Mystery in Space #99, "World Destroyer From Space!"

MYSTERY IN SPACE #99; May 1965; DC Comics; Jack Schiff, editor; featuring 
Adam Strange vs. "The World Destroyer From Space!" and Space Ranger battling 
"The Living Robots!"  The cover, illustrating the Space Ranger story  (though it
appears second in the issue), depicts Space Ranger in an assembly  line of
space lawmen who are being converted into robots by a sinister  device.  One
alien in front is completely "robotized", another in back is  still flesh and
blood, and Space Ranger under the overhead beam of the sinister  device is in the
midst of being converted from flesh to metal.  The  parrot-beaked alien
operating the ray cackles, "Even Space Ranger is now under  my control!  Soon, I
will be king of this solar system!"

Review by  Bill Henley

After Julius Schwartz gave up editorship of MYSTERY IN SPACE  and took the
creative team of Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino with him.   Jack Schiff
produced a further ten Adam Strange stories (MIS #92-102, skipping  #101), produced
by members of his own editorial stable, including Lee Elias on  the art.  The
conventional fan wisdom on these stories is that they're of  little or no
worth, a disgrace to the proud name of Adam Strange.  As I  mentioned in a
response to another review, I don't quite agree.  Certainly  the Schiff-edited Adam
Strange stories weren't as good as the  Schwartz/Fox/Infantino classics, but
they're still readable.  I at least  like them better than the Ultra the
Multi-Alien series that replaced Adam  (sorry, Ultra fans).

I think "The World-Destroyer From Space!" is written  by Jerry Siegel-- yes,
the co-creator of Superman-- though it might be Dick or  Dave Wood.  The art,
as mentioned, is pencils and inks by Lee Elias.   Elias was a comics veteran
and though his art lacks the pristine slickness of  Infantino it had its own
virtues, including expressive faces. (One thing to note  about Elias' depiction
of Adam is that he kept the costume the same except that  he immediately, and
permanently, got rid of the finned helmet and let Adam's  blond hair tousle in
the breeze.  I don't know if Elias and/or Schiff  thought the helmet looked
silly, or if Elias just wanted to place a visual mark  of his own on the
character.)   On the splash panel, Adam Strange is  in the midst of nuptials with a
pretty redhead in an Earthly-looking white  wedding gown, when he is attacked
by a floating pinkish-orange  monster  hurling lightning bolts as Alanna grins
fiendishly.  Her father Sardath  chides her; "How COULD you, Alanna?  Just
because Adam jilted you for  Lurinor,you wrecked the only weapon that could have
saved him AND our  planet!"

As our story begins, Adam makes his usual Zeta-beam trip to  Rann, where a
playful Alanna greets him with a hug-- "It's only been weeks since  our last
meeting but it seemed like an ETERNITY!"-- and a challenge to a race,  Adam's
jet-pack against her "air scooter".  When Alanna wins the race, Adam  reacts with
an uncharacteristic scowl; "You needn't rub it in!  You're a  bad sport!" 
Alanna is puzzled and upset by Adam's anger, and she and  Sardath are both
disturbed when he proves "quiet and withdrawn" during  dinner.  "Maybe some Earth
problems are still on his mind!", Alanna  speculates.  It gets worse when Adam
is invited to be the guest of honor at  a "special celebration" of his own
heroic deeds.  He is openly rude to the  crowds of Rannians hailing him as
"champions of champions"-- until one of them,  a redhead with a cinnamon-bun hairdo
of the sort later popularized by Princess  Leia, approaches him.  "You're the
prettiest girl here!", Adam declares,  and he snubs Alanna in order to dance
with her.  The redhead, Lurinor by  name, confesses that she has always
hero-worshipped Adam and envied his  sweetheart, Alanna.  "Forget Alanna!"  Adam
declares.  "She  belongs to my past!  You, who are infinitely more fascinating,
belong to my  FUTURE!"  And, addressing the crowd, Adam declares he is so
smitten with  Lurinor that he is proposing that they be married the very next day--
a proposal  Lurinor eagerly accepts.  While a baffled Sardath wonders if Adam
has "lost  his mind", a tearful but enraged Alanna declares, "I wouldn't marry
that heel  now if he begged me!  Lurinor is welcome to him!  I HATE  HIM!"

