Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read: “The Traitor’s Triumph” (Adventure Comics #347, July, 1966)

Part two of Jim Shooter’s cold-submission Legion story has artwork finished by Curt Swan, and shows us the Legion’s first battle with Garlak and his Khund warriors, humanoid aliens from a galaxy at the edge of known space. It gives a great showcase to new Legionnaires Ferro Lad and Karate Kid, with perhaps a bit less action for their cohort, Princess Projectra.

This issue continues to show the bigger, hipper, more action-oriented Marvel style being brought to the Legion’s pages, particularly in a second splash page being devoted to the Legion meeting the Khund forces in battle. If ever before a DC comic had present a splash page in the middle of a story, I don’t know about it. It was very rare. And, indeed, even the primary splash pages in the Silver Age weren’t full page—they usually had two to three panels of the story at the bottom. This shows the evolution of the Legion to a more visually gripping storytelling style.

There are a few sloppy story points here. For one, after the attack on the Alaska defense tower, why does Cosmic Boy summon everyone to the Ceylon tower? The Legion’s primary mission is to guard these three defense towers in Alaska, India and South America. What if Tierra Del Fuego is attacked while the Legion wastes time having a meeting? Oh, look, it was! And the meeting really accomplished nothing. They decided they needed to, um, get back where there were before the meeting and guard the towers. So the towers all wound up destroyed because of this error in judgment.

Second, the cover makes it clear that “all Earth’s weapons” are stored within the Legion clubhouse, in the arsenal. In the story itself, it’s not quite put that way; but it’s still clear that a lot of Earth’s crucial defenses are in the Legion’s possession. I can’t help wondering why. I mean, I get that the Legionnaires are deputized by the Science Police and endorsed by the United Planets. They backed by the richest man alive, R.J. Brande. But, um, teenagers are impulsive and hormonal. Is this a good idea? Would you really want Donald Trump—or even Elon Musk—giving the keys to the nukes to Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus? (Okay, they’re not teens any more, but still…) Seriously, it just strikes me as odd that that much defensive power would be concentrated in the building that already is the hub of activity for the most powerful people on Earth.

Finally, when a fourth tower miraculously appears (love Superboy’s smirk when this happens!), it blows away the Khund forces. Phantom Girl confirms in dialogue that a huge number of people have been killed. (“Some of the invaders survived the blast!” “Some” implying that most did not.) I get that this is war, and all, but does alien invasion nullify the Legion code? Did Superboy not just play an active part in a mass slaughter? I’m sure there could be lots of arguments in defense of this point, but the fact remains that new writer Shooter most likely didn’t think of it at all, and his editor didn’t catch it.

Finally, I find it pretty unbelievable that, when the Legionnaires were actively looking to see who was missing, no one noticed the absence of Nemesis Kid. He had just joined. Four people had just joined, and only two of them were standing there. The kid in the John Deere costume would be on their minds. Shooter covers this by saying, “We were so focused on Karate Kid…” but, really, I don’t buy it.

On the other hand, some serious, devil-may-care bravery is evidenced by the two surviving new boys. Ferro Lad does a cannonball attack on a Khund ship, not knowing what’s going to happen to him (“I wonder what’s going to happen if this doesn’t work?”), and thinking, “I survived!” in surprise when he finds himself alive at the end. Karate Kid, saddled with a malfunctioning flight ring, leaps onto the moving Khund command ship, thinking, “If I miss, I promise never to do this again!”

Speaking of flying platforms, one wonders why the Legion even has them, since they have flight rings. Indeed, Light Lass reflects that it’s a good thing there are flight rings when her platform is disintegrated. And Karate Kid observes that the flying platforms are really too slow and clunky to keep up with the Khund ships. The only explanation I can come up with is that the flight rings may have limited use at higher altitudes.

Warlord Garlak is not mentioned in this issue. Since the artwork has changed a bit, that may be him on the lead ship. If it is, he looks a little different. In any event, we’re not told what happens to him, which is a bit odd.

One of these men IS Garlak… Not so sure ’bout the other.

The Anti-Bastard People Award goes to Karate Kid for not reporting his suspicions about Nemesis Kid to the others. Even though he himself is under attack by his peers, he doesn’t want to unfairly throw another Legionnaire under the bus. Good on ya, Val. Teach these old hands how teamwork is done.

I Would have liked more background on and characterization of Nemesis Kid. How did he get hooked up with the Khunds? Why was he the way he was? Why did so many young, powered people in the 30th Century turn to evil, seemingly on a whim? I’m thinking also of Spider Girl, Radiation Roy, and Ron-Karr.

Overall, an exciting story and a bold new direction for the Legion.

Membership, when all is said and done, 21.

Roll Call: Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy, Ferro Lad, Karate Kid, Light Lass, Lightning Lad, Nemesis Kid, Phantom Girl, Princess Projectra, Shrinking Violet, Superboy

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