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.