Tuesday, July 31, 2018

TOS: Adventure Comics #351

Adventure Comics #351 (December 1966)
title: "The Forgotten Legion!"
writer: E. Nelson Bridwell
penciller: Curt Swan
inkerGeorge Klein
letterer: Milton Snapinn
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan & George Klein
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage and Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board:  
active: Cosmic Boy, Ferro Lad, Matter-Eater Lad, Invisible Kid, Ultra Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Princess Projectra, Element Lad, Colossal Boy, Mon-El, Superboy, Supergirl, Sir Prize, Miss Terious
inactive: Phantom Girl, Brainiac 5, Karate Kid, Shrinking Violet


Guests: 
RJ Brande, Legion of Substitute Heroes (Polar Boy, Night Girl, Chlorophyll Kid, Fire Lad, Stone Boy, Color Kid), Legion of Super-Pets (Krypto, Streaky, Beppo, Comet), Bouncing Boy, the White Witch

Opponents: 
Evillo and his Devil's Dozen (the Hag, the Wild Huntsman, Sugyn, and Apolllo)

RJ Brande has called on the Legion for help, so Legion Leader Invisible Kid sends four members to answer the call. As they rush out, Ultra Boy decides to use his penetra-vision to see through the lead mask of Sir Prize. However, Invisible Kid clocks him on the chin for insubordination. He promised Superboy and Supergirl as Leader that when they left no Legionnaire would try to find out their newest members' identities. Ultra Boy apologizes. Invisible Kid reminds him (and us) that the Boy and Girl of Steel quit the Legion after a Green Kryptonite dust cloud entered Earth's atmosphere and the Legion was unable to clear it. Sir Prize tells Ultra Boy that he has a good reason to hide his identity, just like Ultra Boy had a good reason to pretend to be a criminal once. 
Russell: Is it just me, or is that panel where Invisible Kid socks Ultra Boy just priceless!? You gotta love those so-called "minor" characters who are willing to kick ass and take names.
Mike: Damn, Invisible Kid. I am impressed. I liked that the only criticism anyone has is Phantom Girl's weak "did you have to hit him so hard, Kid?" Everyone is totally on board with hitting him, it's just a question of how hard a punch he deserved.
The four Legionnaires approach Brande's asteroid and Miss Terious tells the others that he has been attacked by the Hag. The Hag then uses the asteroid's defenses to fight against the Legionnaires. Ferro Lad stops a blast and Matter-Eater Lad eats his way free from a prison formed by robots. 
Russell: I wonder if Bridwell used Ferro Lad so much in this story because they knew he was not going to be around too long? Or maybe he was asked to use him because Weisinger knew what was coming? Either way, it's hard to refute that Ferro Lad was a great character, with plenty of heart. Oh, and memo to Matter-Eater Lad....Miss Terious isn't wearing a space suit because she's wearing a LEAD SUIT you idiot.
Mike: I think pretty much everyone came off well in this scene. Last issue, Bridwell was great at giving a lot of members the spotlight but they were often less than successful in their battles, so it was nice to see the team quickly get through the robot attack.
On Tartarus, Lighting Lad wakes up as the prisoner of Evillo, who wants to turn him evil and have him join his Devil's Dozen. He lets loose undiluted, concentrated evil thoughts on Lightning Lad that  appear to make the Legionnaire turn bad. 
Russell: So Evillo has a whole planet full of criminals to choose from, and he can't find seven other guys to fill out his Devil's Dozen? Hmmm.....
Mike: Lots of great punching moments in this issue so far! It's curious that Evillo is so intent on sticking with a dozen members of his group if he only has four others so far. He can just change the name and make his recruitment drive easier. It cannot be that hard to come up with a cool name for a five or six member squad of evildoers. As long as he stays away from the Sinister Six.
Evillo orders Lighting Lad to attack a platinum mine on planet Waldak, but Lighting Lad strikes back. The Legionnaire had thought of unselfish acts of his fellow Legionnaires to fight against the evil concentrates. However, he accidentally re-charges Evillo when he tries to disarm him, and Evillo blasts him with his blasts of darkness. 
Russell: This is my favorite bit in this story, and I loved Lighting Lad after reading this story. Disarmed and seemingly helpless, the Legionnaire doesn't give up. What's more, he literally thinks good thoughts and pushes the evil away. I love it. Sure, he gets taken down again at the end, but gee, look at how close he came to beating the bad guy on his own.
Mike: Agreed, this was a great moment for Lightning Lad. It was also a clever way for Bridwell and Swan to show off the coolness of some of the other Legionnaires as well. It's always fun to see any indication that the Legion is constantly out there being heroes, and that they are having other adventures big and small beyond just what we are reading about.
On Brande's asteroid the Legionnaires face off against the Hag, who conjures up portraits of their future. Ferro Lad is fated "for the scrap heap" but Miss Terious is shown hale and hearty. She then leads the others away where she tells them how to battle the Hag's black magic, but they need an iron cauldron. Cosmic Boy forces one of the sentinel satellites down and Ferro Lad molds it into the proper shape. Cosmic Boy contacts Mon-El at the Club-House to get a lock of hair from a genuine magician and the print of an enchanted shoe. 
Russell: I would have liked to have seen the Hag actually fight the Legionnaires, and not just threaten them with pretty pictures. I also would have preferred that Miss Terious' portrait was of her armor laying on the ground in pieces. That would have been more dramatic.
Mike: It was great seeing how quickly the Legionnaires rallied to implement Miss Terious' plan. Bridwell is really emphasizing teamwork throughout this issue and it's one of the strengths of this story.
Element Lad remembers Superboy's enemy Mr. Mxyzptlk, and Mon-El calls in the Substitute Legion to help, too. The heroes know what they have to do. 
Russell: I just love this "pin-up" of the Substitute Heroes. I'm not sure why they were shoe-horned into this adventure rather than other Legionnaires (such as Phantom Girl and Ultra Boy, who have disappeared). Oh, but wait.....we need the Subs at the ending, don't we? So never mind. It's always great to see them, anyway.
