Tuesday, August 8, 2017

TOS: Adventure Comics #305

Adventure Comics #305 (February 1963)
title: "The Secret of the Mystery Legionnaire"
writer: Jerry Siegel
artist: John Forte
editor: Mort Weisinger 
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, Sun Boy, Bouncing Boy, Invisible Kid, Shrinking Violet, Colossal Boy, Brainiac 5, Mon-El

Opponents: 
Sun-Eater, space pirates, the Phantom Zone

Synopsis: 
The Legion starts their day by mourning for Lightning Lad. They then hold new member try-outs to replace him.



The first applicant is Antennae Boy, who can pick up radio broadcasts anywhere on Earth from the past, present, and future. This is not judged useful, and when he can't turn it down or tune it off, he is summarily dismissed. Next is Dynamo Kid, who shows electrical powers that turn out to be artificial so he, too, is dismissed. Just as Marvel Lad aka Legionnaire Lemon walks up and introduces himself, Saturn Girl receives a telepathic distress call and leaves.
Marvel Lad flies, has super-strength, and is immune to Green Kryptonite (proving that he is not Kryptonian). The Legionnaires are impressed. Deputy Leader Cosmic Boy then gives him three tasks to prove his worthiness. First, he must go in search of Fluvium for Brainiac 5, who uses it in his lead poison antidote experiments for Mon-El. Next, he is told to battle a Sun-Eater as it begins to absorb our sun's energy. Marvel Lad uses his heat vision to give the creature a super-duper hot foot, causing the creature to leave our sun alone.
Lastly, Cosmic Boy sends Marvel Lad to Brogg to investigate weird space monsters. When he returns to Earth the Legion thinks that Marvel Lad has killed the animals. He then tells them that there were no monsters; they were holograms put there by space pirates to keep people away from their hidden loot. He adds that he destroyed the projectors.
Having successfully completed his three tasks, Marvel Lad is ready to join the Legion. However, Cosmic Boy has one more task for him. He tells Marvel Lad that while he was busy on Brogg another applicant for membership arrived, so to prove that he (Marvel Lad) was indeed worthy of membership, he had to invent a whole new element. Marvel Lad gladly puts together Gold, Silver, and Iron and creates an anti-gravity element he names Element 152. Finally Cosmic Boy is satisfied, and he promises to induct Marvel Lad into the Legion the next day.
The next morning Marvel Lad appears and reveals that he is really Mon-El, freed from the Phantom Zone. He explains that Brainiac 5 had an experimental antidote that they were trying, and instead of telling everyone and perhaps raising false hopes, they kept it secret. Mon-El decided to have some fun as "Legionnaire Lemon" in the mean-time and apply for membership. Twenty-four hours later, there are no side effects and he is cured of his lead poisoning. He's free!
The first thing that Mon-El asks to do is to be returned to the Phantom Zone one last time, where he confronts the Kryptonian criminals still trapped there. He reminds them of how he came to be put into the Zone when he first met Superboy and learned that he had a deadly reaction to lead. Superboy then sent him to the Phantom Zone in order to save his life. Mon-El then tells them that although it took 1,000 years, he never lost faith. Good really does triumph over Evil.
Back on the outside, Mon-El is ecstatic to be free. He then vows to try to find a way to restore Lightning Lad to life.

Commentary: 
Our resident Silver Age Fan-atic Tim really should have reviewed this story, but it is chock-full of Silver Age goofiness. From the bitter irony of Antennae Lad picking up the news flash "President Kennedy wins re-election in 1964!" to Mon-El wearing a plastic face mask and a wig (What is this, Mission: Impossible of the Future?) there's something weirdly entertaining for every taste!
Another few examples.....Saturn Girl being called away, and going solo on some rescue mission, seems like there might have been another sub-plot going on here that was discarded. Then when Marvel Lad shows that he "knows the Legion ha a sample of Kryptonite inside..." and calmly walks inside the Club-house....shouldn't somebody have tried to stop him? And how about this: Mon-El's tasks are Herculean in their difficulty, yet after he is successful Cosmic Boy *then* demands that he create a new element!?! Come on! I don't remember Matter-Eater Lad having to eat his way into membership!

