Universo — “The Legion of Super-Heroes” Part 2

After his defeat at the hands of the Legion, Universo was (apparently) imprisoned but he (also apparently escaped) and commenced one of his campaigns to control the Earth. Being the master plotter that he is, he waited for or manufactured reasons for the Legion to be away from the Earth before beginning his plan for world domination. When the Legionnaires returned, they found that they were not only disbanded, they were hunted and outlawed!

Legion of Super Heroes #359 ‘The Outlawed Legionnaires!’ (August 1967)

When the Legion returns from various missions away from Earth, they arrive to discover the Legion has been disbanded and they are under suspicion from everyone on the planet, including their parents! To make matters worse, several, including their most powerful members, have been arrested and imprisoned on the prison planet of Takron-Galtos, forced to toil for a ruthless warden.

Upon returning to Earth, they are met by the Science Police, who confiscate their space ships and arrest them all for curfew violations. They reunite the following day, a (very conveniently timed) accident forces them to follow the Legion code and use their powers, only to have their most powerful members arrested by the Science Police and sentenced to years of labor on the Takron-Galtos prison planet. The rest are forbidden to use their powers: when emerge from the trial they face a hostile crowd, who do little damage except that the only member of the Legion with any serious political influence, Princess Projectra of the ruling family of Orando is hospitalized in a coma.

Meanwhile on Takron-Galtos, Superboy, Mon-El and Ultra Boy have been rendered powerless to escape: Superboy’s chains are Kryptonite, his only weakness, Mon-El’s lead serum has worn off and he is chained with lead, and Ultra Boy’s powers are negated using a special radioactive material. The rest of the imprisoned Legionnaires are similarly unable to effect a rescue.

The rest try to regroup, only to discover even their parents are monitoring their communications. When they finally do reunite, it is to approach R J Brande, the man who founded and funded the Legion. Instead of getting his help, he called his guards, accusing the Legion of trying to rob him, which resulted in several more Legionnaires being captured. The rest fled underground, where they discover one of Luthor’s old laboratories (and its a credit to his engineering genius that everything still worked after a thousand years.) There they vowed to continue their effort to restore the Legion and discover the cause of this situation.

Legion of Super Heroes #360 ‘The Legion Chain Gang’ (September, 1967)

With limited resources, they have what seems like an impossible job. But what most people don’t realize about the Legion is that even the members with “silly” powers like Shrinking Violet and Triplicate Girl can be very effective, especially when used in intelligence operations. Plus, they have Brainiac 5 and Chameleon Boy, the “brains” of the Legion and the head of the Legion Espionage Squad, respectively.

Lost in a maze of tunnels underneath Metropolis, the Legionnaires accidentally discover one of Luthor’s Lairs, the hidden laboratories of Lex Luthor. From there, they start their campaign of guerrilla warfare by freeing their fellow Legionnaires held in the Science Police prison.

Meanwhile, President Boltax gets an update from Takron-Galtos, then enters a secret room where a mysteriously familiar figure sits, unresponsive to Boltax’s pleas for him, his son, to join his quest to conquer all of the United Planets. Finally, Boltax leaves, angered and dejected: only after then does the figure return to working out his escape.

That night, the Legionnaires break their imprisoned teammates from the Science Police prison, then begin an espionage mission, infiltrating President Boltax’s office, which discovers the secret room but no evidence of how Boltax was able to turn the population of Earth against them. A brainstorming session and some research by Brainiac 5 discovered the water from the Worldwide Water Plant was doctored with mind control chemicals, for which Brainiac 5 creates an antidote.

A diversionary raid on the plant allows Brainiac 5 the opportunity to add the antidote to the water supply, but a guard notices him and stops him. Meanwhile, the other Legionnaires are slowly being trapped by the Science Police: things look grim for the Legion until a stray shot floods the SP with the antidote, freeing them from the mind control, but Brainiac 5 denies doing it. That’s when the mystery figure emerges from the shadows, and Cosmic Boy identifies him as Rond Vidar, the son of Universo. Boltax is revealed to be Universo (with snarky comment blaming his defeat on that pesky son of his) and led away by the Science Police.

As for the Legionnaires on Takron-Galtos, the warden thinks he has the situation under control, with the three most powerful Legionnaires without power. But what the greedy warden didn’t realize is that all of the Legionnaires should be considered escape risks, as Element Lad and Matter-Eater Lad quickly demonstrate. They arrive just in time to watch Universo being led away, and to perform their first official act of the restored Legion: recognizing Rond Vidar as an honorary Legionnaire for saving them not once but twice.

Commentary: Universo is a cunning and calculating foe of the Legion, and this two-issue story demonstrates exactly why he is one of the Legion’s most dangerous foes. If all he had was his super-hypnosis or mind control powers, he would be a danger but he also has the intellect and patience to create a plan that makes full use of his abilities. He also has shown the capacity to learn from his errors and the next installment will show just how well he learned in his next attempt to take over the Earth.

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