Tuesday, March 6, 2018

TOS: Adventure Comics #333

Adventure Comics #333 (June 1965)
title: The War Between Krypton and Earth
writer: Edmond Hamilton
penciller: John Forte
inker: George Klein
letterer: Milton Snappin
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan and George Klein
reviewer: Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board:
Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Element Lad, Light Lass, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Star Boy, Superboy, Triplicate Girl.

Opponent: Themselves

Synopsis: Several Legionnaires have gone to a small island in the Atlantic Ocean for an archaeological project. They discover an ancient tablet in the language of Krypton that refers to a war against the people of Earth. Brainaic 5 confirms that the tablet is millions of years old, and Superboy is mystified that such an unknown chapter exists in Krypton's history.
The team splits into two groups to investigate this mystery, with one traveling to ancient Krypton and the other to ancient Earth. The first team arrives on Krypton and is confused as to how a war with Earth could have occurred at a time when Kryptonians had no machinery. Saturn Girl uses her telepathy to investigate if anyone is thinking about scientific subjects and senses someone to the North thinking of nuclear power. There, the team finds a hidden group of scientists.

Their leader, Zat-El, explains that science was just beginning to mature on their world when a nuclear disaster killed thousands. The government has since forbidden scientific research, so they have resolved to leave Krypton. Zat-El asks the Legionnaires for help in completing their space ark so that they may build a new civilization on planet Earth. Apparently having completely forgotten the original purpose of their mission, the team readily agrees.
With the Legion's help, the scientists quickly finish their ark. When they approach Earth, they are surprised to see that it still has a red sun, which means the Kryptonians will be without superpowers. This includes Superboy, although he retains his Legion flight ring.

Meanwhile, the other Legionnaires have arrived in Earth's past and have discovered an ancient civilization using the language of the star Vruun. They learn from one of the inhabitants, Leta Lal, that their people came to Earth to colonize the planet and are currently building a city on the land they call Atlantis. Once again, without any concern for their original mission, the team enthusiastically assists the colonists.
Just as they finish, the Kryptonian space ark arrives and the two teams are reunited. Superboy meets Leta Lal and is quite smitten, but gets distracted when he hears his team-mates arguing. Brainiac 5 has pointed out that the Kryptonians cannot stay now that Atlantis has been established, but Saturn Girl disagrees. The bad judgment they have shown throughout this story continues as the Legionnaires let things escalate very quickly.
Brainiac 5 accompanies Jhor Lal, the leader of Atlantis, as he prepares his army for war. Brainiac 5 is relieved to hear that they will be using stun guns that will disable their enemies without killing them. Elsewhere, Saturn Girl offers their help to the Kryptonians so long as they agree to use only their stunner-ray projectors that will not kill. Leta Lal and Superboy pine away for each other while Brainiac 5 investigates why Earth air appears to be irritating the Atlanteans' throats. Both sides send Legionnaires out as advanced scouts, and the groups soon confront each other.
Full scale war also breaks out between the Atlanteans and Kryptonians.  During a retreat from one battle, the Kryptonians discover that several of their comrades were killed by the Atlanteans. They vow revenge, but Saturn Girl and Superboy cannot believe that their team-mates would ally themselves with killers. Superboy heads to Atlantis to find out the truth, and of course to visit a certain Atlantean girl that has caught his eye.
Superboy is struck by a shock gun while sneaking into Atlantis and temporarily loses use of his right arm, but he is still able to make his way to Leta's home. Once there he yet again seems to completely forget what his mission was in the first place.
Back in Atlantis, Brainiac 5 has discovered that the source of the Atlanteans' irritation is the element Xenon in Earth's atmosphere. Since they cannot return to their own planet, Brainiac 5 proposes that artificial evolution could turn them into water dwellers, allowing them to live safely under the sea. The Atlanteans are unaware that they are about to be attacked by an atomic missile launched by the Kryptonians, but Saturn Girl telepathically alerts Superboy.
Superboy appears to successfully avert the missile, but Brainiac 5 is confused how he did so since he lacks superpowers under the red sun. It turns out that Mon-El had been alerted to their mission and arrived in time to hear Leta begging Superboy to stop the missile. They then switched costumes so that it would appear that Superboy had saved the Atlanteans.

The teams reunite and Brainiac 5 explains to the Kryptonians that the Atlanteans did not intend to kill anyone, and were just unaware of the effect of their weapons on Kryptonian physiology. Since they have decided to adapt to undersea living, there would be no further need for war between the two civilizations. Star Boy uses his powers to sink Atlantis, and Superboy says goodbye to Leta before returning to the future with the Legion. Once he is back in the 20th century, Superboy finds the tablets to learn the fate of the Kryptonians. He learns that after the war, there were too few of them left and their colony was attacked and overcome by the giant lizards they had brought to Earth.
Commentary: I am generally a fan of Silver Age DC stories despite how often they rely on a hero behaving badly or showing poor judgment. Usually the fun to be had far outweighs whatever flaws may exist. But here, the Legion behaves so incredibly stupid throughout the issue that it actually left me feeling irritated as I read it. Of course, one of the most ridiculous aspects is how both teams immediately forget their mission and assist the two societies in settling Earth, despite the obvious danger based on what they read on the tablet. Even more absurd is how quickly the two Legion factions take sides and go to war against one another.

In the context of this idiotic war, I am not sure how to judge Superboy's decision to abandon his mission and romance Leta instead. In any other adventure, it would look bad but here I cannot blame him. There are some minor details that I might have enjoyed in a better story, such as making the scientist a relative of Clark, or giving his love interest the traditional double "LL" name, but here they just induce eye-rolling.

There are also many smaller details throughout the story that bothered me. It is mentioned that the war occurred millions of years in the past, but if Kryptonians brought the first dinosaurs to Earth that would place the story hundreds of millions of years in the past. It is also mentioned that Earth's sun was red in the past, which is not how a star's life cycle works. One of the sillier moments is seeing how surprised everyone is when several Kryptonians are actually killed during the war. Despite their initial shock, the Legionnaires certainly do not appear to be harboring much guilt over their role in those deaths by the end of the story.

Sadly, there are two potentially great concepts underlying this story, the first being a war between Legionnaires and the second being an origin for the city of Atlantis (the Atlantis of Lori Lemaris here, and not Aquaman), that are both just wasted.


  1. I agree that this story was kind of lame. But I actually like the idea of a stun weapon accidentally killing persons of a different species. Star Trek could have used that.

    And the idea of different members of the same team fighting each other is really awesome. You could make a movie from that concept.

    1. Almost a Civil War type thing? 🤔😁 Thats actually part of what bothered me so much about this one. The basic idea of the team splitting up and fighting sounds amazing, particularly during this era. And the cover is promising, but in the actual story it’s so forced and no ones behavior makes any sense. Even by Silver Age standards.

  2. Even as a child, the thing that confused me most about this story was the insistence that the two sides could not share a planet, when each colonizing group barely had enough people to fill a small city. Come on people, there are seven, count them seven, continents on Earth -- Even if you drop Antarctica for being too cold, that's three each. Lean how to divvy up, for Rao's sake!

  3. Why do Mon-El’s powers work under the red sun? I thought Daxamites, like Kryptonians, only have powers under a yellow sun.

    1. I believe that the anti-lead serum he takes negates that weakness.