Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The Rogue Legionnaire” (Adventure Comics #349, October, 1966)

Still drawing his own layouts, finished by Curt Swan and George Klein this time, Jim Shooter created an enduring Legion villain, Universo, and an important supporting character, Rond Vidar. (Although, surprisingly, Rond is not named in this story. He’s just, “The kid who invented the time cube.”)

Like the Dr. Regulus story last issue, this story opens more traditionally than Shooter’s “One of Us Is a Traitor,” with the Legionnaires visiting a science fair. It then uses the same device used last issue to pull the team away from a public appearance—an emergency at the clubhouse. Brainiac 5 informs them that someone is desperately trying to break in, though he never explains how he knows.

All a bit formulaic, after Shooter’s ground-breaking start. Perhaps Weisinger had had a chat with Shooter and convinced him to rein in the originality, or maybe this was a leftover partial story. It feels like a Siegel piece, although Siegel didn’t usually split the team up into solo adventures, as Shooter does here.

Brainy gets an exciting moment. As Universo displays his power of hypnosis, the Coluan’s 12th-level intellect appears to resist, allowing him to witness Universo’s escape through time in a Legion time bubble. Sadly, we learn at the end that this was Universo’s plan all along. He left Brainy deliberately un-hypnotized, so that the Legion, following information provided by a time researcher Universo also controlled, would follow him to five different times and places in the past. It’s still a nice showcase for Brainy, and, at the same time Universo leaves Superboy out of action for the issue. Equalizing powers and vulnerability provides for a stronger Legion adventure.

There’s good continuity, also, in Shooter’s remembering that the Legion has only two time bubbles. By taking one and sabotaging the other, Universo forces the Legionnaires to use Rond Vidar’s (AKA the nameless boy) time cube. The cube does not travel with the time traveller, so the Legionnaires face the additional danger of being stranded in the past.

Chameleon Boy is sent to Peru at the time of the Inca, Shrinking Violet to the Pharoahs’ Egypt, Colossal Boy to medieval England, Saturn Girl to Napoleonic France, and Brainiac 5 to Shang Tu China. Each visit is capped with the apparent death of the Legionnaire before the story moves on to the next time period.

Rond Vidar, aware of Universo’s plan, comes to the rescue, building a device to supplement his time cube and pull the Legionnaires back to the 30th Century. We learn that he is, in fact, Universo’s son. Although his father is evil, Rond laments that perhaps he’ll never see the man again, because Universo is going to jail. (We assume Takron Galtos, although Shooter had not created the prison world as yet. It’s interesting to note that none of the Legion writers thought to introduce any criminal justice reforms, such as psychiatric therapy, to the future, as Star Trek would when it premiered this same year.)

Saturn Girl returns after a three-issue absence. It was common to not see a Legionnaire for a while, there being so many of them, but Saturn Girl seemed to be as much of a staple as Superboy for the first 40-some issues of the Legion’s series. Indeed, even with Phantom Girl, Duo Damsel, Shrinking Violet, Light Lass and Supergirl around, Saturn Girl was often the token female in a story. And this is a kinder, gentler Saturn Girl—one who feels sympathy for Rond Vidar, and asks the other Legionnaires to respect his painful secret.

Firsts: Universo, Rond Vidar (although he’s not named!)

Roll Call: Chameleon Boy, Shrinking Violet, Colossal Boy, Saturn Girl, Brainiac 5, Superboy

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