Mike: Agreed, I was thrilled to see them show up and happy that they got such a large introductory scene to show off each of their abilities. Given how huge the cast already was up to this point, its impressive that Bridwell would throw the Substitutes in as well.
Back in Smallville in the mid Fifties, the Legionnaires draw attention to themselves so that Superboy will investigate. He arrives, but has forgotten about them. So Element Lad turns the Green Kryptonite in his brain to Helium, and the Boy of Steel remembers his pals. When they tell him what they need, he and Mon-El fly to the dimension of Zrfff, where Mon-El burns off pieces of Mr. Mxyzptlk's hair. Element Lad then turns the Green Kryptonite back into Helium and they depart. 
Russell: And here is this issue's required trip to Silver Age Crazy Town. In the middle of all of this high Legion drama, we get a page of Smallville hijinks and two pages of Mr. Mxyzptlk goofiness. And although many tears were shed and hugs handed out last issue, the Legion has already forgotten that Superboy can't remember them?!?
Mike: Crazy Town is right. Generally not a big Mxyzptlk fan, but I still liked this interlude because it was just so strange. As if this story hasn't already changed direction a half a dozen times since the start of last issue. And yet...it works!
In Metropolis, Bouncing Boy is called out to investigate Sugyn, who has drained the Metropolis Reservoir. Sugyn captures him, but when he returns to Tartarus with him Evillo is not pleased. Evillo blasts Sugyn to the Realms of Darkness. 
Russell: Still in Silver Age Crazy Town....how do you alter a gas that would clearly evaporate BACK into Green Kryptonite? That sounds AWFULLY difficult. Seems like Element Lad should have changed the Kryptonite into a solid element, like, lead? that would have stayed right where it was in Superboy's brain.
Regardless....clearly Bridwell is a fan of Mr. Mxyzptlk. I do remember this issue fondly for providing the pronunciation guide to the guy's name, though. I never forgot it: Miz-Yez-Pitel-Ick. But let's get back to the 30th Century, shall we?
Mike: Given all that has occurred so far over the last two issues, having Element Lad change the capsule back to Green K does not bother me in the slightest. Especially after a three page Mxyzptlk story.
In 1966, at Stanhope College, the Substitute Heroes confront Supergirl, but she doesn't remember them. They ask to meet Comet, so she calls the Super Pets, who attack. The Subs are able to defeat the Super Pets, and Night Girl manages to get Comet's hoof prints in a slab of concrete. 
Russell: Am I a sucker for the lesser-known heroes, or what? I love that the Legion of Substitute Heroes are able to beat the Legion of Super-Pets. And by the way, this proves (?) that the Legion of Super-Pets are all from Supergirl and SuperMAN's time era. There has been some debate about whether Krypto was from SuperBOY's era or SuperMAN's era; however, as they all come flying to answer Supergirl's call, clearly Krypto is from the "modern" era.
Mike: I really think that when writing this, Bridwell was very consciously thinking "what else can I throw in?!" as he went along. Still though, he continues to keep it very entertaining and the Subs are fantastic to see here.
Back in the 30th Century, the other Legionnaires travel to Brande's asteroid with their ingredients for Miss Terious' magic potion. They find that Matter-Eater Lad has been captured by the Wild Huntsman. Miss Terious quickly mixes the potion, which succeeds in changing the Hag back into the White Witch.
Russell: I know that magic and science fiction doesn't usually work well together, but I love this bit where the Hag turns into "a gorgeous girl."  It's like the reverse of the Evil Queen from Snow White. 
Mike: A big "duh" on my part, I got so distracted by everything going on, I forgot who the Hag turned out to be.
Miss Terious and Sir Prize reveal themselves to be Dream Girl and Star Boy. They were hiding their identities in order to get close to the Hag in order to save her. Invisible Kid tells them he wants them to stay. The White Witch then leads the group to Tartarus, where Evillo's surgeon reveals what he has done to the kidnapped Legionnaires. 
Russell: I checked, and Invisible Kid was one of the Legionnaires who voted Star Boy "guilty" during Star Boy's murder trial. So it's nice to see that he thinks Star Boy has "served his time" and is willing to let him come back to the group.
The surgeon has cured Matter-Eater Lad of his extreme obesity, he has re-grown Lighting Lad's arm, and he has returned Bouncing Boy's powers. Together, the Legion make quick work of Evillo and his gang. It turns out that the surgeon was one of Evillo's guinea pigs, and restored the Legionnaires in order to defeat Evillo. 
Russell: If there is a happier moment in all of Legion history, I don't know what it is.
Mike: Even in these last few pages, Bridwell manages to cram a lot in. From the reveal of Dream Girl, Star Boy, and the White Witch, to the restorations of Lightning Lad, Bouncing Boy, and Matter Eater Lad, to the big battle with the Devil's Foursome, and finally the surgeon's big reveal. I like all of it, but man, my head was spinning because so much was happening.
It turns out that the surgeon was one of Evillo's guinea pigs, so he restored the Legionnaires in order to defeat Evillo. 
Later, Superboy and Supergirl stroll into the Legion Club-House. Substitute Hero Color Kid has altered the color of the Green Kryptonite dust cloud to blue, which does not affect them. He also changed their mind pellets to blue, returning their memories. They are back in the Legion! 
Russell: Okay, I just gotta say this: HOW in the world did little old Color Kid do all that on his own? I'm not arguing the physics of it (although we certainly could....!) but he would have had to go back in time to get Superboy and Supergirl, for one thing. Does the Legion of Substiute Heroes have a time bubble? I think not. It just seems like either Brainiac 5 or Invisible Kid or Saturn Girl or SOME big thinker would have had to have been involved. Typical Silver Age "rushed" ending....!
Mike: I'll take it upon myself to argue the physics. Different forms of Kryptonite have a different effect because of the radiation they emit, which gives them a different color. I am a bit skeptical that Color Kid's ability to change something's color would extent to changing the type of radiation being emitted. If it did that would vastly expand Color Kid's power potential.
But hey, after these last two issues, I am willing to roll with it.  Not even close to the craziest things that happened here, after all.