The next day, Adam and Lurinor are in the midst of a public outdoor  wedding
ceremony, with Alanna in the background vowing not to cry in public,  when an
amorphous, flying, orange creature approaches shooting lightning  bolts.  Adam
recognizes it; "It fits the descripton of the legendary  monster-- the
World-Destroyer Creature!  It's supposed to have exploded the  planet Goz, eons
ago!"  Explaining further, Adam says the creature searches  the galaxy for planets
containing the rare element Zymium from which it can gain  "illitmitable
power".  Once it gains a power boost by absorbing Zymium, it  can blast apart an
entire planet and absorb still greater power from the  explosion, keeping it
going for eons until it runs low and has to seek out  another Zymium-containing
world.  And Rann is in deadly danger, for it has  Zymium.  Though his romantic
inclinations have changed, Adam seems as  dynamic and quick-thinking as ever,
as he stops a guard from firing at the  creature-- "Your ray-blaster won't
harm the creature!  If anything, it's  making it STRONGER!"-- and rushes Sardath
to his lab to obtain a "large  repulsor-ray machine", which Adam uses to push
the creature back towards space  and gain time to find a more permanent
solution.  Adam sets Sardath to work  building a device to his specifications, but
refuses to explain the machine's  exact function; "Don't distract me with
questions!  Just do as I say!   Billions of lives are at stake!" 

Meanwhile, Alanna spots the  creature returning, shooting its lightning
bolts, and despite her alienation  from Adam she dons her jet-pack to rush to warn
him and her father.    The creature spots and follows her, and at first she
thinks it is attacking her  with its bolts.  But then one of the creature's
lightnings destroys a  deadly poison-quilled Razak bird that threatened to attack
her.  Alanna is  puzzled by the creature's behavior until she spots "a
pattrern in the woods  below, formed by the space-creature's bolts!  I'm beginning to
understand!"  Shortly afterwards, Adam Strange emerges from Sardath's lab 
with a new ray-weapon in hand and orders bystanders aside as he prepares to 
blast the creature.  But Alanna leaps forward, grabbing the weapon and  ripping
wires loose, inactivating it.  She then cheers on the space  creature:  "Go
get him!  Get him!"  And as Adam is wreathed in  the creature's lightning bolts,
Alanna laughs manically, and Lurinor and Sardath  are horrified; "Not only
will Adam die because of your hatred, but OUR WHOLE  WORLD WILL PERISH!"  But
then, as the creature flies off into the sky, an  unharmed Adam seizes Alanna in
an embrace and kiss, and now it is Lurinor's turn  to be outraged; "Stop it,
Adam!  She tried to destroy you!  How can  you....?"  But, still holding
Alanna, Adam insists, "No, I'm not  crazy!  Neither is Alanna!  She just saved me
from an awful fate,  bless her!"  Alanna explained that she saw the initials
"AS" burned into  the ground by the creature's bolts, and that plus he
creature's action in saving  her life enabled her to figure out by "intutition" what
had happened.   Somehow, as Adam traveled from Earth to Rann by Zeta-beam, the
space creature  got caught up in the same beam, and their minds exchanged.  the
creature's  mind in Adam's body landed on Rann, and it decided it wanted to
keep its new  form (and for some reason, took a shine to Lurinor as well). 
Arriving on  Rann to discover his own "wedding" in process, creature-Adam tried
to make  physical contact with Adam-creature, sensing that this would change
their minds  back.  But Adam-creature drove it away, and then had Sardath create
the  weapon capable of destroying its old form once and for all.  (Why the 
creature is so eager to exchange its natural form, capable of living for eons, 
for a mortal human body is not altogether clear.  I guess it was *really* 
taken with Lurinor.....)   But the danger is not over, for with its  plan to
remain in Adam's body foiled, the creature will proceed with its  original goal
to seek out Zymium and blow up the planet Rann.  Quckly,  Alanna repairs the
wires she damaged on the mystery weapon, and she and Adam jet  off to confront
the creature before it can reach Rann's Zymium mines.  They  are almost too
late, as the creature is already sucking up Zymium-energy, but  the ray-weapon
functions as advertised.  Working as "energy-absorbing ray",  it drains the
creature, making it smaller and smaller until it disappears  altogether. 
"Ironically, the creature created the SOLE weapon that could  destroy it!", Adam
comments.  Back at Ranagar, Lurinor (who apparently was  sincere about her
hero-worship for Adam) is crestfallen at being left at the  altar but "thankful I
didn't marry a monster in human form".  Alanaa takes  the opportunity to drop a
hint, "Speaking of marriage, darling..." when Adam  suddenly fades away as his
Zeta-beam charge wears off.  However, Alanna  knows he will soon return via the
next Zeta-beam, and, "Meanwhile I'll have  plenty of time to make myself look
my prettiest for him!  I'm not taing any  chances!"

