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Adventure Comics 346
"One of Us is a Traitor!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND July 1966; DC Comics; Mort Weisinger, editor; featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes in "One of Us is a Traitor!" Story and layouts by Jim Shooter; art by Sheldon Moldoff.

This comic book is more or less the ultimate fanboy daydream come to life; a 13-year-old fan reads some comic books, decides "I could write a better story than that!", writes a story, submits it to an editor, gets it accepted for publication, and launches a comic-book writing and editing career that lasts decades. Of course, in the viewpoint of at least one of us here on the list, that fanboy daydream turned into a nightmare for other comics pros years later. But since I never had to work for (or even meet) Jim Shooter, and my viewpoint is that of a reader who enjoyed Shooter's writing on the Legion and other series, I regard his debut here with some fondness. The artist on this issue, Shelly Moldoff, was usually occupied at this time ghosting Batman stories for Bob Kane, but he also did a couple of Legion fill-ins of which this was one; regular Legion artist Curt Swan would return for the second part of the two-part story.

The cover, by Swan, presents four prospective new Legionnaires lined up for the scrutiny of Superboy and other Legion veterans. "Introducing FOUR New Legionnaires! KARATE KID; PRINCESS PROJECTRA; FERRO LAD; NEMESIS KID; Check out this FANTASTIC FOURSOME! (A description that would seem more appropriate if the new members consisted of, um, Elastic Lad, Fire Lad, Invisible Kid, and Blok....) Can you spot the DOUBLE-CROSSER who SOLD OUT the Legion?"

"Here it is again-- the mag that gives you the most heroes for your money! And we're topping ourselves with FOUR new members for the Legion!" And in the splash page, one of them throws the Boy of Steel for a loop, causing Lightning Lad to exclaim, "Sizzling Satellites! Karate Kid is making a sap out of Superboy!" On his way to a Legion meeting, Cosmic Boy spots a falling construction worker off in the distance and stretches his magnetic power to its limits to catch the man by his metal belt buckle, then is chased by Legionnaire autograph hounds; "I wish I could switch to a secret identity like Superboy!" Arriving at the Legion Clubhouse (still the upside down rocket ship at this point), CB is met by temporary chairman Superboy who brushes aside his explanation for lateness; "Skip the alibis, Cosmic Boy, take your seat and let's get this show on the road!" The business at hand is to interview new Legionnaire candidates; "Since Bouncing Boy lost his powers and Star Boy was expelled, we're short-handed!" The first candidate announces herself as Princess Projectra of the planet Orando. She "concentrates...deeply...deeply..." -- and suddenly the Legionnaires find themselves floundering deep beneath the sea. Just as suddenly they are floating far out in space--though still breathing. Is the new member a teleporter? No; she's a mistress of illusion, and her abilities win approval from the assembled Legionnaires; "Any gal that can throw the whole Legion into a panic has MY vote!" Cosmic Boy declares. The next candidate is Nemesis Kid, from Myar, "the alchemists' planet". His power is to develop the exact ability necessary to defeat any adversary he faces, and he demonstrates by defeating an Atomic Robot ("Fewer than a dozen super-heroes have ever beaten one!"), creating an instant lead wall to block its deadly radiations and then transforming his own body into Neutronium, an element which absorbs the robot's energies and knocks it out. Nemesis Kid confesses a limitation to his power-- "I've never tried it on more than ONE opponent at a time!"-- but is accepted nonetheless.

