“Secret of the Mystery Legionnaire” – a title that sounds like several others: The Secret Power of the Mystery Super-Hero, The Secret of the Mystery Legionnaire, The Secret of the Seventh Super-Hero… More evidence that DC was gearing books toward readers who picked up the odd issue now and then, and wouldn’t notice the repetition. This, even though the Legion was a series clearly aimed at people who kept up with the history, and knew that new stories built on old ones.
The splash page looks like John Forte’s work, not Mooney’s, particularly looking at Mon-El. Perhaps Mooney had decided to adapt the spare-bangs, high-forehead look that Forte did. Or perhaps it’s the inks?
The story opens on a planetoid inhabited by space pirates, who watch on a giant monitor as their comrades in space loot passing ships. Members of the Legion foil their latest attempt. The pirate leader decides it’s time to stop the Legion, so he asks for young volunteers to don “power belts,” which give their wearers a variety of temporary super powers, and “audition” to be the spy who will infiltrate and destroy the Legion.
The “audition,” in a dark twist, is literally battle to the death between two young pirates, Pargg and Vorm. Pargg dies in a blast of “atomic vision” from Vorm. Wow. Not the usual tone of the stories we see here.
I’ve mentioned before that the original Legion clubhouse seems awfully small, and a recent conversation about that on Facebook sparked the question, do the Legionnaires have to sleep elsewhere? This story confirms that Star Boy has his own apartment in another building. I think the original vision for the clubhouse was just that—a small building where the members gathered for official business. Lots of rooms got added over the years, but the idea of the Legionnaires sleeping there probably did not come until the newer, more palatial headquarters was built in Adventure Comics #367. No doubt, until young Jim Shooter took over the writing chores, it was thought to be too risqué to have teens sleeping coed with no adult supervision. I mean, I guess Marla could have served as a housemother, but somehow that’s just creepy.
Vorm’s plot to join the Legion involves him pretending to be a garage attendant at Star Boy’s apartment building. When he charges the Legionnaire’s cruiser battery using his “Dynamo powers,” the expected invitation to apply is issued. Dynamo Boy comes to Legion HQ and tries out against Eyeful Ethel and the Mess (who is basically just Pig Pen from Peanuts.) His audition trick is worth a comment—he uses his powers to re-energize a feeble old man who just happens to be hobbling by on a crutch. Or maybe he’s an applicant?
“Feeble old man?” Really? Not only is that pretty demeaning, it’s also badly dated, even for 1965. I doubt, 1,000 years in the future, that people will still use crutches. Besides that, are we really to believe that a belt gives someone the power to restore youthful vigor to the elderly? For how long? What happened to “Feeble-Old-Man Lad?” Inquiring minds want to know.
And, anyway, how the hell did an applicant whose powers were provided by machinery get past the sensitive nose the Legionnaires usually have for that kind of trickery? The last time that dodge was used, Saturn Girl pretty much kicked a guy in the spine to disable the unknown device he had under his cape.
Ah, Siegel… I won’t say it was just a paycheck to you, because you were clearly having fun. But this segment of the story was a bit sloppy, as is the kind of summary way the Dynamo Boy manages to drive all the Legionnaires out of the Legion. And who in their right mind would put a clause in the Constitution that allows someone to declare himself leader for life? That just screams “bad idea.” The Bastard People musta snuck it through when no one else was looking.
This story is a milestone of sorts, representing as it does the first cross-issue two-parter. Two-part stories would become almost standard for the Legion under Jim Shooter, but were practically unheard-of at this point in DC history. Ironically, though, DC’s first two-parter was also its first-ever super-hero story: the premier Superman adventure in Action Comics #1 ended on a cliffhanger.
Roll Call: Star Boy, Cosmic Boy, Colossal Boy, Triplicate Girl, Sun Boy, Shrinking Violet, Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Matter-Eater Lad, Lightning Lad, Chameleon Boy, Ultra Boy, element lad, light lass, saturn girl, brainiac 5, superboy,
Membership: 20 when Dynamo Boy joins, 1 by the end.