Friday, September 30, 2011

Finding Silver in Bronze: LCE C-49 (Adventure Comics 370)

Limited Collectors' Edition C-49 (Oct-Nov 1976)
Cover by Mike Grell
Reprinting Adventure Comics #'s 369-370

Adventure Comics #370 (July 1968)
"Mordru the Merciless!"
Jim Shooter/Mort Weisinger-Shooter/Curt Swan/Jack Abel; Cover by Swan & George Roussos

Doug: Welcome back to the conclusion of our Legion 2-parter. Today we feature the back cover of the treasury-sized book in which I first discovered this story. If you'll recall from Monday, four Legionnaires had fled to 20th Century Smallville in hopes of evading the wrath of the most powerful wizard of the 30th Century -- Mordru! But alas, that plan proved faulty, as the giant followed them and eventually flushed them out of hiding.

Doug: Mordru's one angry cuss -- I mean what, lock a guy in an airtight vault with eternity the goal and that's not OK? Apparently not, because he zaps Superboy, Mon-el, Duo Damsel, and Shadow Lass pretty hard. Superboy comes up with a plan: he and Mon will dig as fast as they can, tunneling away from Mordru. They're successful, and emerge several blocks away. Assembling in the lab, Superboy uses a device to erase the knowledge that they are heroes not only from their own memories, but from the Kents' as well. After the hypnotism, all involved can't understand why they are in the lab -- it's been successful.

Karen: At first when I read the plan, I thought,"Hiding again?" But when Superboy said the amnesia would wear off in an hour, I was relieved. His hypno machine was pretty groovy, with its spinning wheel! It seems like back in the late 60s/ early 70s there were always hypnotists on talk shows or variety shows.

Doug: Mordru remains in Smallville, scanning the landscape (as well as the minds of the locals) for any hint as to the location of the Legion. He searches recent events for clues, but having nothing concrete to go on he decides to try once again to force the young heroes out of hiding. Assembling his armies from across time, Mordru attacks the outer area of Smallville and lifts the landscape from the very face of the Earth (in a scene very similar to Graviton's ploy in Avengers #158-159)! After the levitating settles in, the armies do invade and attempt to bring the Legion to the fore.

Karen: I was trying to recall where I'd seen that floating city idea used -good memory, Doug. Of course, Shooter wrote both of these stories! The only other one I can recall at the moment was the John Byrne Fantastic Four we reviewed not too long ago, where Terrax the Tamer did the same thing to Manhattan.

Doug: You're kind, but really it's "bad memory" to me, because I've read that Terrax story way more recently than I have the Graviton story!

Doug: The Legion, strange as it seems, really has no predisposition to heroism. When threatened, the girls act timid -- well, except for Lana Lang who is as feisty as always. Pa Kent gets roughed up, and Clark admits that he's Superboy. The soldiers reject him, however, because they state that if he really was he'd have used his powers. Witnessing all of this from afar is Pete Ross -- Clark Kent's best friend who knows that Clark is Superboy. Pete goes to see Lana Lang, who he knows is really the Legion reservist Insect Queen. Pete gives up Clark's secret, and then asks Lana to kidnap Clark. Using her bio-ring to take the form of a fly, caterpillar, and butterfly she successfully brings Clark to Pete. Using a mirror and an ordinary pair of scissors, Pete attempts to cut Clark's hair. When the scissors shatter, Clark's memory returns and he flies away "for reinforcements".

Karen: I had the same thought -it seems odd that without their powers or memories of being Legionnaires, the four of them become doormats. Pete and Lana come out looking like the real heroes!

Doug: This was my first exposure to Lana as the Insect Queen, and for some reason I thought her powers were dumb. Saying that, of course, I'd seen (obviously) Spider-Man, and a Spidey Annual around this time featured the Fly. Lana just didn't resonate with me in this role, I guess.

Doug: Clark gets the hypno-device and undoes the spell from everyone affected. Rejuvenated, the Legion attacks Mordru's army, but are soon captured -- or so it seems. Hiding in an alley, we find Superboy, Shadow Lass, and Insect Queen. Seems Pete Ross stood in for Superboy and Duo Damsel split and disguised herself as Shady, all in order to be captured. The captives are taken to the cave headquarters Mordru's set up, where they face the evil wizard. Suddenly, the real Superboy and his team burst in. Mordru's caught off guard, and the Legion does some damage. But it's not for long, and soon everyone is spirited away to a courtroom.

Karen: There was great set-up for that attack, but the attack itself didn't seem too well thought out! Oh well, they're kids, right? As an aside, I thought it was cute that Shooter had Mordru cast a spell referring to 'Yog Sothoth' -I guess he must have been reading Lovecraft back then!

Doug: Mordru surrounds himself with some of the most evil do-badders of the 30th Century, although none we've ever heard of. A prosecutor states the case against the Legion, while Pete Ross speaks on their behalf. While Pete does his best, this is obviously a "show trial" and the team is sentenced to death. But before Mordru can mete out a method, the prosecutor Wraithor offers to come up with his own special doom. Alas, he's working against Mordru and rather than encasing the good guys in a kryptonite and lead-lined vault it's in reality a paper-thin chamber. The teens break out and are met by their benefactor, who explains how Mordru had used him as a lackey. At that moment, Wraithor is vaporized and Mordru appears to confront the Legion.

Karen: Talked about a rigged jury...

Doug: Encased in a forcefield of Mordru's making, the Legion are powerless. Mordru creates an enormous fireball, but the mass of the construct is too much and the cave begins to collapse on him. Ironically, it's the forcefield that protects the Legion. Once on the surface, they debrief and then head back to the Kents'. There, Superboy turns the hypnosis ray on Lana to make her forget his secret. But when he attempts to turn it on Pete, Mon grabs it from him and turns it on Superboy himself. Mon can't tell Pete why, but tells the reader that in the future Pete will save Superman's life because he knows his secret ID. Back in the 30th Century, Invisible Kid, Dream Girl, and Ultra Boy relate how Dream Girl had prophesied the coming of Mordru. With help from her sister, the White Witch, and Princess Projectra, the Legionnaires were able to create an illusion that made Mordru think that they'd been destroyed. All's well that ends well -- until Mon-el has to go and ruin it with a typical Silver Age sexist comment -- "Well, I'll be darned! To think of all the trouble we had dodging Mordru! How ironic that he was foiled by three girls!"

Karen: This was a fun little story, although I can't help but note that the Legionnaires prove to be fairly useless against Mordru. They were lucky that Wraithor helped them escape, and lucky that Mordru brought on his own downfall. The 30th century team really didn't fare much better -they drove Mordru off but didn't defeat him. In fact he just went gunning for the Legionnaires still in the 20th century! This certainly wasn't their finest hour, but all in all, I enjoyed the story.


Dougie said...

As I recall, the White Witch is next mentioned in Superman 213 (Jan 69) where she is referred to as a "buddy" of the Adult Legion. I took that to mean she was intended as a Legionnaire-to-be. But in reality I don't think she was heard of again until the text feature in the second part of the Earthwar. I learned about the Adult Legion's Mxyzptlk in that selfsame article: an idea which has always amused me.

jefsview said...

Damn, but I LOVED that tabloid issue. It might have been my first Legion story, too. Can't recall. I just remember it vividly.

Thanks for bringing back those memories.

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

WW did become a Legionnaire eventually.

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