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Mystery in Space 79
"The Metal Conqueror of Rann!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND November, 1962

Story: Gardner Fox Art: Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson

(Originally Reviewed On 09/18/01)

Adam Strange has made the 25 trillion mile trip to Alpha Centuri via The Zeta Beam and has landed upon the planet Rann, where he goes to meet his sweetheart, Alanna, in the city of Ranagar, but on this occasion, he arrives to find her turned into a metal statue and his adopted world caught under the control of The Metal Conqueror of Rann! Now, Adam must trick Ikhar into moving his life-force from inside the fiery lava hammer, and transform Alanna to normal, or else she will remain so for all eternity! (Holy Calvin Klein, Batman! Maybe she and Stone Boy can double-date?)

On Alpha Centuri, Alanna is at work, covering a pool of quicksand with some wooden planks so that Adam will not sink into it upon his arrival via Zeta Beam. With the task completed, Alanna begins to mentally countdown, while on Earth, Adam is doing the same thing, awaiting the passing of seconds for his journey to begin, but as she continues to count, Alanna is struck by a beam, and Adam turns up on Rann, and sees her caught in a strange glow, then fade away before his startled eyes!

Now alone in the desert, Adam takes flight and heads for Ranagar to speak with Sardath, who tells him that there hasn't been any threats or menaces since his last visit, but the crowd's cry from outside soon have their attention, for Alanna had set up a surprise for him, and upon exiting the laboratory, he is cheered by the people of Ranagar as their champion of champions! (Holy Wheaties, Batman!)

Adam gazes at the statue of himself and is bitter about the title of "Champion of Champions" when he wasn't able to save Alanna, then just as he's about to weep, a lightning bolt strikes his statue, and it is he who feels the jolt, as he, too is surrounded by a bluish glow, then fades from sight of the crowd, who wonder what they can do to save him and wonder who was responsible for the deed, just as the statue begins to speak, telling them that it was he, Ikhar The Undying, The Master of The Mineral World (Holy Selegue, Batman!), who is now the new master of Rann, and who has both Adam and Alanna's lifeless bodies aboard his ship, which is more than a thousand light-years from the planet!

It was he who sent a search beam which struck Alanna, and upon probing her mind, learned of the planet, and its hero. Since she is now petrified by the electrolonis beam, Adam Strange is to be Ikhar's next victim, and as the recent memories end, the animated statue begins to float above the crowd, confident that if this form is destroyed, Ikhar can transfer himself to another mineral object! With both Adam and Alanna unable to save them, the statue form of their greatest champion will be their new ruler, and Ikhar knows that if the Zeta Beam fails to bring Adam Strange back to Earth when it wears off, he will be stranded in outer space forever! If not, he will be a lifeless statue on planet Earth.

Sardath is among those who witnesses Ikhar's proclamation, and out in space, within the metal walls of the spaceship, the two forms of Adam and Alanna lie still, but Adam's body soon returns to normal, and he recalls hearing Ikhar's voice in his head...

Knowing that Ikhar planned to get him out of the way, something about Adam made him able to become human again, to see Alanna still in her stone form. The Zeta Beam radiation in his body made his petrification temporary, while the selfsame radiation will soon take him back to Earth, leaving her on the ship alone! Looking out the viewport, Adam doesn't recognize the star formations, and when he leaves Alanna, it will be forever!

Desperately, he wraps his arms around her, determined not to lose her, regretting that it was he who came back to life, but then realizes that since she isn't "alive", he can possibly take her along to Earth. He embraces her petrified form, adamant that fate not pull them apart when the Zeta-Beam wears off...

Moments later, Adam and Alanna are back on Earth, but she is still an immobile statue. If on Rann, she were able to be transformed to normal, Alanna would still be returned to Earth as a statue. There are a few weeks before the next Zeta Beam, and the knowledge Adam learned in the thought-flash when he became a statue is the place to start. On a south sea island shoreline, Adam has found a way to beat Ikhar, and the success of the plan depends upon Ikhar, himself! With Alanna in his arms, Adam feels the Zeta Beam course through his body...

