Tuesday, September 4, 2018

TOS: Adventure Comics #355

Adventure Comics #355 (April 1967)
title: "The War of the Legions!"
writer and layouts: Jim Shooter
penciller: Curt Swan
inker: George Klein
letterer: Milton Snappin
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan, George Klein, and Ira Schnapp
reviewer: Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board:
Brainiac 5, Cosmic Man, Element Man, Polar Man, Saturn Woman, Superman

The Legion of Super-Villains - Beauty Blaze, Cosmic King, Echo, Lightning Lord, Saturn Queen,

Following the Super-Heroes' defeat of Ferro Man, the Legion of Super-Villains reveal that they have recruited two new members, Beauty Blaze and Echo. Back at Legion headquarters, Superman decides to return to his own era and is escorted out by Brainiac 5. Immediately after Superman enters the time stream, Brainiac 5 is attacked and abducted.
Lightning Lord informs the Legion that they have taken Brainiac 5 and gives them five envelopes. Each one contains instructions, and they must be followed if they wish to save their friend. Cosmic Man goes to the location indicated in his envelope and he is met by Echo, the self-styled "Master of Sound."
After Cosmic Man defeats Echo, the story moves to Saturn Woman as she arrives at the Universe Fair in Metropolis. She is attacked by a mob under the control of Saturn Queen, but uses her powers to put the mob to sleep and a judo chop to take down Saturn Queen. Elsewhere, Lightning Man easily stops his brother from destroying the Metropolis Electric Company while Polar Man confronts Beauty Blaze on a volcanic plain on the island of Java.
Element Lad has his own easy victory over Cosmic Man, and it seems Super-Villains have suffered a quick defeat. Having learned the location of Brainiac 5 from Cosmic Man, the team goes to his rescue but we learn that the villains had let themselves be beaten to lead the Legion into a trap.
The Super-Villains prove far more capable than we have been lead to believe so far, and it seems that the Legion will be the ones to suffer a quick defeat this time around. Fortunately, two mysterious, armored figures arrive and come to their rescue.
The Legion is grateful but confused, having no idea who their rescuers are. They reveal themselves as Lex Luthor, who used his scientific knowhow to give himselves the powers of Star Boy and Light Lass, and Mr. Mxyzptlk! It turns out that these are not Superman's enemies, but rather their 30th Century descendants.

Well, this was a let down after last issue. As mentioned in my review of #354, the first part of this tale was less action packed than many we have seen recently, but still had its charms as we followed Superman getting caught up on the lives of the adult Legionnaires. Unfortunately, this story sacrificed the charm of the last installment but failed to substitute anything worthwhile in its place.

After last issue, there is no real novelty in watching the six adult Legionnaires featured here and each of their battles were too brief to be very interesting. Also, given how capable the Super-Villains proved to be in the final battle, their entire ruse seemed unnecessary.

I suppose for contemporary young readers then, the reveal of the 30th Century versions of Luthor and Myxzptlk may have been an exciting surprise, but for me it felt so far out of left field that it just elicited an eye roll. It's a shame really...Legion stories have really been on the upswing in recent months and this story represented a step back. But they can't all be winners I guess!

title: "The Six-Legged Legionnaire!"
writer: Otto Binder
penciller: Curt Swan
inker: George Klein
letterer: Milton Snappin
editor: Mort Weisinger
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:
Superboy, Dream Girl, Invisible Kid, Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, Chameleon Boy, Bouncing Boy, Light Lass

Lana Lang as Insect Queen

Oggar-Kon, space villain

One day in Smallville, Superboy returns from a mission and realizes that he is running late to attend a charity parade as Clark Kent. He rushes into a public telephone booth to change. Unfortunately for him, town busy-body Lana Lang sees him go in. She could continue to stand there and not announce her presence until Clark comes out, thereby learning his secret identity, but instead she nobly tells Superboy that she is out there and then walks away without looking. Clark is impressed, and when she tells him what she did, he thinks Superboy might even reward her.
Later, Superboy arrives at the Lang household and offers to take Lana into the future to meet the Legion of Super-Heroes. She is thrilled at the chance.

When Superboy goes to an official Legion meeting Lana, now dressed as Insect Queen, flies around as a butterfly girl to see the sights of the future world more easily.

