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Mystery in Space 87
"The Super-Brain of Adam Strange!"

Story: Gardner Fox
Art: Carmine Infantino and Sid Greene

It's a quite day on the planet Rann, and Adam Strange doesn't know what to make of it. Since each of his other of his visits via Zeta-Beam saw him facing some incredible menace, he's come to wonder if he isn't some sort of jinx! His lovely interplanetary sweetheart Alanna assures him he's talking nonsense. Speaking of his visits, she continues that her scientist father Sardath has worked a device to control the length of his visits there.

Indeed, indicating the device, Sardath explains his discovery. It's a Null-Zeta Beam that suspends the fading of the Zeta radiation from Adam's body, allowing him to stay up to a year. As Alanna gushes that he'll be able to spend most of his time on Rann, with only occasional short visits to Earth, Adam check over its calculations and gives it his approval. Sardath, while bathing the Earthman in his newly discovered frequencies, silently wishes that he could have tried it out on some guinea pig first, but Adam is the only Zeta-beamed lifeform on the planet. Moments later, the deed is done. Adam tests negative for traces of the original Zeta radiation!

Some days later, Sardath administers the routine tests on Adam, and turns pale as he watches Adam's cranium grow larger! Alanna looks worried, but Adam notices that his mental awareness has sharpened. The effect grows more pronounced though, and Adam determines that the Null-Zeta radiation has affected the evolutionary factors of his body. Moreover, his brain is evolving into that of a "future-man!" Alanna can only stare and gape! Sardath is ready to reverse the process by drawing out the radiation, but Adam refuses. He is now in touch with all of nature's secrets through an understanding beyond human conception. Even as he speaks his skull expands upward about a foot, and he declares himself evolved 100,000 years into the future! Adam coldly instructs Sardath to build a "computer machine" according to his instructions, into which he will feed the "wisdom of the ages which my great brain can understand!" Alanna is in tears by now, but Sardath tells her to stop worrying, as this is a great scientific opportunity.

Fleeing to the balcony, Alanna sees flat-bottomed, jagged light patterns approaching among the clouds. Since Adam is no longer Adam, she hopes they're not dangerous. Gee, d'ya think...?! In fact, immediately below those mysterious radiation bands, the distant city of Kamorak is feeling the effect: ray bolts are blasting forth, causing the populace to glow, which then causes food to crumbled at their touch!

Alanna bursts into the lab, where Super-Adam is dictating his latest insights. She exclaims that Adam must be restored to normal in order to save Rann from its newest menace! The Sky-Emanations have already doubled in intensity and are destroying Kamorak, so Adam is greatly needed! Super-Adam smirks that "you mere humans have no need to fear! With my mental powers I know how to destroy this menace! It won't be much bother..." He then proceeds to build an appropriate device while musing on better uses of his great powers, while Alanna pleads for the return of his better nature. He tells her to stop pestering him, and, heartbroken, she begs him to give this Super-Adam stuff up in the name of their love. Scornfully, he brushes her aside both physically and verbally, and declares his decision never to return to his former self! Alanna falls to the floor weeping, realizing that she's as ugly to him as a caveman would be to her! "=sob=! I want my Adam back!"

Riding into the air via jet-pack, Super-Adam muses that, after eliminating the Sky-Emanations, he must perfect a better mode of travel. Since he's also determined how to improve on the Zeta-Beam so that anyone can us it for instant transport anywhere, I suppose that first point is more a mechanical exercise. Anyway, as he nears the Sky-Emanations, he flatters himself on the wonder of his current invention, all so much better than his puny former self and his quick wits. Back at the lab, Alanna runs into her father's lab and chokes back tears as she forgives Adam, as he isn't himself since her father made him that way with the Null-Zeta Beam. Defiantly, she undoes it all by turning off the Null-Zeta machine. Certainly, the true Adam will become her sweetheart again and find a way to destroy the Sky-Emanations. She's sure of it! And sure enough, at that moment, in the air over Kamorak, Super-Adam feels his head shrinking as he devolves into his former self! His hair grows back as he stares in confusion at the weapon he carries. He knows he was about to use it to destroy the Sky-Emanations, but realizes his mind isn't evolved enough now to understand its use. He jets back to Ranagar with some anxiety, as the Emanations are moving across Rann, but is puzzled as they are suddenly half as strong as they were only moments ago.

As he lands at the lab he asks Alanna who it was that shut off the Null-Zeta Rays, as he's now stuck with the unused, incomprehensible weapon. In reply, she hugs him as he chides her because Super-Adam could have easily put the menace to rest by now. No, she insists, he's got to do it as his real self, as he would have if he'd never undergone the experiment. He grins weakly as she moans about how awful he'd become, a situation that he remembers little about. He was, he goes on, a completely different person, so nor really responsible for his words and actions... and just then Sardath walks in to announce that the Emanations are moving closer by the moment. Adam snaps to immediately: "Of course! We have to stop them!"

