Tuesday, July 10, 2018

TOS: Adventure Comics #348

Adventure Comics #348 (September 1966)
title: "Target---21 Legionnaires!"
writer & layouts: Jim Shooter
finished art: George Papp
letterer: Milton Snapinn
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan & George Klein
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Superboy, Sun Boy, Duo Damsel, Brainiac 5, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Invisible Kid, Phantom Girl

Opponents: 
Dr. Regulus

Superboy arrives in the 30th Century just as voting for Legion Leader begins. Invisible Kid is elected leader. 
After the meeting ends, eight Legionnaires rush off to a charity show for the Interstellar Orphanage. As each member shows off their powers, an earthquake causes Sun Boy to slip and fall, hitting his head. He awakens with amnesia. 
As they are concerned about Sun Boy's condition they are told that their head-quarters has been ripped from its foundation, which is what caused the earlier "earthquake." In the confusion Sun Boy flies off. The Legion returns to the site of their head-quarters, which is now a huge sink hole. They learn from witnesses that a golden rocket used a powerful tractor beam to steal their head-quarters. 
They set up temporarily in one of their Legion cruisers. 
Elsewhere, Dr. Regulus is planning on universe domination. He is sure that he can stop the rest of the Legionnaires, but he is worried about Sun Boy. That is why he plotted to give him amnesia. 
Meanwhile, Sun Boy has slipped into a nuclear power plant and falls asleep in front of a "carelessly opened power source." 


Dr. Regulus tells us that gold is the key to him harnessing unlimited solar power. Confident that Sun Boy is out of his way, he attacks the city so that the Legion will come after him. He grabs another building from its foundation, and sure enough the Legion arrives. He blasts their rocket, but they fly towards his space-ship individually.

Superboy breaks into the gold space-ship. It's too big for them all to search, so they split up. Invisible Kid tells Phantom Girl and Duo Damsel to stay together. In a room with a huge ceiling, Colossal Boy confronts a giant robot who gets the better of him. 

Elsewhere, a Cosmic Boy robot manages to get close to Duo Damsel and Phantom Girl and knock them both out with sleeping gas. 
Brainiac 5 interrupts this attack, but Dr. Regulus ups the robot's power and it succeeds in knocking out Brainiac 5 through his force-field. 

Ancient suits of armor come alive and attack Superboy with green Kryptonite, then chain him up with the stuff. 
On Earth, Sun Boy's nap at the nuclear power plant has not only revived him, but it has returned his memory. He heads out to help his friends. 

Cosmic Boy is taken by surprise by golden bands that come out of a wall panel, pinning him. 

Lastly, Invisible Kid makes it to Dr. Regulus' control room but the security measures "see" him and blast him even though he was invisible. 

Dr. Regulus is about to siphon extra energy from his space-ship's power to the captured Legionnaires, disintegrating them, when his power source goes dead. Sun Boy has arrived and has siphoned off all of Regulus' ship's energy. Dr. Regulus shoots rockets at Sun Boy to kill him, but Cosmic Boy has arrived and uses his magnetic powers to blow them up without hurting anyone. 

Dr. Regulus blasts them with his stun beams and makes his escape. 
Brainiac 5 finds Dr. Regulus' notes and is able to return the stolen building and the stolen Legion club-house. Just as they land Regulus' golden ship, it self-destructs. 
Sun Boy tells the others that Zaxton Regulus was his father's top scientist until he got busy on a side project. When Dirk Morgna (Sun Boy) and another boy interrupted Regulus' work to make a delivery, Regulus' equipment exploded. The other boy was killed, so Dirk's father fired Regulus. Later, Regulus returned and beat up Dirk and threw him into an atomic reactor room, hoping to kill him. This gave Dirk Morgna his solar powers and he took the name Sun Boy. 

Dr. Regulus knew that Sun Boy could stop him by absorbing his power source, so he had to get rid of him before facing the other Legionnaires. Elsewhere, Dr. Regulus swears vengeance on the Legion. 

There's a lot of Silver Age goodness going on here. Which means, there's also a lot of Silver Age goofiness, too.

First, the idea that the villains would go after the Legionnaires individually is a good one. We've seen this before and we'll see it again, but it is still a good idea: the Legion's strength comes from their team-work. And the pastiche of "And Then There Were None!" is a good one. Here's the "nursery rhyme" that appears on the splash page. I get the feeling that the original title for this story was "And Then There Were None."

That being said, how convenient was it that Colossal Boy happens to walk into the hall where the Giant Robot is waiting for him. Speaking of Giant Robots......
That is all.

I like how Invisible Kid is elected Leader in this issue. Take a look at those election results, though....Light Lass, Shrinking Violet, and Duo Damsel all got votes! And, uh, not to be a political radical or anything, but there are only 21 Legionnaires but there are 23 votes! Voter fraud!!!

Dr. Regulus is arguably the best villain the Legion has had up to this point. His solar powers are impressive, he's a scientific genius, and he drinks a martini while murdering them. (see page 8 panel 1 reprinted above if you don't believe me.)

On the other hand, this is clearly not Jim Shooter's best work. The splash scene is basically reprinted on page seven. The fans at the charity show are given way too  many scenes (i.e. more than one). And worst of all, the Legionnaires don't know how to use their powers. For example: does Phantom Girl breathe when she's a phantom? She should have been able to "dodge" the sleeping gas. If not, she for sure should have been able to phase away from Dr. Regulus' stun beams. Likewise, is Superboy incompetent? When Sun Boy flies off, Brainiac 5 says that he has too  much of a head-start for them to catch him, forgetting that Superboy is super-fast. Later, when he breaks into Dr. Regulus' gold space-ship he forgets that he has x-ray vision. He should have been able to lead them all directly to Regulus.

Still, these are minor quibbles for a fun little adventure. Clearly this was a portent of better things to come. 
 

Science Police Notes:  
  • Invisible Kid's hair is mis-colored black on the cover. 
  • The title for Chapter 1 is "Target: 21 Legionnaires." The title for Chapter 2 is "Birds in a Golden Cage." 
  • Gold, although a metal, is not magnetic. 
  • The last time Sun Boy mentioned his origin (Adventure Comics #302) he said that he was locked in an atomic reactor "accidentally."
  • The name of Sun Boy's friend who was killed was Zarl Hedricks.  
  • Although only eight members appear in this story, the title gives irrefutable evidence that there are currently 21 Legionnaires. Perusing the "Classic Membership" graphic on the right-hand column of this page, we can surmise that Supergirl is counted and that former members Bouncing Boy, Star Boy, and Dream Girl are not. 
Status: 
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 5 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 2

Milestone: 
This issue was the first Legion story written by Jim Shooter. Although it was not the first of his stories to be published, it was the story that got him the main writer gig in the first place.
Invisible Kid is elected Legion Leader in this story.

4 comments:

  1. The title is taken from Agatha Christie's famous novel "And then there were none". Google it for more info, including earlier racist titles. Also, Colossal Boy fought another giant robot back in Adventure 319, which begs the question "Why all the giant robots?". Did like the Cosmic Boy robot, though.

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  2. Aren't there two "honorary" Legionnaires? Jimmy Olsen or Pete Ross or Insect Queen? I seem to recalll a moment in an issue when the Legion was voting on something and noted votes from some side characters... I can't recall the exact issue though.

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    Replies
    1. Insect Queen (Lana Lang) became a Legion Reservist in Adventure 355, published some months after this story.

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    2. Curtis you're probably thinking of the trial of Star Boy, where Jimmy did get to vote; Pete didn't.

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