Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “Mission Diabolical” (Adventure Comics #374, November, 1968)

This adventure should have come under the heading “Underused Hero Showcase.” Aside from new Legion leader Ultra Boy, it focuses largely on heroes who have not appeared much lately. I discussed Element Lad’s scant appearances last time. Supergirl was mostly a no-show throughout the Legion’s Adventure run. Matter-Eater Lad had been absent for a while. Like E-Lad, his first Shooter appearance waited until “The Outlawed Legionnaires!” Then he went ten issues without an appearance. Dream Girl fared a little better than these two, although she waited just as long to first appear under Shooter, and didn’t do much then. In between the “Outlawed Legionnaires” and this issue she had an obligatory appearance in “Mutiny of the Super-Heroines” and a cameo in the Mordru saga.

Whether Shooter disliked these characters, who seemed to be heavily employed whenever Bridwell did a fill-in, I don’t know. Maybe he was just overwhelmed at the number of Legionnaires he had to keep up with.

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Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The Tornado Twins” (Adventure Comics #373, October, 1968)

“Can you spot the clever comic clues? Who are the Tornado Twins?”

So the cover of Adventure Comics #373 teases us. As befits their name, Dawn and Don, twin redheads with familiar super powers, take the world by storm.

We open in a 30th-Century school, where students don headsets and watch slideshows—gasp!—while awake! A busybody inspector tells their teacher that he’s setting education back a thousand years by not using “good, old-fashioned sleep learning!” Um, if it’s an old-fasioned method, how is he setting education back by not using it?

But we learn quickly that these students can’t sleep through their lessons. They’re Legionnaires and must be always on call. Sun Boy and Phantom Girl demonstrate by flying out of the classroom to deal with an emergency. Of course, the leave a lot of other students there. Who are they? Geek Squad?

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Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The Origin of the Legion!” (Superboy #147, June, 1968)

E. Nelson Bridwell turns out one more Legion story for this 80-page Giant edition of Superboy, celebrating the team’s 10th Anniversary year. Pencils and inks are by Jimmy Olsen regular Pete Costanza. And the subject is, as advertised, the long-awaited origin of the Legion. We’ve known since Adventure #350 that R.J. Brande, the richest man in the universe, bankrolls the group. But it’s startling for modern readers to realize that Brande, who was created by Bridwell, was unheard of for nearly the entire first decade of the group’s existence. He had only appeared twice before this. It was this story, more than any other, which turned that trend around and made him a pivotal figure, not only a donor, but the man who founded the group and gave it its start.

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Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “School for Super-Villains” (Adventure Comics #372, September 1968)

Recapping last issue, Colossal Boy’s parents have been turned to glass and kidnapped. CB, by way of ransom, is sharing confidential information about the Legion Academy’s training methods. He’s been expelled from the Legion and now walks the streets of 30th Century Metropolis a broken young man.

Adding insult to injury, the Science Police accost Gim (Colossal Boy) Allon and tell him he’s under arrest for betraying the Legion. They’re key to U.P. Security and actions taken against them are something approaching treason. But Gim knows his parents are in enough danger now that he can’t get more information from the Academy. He’s not going to rot in jail while they’re turned into decorative fill for fancy glass containers. He shoots up to giant size and flies away. Very quickly, he’s reunited with the goons who glassed his parents last issue.

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Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “Colossal Failure!” (Adventure Comics #371, August, 1968)

This little 11-page gem uses a clever device to show us something that, until now, readers did not know existed—the Legion Academy. Possibly it was just established as the new HQ allowed the space for it. As I recall, Paul Levitz, about 20 years later, would establish that the Academy was an initiative begun by Invisible Kid when he was leader.

Colossal Boy, with an evening free, goes to have dinner with his parents. Before they can sit down to a meal, however, a galactic TV crew (?) shows up at the door, asking to interview the family. Kind of an odd “surprise” interview, but the Allons, surprisingly star-struck by a TV camera, decide to go for it. And it’s fake, and Mom and Dad get turned to glass. They’re still alive as Mrs. Allon’s glowing life gem proves. Unless Colossal Boy turns over the secrets of the Legion Academy, his parents will be smashed to fragments. And returned to him, of course. It would be dishonest to keep the fragments. That would be theft.

