“Mutiny of the Legionnaires” (Adventure Comics #318 – March, 1964)

Sun Boy becomes a tyrant and sets several of his colleagues adrift to die in space. Now that’s an attention-grabber! This story is all over the map, plot and character-wise, but it does have a saving grace in its introduction of an actual thought-provoking topic.

Light Lass’s costume has yet to change—it still has lightning bolts coming down the shoulders. Guess it took her a while to settle on an image that went with her new powers. And is this, in fact, the first Legion story without Saturn Girl? Not counting the solo-adventures with Ultra-Boy, Star Boy and Mon-El? I’ll have to go back and look.

Sun Boy is placed in charge of a mission to out-migrate a race of xenon-breathing people whose planet is about to die. In the course of it, he makes some mistakes, but won’t listen when his friends express concern. Finally, they’ve had enough and attempt to take over the ship. He casts them into space in a boat with not enough food, air or fuel.

The gyrations that they go through trying to get out of this predicament are at once inventive and unbelievable. Cosmic Boy, placing himself in great danger, latches on to a passing metal asteroid while Light Lass makes the ship light enough to be pulled to another planet. But that planet contains no food, so they lure and latch onto a Space Roc, a birdlike monster that eats jewels, to pull them to yet another world. Edmond Hamilton is inventive in creating the Space Rocs, and in having Lightning Lad use his powers to create simulated diamonds.

On the next world, Matter-Eater Lad uses his powers to eat through a rock bees nest and give his friends access to honey, while Star Boy makes the bees too heavy to attack, without actually hurting them. Everyone’s powers, except Triplicate Girl’s, are well-showcased.

Finding a crash, centuries-old spaceship, the Legionnaires pull a “Flight of the Phoenix” and use its engines so that their space boat can take off, reach a civilized planet, and save Sun Boy and his xenon-breathing charges. They’re trapped in a space vortex. Cosmic Boy easily—with no threat to himself—uses his powers to latch onto a distant metal planet to propel the massive ship to safety. One wonders why he couldn’t do that while they’re stranded?

Bastard People Alert! Well, naturally Sun Boy’s being a Bastard People. That’s the point of the story. But I give Cosmic Boy an temporary Bastard People badge here, maybe a paper one, written in Sharpie. He does, after all, defend Sun Boy’s over-the-top behavior. If there’s one thing worse than an out-and-out tyrant and bully, it the hand-wringing asshole who defends him. But I get that CB is torn between loyalty to his friend and, um… standards of reasonable behavior? His defense is intended to show the reader what a difficult situation this is. And I think it works for those of us who aren’t triggered.

Sun Boy is suffering from Pressure on the brain, caused by going on too many space missions in a row. Kind of a dubious cause for the condition, but a real condition that does cause behavioral changes and does require medical intervention. This is another case of Hamilton slipping in a thing that makes you go, “Huh?” I mean, it sounds kinda techno-babble, like Polar Boy’s “heat vibrations;” but, like the heat vibrations, it’s a real thing. Guess some readers (me) are just too jaded by bad science references in so many stories.

This is an unusual story for its time, though. It actually addresses the consequences of mental illness, and brings to the table the idea that, sometimes, a person isn’t responsible for their actions. This kind of topic was almost never addressed in comic stories in 1964. Good for Hamilton.

Roll Call: Sun Boy, Cosmic Boy, Light Lass, Superboy, Mon-El, Lightning Lad, Star Boy, Matter-Eater Lad, Triplicate Girl

Firsts: Time Trapper (image—he’s seen on the other side of the “Iron Curtain of Time” as Superboy and Mon-El collide with it.)

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