Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mystery In Space #81

This book has a lot to offer, with a three-chapter story by Gardner Fox, lots of flashback material and scintillating art by Infantino and Anderson. It's understandably overshadowed by some of the other issues around this period; Planet that Came to a Standstill from #75 and Planets in Peril from #90 are on anybody's short list for the best comics of the Silver Age. But this is an entertaining, if ultimately flawed issue.

The story starts with Adam Strange encountering a New York City policeman, who recognizes him from earlier meetings:

This of course raises the question of how did a NYPD officer see Adam disappear not once, but twice, given the fact that the Zeta Beam only hits in the southern hemisphere?

So I looked at the two stories in question. In the first, Adam is grabbed by some sort of time beam into the future, and then hit by the Zeta Beam. And in the second, Sardath has invented a new beam that can pick up Adam without running the risk of hitting something else. Unfortunately, this only works for that one issue, as Sardath explains:

But in #81, as Adam is trying to explain himself to Officer Boyle, he suddenly spots Alanna walking in New York. After satisfying the cop by parking his car legally, Adam catchs up to her and she explains that Sardath had improved the Zeta Beam so it could take her across to Earth. At the bottom of the page, there's this:

That is a beautiful bit of art by Infantino and Anderson; it's moody and creates the desire in the reader to learn just who it is that awaits the Zeta Beam in Adam's place.

It turns out to be a former dictator of Rann who had been asleep for 1000 years, who introduces himself to Alanna (?) here:

He apparently disintegrates her. We get a long background bit about how Ranagar and Zared had battled it out in a nuclear war that neither won. Now Zar (note the pronunciation is probably equal to "czar") is back with a super-weapon:

That's an iconic Infantino pose; I'd bet I can come up with a dozen or more panels just like that. We learn that Xar has the ability to absorb all the memories of any person. He transfers her memories to an earthling girl who happens to match Alanna's physical appearance best, and arranges for her to be on the scene in New York to capture Adam's attention. Thus Adam doesn't bother meeting the Zeta Beam, making it possible for Xar to ride to Rann instead.

We get some interesting bits of the Alanna/Adam romance, marred a bit by the fact that it's not really Alanna:

But it does highlight a significant difference between their romance and that of so many other characters in the Silver Age. Adam and Alanna had no secrets from each other. They were ready, almost anxious to get married. Indeed, one of the cliches of the series was the ending where Adam and Alanna start to kiss, and the Zeta Beam wears off, sending him back to Earth.

But then, as they're attending the opening of the Adam Strange wing of the Metropolitan Museum, suddenly everyone on Earth but Adam is frozen stiff. This strikes me as a callback to Planet That Came to a Standstill, where the same thing happened, only on Rann, not Earth.

By checking at the Pentagon, Adam learns that the first people to be frozen stiff were on Tasmania. He goes there and discovers an odd-looking weapon. But as he flies back through the Pacific, he encounters the evil-looking cloud creature shown on the cover. There follows a several-page battle between the two which seems likely to end in Adam's death until:

But when Adam returns to New York, "Alanna" has recovered her own memories. He quickly catches the next Zeta Beam, where he learns of Alva Xar's trickery. But this time the fight is very unequal:

How can Adam defeat Xar? Apparently by giving up:

Overall I enjoyed the story, although it seemed a bit padded. It never really was explained how the cloud creature came to be (it was apparently created by the cyber-ray), or why it froze everything on the planet it appeared on. And of course, Adam willed the creature to disappear, not to go back into the raygun.


The Ghost Who Blogs said...

Pat: Not to nitpick (but I'm going to) but I have another problem with the old Zeta Beam. Now, you know I love Adam Strange, but in the very first Adam Strange story they go into lengthy detail about how the first Zeta Beam was sent out 4 years ago and just arrived on Earth. Now, since Rann orbits Alpha Centauri, 4 light years from Earth, we can assume the Zeta Beam travels at the speed of light. However, that would still mean that it takes Adam 4 YEARS to reach Rann or Earth each time he travels via Zeta Beam. :)

Isn't science wonderful?

CMN said...

Since the effect of the Zeta Beam was instantaneous its speed would have to be 4 x 365 x 24 x 60 x 60 x 186,000. But is effect necessarily equal to speed? Did Gardner leaves notes?

Jared - Blog into Mystery said...

Love the Infantino art, and I have to say, that's the least crowded that I've ever seen the Taj Mahal.

hotfootharp said...

An outstanding series. It tells us as much about Fox/Infantino/Anderson/Schwartz as it does about its own subject. A placard from 1963.

nyrdyv said...

You know you are famous when a NYC beat cop recognizes in your car.

"Yo, Adam Strange!"


Steven G. Willis

Anonymous said...

Isn't this only the 2nd full-length story?


Mykal Banta said...

Pat: Love this stuff all the way. Gardner Fox had his own universe of science, and I loved it. Those looking for corollaries into the actual laws of science are walking down a long and lonely road.

Infantino and Anderson were such a perfect pairing.

The Ghost Who Blogs said...

Mykal: Was that a shot at my basic understanding of math?

Spectergirl said...

Mykal: Please say it was.

Mykal Banta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mykal Banta said...

Ghost: Not so much a shot at your obvious mastery of arithmatic, friend, as your - or anyone's - attempt to apply any actual scientific principals or equations to the brilliant psuedo-science of Gardner Fox (who, by the way, loved science - which is why so many of his plots have tiny hooks somewhere in reality). As I say, to attempt to bring the laws of nature in line with Mr. Fox's plots is to undertake a bleak and terrible journey.

Spectergirl: Is that a shot? ;-)

Pat said...

Aaron, perhaps you missed Alanna's explanation from page 6 of Showcase #17?

"But in the 4.3 years the Zeta-wave traveled between Rann and Earth, some unknown space-radiation converted it to a teleportation beam. It caught you in the midst of your leap and transported you instantly across 25 trillion miles of space to our world.

(Italics indicated in original)

Granted, it's a bit of gobbledy-gook, but Julius Schwartz would not have missed that point.

Mykal Banta said...

Pat: Yes! Schwartz was the real science guy (and editor). That's who I was thinking of when I mentioned Fox liking science. Thanks for the memory jog.