All kidding aside, though, this is a monumental story. Not only does Brainiac 5 prove his worth as a Legionnaire again, but Mon-El is the direct recipient of his knowledge and gets to join the Legion for real. Superboy/man couldn't find a way to cure his boyhood friend, but Brainiac 5 does, after only ten stories' worth of time. Speaking of Superboy, it would have been great if he had showed up at the end for an emotional reunion. Jerry Siegel or editor Mort Weisinger dropped the ball on that one.

The story ends with the blurb, "Will Mon-El make good his pledge (to restore Lighting Lad to life)? Watch for a thrilling sequel soon!" Well, after a cover appearance on Adventure Comics #300 and full membership here, it's clear that the creative team had Mon-El as a plot device in their back pocket for a good year or so. Why should we doubt that eventually Lighting Lad WILL return?

Science Police Notes:  
  • The law enforcement organization this time around is called The Space Police. 
  • This is the first mention of the Legion's "no killing" policy. So because we don't see Cosmic Boy telling that policy to Marvel Lad, it would not really have been fair to reject him on violating a policy he didn't know about. 
  • Mon-El's imprisonment in the Phantom Zone lasted more than 1,000 years in continuity. However, in publishing time it was a little less than two years from Superboy #89 (June 1961) to this story. 
  • Mon-El creates Element 152 during this adventure, which will eventually be used to power the Legion Flight Rings. 
  • As of this writing, the highest element yet discovered is Oganesson, which has an atomic weight of 118. 
Status: 
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 1 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 1.

Milestone: 
This issue features the permanent (as opposed to honorary) induction of Mon-El into the Legion.

15 comments:

  1. I love those statues. "Here's a statue of Lightning Lad, the first Legionnaire to be killed in the line of duty. Here's Mon-El, who's trapped in the Phantom Zone until a way to cure his lead poisoning can be found. And here's Sun Boy, who... has super-radiance powers." (I think we all know who insisted that Sun Boy statue be put there.) (It was totally Sun Boy.)

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    1. And Invisible Kid's statue is just next to Sun Boy's. Right?

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  2. The story was also reprinted in an issue devoted to the death and return of Lightning Lad. The blurb from Antenna Boy was changed to say "Truman reelected".

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  3. The one thing (which while perhaps being amusing to the authors & some readers, is annoying and off-putting to others) is the bias against, disdain toward, and outright hatred of Sun Boy.

    Not everyone shares those views, nor refuses to see his many great qualities. Just because a certain segment of the various series' readership has modern-day issues with his dating practices (based primarily on his reboot persona's characterization, and not the original Dirk Morgna), this singular issue shouldn't overshadow all of his pluses.

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    1. I have no bias for or against Sun Boy, and I neither agree nor disagree with your comment. But, I believe your argument is rather weak, mainly because you don't LIST any of his "many great qualities" or his "pluses".

      Now, if my memory serves, the only stories centering on Dirk before Levitz and Giffen got their hands on him are: the OS story where he lost his powers and spent all his time either whining about it or trying to get them back; the OS story where he gets "space fatigue" after too many missions, goes nuts on another mission and nearly kills his own teammates; and several "Omigod, Sun Boy is the only one who can stop Dr. Regulus!" tales.

      Not a fully developed character.

      Now, in the Levitz era, Dirk became the dating douchebag, "Yes, I'm the Universe's gift to women". Just look at his reaction upon first seeing Gigi Cusimano -- I rest my case. He does get a comeuppance from Gim and Yera in a backup story, but I doubt he learned anything. Other times, Levitz portrayed him as a snarky hothead, a la Johnny Storm. Which is how he got a broken jaw.

      In the 5YL series, Giffen REALLY did a number on Dirk, and this is where I think the disdain for the character originates. Giffen has the former Sun Boy being a public mouthpiece for the Dominator-run Earthgov. All superficial charm and snake oil, willfully ignorant of what was really going on, what he was actually doing and the effect it had. The reason behind this was that he wanted to retain the importance, attention and adulation that he had as a Legionnaire. We later see his less-than-stellar (couldn't resist) boyhood, his complete screw-up as Legion leader during Black Dawn, how everyone turned on him (and his childish whining about that), and how the Dominators seduced him, then used his 'death' for spin. Finally, he becomes a decimated, walking-dead mockery that ultimately can do no more than house another hero's soul.