On Rann, Adam places Alanna's body gently on the ground, then soars towards Ranagar, aware that Ikhar now inhabits his statue's form, and has his base of operations in Ranagar, itself! In the capital city, Adam Strange comes face to face with his stone self, then fires his ray-gun upon it with terrific heat, making it a pool of molten metal, but Ikhar has shifted his consciousness to the stone structure of a nearby building, where an enormous hand seeks to strike Adam down from the skies, but his ray-gun enables him to continue the good fight! The stone hands disappear, but instead, now the windows have now become glassy spears, but BZZT!

The glass spears are cracked to pieces, but Ikhar has sent his consciousness towards an extinct volcano, and soon, a giant lava creature emerges, issuing a challenge to Adam Strange, but his unerring aim with the ray-gun has him still fighting! Now, Ikhar's lava form has become a mighty Lava Hammer, but even it falls prey to Adam's ray gun! (Holy Lava Lamp, Batman!)

The lava hammer shatters into a thousand pieces on the ground, while Adam wonders where Ikhar will strike next... Adam's ray-gun, itself! The ray-gun flies from his hand and aims itself at him, but it turns out that Adam wanted it to happen since Ikhar has now trapped himself in a coral replica of the ray-gun, which had animal dyes painted on it for camouflage. If his life-force enters a living form, Ikhar would soon be weakened, and Adam knows that coral is the skeleton of marine polyps from Earth which were once alive! Adam strikes a deal with Ikhar for Alanna to be changed back...

Gripping the gun in his hands, Adam asks for Ikhar's word, and upon hearing it, he stares at the gun, then tells him that he's lying, which has Ikhar at a loss at to how the man of two worlds could possibly know, but agrees to do whatever he says, then never harm another being again! Ikhar is brought to Sardath's lab, where Alanna's petrified form is bathed in a machine's rays, designed to nullify the petrifaction beam, as well as cancelling out the Zeta-Beam radiation, and Adam cannot use the device himself since he can only stay on Rann for one year ever since he was struck by Kanjar Ro's ray. Minutes pass, as Alanna's still form is bathed in rays, but she soon reverts to normal,a nd is greeted by Adam and Sardath. Ikhar asks for the machine to beam him back to his ship, although he can travel for short distances, he needs technology for further distances.

Once Ikhar has left, Sardath asks how Adam knew that he was lying about curing Alanna, and Adam points out that when he was holding onto Ikhar, he felt the pulsations inside the ray-gun, and used it as one would use a lie-detector. Sardath then asks how the fake ray-gun was able to fire, and Adam explains that he used a hold-out, strapped to his arm, an instrument which gamblers on Earth use for card-feeding, and used it to clip a barrel gun, to which a spring was attached, which Ikhar thought was the "ray-gun" firing! Sardath points out that only Rann's "Champion of Champions" would have devised such a plan, just as Alanna shouts at Adam about how long she's been waiting...

Adam turns and faces her, and listens as Alanna tells him how during this time, he's been on Rann twice, and he hasn't even kissed her once! Adam's reply is to take her in his arms, then kiss her, grateful that its the real one and not a petrified form in his arms, and Alanna insists for less talk and more kisses, while Sardath leaves the two sweethearts alone...

With a loved one threatened and a city under siege, Adam Strange uses his brains to outwit this would-be conqueror of Rann.

The distance between Rann and Earth is not insurmountable for the love between Adam and Alanna know no such barriers of distance.

Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino, and Murphy Anderson for giving us Rann's Champion of Champions, and for a tale where the hero and his sweetheart are soon reunited after the most trying of times.

This review is dedicated to Steve Cohen and Susan And for New York City's Finest and Bravest.

Steve Chung
"The Reviewer Conqueror of Rann!"