Tuesday, March 19, 2019

TOS: Adventure Comics #379

Adventure Comics #379 (April 1969)
title: "Burial in Space!"
writer and layouts: Jim Shooter
penciller: Win Mortimer
inker: Jack Abel
letterer: John Costanza
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Neal Adams
reviewers: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage and Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board: 
Chameleon Boy, Chemical King, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Star Boy, Timber Wolf, Ultra Boy; Invisible Kid, Shrinking Violet; cameos by Brainiac 5, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, Superboy

nameless invasion force, nameless would-be assassin, plot holes, bad editorial decisions

In the dark and quiet Legion head-quarters, six shadowy figures are near death when a single alien suddenly appears. This Seeron has stopped time in order to watch the Legion in action, but because the five Legionnaires have been poisoned, he doesn't know what to do. 
Several more Legionnaires approach their head-quarters, so the Seeron "turns on" time to allow them to converse with him. Of course, the first thing they notice is their near-death friends. The Seeron tells them he is from another dimension, and that he can cure their friends if these Legionnaires agree to help him. Ultra Boy agrees, and the Seeron instantly transports them to his home, Seeris. 
Russell: Okay, right off the bat this story doesn't work the way I think that it should. If this Seeron has the power to save the "dead" Legionnaires, why didn't he just do it as a measure of good will and then we could move on from the silliness of the previous story.
Also, I'm not an expert on time control, but if the Seeron STOPPED time in order to watch the Legionnaires....how would they have been doing anything worth watching? They would have been stopped.....right?
Mike: It feels like there has been a lot of this kind of thing lately. Story ideas that are either so internally inconsistent or so silly that they do not work even by the standards of Silver Age craziness.

The Seeron escorts the Legion to the Temple of the Minds, where one of the elders explains that on Seeris all people live a fully automated life. They spend their days thinking and exchanging ideas, which has led to them having earth-shaking mental powers. The only physical work that remains is done by "temple men" who oversee the machines that run their civilization. 
Russell: Surely I can't be the only person whose first thought while reading about the Seerons was the humans in WALL-E. And don't call me Shirley.
Mike: I did as well , Shirley. And while the premise of the issue was shaky, I did find this explanation of their civilization to be intriguing. That image of Seeris looked kind of neat, too.

However, the Seerons are now under siege by an unnamed race whose pure physical force threatens to destroy Seeris. The Seerons ask the Legion to stop the invaders and save Seeris. 
Russell: This bit reminds me of HG Wells' The Time Machine. He did it better.
Mike: This is a good example of how this is not a very strong artistic era for the Legion.

The Legion watches video-tapes of Seerons trying to stop the invaders. After investigating the landscape, Ultra Boy decides to lead an initial attack to measure their opponents' responses. They decide to leave first thing in the morning. 
Russell: This is the best part of the story for me. The Legionnaires "hanging out" while also talking strategy is interesting to me. And it notches up the suspense in a way that five Legionnaires facing death did not.
Mike: Agreed. For me, it's moments like these that are really the strength of the Legion.

As the others try to sleep in the high-tech Seeron apartments, the weight of leadership weighs heavily on Ultra Boy. Phantom Girl gives him moral support (and some kisses) and they head off to sleep. 
Russell: If writer Jim Shooter was trying to give us a different type of leader in Ultra Boy than we had seen in Invisible Kid or Brainiac 5, I think he succeeded. Self-doubt in a leader, especially soon after taking over the role, is a good characterization to show. This scene is my second favorite in this story. And it's not reprinted here, but on the next page Ultra Boy muses about needing to hurry up and marry Phantom Girl. It's kinda adorable.
Mike: Yes, this is a great moment of humanizing our heroes. And I liked how Phantom Girl was being supportive but also very blunt at the same time.

The next morning the Legionnaires head out in a borrowed sky-car to reconnoiter the invaders. They are surprised to hear the invaders speaking Interlac, and realize that they are not as mindless as the Seerons made them out to be. 

The Legion attacks, but they are not successful in stopping the invasion. Lightning Lad's bolts only momentarily stun them. Star Boy's mass-inducing is shrugged off. Ultra Boy's punches are tossed aside. And worst of all, Phantom Girl is captured and knocked out before she can become a phantom. Ultra Boy orders a retreat back to the city. 
Russell: And here we are, my least favorite page of this story. Not only do we have Phantom Girl not using her powers (!?!) but then we have Invisible Kid and Shrinking Violet coming home and deciding to toss their friends' bodies into space. HUH!?!
Mike: That was a startling moment. The stories of late have had a lot of bizarre moments like these.

Back on Earth, Invisible Kid and Shrinking Violet return from a mission to find their five "dead" friends. They decide to "bury" them in space. 
Russell: Isn't there a planetoid named Shanghalla that these two Legionnaires are forgetting? And not to be morbid, but how in the world (or beyond) is "burial in space" a thing!?!
Mike: Well, not to get too morbid but perhaps they just assume that everything is going to be drawn into a sun eventually and that will take care of things...?

On Seeris, one of the chairs converts into a healing chamber that revives Phantom Girl. Ultra Boy decides that another all-out attack is dangerous, so decides to build a fortress in the invaders' path that they could not get through. Working together the Legion build a castle out of marble. 
Russell: Although I really like these scenes of the Legionnaires working together, I don't really understand the idea of building a fortress. Is it like...a wall? Seems like that is what it ends up trying to be, but I was confused by this section because the castle so clearly is ineffectual.

