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Adventure Comics 347
"The Traitor's Triumph!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND August 1966; DC Comics; Mort Weisinger, editor; featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes in "The Traitor's Triumph!", script by Jim Shooter, art on this installment by Curt Swan and George Klein. The cover, by Swan and Klein, depicts Superboy and a squad of other Legionnaires smashing through the steel door of the "Legion Arsenal," only to find that one of their newest members has karate-chopped into scrap items labeled as "Polar Defense" and "American Security Weapons". "The Karate Kid has destroyed all Earth's weapons! We're DOOMED!", Phantom Girl bewails.

When we left the Legion in ADVENTURE #346 (which I reviewed last week), the LSH had just inducted four new members, Karate Kid, Nemesis Kid, Princess Projectra and Ferro Lad; but one of them, Karate Kid, behaved suspiciously in the face of an imminent attack on Earth by the warlike alien Khunds, and is now believed by other Legionnaires-- particularly Phantom Girl-- of being a spy inserted in the Legion camp. The splash page has a fleet of saucerlike Khund warships in the skies over Earth, confronted by five Legionnaires, all except Superboy riding on "Legion jet platforms". "All our weapons have been destroyed-- but we'll fight with our super-powers! CHARGE!" Cosmic Boy exhorts.

Following the destruction by sabotage in Alaska of one of Earth's three vital defensive "electro-towers", the Legionnaires regroup at the second tower in Ceylon. With nerves on edge, Earth defense troops fire a ray-cannon at an "unidentified object approaching at missile speed", only to realize too late that it is one of the good guys, Superboy-- but he survives unscathed. After taking care of a mysterious errand, Superboy joins the rest of the Legionnaires as they form plans to guard the two remaining electro-towers. Hearing a report that the third tower in South America is under attack, Superboy leads most of the available veteran Legionnaires to defend it, leaving the rookies at the Ceylon site. The Legionnaires handle the small Khund raiding fleet attacking Tierra del Fuego; Superboy smashes into one ship and knocks out the pilot, Cosmic Boy tears another ship apart with his magnetism, Lightning Lad disables a vessel with his magnetism, Chameleon Boy frightens the crew of a ship into crashing by morphing into a giant claw, Light Lass sends a ship flying out of control with her counter-gravity abilities, and Shrinking Violet wrecks the last attack vessel by pulling wires in its interior. Yet all is in vain, as the electro-tower is destroyed by a force bolt which can only have come from its sister tower in Ceylon. Rushing to the Ceylon tower, the Legionnaires are attacked by its defense rays, and Light Lass and even Superboy are injured ("These bolts must have a Kryptonite base! I'm getting groggy!") Lightning Lad overcomes the rays, but they land to find that the third tower is wrecked as well, and that Legionnaires Phantom Girl and Ferro Lad are lying unconscious, felled by a gas attack along with the tower's defense forces. The guard commandant reveals that only an "insider" could have unleashed the gas attack and that all of his men are accounted for, leading the Legion to conclude that the traitor within their own ranks is guilty. "The Earth is doomed! And it's our fault! For entrusting a spy...a traitor...with a vital post!" Cosmic Boy admits. "But we'll avenge the honor of the Legion! Take a count! Is anyone missing? We'll get the traitor!" After doing a check, the realization comes; "One member is missing--- KARATE KID!"

Superboy realizes that with the electro-towers destroyed, the last hope for defending Earth lies with the weapons in the Legion's own arsenal at Metropolis-- but his telescopic vision reveals that Karate Kid is flying toward that last stronghold. The Legion flies in pursuit, smashes into the clubhouse, and finds Karate Kid standing in the arsenal chamber declaring, "Now every device that could save Earth is ruined!" An outraged Superboy shouts, "All right, Kid! The game's up! We'll be revenged for what you did to the Legion...and to Earth!" "Karate Kid's countenance changes from surprise...to mystification...to anger, as the Heroes relentlessly advance"-- but before he can respond further, another figure emerges from the shadows. "All right, you've got me! I surrender!" It is another of the rookie Legionnaires-- Nemesis Kid. How did the Legionnaires discover he was the traitor, he asks. "We didn't! We thought it was Karate Kid! We were too prejudiced to notice you, too, were missing!" Phantom Girl confesses. Nemesis Kid realizes he incriminated himself by mistake when Superboy shouted his threat directed at "Kid!" But no matter, he says, for the Khund fleet is about to arrive and conquer a defenseless Earth. "I shall be richly rewarded-- and YOU shall perish!" Not just yet, Nemesis Kid-- for miraculously, a fourth electro-tower arises from hiding underground and reduces the enemy fleet to rubble. Superboy reveals that, suspecting the electro-towers were in danger of treachery, he built a dummy tower in South America and hid the real tower underground.

