Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #198
“The Fatal Five Who Twisted Time!”
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Dave Cockrum
Letterer: Ben Oda
Cover: Nick Cardy
Editor: Murray Boltinoff
Mission Monitor Board:
Superboy, Brainiac 5, Element Lad, Princess Projectra, Karate Kid, Mon-El, Colossal Boy, Chameleon Boy; Cosmic Boy, Shrinking Violet and Chemical King appear in cameos.
In the self-titled Part 1, Clark Kent and Lana Lang are enjoying a travelling carnival outside of Smallville. Though, truth be told, Clark’s mind is actually on the unusual UFO that’s been spotted over Smallville, shooting out a beam that seems to have the effect of being an x-ray slicing through the town. Clark becomes so distracted that he fails to realize that Lana’s in real danger from Gorpo, an escaped gorilla. He manages to knock the gorilla out without Lana being any the wiser. The two go back to walking the carnival grounds, and Lana convinces Clark to come with her to see the gypsy fortune-teller. Using his x-ray vision, he realizes her crystal ball is the Emerald Eye of Ekron and that the fortune-teller is the Emerald Empress. The Empress attacks Superboy, and the Persuader is alerted, causing him to join in. The Emerald Empress and the Persuader are too much for the Boy of Steel. They taunt him with the fact that the Time-Sorter has sealed his doom. The Persuader’s atomic axe fells Superboy, and the Emerald Empress encases him in a force-field that puts him in permanent suspended animation. Moments later, Mano arrives. The Empress and Persuader tell him they’ve installed the Time-Sorter in Smallville and then they all disappear together. In Part 2, “Prisoners of the Time Lock!”, a time bubble containing four Legionnaires - Brainiac 5, Element Lad, Karate Kid and Princess Projectra - arrives. The Legionnaires are there to warn Superboy, but hearing a commotion from the carnival fear it is too late. Lana explains to the Legionnaires what happened, and the mention of the Time-Sorter, but the four Legionnaires are content that only two of the Fatal Five are in the past, and that two others are imprisoned in the 30th Century. Meanwhile, in the 30th Century, Mon-El and Colossal Boy discuss the fact that Validus has broken Tharok free, while the others stole a time-bridger and travelled back to Smallville in Superboy’s time. Suddenly, the Legion Headquarters and those Legionnaires on-site fade away into nothingness. On the empty site where Legion HQ stood, Tharok boasts to Validus that the Time-Sorter planted in Superboy’s era has created a domino effect as planned, causing the Legion to cease to exist! Back in Smallville, Emerald Empress, Persuader and Mano attack the Legionnaires, who have split up trying to find them. They destroy the Legion’s time bubble and gloat to them how the Time-Sorter warps the time/space continuum. The Time-Sorter made sure that Superboy lost the fight against the Persuader and Empress in Smallville and the device also cancelled the events leading up to the formation of the Legion. The Empress explains that the four Legionnaires are without a Legion in the future. Karate Kid attempts to destroy the Emerald Eye, but it reforms from the shattered pieces. The fight goes as well for the Legionnaires as it can, but they realize that they need to retreat. When the four Legionnaires get back together and compare notes, they realize they’ve been stranded in the past, possibly forever. In Part 3, “Countdown to Catastrophe!”, back in the 30th Century, a surprised Tharok and Validus are joined by Mano, though he’s supposed to be in 1950s Smallville. Mano explains he was detained by a police posse in another galaxy. Back in 20th Century Smallville, the Mano there convinces the Empress and the Persuader that they should guard the Time-Sorter to ensure that its effects become permanent in the next 20 minutes of the 24-hour adjustment period. They head into downtown Smallville, where it’s revealed that the Time-Sorter is concealed inside the statue of Superboy that stands there. Mano fingers a concealed switch on his belt... and the relieved Brainiac 5 receives the signal on his force-shield belt. The Mano in Smallville is revealed as Chameleon Boy, as he’s discovered to be a fraud when his battery-charged glove that duplicates Mano’s disintegrator hand has run out of power. Princess Projectra saves Chameleon Boy with an illusion of Validus, and Chameleon Boy tells Karate Kid the Time-Sorter’s in the statue of Superboy. Karate Kid splits the statue open, to reveal both the Time-Sorter and Superboy. With only seconds to spare, Karate Kid destroys the Time-Sorter. With time restored, Brainiac 5 tells the villains that it’s over, but the Empress and the Persuader escape into the time stream using their time-bridgers. Back in the future, Legion Headquarters starts to reappear around Tharok, Mano and Validus. Validus manages to escape, but Tharok and Mano find themselves imprisoned where they were standing in the Legion jail.
This is, I’ll admit an enjoyable story, and is the first appearance of the Fatal Five since they took on Karate Kid back in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #378 back in March of 1969 and Mon-El and Saturn Girl took on Tharok and Validus in Superboy Vol 1 #190; it’s actually the first time since the Adventure Comics Vol 1 days that the Legion has taken on the entire Fatal Five team, albeit in two different time periods. The division of the story into three discrete parts was quite interesting, and made the sections of the tale feel distinct. The fight sequences in the story are truly beautifully rendered by Dave Cockrum, with some real dynamics involved, and Cockrum really handled the artwork in the first chapter set in Smallvile rather well; it had a distinct feel to it, to be sure. That said, if one looks at the story too closely, there are some definite flaws here... How did Chameleon Boy know where and when to infiltrate the Fatal Five as Mano? Mon-El mentions at one point that all three of the Five - Emerald Empress, the Persuader and Mano - disappeared into the past together, so why wasn’t he there to fight the Legionnaires? Furthermore, since Mon-El mentions that he sent four Legionnaires back to Superboy’s time, Brainiac 5 obviously sent Chameleon Boy in advance without telling the Legion leader. Typical Brainiac 5, I’d say. Perhaps a sign of things to come, huh? However, the real glitch with the plot is this... If the Time-Sorter prevented the Legion from ever existing, it should have also prevented the Fatal Five from existing! The Legion was the reason the Fatal Five formed in the first place. Funnily enough, this is the second issue in a row where a Legionnaire dives towards a countdown device with seconds to spare, and stops it. Last issue it was Timber Wolf, and this time out it’s Karate Kid. Costume-wise, Element Lad, Princess Projectra and Colossal Boy all wear their new uniforms in this issue. Colossal Boy's brown and orange uniform from Superboy Vol 1 #195 is gone and forgotten. A nice, humorous part of the story was that Element Lad wanders the carnival eating cotton candy.