However, the invaders burst in just as Phantom Girl is confronting Ultra Boy about the real reason he doesn't want to lead a charge against the horde. 
Russell: I really really liked Phantom Girl after this scene. And my respect for Ultra Boy went up after he thought through what she had said. Nicely done by Shooter, IMO.
Mike: Yes, their scenes have been handled very well and are certainly the high point of the issue.

The Legionnaires manage to repel the advance party, but realize that a fortress will NOT stop the invaders. 
Russell: I'm including this page because I really, really liked Chemical King and wish he had been used more often and better. We never saw him give himself super-strength again, which is a shame.
Mike: It was a perfectly fine scene, but I don't think I share your feelings on the character so it did not stand out to me as much. However, I do acknowledge there was probably greater potential there than was ever realized during his short time.

Ultra Boy also realizes that he can't lead the Legion while constantly worrying about Phantom Girl.
Russell: "Girl Legionnaires have to pull their weight! I can't just stand around and watch Phantom Girl!" Enlightenment at a young age. You've been woke, Ultra Boy.
Mike: Ha, true. I did enjoy this, though, another example of good characterization in this issue. Really, the only times I have felt any real interest are the moments we focus on Ultra Boy and/or Phantom Girl.

Ultra Boy goes back to Seeris and broadcasts to the populace that if the entire civilization works together, they can overwhelm and overpower the invaders 10,000 to 1. Spurred on by the Legionnaries, the Seerons do face off against their invaders and manage to send them retreating. 
Russell: Okay, is this just me or did this come from way out of left field? I don't disagree that if the Seerons really did outnumber the invaders by that amount, they should have been able to stop them, but a little bit more scenes of how Ultra Boy got to that conclusion, and then several scenes showing the Legionnaires training them or SOMETHING would have been better, I think. Plus I would have liked a little bit more scale to the actual fighting. As it is, it was done in one half-page.
Mike: This resolution was absolutely out of the blue and the whole thing just wrapped up too quickly. The basic idea of uniting the population is fine, but wow, did it just play out in a lame way here.

The Seerons, overjoyed at the turn of events, return the Legionnaires to Earth, but because the  "dead" Legionnaires are no longer at the head-quarters, they are not saved. Ultra Boy remembers the Miracle Machine, and he uses it to revive their friends. 
Russell: So...the Seerons did NOT save the others....and the same Deux Ex Machina plot device (the Miracle Machine) that should have ended this plot in the last issue is *finally* used THIS time instead. Gre~at.
Mike: This was all just...so lackluster. Yay for the Seerons I guess but them not helping made this whole thing feel like a big waste of time.

The would-be assassin woke up in the morgue and had been identified as a minor crook that the Legion had arrested a few years before. 
Russell: So guess what, the dead Legionnaires are NOT dead, and everything is right in our (and the Seerons') universes. Hooray.
Mike: One of the coolest things about the Legion at this time was that they had actually had members killed, which was very unique in superhero comics. Not that anyone expected all of these heroes to stay dead, but still, storylines like this just take away from that specialness. Especially when it happens in an issue that is otherwise very bleh.

Russell: I guess Jim Shooter was trying to be all "multi-parting" in this, but really the two stories from this issue and last had NOTHING TO DO WITH EACH OTHER. The "dead" Legionnaires should have been cured at the end of last issue, and then maybe put into a statis field for this adventure to start? Ultra Boy's Legionnaires would have helped out the Seerons even without the threat of their "dead" friends, so who is Shooter kidding here?
Also, the fact that Invisible Kid and Shrinking Violet tossed their "dead" friends' bodies into space like this really bothers me. Outer space is not like the ocean; I think the equivalent is if you tossed a corpse onto a highway. And of course, this story totally ignores the fact that there is already a perfectly fine cemetery for dead super-heroes called Shanghalla that editor Wiesinger conveniently forgot about.
It's a shame that these last few Adventure Comics adventures were so bad; I wonder if everyone involved were only giving half-efforts because they knew they were about to be cancelled?
Mike: While this issue was not one of the worst we've run into lately, it was not good, either. The moments with Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl were okay, but there was otherwise nothing positive here. More of our heroes acting out of character, significant past events ignored or forgotten, and things happening in-story that just do not make any sense. The recent issues really have been a chore to read at times. And it makes me sad to say that because I so associate the Legion with fun and adventure!

Science Police Notes:  
  • The Seerons and their invading neighbors are never heard from again.  
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 9 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 4.

This issue features the first mention of Interlac, the intergalactic language used by the majority of races in the universe.


  1. "I wonder if everyone involved were only giving half-efforts because they knew they were about to be cancelled?"

    Russell. I've been wondering about that for weeks in my comments here as to why these last few stories contain so much flustercuckery. Nice to see someone agrees with me.

    You're also right about Chemical King not using his power to boost his metabolism again, although he did use it in Superboy/LSH #221 to slow down other beings' metabolisms to knock them out or make them seem dead. That one was also written by Shooter.

  2. Yeah,this has a "the end is near" vibe, for real.