As I've mentioned, I suspect Gardner Fox must have had one of  the happier
marriages among comics creators, since he liked to depict couples  (like Hawkman
and Hawkgirl and Adam and Alanna) who worked together closely and  were
romantically devoted to each other without a lot of jealousy and  bickering.  Here,
in this non-Fox Adam Strange story, Alanna shows  uncharacteristic signs of
jealousy and spite, but the provocation is  considerable.....and, on the other
hand, she is actually the one to make the  crucial deduction that saves the
day, which rarely if ever happened in  Fox-written stories.

The remainder of this issue is devoted to the  cover-featured Space Ranger
story.  Space Ranger was Jack Schiff's own  editorial "baby", reportedly
produced at the same 1950's editorial bull session  at which Julie Schwartz came up
with Adam Strange.  While Schwartz gave  Adam a home in MYSTERY IN SPACE,
Schiff featured the Ranger for years in his own  sci-fi title TALES OF THE
UNEXPECTED, but when Schiff took over MiS, he  shoehorned both characters into the
same title.  Like the post-Schwartz  Adam Strange, Space Ranger comes in for a
lot of fannish disdain, but in his  case I think the disdain is largely
warranted... at least, I've never found  anything very interesting about Space
Ranger's rather juvenile adventures.   On the splash page of this one-- drawn I think
by Howard Purcell, though I could  be mistaken-- Space Ranger's
shape-changing pal Cryll has transformed himself  into a green creature with double
vacuum-tube nostrils, but Space Ranger is  transformed himself into a glowing
metallic form.  "Look out, Cryll-- Space  Ranger's become a hostile robot and he's
utilizing his robot powers to attack  you with that glow!"  In Saturn Stadium,
two alien criminal types are  watching an exciting boxing bout, but though the
exciting climax is approaching,  one of them insists they both leave to meet
their boss, known as Zru.   "We'd be crazy to keep Zru waiting!  That brilliant
brain is on the verge  of becoming king of this solar system!"  Another
member of the audience is  eager to make their acquantance and learn more about
Zru, but as the "Martian  Mauler" wins the bout, cheering fight fans block the
aisles and prevent him from  catching up to the two hoods.  Removing his
undercover disguise, Space  Ranger, "Guardian of the Solar System", returns , along
with girlfriend Myra, to  his asteroid headquarters,  The Ranger is convinced
that the mysterious Zru  is behind a series of "unexplained disapperances", but
his "odd little  assistant" Cryll is busily but unsuccessfully trying to
locate info on Zru on  the "Z" shelf of the Ranger's large library.  (Wow, how
futuristic.   Didn't even Batman, a mere 20th century primitive, have a
Bat-computer on which  to keep his records of known criminals by this time?) 

