Tuesday, October 30, 2018

TOS: Adventure Comics #362

Adventure Comics #362 (November 1967)
title: "The Chemoids Are Coming!"
writer and layouts: Jim Shooter
artist: Pete Costanza
letterer: Ira Schnapp
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan and George Klein
reviewer: Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board: 
Bouncing Boy, Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Invisible Kid, Light Lass, Princess Projectra, Sun Boy, and Superboy; cameo appearances by several other Legionnaires

Dr. Mantis Morlo "the Chemical Conqueror," and his fantastic Chemoids!

The Legion is enjoying a relaxing day at headquarters as we see Karate Kid painting, Sun Boy reading, Superboy and Cosmic Boy playing a game, and Phantom Girl and Duo Damsel talking costume design. Elsewhere, Invisible Kid and Brainiac 5 detect poisonous gases spreading in the upper atmosphere and call the team to investigate.
The Legion arrives at the laboratory of Dr. Siva..., um, I mean Dr. Mantis Morlo and his assistance, Gorn. They warn him that the gases given off by his experiment are contaminating the atmosphere of Earth. Morlo insists that his experiments are too valuable to stop and shows them a miniature sun he has created that produces enough energy to power his ship for a billion years. Invisible Kid says that no matter his results, the fact remains that Morlo's research is poisoning Earth and he must stop immediately. Morlo sends Gorn against the Legion. Gorn's entire molecular structure is built of chemical blocks that he can alter at will.
The Legion overpowers Gorn and destroys Morlo's equipment to prevent him from continuing his experiments. Morlo remains free, however, and shockingly decides to go right on continuing his experiments. On their way back to Legion headquarters, Brainiac 5 explains to Karate Kid that this is not their first encounter with Morlo...
Morlo had done no physical harm to his captives so he was given a shorter sentence. Because he never carried out his threat of revenge then, Brainiac 5 doubts he will try anything now (right...) and Dream Girl confirms he will not give them trouble for at least the next few weeks. Well, ok then.

Time passes and the memory of their battle with Morlo fades. One day, emergency calls go out from the planets of Daxam, Orlando, and Naltor, and the Legion splits into three groups to deal with the threats. Princess Projectra accompanies Brainiac 5, Karate Kid, Superboy, Light Lass, and Bouncing Boy to her home plant of Orlando, but they are attacked upon arrival. After Projectra calls off the planet's defenders, they are taken before her father, the King.
The Legionnaires demonstrate their powers and the King is hopeful that our heroes can rid their plant of the black clouds that have been menacing it. The Legionnaires go to investigate and encounter the smog over the city of Palik Ramos. After some difficulty Superboy is able to disperse it.

Unfortunately, some angry villagers blame Projectra for leaving Orando, against the will of the stars. She is able to fend them off through sheer force of personality. Later, she explains the xenophobic and superstitious nature of her people to a sympathetic Karate Kid...
Aw, Kid...running away feels like a big mistake here. Anyways, Brainiac calls the team together to witness an experiment that involves creating a new element that somehow leads him to identify Morlo as the culprit behind the black clouds. With their cruiser temporarily out of commission, the Legion use an Orandonian Sky Chariot to investigate the area of highest smog concentration and encounter Morlo on a strange flying citadel. He promptly sics his new Chemoids against them.
Our heroes do their best to battle the Chemoids but find that Morlo's creations are able to adapt to each Legionnaires' power. Cosmic Boy's magnetism cannot work against a Chemoid that can alter his chemical block structure and a Chemoid that uses radar is immune to Projectra's illusions (apparently). Superboy is disabled by a Kryptonite Chemoid, and Karate Kid's opponent turns to foam rubber when he strikes.  You get the picture. The only weak one is that Brainiac 5 is captured by a Chemoid because he forgot to turn on his force-field. Perhaps Shooter was just tired by the end and ran out of ideas?
The story ends with Morlo seemingly victorious over the Legion and our heroes in desperate straits!  Tune in next time for the exciting conclusion!

I have always enjoyed this story. It's just a very classic, fun, heroes vs. mad scientist situation that is common in comics but well done here. It also adds to Legion mythology in important ways.

A very nice touch at the beginning was seeing our heroes relaxing around their headquarters just hanging out, playing games, engaging in hobbies. It really humanizes them and lets us identify with these teens from a thousand years in the future.

Morlo continues the recent tradition of villains that the Legion have already encountered before we actually see them in a story. I have always felt that taking that approach reinforced how active the Legion regularly was beyond what we are focused on in a given issue. That happened quite frequently during this period, whether it was introducing a villain that already had a history with the Legion or just showing various Legionnaires concluding missions throughout the galaxy in a few panels at the outset of a story. I really think you cannot underestimate how much that stuff set the Legion apart for young readers at the time.

And Orando.  We get so much backstory here that is unique for the Legion. The lack of technology, the superstition, the xenophobia. I am not sure what to say beyond...well done.

As for the Morlo plot...it's just a fun romp. Mad scientist, the equivalent of evil robots, seeing our heroes confronting enemies that are designed to be immune to each of the powers. Not to mention a bit of a romantic sub-plot and Brainiac 5 doing his science thing. I can understand the team not taking him into custody at the start of the issue because there was no indication he was aware of the harm of his experiments. I have always gotten the sense over the years that other Legion fans have not held this story in as high regard as me, and it's not that I think it's a classic or anything. Just a solid adventure that wraps up with a great cliffhanger.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Artist Pete Costanza began his career at Fawcett drawing Captain Marvel, which might be part of the reason for the resemblance between Dr. Morlo and Dr. Sivana. 
  • This is the Legion's first visit to the planet Orando. 
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 7 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 3.


  1. Mantis Morlo and the Chemoids-Great band name!

  2. I wonder if Morlo is a descendant of Dr. Siva?

  3. Thanks for that tidbit about Pete Costanza drawing Captain Marvel at Fawcett. Dr. Morlo looks so much like Dr. Sivana that I was about to go into an entire riff over it, but now I know the source.