Tuesday, November 21, 2017

TOS: Adventure Comics #319

Adventure Comics #319 (April 1964)
title: "The Legion's Suicide Squad!" / "The Charge of the Substitute Heroes!"
writer: Edmond Hamilton
penciller: John Forte
inker: John Forte
lettering: Ira Schnapp (cover), Milton Snapinn
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan and Sheldon Moldoff
reviewers: Siskoid

Mission Monitor Board:  
Bouncing Boy, Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Element Lad, Invisible Kid, Light Lass, Lightning Lad, Matter-Eater Lad, Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Shrinking Violet, Star Boy, Sun Boy, Superboy, Triplicate Girl, Ultra Boy

Guests: 
James Bannon, Legion of Substitute Heroes (Chlorophyll Kid, Fire-Lad, Night Girl, Polar Boy, Stone Boy), Tim Vare, U.P. President; a government consultant, hungry aliens, Metropolis citizens, Science Police, space farers

Opponents: 
Throonians, their giant robot

Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Bronze Tiger, Nightshade, Rick Flag, Amanda Waller... Suicide Squad was great, back in the day, wasn't it? Oh wait. No. That's not the LEGION's Suicide Squad. My bad.

Indeed, this story should have been called The Legion's Suicide Squads, plural, because no less than four groups of heroes go up against the Throonian city seen on the cover, and each siege appears to be a suicide mission. This Tale of the Legion of Super-Heroes begins with that same city, housed in a single Babel-like building, and housing the entire population of a lonely planetoid. One day, it sends a neutralizing force beam at a passing Earth ship, stopping it in ts tracks. And another, and another. The United Planets' shipping lanes are completely disrupted and far-off worlds are going hungry. Since no ship can go close without crashing or being made adrift in space. Perhaps the Legion can do something.

Sun Boy, their leader still recovering from space fatigue, decides to use the planetary chance-machine to decide who goes on the mission to Throon, since he can only send a small force without drawing too much attention. You'd think a non-random strategy would work best, but...
Yes, even the leader of the squad is appointed randomly. And Brainiac 5's first act as leader is to tell Saturn Girl it's too dangerous for a girl. [At this point, I'd like to give a big Legion of Super-Bloggers shout-out to Martin Gray, whose comics blog is named Too Dangerous For a Girl exactly because of this story. Hi Martin!] She was chosen fair and square so you can go screw yourself, Brainy. She's goin'. After doing their research, speaking to the last people who were on Throon before they started ejecting foreigners left and right, they fly by the planetoid and send out Superboy.
Unfortunately, the Throonians have more weapons, including a filter that robs Superboy of his powers. Brainy has to land his Squad on the planet after all, but when they approach the city, they're all zapped by an electrical beam, and the only Legionnaire who's immune, Lightning Lad, is taken captive anyway. They did manage to get a message out, so Sun Boy has the chance-machine go round and round again and sends a second squad, this one dressed in insulated suits.
Thanks to Matter-Eater Lad, the approach is made with a hollowed out asteroid, but this time the Throonians shoot out a freezing beam, stopping the Legionnaires in their tracks. A third squad - basically everyone left - will have to go in with a third strategy based on their randomized powers. This time, the power house is Mon-El, no ship required.
Unfortunately, when Mon-El comes too close, the Throonians shoot him with lead pellets, and then the freezing ray does away with the others. Only Colossal Boy, shielded by a crashed ship, is able to approach. But the Throonians have an answer for everything.
Colossal Boy gives it the old college try, but he's overcome by the giant robot. Well, that's the end of that.

Except that the Legion of Substitute Heroes have a feed direct from Throon (they may not be big heroes, but they're big fans) and see everything that's happening. In the absence of any Legionnaires, their team is automatically activated, and suicide mission or not, they've got to go in. Almost immediately, a mistake is made, and Night Girl, powerless on this side of the planetoid anyway, is separated from the team.
The Subs actually do seem to cause more damage than the Legion ever did, turning the Throon city into a smoking wedding cake, but the giant robot comes out once more and captures them. All except Night Girl who soft-landed on the night side of the planetoid and is in a position to enter the city from UNDERNEATH.
And looky here, she discovers there are only two Throonians, old men afraid their galaxy will come and steal their stuff, so they've decided to scare everyone away. Night Girl, frankly awesome, smashes their equipment and teaches them a good lesson about how nobody's coming for their stuff (I don't want to get political, but there's something all vaguely familiar about this). She releases the rest of the kids, promises Throon will be left alone, and the Subs finally get their due, which in Silver Age terms means a big parade.
Now the world knows them, and they'll never be a joke again. Right?! (See you in the 80s. Cough. Cough.)

Science Police Notes:  
  • Reprinted in Best of DC #44, Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 3, Showcase Presents: Legion of Super-Heroes #1 and Legion of Super-Heroes: The Silver Age Omnibus #1.
  • The issue also reprints "Superboy's Best Friend!" from Superboy (v1) #77 (Dec 1959).
  • This is the Legion of Substitute Heroes' fourth story, but the first where they gain wide recognition.

3 comments:

  1. Sending in the giant robot against Colossal Boy would be done later by Regulus. Guess giant robots are fairly easy to come by in the 30th century. Also, Night Girl has X-Ray vision (at night)? Thought it was just super strength.

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  2. There were a number of "Oopses." These may be from writers/editors not paying attention, or abilites not yet being defined real well. For example: IIRC, red sun radiation would affect Mon-El just like it did Superboy; Night Girl's X-Ray Vision; Fire Lad shooting flames from his hands, etc.

    But it WAS a lot of fun.

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  3. How come fans always leave Sun Boy's tenure as leader off their lists? See http://www.legionworld.com/wiki/index.php?title=List_of_LSH_leaders/Preboot for example.

    He's leader in #318 and 319, but then Saturn Girl is up for reelection in #323. So on that list, for example, there should be a tenure for Sun Boy, and an extra tenure for Saturn Girl.

    (It was a pretty bad run, though. Maybe the Legion erased it from their records.)

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