The young couple walk off, arm in arm. Alanna is chipper in her confidence of his abilities, while Adam analyzes the matter: there's something familiar about those Sky-Emanations, and he asks to see the notes Sardath took while Adam was being evolved. Alanna hovers protectively as Adam studies the notes. She marvels at the pictures of the Sky-Emanations, as she didn't know Sardath had photographed them, but Adam declares them to be something different, in fact pictures of Super-Adam's brain waves! The Sky-Emanations, he says, were the result of the super-powerful brain waves he gave off while doing his super-thinking! Since thought is electrical in nature, his powerful thoughts gave rise to the phenomenon, which appeared only after his transformation! So, asks Sardath, why haven't they disappeared altogether since Adam changed back to normal? Because, Adam reasons, Sardath's computer is still operating on Super-Adam's brain-wave power! Sardath concludes that by destroying the computer they can do away with the Sky-Emanations, to which Adam agrees, while adding that there's no need to actually destroy it. He then simply pulls the plug! Looking out the window, Sardath confirms that the Sky-Emanations have faded away, and so the menace to Rann is over! Alanna rushes into Adam's arms as Adam grins in triumph, while Sardath looks on pensively at the irony: "the vast knowledge of a super-being is at our fingertips-- but we dare not use it for fear of destroying ourselves!" Adam notes the additional irony that in this instance he himself was guilty of causing the planetary menace.

The young couple talk as they jet away to aid the disaster victims of Kamorak. Adam had solved the Zeta-Beam problems but has forgotten how he did it. But, Alanna would rather see him occasionally than constantly, given who he had become, "if that's any consolation." At the disaster site, Adam's attention is caught by a particular small white rock, streaked pink and black by radiation burns. It is at this moment that the Zeta-Beam radiation fades from him and he is transported back to Earth, still holding the rock. Some days later, archeologist Adam Strange places the rock in a display case at his patron museum, there to await a time when he can examine it to determine if it's been affected in any way by the Sky-Radiations.

But wait! The story doesn't end here! A review of the accompanying (and connected) story, in which Hawkman made his Mystery in Space debut, will follow eventually!

House ad: "The Flashiest News of the Year!" re: Giant Flash Annual #1, which I believe has been reissued recently, and is very much worth the money. The Golden Age story features a stern, sexy Star Sapphire and is a nice counterpoint to the '60s stories.

Infantino's architecture is a large factor in the otherworldly feeling of this series. The cities on Rann boast simple yet elegant geometry, their buildings and towers appointed with swirling terraces and right-angle ornaments. He gives us compact cities (obviously, they've been practicing birth control for quite some time) surrounded by wide plains and those nifty rocky outcroppings. No highways mar the landscape on this world with its jet-packs, so we can assume they've had those for quite some time as well. Particularly noteworthy are his scientific gadgets. Infantino's compare well with Wally Wood's of a decade earlier, and with those just starting to appear in Jack Kirby's FF. They are terrifically angular and rely on simple design rather than bulk. The mind-interface that records Adam's thoughts is a plain semicircular band, and the device that wipes out the sky-radiation resembles an overlarge toilet brush, but classy.

How nice that Adam Strange, a mid-20th century archeologist from Earth, is able to mull over and approve Sardath's cutting-edge physics, hundreds of years beyond our own! I think he was just trying to impress Alanna.

As Adam evolves into a more intelligent Future-Man, his blonde hair recedes away. Some tradeoff! It could explain Mark Waid's unusual success at trivia games, however.

Alanna stands out in her role as sidekick. Which is to say, unfortunately, she's presented as an overly emotional combat partner for Adam. IMHO, her role as adoring girlfriend seems at best a plot convenience. (Why else would he look forward to being zapped across the galaxy to fight The Creeping Interstellar Unknown on a predictable basis?) They talk the talk but I don't see that they share anything that would support a relationship, really. I'm glad to say that this makes her remarkable among the Gardner Fox Significant Others: both Sue Dibney and Sheira Hall were more on top of things. (Tangentially, I posit that in team endeavors built around a strong Center there tends to be not only a Sidekick but a Funny Animal. The notion of a character role as "comic relief" isn't specific enough for my needs here. Spock was the sidekick, Scotty the Funny Animal; and so on. This is a thesis in progress, and may prove too broad to be applicable. For example, in the Sienfield group, who was the Center, the Sidekick, and the Funny Animal? They all seemed to fall into the last category, which may have been the genius of the ensemble, more than it being a Show About Nothing.)

On the other hand, here's Adam, claiming to remember nothing much about what an awful guy he'd become while under the influence. Typical male. Same old story.

There's no way of knowing whether the heavy visual nuance was called for in the script or was Infantino's contribution, but in either case the finished work doesn't skimp. There's a wealth of casual interplay in every scene: it's a credit to somebody, that's for sure.

Tom Orzechowski.