Tuesday, November 7, 2017

TOS: Adventure Comics #318

Adventure Comics #318 (March 1964)
title: "The Mutiny of the Legionnaires!"
writer: Edmond Hamilton
artist: John Forte
letterer: Milton Snapinn
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan & George Klein
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Cosmic Boy, Sun Boy, Light Lass, Lightning Lad, Star Boy, Matter-Eater Lad, Triplicate Girl; cameos of Superboy and Mon-El

Opponents: 
space fatigue; cameo of the Time Trapper

Sun Boy and Cosmic Boy are returning to Earth after another successful mission. Cosmic Boy mentions that Sun Boy has not had a break in quite awhile. Suddenly, they intercept an urgent SOS from the planet Xenn. Because they are nearby, they race there to find out that the planet is doomed to explode because of an atomic reaction at its core. The Legion offers to transport all native Xennians away, but they must be relocated to a planet that has Xenon in its atmosphere. 
This story starts off great! Right away you have the set-up: two battle-weary heroes heading home for rest who are asked to go on another mission which is literally, life or death. This is a wonderful science fiction plot. And then that panel re-presented above, "Can't you go faster!" We're gonna have a fun ride this time, I can just tell!

Sun Boy orders all Legionnaires on-duty to report to the club-house. Unfortunately, most members are on a mission far across the universe, and Superboy and Mon-El are still trying to break through the Iron Curtain of Time to reach the Time Trapper. 
Is this the first time the "everybody else is busy doing something else!" excuse was used? For a group of more than 15 characters, we sure did have them spread thin at dramatically inopportune times...!

Earth scientists talk with Sun Boy, who has taken it upon himself to be the point man for the rescue efforts, even though Cosmic Boy suggests he needs a rest. 
This is an interesting scene, just because the scientists that the Legion has conferred with are acting as if they have jurisdiction over who the Legion Leader is! Cosmic Boy, as the first Legion Leader, should have something to say about that. But clearly at this early time (third year of the Legion's existence, as Saturn Girl is still the leader) things like "mission leader" and "deputy leader" haven't been spelled out.

Soon a space ark large enough to evacuate all the Xennians is complete. The ship is manned by red cargo robots, green deck-hand robots, yellow bridge control robots, and black engine robots because the ship must pump Xenon through the area for the Xennians. The Legion crew will remain up in the top section of the ark. When Matter-Eater Lad reports to Sun Boy that the fuel rate is too high, Sun Boy tells him to shut up and to address him as "sir."  
The Xennians needing to breath Xenon gas is a nice touch, for it adds the robot crew that Sun Boy will need to put down "the mutiny." In later stories, the Legionnaires would simply wear their space suits and work the space ship themselves.
I do like how Triplicate Girl tries to ignore Sun Boy's rudeness; however, I wonder if he would have acted as harshly later if senior Legionnaires had told him at this first sign of tense nervousness to "cut it out."

The Legion arrives on Xenn in time to successfully load all of the natives onto the ark. The planet explodes just as the ship leaves its orbit. Light Lass and Star Boy try to cheer up some of the younger Xennians, but Sun Boy forbids it and reprimands them. When Star Boy complains to Cosmic Boy, Cos supports his friend. 
This is the scene where the story starts to get serious. It's one thing to tell a newer Legionnaire with a stupid (?) power to "shut up," but it's another to tell two Legionnaires who are trying to keep the morale of the refugees up to knock it off.
And just as a point of order, aren't these Xennians breathing Xenon? So how are Light Lass and Star Boy (and Sun Boy!) not dropping dead when they're down there?

Later, Cos as chief navigator checks the course of the ark and finds that it has been incorrectly computed. When he tells this to Sun Boy, however, Sun Boy confronts Cos. He tells him that he will brook no suggestion of mistakes and throws Cosmic Boy in the brig for insubordination. Cos convinces the others that he is right, and they rush Sun Boy on the bridge. However, when Sun Boy threatens to destroy the whole ark if he isn't released, the Legionnaires have no choice but to let him go. 
So after telling Star Boy and Light Lass not to do their job, Sun Boy is now telling Cosmic Boy that he's an idiot. Ooooookay, something is clearly very, very wrong. I love how the Legion is able to capture Sun Boy and tie him up without hurting him, but....as soon as he starts to radiate, these six Legionnaires can't figure out some way to knock the guy out? Light Lass can't make him super-lightweight so he knocks his head on the ceiling? Nothing?

After Sun Boy is released, he orders the robots to throw the other Legionnaires into a "lifeboat" ship, stranding them in the middle of space. 
This is where the story drifts off into silliness. It's one thing for Sun Boy to go "space crazy," but it's another for six Legionnaires to go meekly into a lifeboat ship without putting up a fight. There should have been another panel or two of either fighting or something before the Legionnaires simply give up and "walk the plank."