CB explains that full members have no clue what happens in the Academy. That’s closely held information. So he can only get in there if he screws up and gets ordered to re-training, which he’s willing to do. And he does, carefully planning a “mistake” that doesn’t directly threaten lives.

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Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The Devil’s Jury” (Adventure Comics #370, July, 1968)

The Legion has come out of hiding to confront Mordru. It does not go well. A few minutes gone, Superboy, Mon-El, Duo Damsel and Shadow Lass had decided to take their own advice to the townspeople of Smallville, face their problems head on, and confront Mordru.

Now, four panels into said confrontation, having learned that all their comrades in the future are either dead or imprisoned, they have decided on the next step in their plan to defeat the evil wizard. It’s a plan originally developed by the valiant King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.

It’s called, “Run Away!!!!”

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Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “Mordru the Merciless” Part One (Adventure Comics #369, June, 1968)

And here is Jim Shooter and Curt Swan’s Legion masterpiece. It’s so great, in fact, that I need to split the review of just the first half into two parts. If you don’t believe me, believe the DC Limited Collector’s Edition series of tabloid-sized comics, which chose this story to be its first representation of the Legion back in 1976.

The original issue begins with a Neal Adams cover, depicting the hands of Mordru the Merciless, heretofore unheard of in Legion lore, tearing through the solid metal walls of his prison vault, as Mon-El laments that they’re “Dead! His magic is greater than our combined super-powers!” Continue reading

Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “No Escape from the Circle of Death” (Adventure Comics #367, April, 1968)

This is a visually gripping cover, with the Legionnaires at center, being menaced by borderless, purple shadow images. With the vivid yellow, lime green and magenta around them, the artwork easily qualifies as “psychedelic.” This is part of a trend that began with Adventure 365, with more action-oriented poses (Superboy being punched toward the reader by Validus) and use of shadow and light to make the characters look more three-dimensional (as in the Legionnaires standing in the glare of the Fatal Five’s prison.) From here on, the covers wouldn’t feel as flat, and would depict more action, in keeping with the more realistic, often more somber tone of comics post-1968.

The Legion’s new headquarters is going up, and we’re told its construction is being funded by the United Planets, out of gratitude for all that the Legion has done for their worlds. It’s described as “a fortress,” with Inertron-based insulation in the walls, which even Superboy could not punch through. (Small dialogue error in this scene, as Brainiac 5 calls Sun Boy “Brainiac 5,” as part of a line of dialogue which it seems unlikely was meant for Sun Boy.

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Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read -“The Battle for the Championship of the Universe” (Adventure Comics #366, March, 1968)

This issue picks up right where the last one left off, with the Talokian military bent on destroying the Legionnaires and Shadow Lass. Superboy observes that there are thousands of them, and he seemed nervous. Perhaps Shooter had decided that, at 15 or so, Kal-El was still depowered to 1938 levels. That might explain why, in this story-arc, he has Superboy schlepping through the desert like Lawrence of Arabia. At the very least, his super-speed must not have been up to Barry Allen levels yet, or he would have been able to quickly dispatch all those soldiers.

Of course, he is able to make it through the time barrier into the 30th Century with no troubles…

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Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “Escape of the Fatal Five” (Adventure Comics #365, February, 1968)

At long last, the Jim Shooter / Curt Swan team is back! It’s been four long issues since they brought us “The Legion Chain Gang.” The title of their triumphant return, though, betrays the mystery they so carefully develop in the story itself. It must have been an editorial edict that the cover and splash reveal that the Five were waiting on Page 19 of the story. The author and artist were otherwise too careful to keep it a secret.

Talok VIII is a peaceful, advanced planet that has suddenly undergone a dramatic change in its behavior towards other worlds. The cities have become armed camps, deadly anti-matter weapons are being tested in space, and any ship that comes near is blown out of the sky. (Actually, we’re told, it’s any ship that comes within “a million miles.” That’s awfully damn close, in planetary terms—less than four times as far away as the Moon is from Earth.)

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