Next comes an applicant prepared to challenge Superboy for the title "Boy of Steel"-- Ferro Lad, a mutant from Earth. His ability is to transform his body into living iron, in which form he can withstand Lightning Lad's bolts and a barrage from the Legion's arsenal of "ray-missile guns". He too is accepted for membership. Finally, the last applicant is Karate Kid-- drawn by Moldoff as a rather cherubic sort with curly hair and apple cheeks. "I developed my own power-- great skill in all forms of FIGHTING-- especially KARATE and JUDO!" Seeing skepticism on the faces of the Legionnaire jury, KK smashes a steel beam and then demands the right to demonstrate his abilities by challenging Superboy himself. "Hold on! You haven't the power to fight ME! I might accidentally injure you!" But Karate Kid insists and finally Superboy jumps into the arena; "Okay! But remember-- YOU ASKED FOR IT!" Still, Superboy is reluctant to attack the merely human KK, who takes the fight to him, landing a punch which knocks the breath out of the Boy of Steel. "He didn't hurt me...but that blow to my super-hard body didn't faze him, either1" Superboy resolves to "finish him quick...don't want to hurt him!" but instead, Karate Kid lands another porch, hurls Superboy against a wall with a judo throw, and tangles him up in his own cape. Nonethless, KK "doesn't realize I can take all he can dish out with no damage," and as he starts to tire, Superboy gets hold of him and spins him into unconsciousness. Nonetheless, the Boy of Steel calls for a positive verdict; "Even though Karate Kid bit off more than he can chew, anyone who can give ME that kind of tussle belongs in the Legion!"

Part II, "Invasion From the Edge of Space!" With the new members sworn in, Superboy passes on to "another important matter"-- a new planet discovered by the United Planets' "hyper-telescope" "at the very edge of the visible universe". Showing a film of the telescope's findings, Superboy reveals that the new planet boasts military weaponry that "far outstrip any possessed by the U.P.!" "Suddenly a strange, evil face appears upon the screen"-- it is Garlak, warlord of Khund who has inserted himself into Superboy's film presentation to boast that his fleet will attack and destroy Earth in one hour unless it surrenders. "Oh, yes, Superboy we have a good supply of Kryptonite weapons!"

Fortunately, Superboy then reveals, Earth has its own ace in the hole; three "electro-towers", secretly installed by Superboy and capable of withstanding any other weapon in existence. The Legion's task will be to split up and guard the three towers against spies and sabotage. But back on the Khund flagship, Garlak cackles that he has already infiltrated a spy into the Legion's own ranks.

As the Legion squads take their stations at the Alaska, Ceylon and Tierra del Fuego electro-towers, Karate Kid and Phantom Girl in Alaska spot an unauthorized spacecraft in the vicinity. KK urges Phantom Girl to check it out, and she snaps, "I don't need a Legion tenderfoot to tell me my duty!" while wondering why KK doesn't volunteer to investigate himself. Entering the mystery ship in phantom form, she finds it deserted-- and an exploding death trap. Though she flees, the shock wave from the exploding ship renders her unconscious even in phantom form, and only a desperate flight-ring dive by the arriving Cosmic Boy saves her. Cosmic Boy and Phantom Girl rush back to the electro-tower and find it wrecked, with the tower guards lying unconscious and Karate Kid claiming to have been knocked out from behind. It turns out the guards were taken out by their own "defense gas", stolen from an arsenal vault-- and the vault appears to have been opened by someone with great strength....and karate skills. Cosmic Boy is doubtful of Karate Kid's guilt-- "It'd take someone like Superboy or Mon-El to smash foot-thick steel!"-- but Phantom Girl points out how KK smashed a steel girder in his initiation test. Moreover, the tower commandant reveals that Karate Kid had asked to be placed on duty guarding the arsenal vault, though he was found "unconscious" far away from it. This is enough to convince Phantom Girl of KK's guilt, though Cos is a bit more cautious; "So mark him down as Suspect No. 1-- but he's still innocent until proven guilty-- or did you forget that?" The last panel shows the other Legionnaires manning their posts, unaware of the disaster in Alaska, with the caption; "Is Karate Kid really a traitor and saboteur, or is someone else really the culprit? Find out in the next thrilling issue of ADVENTURE!" (Or, in the unlikely event you don't already know, in my follow-up review, when I get around to doing it.)

The Statement of Ownership and Circulation appearing in the issue, incidentally, places average paid circulation of ADVENTURE at over half a million copies (520,440 to be exact). Quite a difference from today, where one-tenth of that amount would be considered a healthy sale for most titles.