Reviews of Old Comics: Adventure Comics #342

Adventure Comics #342

March 1966

adventure-comics-342In Reviews of Old Comics, I’ve made a habit of reviewing comics from the 80’s and 90’s but I decided that I wanted to review an issue with more vintage, and decide to go with one I remember very fondly, where the Legion actually expels a member for

SYNOPSIS:

At Legion HQ, The Legionnaires not on missions are relaxing, playing games, dancing or seeing which members have the most fun kissing each other. When Star Boy refuses to join in, the others speculate that it’s because he’s still carrying a torch for Dream Girl, who left the Legion after joining under false pretenses.

They test two new applicants, Calamity King and Color Kid, both of whom are rejected, and Star Boy goes to visit his parents on the remote planet Karak. When he arrives he finds that they have moved, leaving their observatory to Jan Barth, an explorer. A ship lands nearby and its pilot kills Jan Barth before he can fire his own gun. The assailant is Kenz Nuhor and he’s arrived to kill Star Boy. His shield reflects Star Boy’s power back at him, pinning him to the ground.

Nuhor explains that he’s always loved Dream Girl, but she is in love with Star Boy, driving Nuhor to kill Star Boy. Dream Girl’s ship arrives just as Nuhor prepares to shoot Star Boy. Star Boy sees his only chance to survive is to use Jan Barth’s dropped gun to shoot Nuhor. He does so, and Dream Girl reassures him that he killed Kenz Nuhor in self defense.

The Science Police clear Star Boy, but at Legion HQ, leader Brainiac 5 puts Star Boy on trial for breaking the Legion Code against needlessly killing someone. Superboy volunteers to defend Star Boy, believing that those members that aren’t invulnerable should have the right of using lethal force in self-defense. Brainiac 5 uses instances where Legionnaires used means other than killing to defend themselves. He then demonstrates with a model that Star Boy could have used his powers on a tree branch above Nuhor to immobilize him without killing him.

Superboy first hinges his defense on using an instance where Brainiac 5 apparently killed an adversary, but failed to notice that Brainiac 5 just shot an android. He then has Proty II attack Brainiac 5 disguised as a deadly beast, but Brainiac 5 sees through the ruse, noticing a minor detail that Proty missed. The members vote, and by one vote, Star Boy is expelled from the Legion. Dream Girl greets him outside Legion HQ and invites him to join the Legion of Substitute Heroes with her.

In a second, reprinted story, Clark Kent is befriended by Pete Ross. Pete suspects Clark of being Superboy. After several instances, Pete demonstrates to Clark that he’s a dead ringer for Superboy, but not in suspecting his secret identity but to get an exact duplicate of Superboy for a play.

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REVIEW:

This story is written by Edmond Hamilton in a manner that made me first confuse it for a Jim Shooter story. The circumstances of Star Boy killing Kenz Nuhor is handled briefly, but completely, although missing the small detail that anyone from Dream Girl’s home planet would also be able to see the future. A possible explanation is that for many Naltorians, the future is fixed and they lock themselves into actions that seem not to make sense, or that Nuhor originally just saw Star Boy using his power, so he only prepared for the gun. It may be that at this point, it had not yet been established that everyone on Naltor had Dream Girl’s power to foresee the future.

For me the real conundrum comes from this story coming over two years after Dream Girl’s first appearance. The only suspicion I can have is the way that Mort Weisinger edited Adventure Comics was by when sales figures came in months afterwards, he insisted that his writers write another story like the one that had sold well. My suspicion was that after Dream Girl’s first appearance was recognized as a high seller, he asked for another story featuring her, and Hamilton finally came up with this story. To his credit he came up with one heck of a story. Until the end, he keeps the reader uncertain of the trial’s outcome, since the trial looks bleak, but the first votes lean heavily towards acquittal.

The art features some of the best illustrative techniques of the era, especially in the first eight pages where Sheldon Moldoff inks over Curt Swan’s pencils. The panel shown above shows how well the shadows are used to frame the action and set the scene. George Klein inks the rest of the story and comes nowhere near as adept at conveying the mood of the story. At best, the pages that he inks are good Silver Age artwork, but not fantastic. The first eight pages are a great looking science fiction story, the remaining ones look like a super-hero story.

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NOTES:

This issue has been collected in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 5 (ISBN: 1563891549) and Showcase Presents: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 2 (ISBN: 1401217249). It can be pricey to find a copy of the comic, but not impossible, especially if you don’t mind getting one that shows it’s age.

FINAL RATING: 7.5 (out of a possible 10)