As she continues her tour, she encounters a tour jet on fire, so she changes to a foam buy to put the fire out so that the ship can land safely. On the ground Dream Girl thanks her and tells Lana that she did just a good a job as any Legionnaire. Dream Girl tells her she "owes her a favor" as she rushes off to the Legion meeting.
This gives Lana the idea to apply to the Legion herself. She captures Bouncing Boy in a tent as a tent caterpillar girl and then walks on the ceiling as a human fly. Unfortunately, she is rejected because her powers are from her Bio-Ring; Legionnaires' powers must be natural.
Suddenly, an emergency call comes in from Ice City in the Antarctic. Invisible Kid sends three Legionnaires to handle a threat from an alien criminal. Insect Queen then asks Dream Girl for that favor; she asks her if Dream Girl can see the three Legionnaires getting into any danger.

Dream Girl admits that they will be in danger, but then warns Lana that she, too, will be in terrible jeopardy if she changes into a moth. Lana knows that she has thousands of insects to choose from, so grabs Superboy to head off to Antarctica to follow the others.
Once there and suited up in a heated plastic parkas Lana and the four Legionnaires hear Oggar-Kon tell them who he is and how he came to Earth. He had been a criminal on his native planet, and after he was captured he was made to "slide the plank," i.e. be entombed in ice and fated to float through space for all eternity. Then one day he is hit by an asteroid and eventually lands in the mountains of Antarctica. He uses his mind-over-matter powers to convert rocks into terrible machinery. He wants to rule Ice City, and if they do not cower to him he promises to destroy them.

His first attack is made by a hot wind machine, which he hopes will melt the city. Colossal Boy quickly builds a wall of ice around the city's borders, stopping the wind from getting through.
Superboy goes in search of the wind machine and destroys it. Oggar-Kon is angry at Colossal Boy so blinds him with a huge smoke screen. Afraid that he would fall into an ice crevice, Lana turns into a firefly girl and lights his way free.
While all this is happening Shrinking Violet flies after Oggar-Kon to his hidden lair. As soon as she arrives, however, she is attacked by his Guard Plants. Lana has followed Violet, and arrives in time to turn into a leaf-cutting bee, saving Violet from a venus fly trap.
Oggar-Kon then starts his Ultrasonic Horn to make Ice City crack and crumble. Superboy flies off to destroy the machine, but this time the villain is waiting for him. He "dusts" Superboy with Green Kryptonite, weakening him.
Lana arrives and tries to brush off the dust as a dragonfly girl, but is unsuccessful. She knows that the speed of a sphinx moth's vibrating wings would fast enough to do the job, so ignoring Dream Girl's premonition she changes into a moth. Sure enough the Green Kryptonite dust is shaken off Superboy, but Lana's Bio-Ring also slips off her finger. She is trapped as a Moth Girl.
Meanwhile, Chameleon Boy flies after Oggar-Kon, who sets an "instant" eagle after him. He turns into a winged octopus and smashes Oggar-Kon's ship. Superboy flies up and grabs the bad guy.
Later, all the Legionnaires on duty on Earth arrive at Ice City to help try to find Lana's Bio-Ring. When Light Lass uses her power to make it defy gravity, they find it in Superboy's cape pouch.
For Lana's courage and resourcefulness, she is made a Legion Reservist.

I really enjoyed this story, clearly more than Mike enjoyed the first one. I do have a few questions, though. Most importantly, I wonder who thought that having Lana join the Legion was a good idea?

I'm not a Silver Age Superboy fan, but from what I understand Lana Lang was a thorn in Clark's side just like Lois Lane was a pest to Superman. So for her to actually step away from this telephone booth and NOT learn Superboy's identity is something of a mis-characterization, isn't it? It did show character, however, so it was nice of Superboy to bring her to the future.

This is where the story kinda falls apart, though. She just happens to bring along her Insect Queen uniform? As far as I know it hasn't been seen in more than two years (since Superboy #127). So it's quite a coincidence that she takes it out of , er, moth balls here.

And then what is Dream Girl doing riding a commercial space ship? Isn't that what Legion Cruisers are for? Speaking of Dream Girl, her powers are used to good advantage here. I wish the way she could turn on her precognitive powers here was the way she was always portrayed.

Other than that, I don't mind this story too much. It's kinda obvious that the writer (Otto Binder) isn't familiar with the Legion, though. For example, there's a big deal made about Colossal Boy possibly falling into an ice crevice when we all know he has a Legion Flight Ring so should not have needed Lana's help whatsoever.

And may I just say that a winged octopus is a cool image? Nice graphic work from the Swan-Klein work, because Ice City looks amazing, too.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Although Shrinking Violet is active on this mission, she is not actually shown helping look for Lana's Bio-Ring at the end of the story. 
  • Lana Lang as Insect Queen is now the second Legion Reservist, after Kid Psycho was initiated in Superboy #125
This issue (both stories) have been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 6 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 3.