Cosmic Boy uses his magnetic powers to "hitchhike" on a passing meteor as Light Lass makes their ship super light-weight. They are pulled into the gravity of a planet with excessive gravity, and Light Lass comes to the rescue again, allowing them to move around naturally. When they don't find any food, Triplicate Girl suggests that they set a trap to lure a Space Roc to them so it will drag their ship back into space. 
I love this whole chapter where the six castaway Legionnaires have to use their powers and their wits in order to survive. Cosmic Boy and Light Lass manage to get them to the first planetoid, Triplicate Girl and Lightning Lad get them off of it onto a second one, and then Matter-Eater Lad manages to get them food. This is called team-work, people.

Lightning Lad super-charges some rocks, changing them into glittering diamond-like stones that do catch a Space Roc's attention. The Legionnaires are picked up by the creature and dragged back into space where they eventually cut themselves loose from the Roc and float onto another planet. 
Look, the Legionnaires do the "Star Trek/Lost in Space shaking to represent a bumpy space flight" thing.

Once they have landed, the only inhabitants they find are bee-like insects. Matter-Eater Lad eats at the "hive" and discovers a honey-like substance that is safe for his friends. They then find a deserted ship and petrified astronauts. They salvage the rockets and leave the planet after paying their respects. 
I had to re-read this scene twice to figure out what was going on, but here is my opinion: Matter-Eater Lad is somehow able to analyze everything he digests and tell if it is edible to the average humanoid. This would make him a great analytical scientist; he could digest something and then be able to tell what it was made of?
If you don't believe me, there is also this scene, at the site of the ship's crash-landing. See how MEL is digesting the "steam" and telling the others what it is made of. Not a super-power I thought MEL had! Also, note how Star Boy uses his mass-inducing powers to incapacitate the insects. Clever!

Now equipped with rockets, their ship can be piloted to the nearest inhabited world. They learn there that the ark with the Xennians never checked in, so they borrow another space-ship and head out to find it.  
The Legionnaires find the ark drifting in a vortex just as Cosmic Boy had feared. Star Boy makes them super-heavy so they can "swim" to the ark in the vortex. Inside they find Sun Boy in a catatonic state. Cosmic Boy pulls the ship out magnetically as Light Lass makes it super light-weight and Lightning Lad pilots. 

And here we get to see that Star Boy, controlling everyone's mass, is able to let them "swim" through the vortex to get to the Space Ark. And just to ratchet up the drama even more, Lighting Lad is called upon to blast away a dangerous asteroid. Edmond Hamilton sure picked the right group of Legionnaires for this story!
When they reach their destination, a planet with Xenon in the atmosphere, the Xennians are overjoyed to be alive. On Earth, a doctor diagnoses Sun Boy as having had too much pressure on his brain due to over-work. He is cured by relieving this pressure. Eventually the Legion Constitution is amended to mandate Legionnaires must take time off after five missions in order to prevent space fatigue.  

As well that ends well: the Xennians are saved and Sun Boy is cured. I do wonder if this adventure had any long-time repercussions, though? Light Lass at one point positively seethes at Sun Boy for deserting them. Does anger like that go away just because somebody had pressure on his brain?
Speaking of which, in typical Silver Age style the story is wrapped up, the cause is something that a kindly, elderly doctor can cure, and no hard feelings. The Constitution is amended, and no other incidents of "space fatigue" are ever reported again. The End! Status Quo re-established, hooray!

One last thing, though.....I can't write up this story without making a comment about the panel where the Legionnaires rush off to Xenn in order to save its inhabitants. Sun Boy is SO gung-ho to get there, that he orders "double full speed."
Uh....I think that's the sci-fi equivalent of hitting 11 on a scale of 1-10.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Superboy is not featured in this story. Perhaps that is why the editor chose to add his face in the blurb for a "Hall of Fame" reprint? 
  • Light Lass lost her lightning powers last issue, but is still wearing her Lighting Lass uniform. 
  • Matter-Eater Lad's belt is drawn all the way up on his chest in most panels, as if it were a design rather than a belt. 
  • John Forte signed his name on the splash page of the second chapter, not the first. 
Status: 
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 3 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 1.

Milestone: 
This issue features the actual first appearance of the Time Trapper, in a throw-away panel that explains why Superboy and Mon-El are not available to help the Xennians. The Time Trapper will not appear in an actual story for another three issues.

5 comments:

  1. I love this story for so many reasons, including: the amazing and varied teamwork; Matter Eater Lad's spotlights; and Sun Boy's status as one of the team's best pilots (perhaps this is why he was chosen as point man on this mission?).

    I remember noticing Light Lass' costume conundrum too, back when I first read this story!

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  2. Giving the "deck hand" robots EXTRA hands. Clever. And Sun Boy couldn't just burn through the ropes?

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  3. Always have said there could be much more to Tenzils powers. Some questionable science but that's no surprise

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  4. Is it just me or do an inordinate number of these early stories involve mutiny and/or (apparent) betrayal? Just off the top of my head, there were the issues where Saturn Girl became a despot, Mon-El hides the secret of Daxamite reincarnation, Ultra Boy is discovered to be a criminal, Dream Girl gets everyone kicked out... and now Sun Boy goes full-on Ahab.

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    1. Not very good super-heroes I suspose.

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