      And all this was BEFORE the Reboot.

      In light of all that, I can see why a lot of the other bloggers and readers have it in for Sun Boy. He was a marginal, likeable character that gradually became scum at the hands of two Legion Creator Giants. Now, having related all this, I would -- in all sincere honesty -- like your take on this and would like to see you rehabilitate Sun Boy for the masses.

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    2. Ken, I know some Bloggers and readers chide Sun Boy for being a lothario, but most of us actually like the character. I certainly do! I HATED what Giffen did to him in the 5YL and in the most recent Legion series. We're all just teasing. Please understand, we know that every Legionnaire is *somebody's* favorite. I promise, as the stories get better the teasing will get gentler.

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    3. To clarify a point, Sun Boy is hardly in the Reboot and not a member of the team. You might mean the Threeboot?

      Legion continuity, amirite?

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    4. While I still think there is a lot of modern-day goggle-use in regard to Dirk, perhaps there are many people don't see him the way I do.

      Let me begin with these 2 things: 1) He is not one of my favorites, nor one of my least liked, but I've always been glad to see him in stories; and 2) I am speaking primarily of the Levitz version of the character (and not the 5YL Giffen tool, or the reboot jerk that alongside reboot Garth, insulted Cera). That being said, I have always enjoyed his characterization. In my eyes he has been a steadfast member of the team, doing what needs to be done. He is one of the team's best pilots (that's why his recent "death by Giffen" was so ironic, and he got his due from the members he saved by landing the ship). Plus he has a good relationship with most of his teammates (Dungeons & Dragons games, etc...). He is a young man in a dangerous line of work, so he lives intensely on his days off. I always thought that he makes a nice contrast to all of the settled couples in this way. As a veteran of the team, he knows he might not make it out alive, so (Gigi aside) he rarely does any long-term thinking in his dating life.

      And last but not least, my original statement was not an insult to anyone, but an observation, based on daily visits for the last couple of years and having spent a great deal of time going back to read older posts. A pattern emerged, and it bothered me, lessening my enjoyment of all the hard work the authors put into this space. Apologies for going off-topic from this article's review. Peace!

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    5. To be honest, it was more a joke about the mere fact that there was a third statue (and no others) next to two memorial statues, for a Legionnaire who was still alive, healthy, and active. I probably could have made the same joke had there been just about anyone else's statue there, it just happened to be Sun Boy, someone whose later characterizations would lend themselves to such a display of ego. (If it makes you feel better, imagine that the third statue is Brainiac 5 or Superboy and update my comment accordingly; it works exactly as well.)

      (And, hey, I know Sun Boy does, indeed, have his detractors, especially round these parts, but I've also admitted I liked Quislet, who's probably amongst the least-liked Legionnaires ever, so...) (And I *still* would have made the same joke had the third statue been of Quislet, were he not over 20 years from being introduced at the time.)

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  4. It bugged me that Cosmic Boy said there was another applicant who was performing well, then Mon-El gets into the Legion. What happened to the other guy? Doesn't he deserve to get a shot since Mon-El was already a Legionnaire?

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    1. Maybe it was Matter-Eater Lad. He was the next to join, and he was already a member when he was introduced. We never actually see his tryout or initiation. So maybe the others took pity on him because Marvel Lad was Mon-El, who was already a Legionnaire, and let him in.

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    2. I always kinda half-read this as a fib on Cosmic Boy's part, and that there wasn't another possible member. He just wants to see what Marvel Lad can come up with. It wasn't Matter-Eater Lad, though...he joined two issues ago in Adventure #303.

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    3. Yeah, my mistake. I was going by the order you have listed, but I forgot Mon-El was inducted in Adv. #300 (even though on a semi-regular basis, given his still needing to be in the Zone), and M-E Lad came after. I stand corrected.

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  5. I also liked Mon-El going back into the Phantom Zone to gloat. Boy, was Jax-Ur peeved!

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  6. My username was inspired by Legionnaire Lemon. I think Cos kept giving Lemon a hard time because of the fact that he referred to himself as a Legionnaire upon first introducing himself. Cos didn't like that so he kept adding tasks and tests. I always thought that Saturn Girl as the inventor of serum XY-4 was in on the plan and that's why she left so that she wouldn't be asked to scan him.

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