In "actual" continuity, Lana Lang joins the Legion Reserves from the second story.
In the Adult Legion time-line, the descendants of Lex Luthor and Mr. Mxyzptlk join the Adult Legion in the first story. Whether that actually is fated to happen or not has not been established.


  1. To say that the Adult Legion story is a "let-down" is an understatement. This Legion makes a pretty poor showing of itself overall. They have a mysterious intruder invading and vandalizing their HQ at will, yet when help arrives in the form of Superman (who they called in), they show no sense of urgency as they play catch-up with Kal. As for battle prowess, these people have their butts handed to them constantly, from a single intruder twice and by their long-standing rivals. And, each time they need to be rescued by outsiders. Maybe Levitz's decision to make this an alternate world was for the best; I wouldn't want to see the "real" Legion end up like that.

    Now, some stray thoughts on the Insect Queen story (one of my favorites):

    I agree that Lana's suddenly turning away was uncharacteristic, but maybe this was a turning point for her. I don't know what Lana's relationship with Clark/Superboy was at this point over in his own mag, but this could have been the point when she was FINALLY growing up and putting aside her ingénue busybody ways. From this point on, at least in Legion stories, Lana is less a Lois Lane clone and more a friend/girlfriend to Clark/Superboy.

    Anyone know who the other rejects were who Lana had to sit with?

    I never knew that the Bio-Ring could make Lana as small as the insect she was mimicking. Before, she was always a human-sized hybrid. But, hey.... comics.

    On the subject of flight rings: why didn't Violet simply FLY AWAY from the fly-trap? She's shown flying on the previous page. And it's a "Venis" fly-trap, which explains why it has a face.

    I like how the point that a Legionnaire's powers must be natural is driven home, not just by Lana's losing her ring, but that the villain was defeated by the team's resident metamorph, Chameleon Boy. Yeah, I also dig the winged octopus.

    Russell, maybe Shrinking Violet WAS helping to look for the ring, just in her tiny form so she could look for it in small cracks or crevices in the ground, so you can't see her.

    Are honorary Legionnaires the same as Legion Reservists, or is that a separate designation? When Jimmy Olsen was inducted as an honorary, he claimed he couldn't be because he had no powers, but his Elastic Lad abilities were accepted as qualification. But Pete Ross was also an honorary, yet he had no powers, unless you count super-integrity as such. But, are they to be considered Reservists? I mean, Jimmy has fought alongside the team on occasion and Pete has aided the group several times (unlike, say, Kid Psycho, who only showed up for Legion ceremonies before being killed off). Shouldn't their status be Reservists as well?

    "The Six-Legged Legionnaire" was also reprinted in the 1977 "Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes" paperback published by Tempo.

  2. Wow. A lot here to comment on. First off, I never noticed before that the old "Rocket Accident" clubhouse is featured on the cover. Kind of a surprise given that elaborate complex that we were shown last issue. Maybe it's been restored as a nostalgia item or something.

    I rather liked the LSH/LSV pairings: the master of sound vs the master of magnetism, etc. Luthor and Mxy in their armor suits kind of reminded me of Sir Prise and Miss Terious, but that's OK. It may be a year for us but it's a lot longer for the Legion.

    I wasn't surprised that Lana walked away from finding out Superboy's secret identity. She wants to solve it herself, not have the answer handed to her.

    There's been a lot of discussion, particularly with reference to the voting in "The Legionnaire who killed, on the subject of "Honorary member" vs. "Reservists". I think that, rather than being two distinct categories, they're classes within a single category. All honorary members are reservists, but not all reservists are honorary members. But it's all kind of arbitrary, like the rules of any club. If they really like you they give you the honorary membership. If not, you're in the reserves, pal.

    1. So you're saying that they didn't like Lana or Kid Psycho, or only sorta liked them, but they really, really liked Jimmy and Peter. To coin a phrase: even to guy like me, that's COLD. lol

    2. They really DID like Pete. Don't forget that one issue had Ultra Boy going into the past to hang out with him on his birthday. Perhaps Lana's status was "upgraded" off screen after her actions in the Mordru two-parter perhaps not. I mean, they ARE teenagers and can occasionally be real jerks.

    3. But remember they all but ignored her during their time in Smallville during the Reflecto and Pocket Universe stories.

    4. True about Lana being overlooked. But, by that point, the feature was more "Legion" and less "Superboy", so Lana's involvement was diminished. Pete Ross' featuring in the Pocket Universe story simply made sense narratively, as the crisis (pun intended) needed someone who knew Clark's secret.

  3. One possible source of the Legion's coolness toward Lana may trace way back to Adventure 282 where she "blackmailed" Star Boy into dating her to make Superboy jealous.