants try out for membership this time: Ron Karr, who would appear again later as a member of the Legion of Super-Villains, and Alaktor, who is rejected because his powers are mechanically based. But he doesn’t care, because his whole scheme was to collect intel on the Legion Clubhouse’s defenses. It’s never mentioned that Alaktor is a little old—actually a lot old—to be a Legionnaire. He looks about 40. Continue reading
So “the girl Legionnaires” all come down with a fever which turns their skin crimson. What else it does isn’t really specified, but the illness is apparently fatal, and Superboy, of all people, tells the girls they’re doomed and have to go to the quarantine world. Not really Superboy’s style, telling people they’re just gonna die.
Phantom Girl is back in this issue, but doesn’t say a word. She turns red and sits in a wheelchair. Readers who missed her one appearance years back don’t even have any idea why she’s called “Phantom Girl.”
The remaining (male) Legionnaires are taunted by the arrival to Satan Girl, who has the power of a Kryptonian on Earth, and brashly demands Legion membership. When the boys pretty much say, “Uh, waitaminute…” she announces that she caused the Crimson sickness, and now she’s going to kill all the female Legionnaires.
This is something of a “filler” story. Nothing particularly relevant to Legion history happens, although it seems we’re finally in the 30th Century to stay. The villain is a bit boring and derivative of Tarzan and similar jungle heroes. Indeed, before taking on the name “The Monster Master” he calls himself “Jungle King.” And yet, at 17 pages, this is probably the longest Legion story to date. (Mon-El’s first appearance is longer, but not an actual Legion adventure.) Seems the Legion was catching on, and was given two thirds of the book, instead of just half.
Given the power to control all beasts by his animal trainer father, Jungle King tries out for the Legion. Unfortunately, while bragging on his abilities, he loses control of an animal. He suffers the same fate as Rainbow Girl—rejection. Unlike the placid maid of the spectrum, however, Jungle King leaves mad. He doesn’t even pick up his complimentary flight belt!
Edmond Hamilton was on a roll in the Spring of 1963, as his third story brought his count of characters introduced to the Legion mythos up to eight. We open with the Legionnaires saluting their new flag, and Cosmic Boy reflecting how sad it is that Lightning Lad didn’t live to see it. Kind of an odd reflection, really. Of all the things a teenage boy misses by dying, getting to see a new flag isn’t the first that leaps to mind.
As Saturn Girl and Mon-El leave on a mission, she instructs the remaining Legionnaires to drape their new flag over Lightning Lad’s crypt, where his strangely non-decomposed body lies in state beneath miniature lightning bolts. Saturn Girl is very clearly in charge here, so either Hamilton found that memo from Mort Weisinger about the leadership change, or Imra took Rokk aside and had a word with him about bossing the troops on her watch.
After gentling into his Legion-writing career by focusing his first story on all-new characters with “The Legion of Substitute Heroes,” Edmond Hamilton plunges into the first-string this issue, and gives us a powerful new Legionnaire to boot!
A group of raiders led by the villainous Roxxas is taking much needed natural and technological resources from far-off planets. The Legion is enlisted to help, but their numbers are limited right now—too many members are off on other planets. So, apparently breaking their rule about only taking on one new member annually, they decided to interview applicants and see if they can expand their ranks right now. (From this point on, I think the “once a year” rule is forgotten.)
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.
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?