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Mystery In Space 69
"Menace of The Aqua-Ray Weapon!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND August, 1961

Story By: Gardner Fox Art By: Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson

The power of the Zeta-Beam enables Earth-archeologist Adam Strange to travel from his homeworld to the planet Rann of the star-sun system Alpha Centauri -- across 25 trillion miles of space -- where he faces many dangers in his adventures on the world of his beloved Alanna! Each time he travels there, there is a adventure! This time is no exception, when he finds himself caught by the... "Menace of The Aqua-Ray Weapon!" On the splash page, invading alien soldiers marvel at their own victory, while Adam and Alanna are encased in blocks of solid ice, and the Earthman wonders how he can free himself... and his fellow prisoners!

Adam Strange hovers over the Antarctic snowfield, as he waits for the Zeta Beam to strike, when he sees another living creature nearby -- a dog! Beneath him, a snow avalanche threatens to bury the dog, who must be a part of the United States Meteorological research base! As he saves the dog, Adam begins his own personal countdown, as both head for the Zeta-Beam... Both man and dog soon find themselves some 25 trillion miles away on the planet of Rann... As the dog leaps from him, Adam calls out for Alanna, who is present for their meeting, but on the ground as a puddle of water! He can hear her thoughts --

She tells him that in her liquid state, she is telepathic, and can't hear his voice, but can hear his thoughts. When Adam asks what could have happened to turn her to water, Alanna tells him that thousands of years ago, Rann was populated by two different races -- the White-Race and the Blue-skinned aliens known to themselves as the Kirri! Centuries of war passed between the two races... In a final battle, the people of Rann managed to erradicate the warlike Kirri... or so they had thought! Days ago, some Kirri came from the ice caverns where they had been in hiding for centuries, using a new type of weapon... The Aqua-Ray weapon, which is affixed to their air cycles emitted terrible beams from far away -- which attacked one city after another ... The inhabitants found themselves turning -- to water!

The cities between Ranagar and the polar ice caves were captured! Alanna was struck by the rays, and in the present, she sees that Adam, too, has been hit by them, too! As he rises, he reaches for his raygun... and intends to blast the Kirri -- but his gun -- his clothes -- his very body -- all are turning to water in front of the Aqua-Ray! Strogar Tri, the chief of the Kirri, calls for an aerial train, which carries many glass cylinders... He reports that he was about to pick up the female, when he saw the man appear out of thin air -- and turned him into water, too! The dog watches from behind a building...

The magnetimotor lifts the puddles into the air, and places them into two cylinders, while the dog hitches a ride unseen! The aerial train speeds northward, passing the empty buildings of Ranagar... Alanna believes that not even Adam can save them from this diabolical doom... The aerial train arrives at the vast ice caverns of the Northern Polar Region of Rann. The Aqua-Cylinders are removed from the aerial train and are carried into the ice grottoes... The Kirri had vowed long ago that the humans of Rann would be overcome and be eternally preserved in the ice where they had hid for centuries! The cylinders are now emptied, and a shimmering beam recreated the human bodies from the water molecules, then each figure is coated with solid ice... Alanna knows that they are being placed into hibernation, and a Kirri tells them that they will be part of the Kirri Hall of Victory Trophies! The trio of Kirri tells their frozen captives that they will live forever, in mute witness of the greatness of the Kirri!

Once the Kirri have left to retrieve another load of flasks, all within the ice cavern is silent... Then, the sound of claws clicking on ice, and a dog's bark is heard... Adam sees the dog he saved on Earth... and knows that he must have sneaked onto the aerial train! Since he saved his life, perhaps the dog can save Adam's! He attempts to communicate telepathically with the dog... telling him what to do... When Adam "tells" the dog to scratch the ice in front of him with his claws, the dog wags his tail and barks again... Adam tries again... The husky stands on his hind legs and starts clawing at the icy encasement! Once the ice begins to be slowly chipped away, Adam is able to move his hand towards the heat-control stud of his insulated spacesuit...

Once his icy prison has melted away, Adam races towards Alanna, but... the dog senses something amiss and barks! At the ice cave entrance, he sees another aerial train -- with more captives for the Kirri's Hall of Trophies! There's no time for Alanna to be freed, and Adam must come up with a way to fight the aliens alone! He fires his ray-gun and cuts a block of ice from the cave wall... He has a one in a million chance that his plan will work -- Using the heat-ray as a sculpting tool, Adam carves the ice quickly, and recalls as an archeologist, he was taught how to sculpt and draw in order to be able to make fossil reconstructions, and the training has come in handy! He figures that the ice sculpture will catch the Kirri off-guard! They will mistake it for the real Adam Strange when "he" comes flying towards them! When the aerial train lands... the Kirri see what they believe to be Adam Strange, and prepare to fire the Aqua-Ray!

The Aqua-Rays converge on the flying ice sculpture... and while the Kirris' attention is on their "foe," Adam Strange sneaks up on them from behind! He tackles one alien, then punches out another... then whirls the Aqua-Rayer around, and swings it towards the remaining aliens! Now he is able to free Alanna -- and with her aid, free the others from the ice sheaths! In due time, Adam and Alanna embrace, with the girl telling him that she never thought she'd ever hold him in her arms again!

Both of them free the others... two figures are freed, and soon, all will be freed! Alanna watches as the effects of the Zeta-Beam have worn off, and both man and dog are returning to Earth! Back on his home planet, Adam changes clothes and heads for the Meteorological Research Base... the meteorologist is pleased to see Chunky and had wondered where he had gone! The dog is specially trained to find him on the ice! At times, Chunky has to dig them out of the snow, but luckily the meteorologist wasn't lost -- and thanks Adam for returning him! The archeologist wonders if he'll ever know if it was Chunky's training or his mental commands which enabled the dog to scratch him out from under the ice sheath!

The Kirri are blue-skinned, wear purple uniforms with gold belts and gold boots, and visually, they resemble the Skrulls.

Chunky the Husky is a cute dog, and from the art, I can see why Carmine Infantino's favorite strip to work on was Rex The Wonder Dog. (Or was it Detective Chimp?)

The Kirri ride vehicles which resemble motorcycles, and the Aqua-Rayer makes for a crazy emerald single headlight.

In the Marvel Universe, the Kree was a blue-skinned race which was tested along with the Cotati (sic) by the Skrulls in order to see which one would be worthy to advance. When the plant race won, the Kree killed both representatives, and adapted the Skrulls' technology for their own use.

Thanks to the Aqua-Ray, Adam Strange might have had to change his name to "Aqua-Man."

The aerial trains resemble red sleds. The idea of trains which do not run on tracks was referred to by Klattu (Michael Rennie) to a young boy in the classic sci-fi film, "The Day The Earth Stood Still."

The idea of suspended animation was depicted on an episode of the Twilight Zone entitled, "The Rip Van Winkle Caper."

The pilot episode of Lost In Space had the crew of the Jupiter II travellling to Alpha Centauri in a state of suspended animation for the journey.

In the alternate future of the Guardians of The Galaxy, Earth astronaut Vance Astro travelled to Alpha Centauri in suspended animation, but during the length of his trip, technology had advanced, and man managed to journey there to welcome him upon his arrival!

In Avengers #4, Captain America was unknowingly freed from his icy suspended animation by the Sub-Mariner.

Thanks to his occupation of Archeology (with training in Sculpture and Art), Adam Strange was able to fashion a decoy to divert the Kirris' attention. Never underestimate the value of an well-rounded education. Even the dog was well-taught to save lives, too.

Steve Chung
"Review of The Aqua-Ray Weapon!"