But a small portion of the Khund fleet has survived, and though they are too few to conquer Earth, the Khund warlord leads them in a revenge attack on the Legion itself. Mounted, except for Superboy, on jet platforms, the Legionnaires fly forth for "their greatest battle". In that battle, the three loyal rookie Legionnaires manage to distinguish themselves. Princess Projectra drives some of the Khund ships to panic with her "giant bird illusions". Ferro Lad's jet platform is destroyed, but he curls himself into a metallic human cannonball and hurls himself at a Khund vessel; "I wonder what happens if this doesn't work! Huh! I'll never get anywhere being a pessimist!" His optimism proves justified, as the Khund ship is destroyed, but Ferro Lad survives. (It appears that the normal Legion rule against killing is in suspension during what amounts to an all-out interplanetary war.) Karate Kid is left to face the Khund flagship...and he is grimly determined to defeat the Khund warlord "who made the Legion distrust and despise me!" But the jet platform is too clumsy to reach the ship (why the Legionnaires bothered with the platforms in the first place is unclear) and KK's flight ring is damaged. "There's only one thing to do...LEAP" Falling in midair toward the Khund ship, Karate Kid resolves, "If I miss, I promise never to do this again!" He nearly does miss, but manages to seize a range-finder protruding from the side of the ship and gain a hold. "Now for the reckoning!" Chopping through the roof of the ship, KK confronts the warlord, who fires his ray-gun point blank. "Much later, back at the Legion clubhouse", the remaining members wonder what has happened to the missing Karate Kid. Then the Khund flagship comes in for a landing, and the Legionnaires initially think it is an attack...but the ship is in control of Karate Kid, who has conquered and subdued the Khund crew. "It took me a while to figure out how to fly their ship!" Now hero rather than suspected traitor, KK explains his earlier actions; he suspected Nemesis Kid as the traitor, but didn't want to accuse his fellow rookie without proof, so he trailed Nemesis Kid to the Legion arsenal which the real traitor had just sabotaged. "Speaking of him, what are we going to do with him?" Nemesis Kid breaks loose from his Legion captors and prepares to use his super-power to fight the team; "I can develop the super-powers needed to defeat anybody! I've never tried it on more than one foe, but I'm ready to make a stab at it now!" But instead of battling the Legion to a standstill, Nemesis Kid suddenly vanishes in a flash of light. "My guess is his power wasn't great enough to fight us ALL...so instead he developed a means of ESCAPE...the power to TELEPORT himself away from Earth!" Superboy concludes. "Strange! He could have been one of the most powerful Legionnaires of all! Working with us, he could have done so much for the universe! But instead, he chose the path of treachery and disgrace! I wonder if we'll ever see him again!"

I myself have wondered what sort of Legionnaire Nemesis Kid would have made if Shooter and Weisinger had chosen not to make him the traitor in the ranks. He did turn up later as another kind of Legionnaire-- a member of the Legion of Super-Villains-- and on one occasion was defeated by one of the least powerful Legionnaires, Duo Damsel, because of her ability to change from one adversary into two. As for the other three new members introduced in these issues, Karate Kid and Princess Projectra went on to play a major role in Legion history from this point on, with KK even getting his own title (set mostly back in the 20th century) for a while during the 1970's. (Jim Shooter revealed in later interviews that he created super martial artist Karate Kid because he felt the Legion needed more members who got down and dirty fighting physically with the opposition rather than "striking a pose and pointing".) Ferro Lad, on the other hand, only stayed around for a few issues before perishing heroically in battle against the Sun-Eater.

Incidentally, a detail I neglected to mention about last issue (and this one) is that they are the first issues of ADVENTURE COMICS to feature book-length Legion stories, with no solo appearance by Superboy. The Legion started out as a backup to Superboy and then moved to the front of the book, relegating the Superboy solo feature to a backup spot and then to "Hall of Fame" reprints.... but #346 is the first issue in which Superboy appears only as a Legionnaire. Though the Boy of Steel continues to be very visible, appearing prominently on the covers under a logo reading "ADVENTURE COMICS featuring SUPERBOY and the LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES."