Tuesday, February 5, 2019

TOS: Adventure Comics #373

Adventure Comics #374 (October 1968)
title: "The Tornado Twins!"
writer and layouts: Jim Shooter
artist: Win Mortimer
letterer: Ben Oda
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Neal Adams
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board: 
Brainiac 5, Element Lad, Karate Kid, Phantom Girl, Princess Projectra, Sun Boy, Superboy

The Tornado Twins

Phantom Girl and Sun Boy are at Metro-Heights Educational Center learning science when there is an urgent alarm and they head off, much to the chagrin of the Education Inspector. Karate Kid, on the way to the Legion headquarters, stops off  to visit Princess Projectra. She shows him (and us) her huge pent-house apartment home. On a date at a sky-car drive-in movie, Element Lad has to dump Marya at "The Cosmic Cloud That Swallowed Earth" when the emergency signal comes through. She swears that this means they are breaking up. Brainiac 5 and Superboy are at Legion Head-quarters playing computer war. 
I'm a sucker for seeing what the Legionnaires do on their time off, but three pages of this seems excessive. The whole first page about some nameless Educational Auditor being upset that Phantom Girl and Sun Boy have to rush off from "class" seems odd. And is it just me, or does the movie that Element Lad and his girl-friend go to sound a lot like the Sun-Eater story-line?

They rush off to stop crooks from stealing UP Vehicle Research Center, but when they arrive they find that Don and Dawn have already captured all the crooks. They don't want to answer the Legion's questions, so Don flips Karate Kid which angers him. However, they haven't done anything illegal, so the Legion has to let them go. 
I have to admit, I like Don Allen here. Clearly Jim Shooter was trying to write in more of a "Marvel" way where not all the characters get along, but Karate Kid IS being sort of a jerk. There is no reason that the Legion has to question the Allens if they don't want to be questioned.

Later, after Karate Kid practices with Superboy, Karate Kid admits to his friend that he takes it personally whenever someone gets the better of him because of his insecurity over his powers (or lack of same). 
This is a much better "Marvel" scene then the forced antagonism between the Allens and the Legionnaires. This rings true. However, it's marred a tad by the weird art. We get Superboy's crotch and Karate Kid's ass (twice) in the space of three panels. I'm all for changing up some of the angles in comics, but this is just distracting. This is also a good place to welcome new Legion artist Win Mortimer to the book. He does good work with the characters' faces (see this page, and the one reprinted above) but he needs to wok on his figures and on his uniforms. Superboy lost his cape in these top panels, for example, and the lack of backgrounds is disappointing.

Seconds later, there's an urgent alert from the Alpha Iron Mine. Robot workers on that planetoid have gone haywire, causing a cave-in and trapping various VIPs underground. The Legion goes in for a rescue effort but gets stopped by the robots. 
This is where I start to really dislike this story. In order to make Don and Dawn Allen look better than the Legion, Jim Shooter is making the Legionnaires look incompetent! They've had more than seventy issues of never making any mistakes, and now they can't take down a bunch of crummy robots? Princess Projectra's sensory powers may not affect the robots, so she should have stayed back or come in armed. (BTW, what exactly is happening in the panel where she is in the jaws of the giant digger....is that a bull-dozer being driven by one of the robots?!) It seems to me that the Legionnaires could have been overwhelmed and welcoming the help of the Allens, instead of them *needing* them to rescue them.
Also my least favorite panel in this story: Sun Boy not realizing that he should provide some light in the darkness until Brainiac 5 reminds him what his powers are. Are you kidding me!?!?

As soon as Don & Dawn arrive they miraculously get the job done, trashing all of the robots and clearing out the cave-in, rescuing the captives.  
There's Element Lad and Superboy, two of the mightiest Legionnaires, and they can't get the job done? I cry, "Foul."

Back at the Legion head-quarters, the Legionnaires are angry that Don & Dawn are "glory hounds." They investigate them at the Earth Information Bureau and at the Science Police Central Headquarters but find nothing as to who they are or what their powers are. 
I cry, "Foul!" again. Spoiler alert if you haven't already read this story, but wouldn't their ancestor's heritage or their employment at the Flash Museum be noted in their personal histories? Finding "nothing" seems like a cheat.

Then, the Chemical Plant in Metropolis is on fire, with liquid flame solvent having exploded. The Legionnaires rush to the scene but instead of helping out they stop to watch Don & Dawn take care of the fire. 
This is when the story should have been a bit more "DC" and a little less "Marvel." The Legion could have said, "Great work!" and the Twins could have said, "Thanks!"

Brainiac 5 asks the two to join the Legion, but they refuse. Suddenly, the Alkan Building collapses; the Allens create a vibrational wave that supports the building. Karate Kid again presses for some explanation; Don refuses and pushes Karate Kid, who holds a grudge. They start to fight.  
While it seems very logical that Brainiac 5 would tell his friends to observe the Allens at work in order to learn more about them, it seems egregious of him to offer them membership when he isn't  even sure what their powers are!
And then we're back in the Marvel 30th Century again....! As I mentioned earlier, Karate Kid is being something of a jerk here, and now Don Allen is being kind of a jerk, too. But we get a whole page and some of the two characters fighting, which I guess some readers might have enjoyed....? To me it's boring.
Love that panel above where Dawn is smiling so happily when her brother is showing Karate Kid up.