The next  day, at Saturn City Hospital, a familar figure with an unfamilar
look shows  up.  The vanished Dr. Vervo, a trusted doctor, shows up, but he has 
reappeared wtih completely metallic skin, a "living robot".. Brushing off his
former colleagues, he uses his knowledge of the hospital safe combination to
make off with "the planet's total supply of rare and valuable pluradium"  
Space Ranger and Cryll show up on the scene, but the Ranger's ray-gun is
useless  against the metallic Vervo, and Cryll's shapechanging efforts also fail
when a  space flying manned by the gangsters Bru-rel, Toga and Zru appears to
seize  Vervo and the pluradium loot.  Trying to figure out the criminals' next 
move, the Ranger deduces that a "paper deal" they spoke of refers to a plan to 
attack the Interplanetary Mint.  One of the missing persons is a master 
engraver for the mint.  And the next day, Jar-nee the Jovian, developer of  the
"secret process for developing paper" for the mint, is accosted and taken 
capive with "immobilization fluid".  Or is he?  Actually, the real  Jar-nee has
been warned and his captured doppleganger is Space Ranger in  disguise.  Taken to
the gang's hideout at an abandoned asteroid mine,  "Jar-nee" is ordered to be
sent through the "reception center",  where an  X-ray device reveals not only
his hidden weapons but his identity as Space  Ranger.  Exposed and still
helpless due to the immobilization fluid, Space  Ranger listens as the
parrot-beaked Zru explains that he was an inhabitant of  another solar system whose
criminals are imprisoned on a planet where mere flesh  and blood beings cannot
survive, so the convicts are subjected to a  "robotization" process to give them
metal skins and make them subject to the  will of their guards.  Zru got
himself sentenced to this prison in an  attempt to free his gang boss Graz-vo, but
when the plan went awry, he fled  without Graz-vo but with the "robotizing
bulb" and control helmet he can use to  create "living robots" of his own.  He
fled to Earth's solar system and  plans to dominate it with his robot slaves, but
his first priority was to obtain  the supply of pluradium, not because of its
money value but because it can  substitute for Kronium, "an element necessary
for my existence".  Zru's  thugs suggest that Space Ranger ought to be
killed, but  Zru laughs off the  suggestion; why kill him when he can be "tobotized"
and become Zru's loyal  servant?  And that is what Zru proceeds to do.

Later, at  "Interplanetary Military Headquarters on Pluto", General Larki
appears in robot  form with a mission to steal vital defense plans for Zru's use.
But Cryll  is on the scene, since Space Ranger earlier warned that Larki
might be the next  target.  Becoming the blue double-trunked creature, Cryll
traps the robot  general in a pit, but Robot-Ranger shows up to disable Cryll and
rescue the  general.  Cryll and Myra are baffled how to make contact with the
Ranger  and overcome the control kept on him by Zru's control helmet.  But
some  time later, as Zru starts to direct his robot slaves on another mission,
Space  Ranger acts without orders and seizes the control helmet from Zru's head,
freeing the other robotized beings to revolt and overcome Zru and his  gang?
How did the Ranger escape control?  It seems that Cryll took  the form of a
Mercurian telepathic monkey and  beamed the Ranger  instructions on how to
escape Zru's control by removing his helmet.  Now  Zru is defeated, but the
Ranger and the others may be doomed to exist as living  robots forever, since even
Zru had no knowledge of how to reverse the  robotization effect.  Fortunately,
at this point the police of Zru's own  home solar system show up.  They have
tracked him to Earth's system because  of the presence here of pluradium, the
only known substitute for the vital  element Kronium, and now they can restore
the Ranger and the others to normal  while hauling Zru off to serve his own
sentence as a "living  robot".

Space Ranger and Adam Strange each had only two more MYSTERY IN  SPACE
appearances to go at this point.  Adam appeared without the Ranger in  #100 and
#102, while the Ranger appeared without Adam in #101 and made his last  bow in
#103, sharing the issue with the debut of Ultra the Multi-Alien (Lee  Elias' new
art assignment in place of Adam Strange).