Russell: Overall I liked this story. There is A LOT going on in this story, and I think it suffers a bit for it. This story-line for sure could have been a three-parter....we never even get to see the Wild Huntsman capture Matter-Eater Lad, for example. And last issue Evillo promised him a mission on his own, which would have been nice to see. A little less Smallville and Zrff and a little bit more on how Dream Girl and Star Boy met up with Superboy and Supergirl would have been good, too. And then a bit more explanation for the Color Kid effect at the end would have wrapped the story up a bit better than it was. Still, for all of the changes this story brought (back) to the Legion, it's one of my favorites.
Mike: This issue and last were just a heck of a lot of fun: a series of really action-packed adventures that loosely tie together to form this larger epic. Some might argue that "epic" is too strong a word, but by Silver Age standards, I think it is certainly warranted. Bridwell not only managed to find a way to give almost every Legionnaire something to do, but threw in the Subs and the Super-Pets, and he also found a way to tie in several past adventures of the Legion too. The changes in tone were really abrupt at times, and there were some crazy moments, but it was always entertaining.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Karate Kid and Brainiac 5 appear only in Lightning Lad's thoughts of courage and selflessness, and not in the actual story.  
  • Ultra Boy pretended to be an outlaw in Adventure Comics #316
  • The title of Part Two is "The Faces Behind the Masks!" 
  • The name of the surgeon who performs medical miracles on behalf of three Legionnaires is Dr. Zan Orbal. 
Status: 
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 6 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 3.


Milestone: 
Superboy, Supergirl, Star Boy, Dream Girl, and Bouncing Boy all return to the Legion in this story. Lightning Lad, Matter-Eater Lad, and Bouncing Boy are all returned to "normal" in this story. This story is the debut of the White Witch, who would eventually join the Legion nearly 15 years later.

8 comments:

  1. Evillo blasting Sugyn into the realm of darkness is an early example of the trope where the bad guy dispatches a henchman just to show how evil he is. The source of Evillo's displeasure was that he brought back a Legionnaire who had lost his power. I can just see him saying: "You had ONE job."

