Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read -“War of the Legions” (Adventure Comics #355, April, 1967)

This 12-page adventure is not so much a continuation of “The Adult Legion” as a sequel. It is teased at the end of the previous issue’s full-length story, with the reveal that Ferro Man was under the control of the Legion of Super-Villains, but it feels fairly disconnected otherwise. Superman leaves right at the beginning, to return to the 20th Century, and Timber Wolf has just vanished between issues.

The reduction in force was necessary to match the LSH and LSV person for person, so that they could face each other in single combat after the Super-Villains had kidnapped Brainiac 5.

Of course, it might have been equally possible to add additional members to the LSV. After all, they introduce two new villains in this issue—Echo and Beauty Blaze, and they’re missing Sun Emperor and Chameleon Chief. That would have taken the story longer, as well. Perhaps writer Jim Shooter was tired, having already written 24 pages of an unwanted concept that Weisinger pushed on him?

I always liked both Beauty Blaze and Echo. Their costume designs were striking—his mask was especially mysterious—and their powers a good match for the Legion. It’s a shame they were introduced in a time period that the Legion would not revisit. It’s understandable, though, that it never was revisited. With so many Legionnaires retired, it was a pretty bleak-looking time, overall. This villainous pair would never again appear in regular continuity.

I also liked the one-on-one confrontations. Once again, Shooter took a page from the old JSA stories by having the heroes travel the world (although Garth and Imra made it no farther than Metropolis) to confront the villains alone. Of course, the joke was on the Legion—the foes they fought were illusions. In final combat, tired from previous battles and confronted now with reality, they lost their battle with the LSV. They’re saved by what Roger Stern rightly calls a Deus Ex Machina ending, as descendants of Mxyzptlk’s and Lex Luthor’s show up to rescue their heroes and join the adult Legion. (An editorial note incorrectly tells us that Mxy’s brother tried to destroy the Legion in Adventure #130. It was in Adventure #310.)

Because the story is so short this time—and because so much of the previous one was devoted to exposition—no one really shines here. Brainy is underused as a hostage, Saturn Woman, Lightning Man, Cosmic Man, Polar Man and Element Man (who needs to use his alchemical powers to purge his body of some fat cells!) fight their fights, but with almost no personality. It would have been nice to have seen how the years had grown and changed them.

Nevertheless, the Adult Legion two-parter is one I remember fondly, and still one of my favorite Legion stories.

Roll Call: Superman, Ferro Man (cameo), Cosmic Man, Element Man, Saturn Woman, Polar Man, Brainiac 5, Lightning Man

Firsts: Echo, Beauty Blaze

2 thoughts on “Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read -“War of the Legions” (Adventure Comics #355, April, 1967)

  1. Letters concerning the decrease in active members were apparently received in sufficient numbers for the powers that Be to feel the need to respond that they just weren’t present, including Sun Man, Chameleon Man, White Witch and Color King (if I recall correctly).

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