Don Allen nearly has Karate Kid on the ropes until Karate Kid manages to maneuver himself close enough to grab him. Dawn then steps in to help her brother, and it becomes a free-for-all as the Tornado Twins fight the Legionnaires....and the Legion loses! 
Okay, now hold it right there. Here's a group of super-heroes who have battled the worst threats known to humankind, and they can't beat two super-fast "glory hounds"? I am NOT a fan of stories where the characters are portrayed as incompetent. Element Lad could have knocked them out by changing the oxygen around them to nitrogen. Princess Projectra could have made them think that they had beaten the Legionnaires when they really hadn't. Phantom Girl or Superboy could have actually, you know, USED THEIR POWERS. And all in one panel and a half. I say thee NAY!

Later, all the news headlines are about Don and Dawn beating the Legion. People in danger are not calling in the Legion; instead they are calling on the Tornado Twins. Finally the Legion is summoned to investigate a mysterious space-ship, but they initially pause, thinking that the Twins will take care of it. They then decide to rush off, seeing as they are still Legionnaires. They find a huge alien spaceship that turns out to be a huge statue of The Flash. That day had been declared World Flash Day by the United Planets, and the Allens' "glory hounding" had all been part of the attempt to raise awareness of who Barry Allen was.  
I'm not a public relations guy; all I know about advertising I learned from Bewitched. But still, it seems odd that if the point of your job is to raise publicity for Universal Flash Day, you would, you know, mention the Flash a little bit more often. Seems like if they had come out as the Kid Flash Twins from the beginning, they would have raised a helluva lot more publicity for the Barry Allen Memorial Institute. I'm just sayin'.

As part of the commemoration ceremonies, Don and Dawn helped get this statue built. Both work for the Barry Allen Memorial Institute; they admit that a scientist friend of theirs re-created the chemical accident that gave Barry Allen his powers, but only temporarily. All is forgiven, and they part as friends. 

I gotta say, this is the dumbest Legion story I've read in a LONG time. For such a huge build-up, this one page pay-off is just awful. Not only does Shooter go way overboard to show us that the Legionnaires are incompetent, but he gives and then takes away super-speed powers in the same stupid classic way that the Flash got HIS powers. Could you imagine being a descendant of a super-hero who got his/her powers accidentally and being offered a chance to possibly receive those same powers in a re-creation of the accident? Say, for example, that you're Peter Parker's descendant. Do you REALLY allow a radioactive spider to bite you? I doubt it.
As a teenager I often saw this nifty Neal Adams cover in books about the Legion (like in Amazing World of DC Comics #9) and wonder why this story was never reprinted. As soon as I read it, I understood.
And on a final note, is it just me or does Win Mortimer draw an awful pair of Kid Flashes at the end? Dawn is wearing her mask OVER her hair!?!

Science Police Notes:  
  • Dawn and Don Allen re-appeared at the wedding of Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy in Superboy/Legion #200 (which is odd, as they had not met either of them during this adventure.) They then re-appeared in The Legion of Super-Heroes Annual (v2) #1 (1985).  
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 8 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 4.

This is the debut of Win Mortimer as the newest Legion of Super-Heroes artist. A professional artist since 1945, he had drawn such features as Superman, Batman, and Robin. After he left the Legion series he drew regularly for DC's romance and horror titles, as well as many issues of the Spidey Super Stories for Marvel.


  1. Throway story? Yes. A hugely influential one? You bet!: so many things happen because of this story or trying to explain it, both here and in the Flash books. Iris death/resurrection, Trial of the Flash ending, Crisis, the Allens captive in 5YL, XS, Impulse, some flustercuckery in the Flash TV show, and so on...

    1. "Flustercuckery", Gus? Do you mind if I use that term when I need to?

  2. Random thoughts abound:

    * I have often commented that Shooter was infusing more Marvel-style elements into his Legion stories, but I agree with Russell that it backfires here. It's good to see greater characterization in the heroes and to have that drive the story somewhat. But here, it only creates conflict where it need not be.

    This was published just after Marvel got out from under its distribution arrangement with DC and was expanding its line. And, Marvel was already winning over the hearts and minds of many readers, despite DC's apparent sales dominance. I suspect, in light of this, that Weisinger encouraged Shooter to write even MORE in the Marvel style, only for Shooter's inexperience to trip him up.

    * This story also showcases the necessary dramatic license needed to write stories about speedsters. Speedsters are extremely powerful characters -- except for when they're not. I mean, if you really want to get technical about it, Don & Dawn could have mightily shown up the Legion by handling one emergency, then super-speeding to the next before the Legion even GETS to the first one, making them look really foolish.

    * I feel I must point out one of the clever comic clues -- "The 'F'un 'L'oving 'A'llens - 'S'uper-'H'eroes" -- just for those who might have missed it.

    * I know this story came out in 1969, and that scientific research into genetics has grown dramatically since then. But, when I first read this, the part about D&D not having speed powers because Barry Allen's powers were acquired characteristics didn't ring true. Sure, they were acquired, but Barry's body had to have been altered (at least genetically) so that his body could adapt and protect itself from the adverse effects of his greater speed. In the case of D&D, after 1,000 years of breeding with non-powered humans, the genetic markers could have been diluted and rendered latent in the descendants. Then, when D&D wanted to gain super-speed, the 30th century scientist could have simply(?) "reactivate" their latent potential, at least temporarily.

    * It cracks me up when Don thanks the Legionnaires for being good sports about getting their butts kicked. Right. Karate Kid picks a fight with them at least twice, and the whole Legion spends an entire page silently sulking in their clubhouse listening to radio(?) reports about the Twins.

    Good sports.... Right.

    * I sympathize that he had some big shoes to fill, but I believe that Win Mortimer was not the best choice of artist to replace Curt Swan. No, Russell, it's not just you -- those Kid Flash costumes are dreadful.

  3. I would also point out that Brainy asking them both to join the Legion woldn't have happened since their powers are identical. Still, having a speedster in the Legion could have been a good concept. (Heh heh.)