Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Spoiled from the start!

Jim Shooter turned in another win with a two-part tale (art by Curt Swan) in 1968’s Adventure Comics #365 and 366.At the start, the Legion learn the peaceful planet of Talok VIII has become dangerously belligerent. Four Legionnaires accompany the planet’s hero, Shadow Lass, back to her world (she was off-planet when the change happened) to figure out why. They have a long hard slog to the planetary capital, watched by a mysterious Someone manipulating their adventures. When they finally break in, they’re trapped: Superboy in a crushing vise that can kill even him; Cosmic Boy ducking deadly non-magnetic flying missiles; Shadow Lass in a room of blinding light that negates her powers; Brainiac Five in a deathtrap with distractions set up to fry his intellect; Karate Kid suffocating inside a giant diamond even he can’t smash.

Pushing their abilities to the utmost, they survive and escape — and in the process provide enough energy to free the Fatal Five from the dimensional void they’d been trapped in at the end of #353.

In that two-parter, the Legion recruited the galaxy’s five most wanted criminals to help stop the unstoppable Sun-Eater. They succeeded but the crooks then formed an alliance, but were apparently destroyed. Now we know otherwise — though even as a kid, I wasn’t shocked they lived.In Part Two the Fatal Five take over Metropolis, the heart of the United Planets. Tharok, the Five’s super-genius knows that it also contains a last-ditch failsafe against a hostile attack, a computer that gives users control of the entire UP defensive armament on all planets: even if an enemy conquers Colu or Braal or one of the other worlds, the UP can fight them from Earth. Or the Fatal Five can use it to take over.

Discovering the last key to the control panel is in Legion hands, and that the Legion has returned, Tharok threatens to execute all of Metropolis if the Legion doesn’t cough it up. The Legion counter-offers: the five of us (Shadow Lass joins this issue) vs. the five of you. It’s a classic villain mistake to agree to a deal like that but the Fatal Five know they’re the stronger team: Validus can swat Superboy like a bug, Tharok makes Brainy look like a moron, what have they to lose? Of course the good guys win in the end, but it’s a heck of ride to that point.

Overall it’s a terrific story, other than Shooter trying to make Brainiac Five sound like Mr. Spock, constantly muttering about how “illogical” Shadow Lass is. But the point of my post is that Part One was very much set up to make the Fatal Five’s return a shocker. We know there’s a mastermind working against the Legion but we have no idea who — or rather, we wouldn’t have if they title didn’t give it away.

This kind of thing drives me nuts. Yes, having the Fatal Five return was a selling point, but was announcing it going to sell so many more copies to make it worth spoiling the story? I’ve seen the same thing in other comics, or in Doctor Who serials where the return of the Cybermen or the Daleks is meant as a surprise, but not when the title is Yes, It’s The Daleks Behind Everything! Or the infamous movie trailer that gives away the big twist to make the trailer more interesting.

No point beyond venting, but sometimes you have to vent, y’know?

#SFWApro. Covers by Neal Adams, interior art by Swan.


  1. Le Messor

    “I’ve seen the same thing in other comics, or in Doctor Who serials where the return of the Cybermen or the Daleks is meant as a surprise”

    The first thing I thought of was an episode of modern Doctor Who where we see the whole episode from the point of view of a mysterious alien. It’s a prisoner (of UNIT?), we see everything from its literal POV (as if the camera were its eyes). We don’t learn until the shocking twist end what kind of alien it is.
    The title of the episode – shown on screen at the beginning – is Dalek.

    1. Jeff Nettleton

      Private collector/billionaire , with his own high security complex and guards, not UNIT. Aside from their database, UNIT’s main mention, that first season, is when the alien ship crashes in London and you have the flatulent aliens, masquerading as fat humans. Penelope Wilton guest stars as a minor MP who will be the future prime minister.

  2. Alaric

    I think one of the best uses of the Daleks ever was during the John Pertwee (Third Doctor) era, in the early ’70s. I’m not sure I should name the serial, in case some people haven’t seen it, but there’s a serial with no mention of the Daleks in the title, which seems to have nothing to do with them, where it ends up that the Daleks have been the true threat all along, leading directly into the next serial. In general, I think the Third Doctor era did the best job of treating the Daleks as the major threat they should always be.

    1. I’ve almost finished rewatching the classic series. After I watch some of the animated releases I may go back and rewatch the Pertwee years. I missed almost all of them due to the England-to-USA transition so they still feel fresh to me.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.