    A lot of wild goings-on in this story for sure, but the restoration of the Legion to full strength at the end was a great payoff.

    I've used Invisible Kid socking Ultra Boy as an example of the integrity of the character. Ultra Boy clearly did not learn his lesson because he did use his pentra-vision years later to look through the costume of another identity concealing Legionnaire-Sensor girl.

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  2. Some more random thoughts:

    This and the prior issue was my first Silver Age Legion story, and it's a great introduction to the team, as well as the Subs and the Pets. I would argue that this can be considered a "classic" story, due to the restoration of the wounded members and the reinstatement of two former members.

    "Give my regards to Sir Prize." I know that was supposed to be a red herring, but now we know the truth. This supports my theory that Clark and Kara had pre-arranged to have Star Boy and Dream Girl pose as the armored Legionnaires and intended to vouch for them, only for the K-cloud to force them to leave and rush their plan. Remember, Superboy was adamant in his defense of Star Boy at the trial and would have been more than happy to sneak him back in. And, Kara wasn't involved in Dream Girl's original story, so she had no issues with her.

    Love seeing the Subs again, and they acquitted themselves well here, despite their misgivings. I did notice some goofs, however, regarding Stone Boy. When we first see the Subs, Stone Boy is talking to Night Girl. TALKING. And, during the battle with the Super-Pets, the artworks indicates that he's moving while in his stone form. MOVING. His power is to petrify himself at will, so he cannot speak or move while he's doing it - something that was shown in stories before and since. I think Bridwell and Swan simply didn't know how his powers worked.

    Question: how dumb ARE the Legionnaires? After all that drama mustering out the Super-cousins, then they quickly forget that they erased their memories. If they had remembered and let the Subs know, it would've helped them in their mission immensely.

    Frankly, Evillo deserved to be defeated. True, it seems he can't count past four. He recruits a Volstagg-wannabe whose only power is super-drinking and is too stupid to do his homework on the Legion. He then nonchalantly invites the Legionnaires to enter his stronghold. Finally, he quickly folds when Lightning Lad gets payback on him with lighting bolts. THIS was a major threat?

    Need to give a shout-out to the Swan/Klein artwork here. Swan really was the best artist for the Legion, and I especially love his rendition of Supergirl. He hit the right balance of pretty without being overly-girly or -glamorous.

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    1. I just assumed when I read this that Evillo was beaten by the power of Lightning Lad's TWO ARMS, instead of one.

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  3. So much going on here, but what a story. It's crazy how many characters were crammed in, with little wasted space. And to think little plot points like Sugyn's banishment, or Mysa's de-aging (un-Hagging?) would be utilized decades later! And while all of the character healings and reinstatements seemed a bit rushed, it was a clever way to bring back several fan favorites to their full potential.

    I'd be down for Color Kid's upgrade to being able to affect radiation.

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  4. re: Ferro Lad - Definitely he's being used because of his imminent death. Shooter introduced him explicitly to kill him (as he didn't think he would be able to kill any characters he didn't create) and the immediately succeeding story (Sun-Eater/Fatal Five) was his death, specifically by being smelted down, as shown in the Hag's image. I don't know if Bridwell knew it (probably), but Weisinger definitely did.

    Shooter has claimed that he changed his mind about killing Ferro Lad after his introduction. His new plan was to have Nolan casually remove his mask, revealing himself to be black, and to have none of the Legionnaires react at all. Weisinger supposedly quashed the idea immediately, citing probable distribution issues in the South. Given that Ferro Lad's hands are visible in his first appearance and he appears while there, I used to doubt that story (Shooter told me back in 1996 or so), but the more I have thought about publication lead times and that distribution in the South (which did affect Marvel, apparently), I lean towards it now.

    This two-parter was my first Legion story ever and totally hooked me with all the variety of characters and showing all of the other stories out there that I could find.

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  5. I liked this one. It was a bit overly busy, but it was a lot of goofy fun.

    Considering how limited Color Kid's power is, I have no problem with him tweaking the color of the kryptonite and, years later, becoming able to use his powers to activate Night Girl's abilities or change the color of air for the "lightshow" demonstrated in 5YL. It might not take a big thinker like Brainiac 5 when you have a character who has a VERY limited ability trying to figure out what he can do with it.

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    1. How very Legionesque - the anti-robot had me id pics with statues. As the Legion of Substitute Podcasters woud say, "Take a drink!"

      If unfamiliar, visit http://paulfrench.ca/losp/

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  6. Yeah, I'm honestly okay with Color Kid saving the day here. Honestly, to change the color of anything he has to be messing with the molecular or atomic structure of the material in question. And Kryptonite is ridiculously color-dependent, so it tracks for me.

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