Tuesday, February 13, 2018

TOS: Adventure Comics #330

Adventure Comics #330 (March 1965)
title: "Secret of the Mystery Legionnaire!"
writer: Jerry Siegel
penciller: Jim Mooney
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan & George Klein
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Triplicate Girl, Cosmic Boy, Invisible Kid, Mon-El, Chameleon Boy, Star Boy, Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, Lightning Lad, Ultra Boy, Element Lad, Light Lass, Sun Boy, Superboy, Brainiac 5, Saturn Girl; cameos by Phantom Girl and Matter-Eater Lad

Opponents: 
Dynamo Boy and his Space Pirates

On a pirate planetoid, a gang of pirates watch in horror as the Legion foils an attempted plunder. The pirate leader asks for two volunteers to study two belts that he has in his possession which will give the wearer temporary super-powers. Vorm and Pargg fight to the death for the honor to face the Legion. Eventually, Vorm blows Pargg up! 
A week later, Star Boy goes to pick up his Legion cruiser. Vorm has gotten a job at the rocket port. When the Legion cruiser has no power, Vorm re-charges it with "his power." This impresses Star Boy, who asks Vorm who or what he is. Vorm lies and says that he was a nigh watchman on the planet Darzyl when he was accidentally bombarded by ultra-dynamic energy blasts. Now, he can reactivate dwindled energy sources. Star Boy suggests that Vorm apply to join the Legion. He does, and is admitted as Dynamo Boy. 
Later, Colossal Boy reports that he has captured the Anzar Gang and has rescued the stolen Duplazor device. However, when he returns to the Legion Club-House he can't find it. The Legion gives Colossal Boy a Hyper-Polygraph test and the machine says that he is lying when he tells them he didn't steal the Duplazor device for himself. Although he claims he is innocent, Colossal Boy is expelled. Of course, Dynamo Boy framed him. 
Soon after, Mon-El fails to stop "evil force villains" with the Ultima weapon, which he says he didn't have on him when he faced the bad guys. However, all the Legionnaires see that the weapon is hanging off of his belt! They think he's a coward and a liar, and Mon-El is expelled as well. 
Then the Creature Custodian of planet W-27Y calls the Legion asking for help: several of the ultra-dangerous animals at their zoo have escaped. Dynamo Boy stays behind as Cosmic Boy leads the others into space. Three times the Legion cruiser almost hits other space ships. When the Legion lands on W-27Y they go into action, each using their own unique abilities to re-capture the several escaped animals. 
After their return to Earth the Legionnaires are reprimanded by the Science Police for flying recklessly, ignoring the many space signals and buoys between Earth and W-27Y. Dynamo Boy appoints himself Legion Leader in Saturn Girl's absence and expels all of the others. 
Saturn Girl, Superboy, and Brainiac 5 return from their missions, and are discussing the situation with Dynamo Boy when Colossal Boy returns, begging for another chance. Suddenly, their powers switch out. Dynamo Boy blames them for fiddling with the Super Power Switch Ray which the Legion was supposed to present to the Science Police, and expels them. Without so much as a telepathic check on Dynamo Boy, Saturn Girl and the others walk off. 
Dynamo Boy makes an inter-galactic announcement that all of the other Legionnaires have been expelled and that he is looking for new members. Later, he reports back to the pirates that he made the Duplazor invisible, made the lie detector glow to make it appear that Colossal Boy was lying, made Mon-El's weapon and the traffic signals invisible/intangible, and switched the four Legionnaires' powers. Dynamo Boy now intends to have new member tryouts, but only induct villains so that the Legion of Super-Heroes will turn into a Legion of Super-Villains. 
I am not embarrassed to admit that I never remember this story until I begin to re-read it. The cover doesn't truly represent what is going on in the story, for one thing. And for another, I keep getting this new-member-betrays-the-Legion story mixed up with the Command Kid story from a few issues ago (Adventure Comics #328). Both feature a new member who joins and then tries to destroy the Legion from within. If we count "The Menace of Dream Girl" from Adventure Comics #317 this plot device has now been used three separate times! And in my opinion, the quality of the stories has declined each time.

I like the idea of the pirate planet, and the idea that they are wanting to get the Legion out of their way. I would have liked to have seen this idea return. As far as I remember, this concept was never touched on again.

And Dynamo Boy seems like a worthy adversary. Similar to the not-yet-introduced Nemesis Kid, this bad guy also seems able to do whatever he needs to do at the time he needs to do it. And he blows up his adversary!?! That was a shocking murder, especially for the mid Sixties when this story first appeared.

On the other hand, Dynamo Boy bears a strong resemblance to Command Kid, as I mentioned. And in a sea of good looking super-heroes, is it just me or does Dynamo Boy look LESS handsome than the others? Artist Jim Mooney is not great at subtlety, is he? The less "good looking" guy is less good? Mooney does "double-take" facial expressions just fine (the scenes where Colossal Boy, Mon-El, and Cosmic Boy are expelled are all laughably melo-dramatic) but other than that, the action is dull and the figures are static.

There isn't much else to say about this story that you can't see or read for yourself from the summary. The idea that the Legionnaires would so easily believe that their friends are thieves, cowards, and speed freaks (?) is insane. The idea that Saturn Girl would not have run a mental check on their new member and found out that he was a bad egg is idiotic. The plot of the newest member expelling all of the other members is just ridiculous. Let's hope the conclusion is better than the set-up.

Science Police Notes:  
  • The blurb on the cover is "The MENACE of the Mystery Legionnaire!" but the story itself is "The SECRET of the Mystery Legionnaire!"
  • Supergirl does not appear in this story. She is the only Legionnaire who does not. 
  • Vorm references Elastic Lad while he stretches to attack Pargg, even thought Elastic Lad has never been shown to interact heroically with the Legion in the greater 30th Century universe.  
  • Although the "Space Police" reprimand the Legion for ignoring space traffic signals, the Super Power Switch Ray was supposed to be presented to the "Science Police." This implies that the Space Police might be a separate organization, perhaps similar to a Highway Patrol rather than a police organization?  
Status: 
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 4 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 2.

Milestone: 
Dynamo Boy joins the Legion in this story.

3 comments:

  1. You would think after being "infiltrated" multiple times. (The three instances you cite, and the three who came in later in the fake wedding issue) that the Legion would tighten up its vetting process, especially with a resident telepath. There is a reference later to "preliminary tests", but even that didn't stop Nemesis Kid from getting past them.

    Also you say that "Elastic Lad has never been shown to interact heroically with the Legion in the greater 30th Century universe." Well, in Jimmy Olsen 76 (Jimmy's Legion Romances), published a year earlier, he replaces a piece of monorail, does the elastic finger maze thing and rubs noses with an electrical beastie. It's certainly feasible that Dynamo Boy, having studied up on the Legion, would be aware of Elastic Lad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right, I totally forgot that story!
      I'll amend my comment.

      Delete
  2. It probably would have been a good idea to have Saturn Girl make sure new recruits weren't secretly villains, although the idea of "find excuses to expel members one by one" was pretty much taken from Saturn Girl's playbook in the first place (the issue where Lightning Lad died), so...

    (Still have to wonder how Imra remained a member after that nonsense. It was clear that she telepathically made all the other Legionnaires vote for her as leader, yet she was allowed to not only remain in the Legion, but as leader? The Legion Constitution lets you kick members out for minor, petty infractions, but not that? The Legion's rules are kinda weird.)

    ReplyDelete