Review: Mystery in Space #75 Facsimile Edition
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Gardner Fox
Art: Carmine Infantino & Murphy Anderson
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
Kanjar Ro who first appeared in Justice League of America #3 escapes imprisonment to seek revenge against his jailers- the aforementioned JLA! However, his plan takes him to Rann, where Earthman Adam Strange is the planet’s hero and protector. He doesn’t know it, but the Justice League is the least of Kanjar Ro’s problems!
Not only does Mystery in Space #75 feature a script by one of the most prolific comic book writers in the history of the medium, Gardner Fox is one of the architects of both the Golden Age and Silver Age of comics! This issue also features one of the greatest penciller/inker teams in the field- Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson. It doesn’t get much better than this. In the ’60’s, this duo was the real deal! And, Anderson was so good, it didn’t matter who he inked, Gil Kane, Infantino or Curt Swan- EVERYONE wanted to be inked by Anderson. It’s no surprise he was a fantastic penciller (Hawkman) as well. While this duo worked on the Flash at times, they are probably most known for their work together on Adam Strange in Mystery in Space.
Adam Strange is another character in a long line of Science Fiction characters who travel to fantastic worlds who picked up a local girlfriend. John Carter of Mars comes to mind instantly as the archetype. Carter traveled to Mars and fell in love with Dejah Thoris, princess of Helium. Strange’s paramour on the planet Rann is Alanna of Ranagar, and instead of royalty, she is the daughter of Rann’s greatest scientist. This shift in the paradigm reflects the space age in which these stories were produced. There’s a little Flash Gordon here, too.
This issue features the first meeting of the Justice League of America and Adam Strange. While the plot rests on the notion that the JLA will stop Kanjar Ro’s revenge conspiracy, readers of Mystery in Space probably knew Adam would come out the hero. Fox makes it obvious as he shows Adam’s mind at work multiple times in the issue. This is the standard format for Adam’s adventures. While he is good with his laser, he almost always relies on his brain to figure out the solution to the problem. This issue is no different.
While nearly all super-hero features of the day provided a love interest for the protagonist, the Adam Strange feature centered on his relationship with Alanna. Significantly, Alanna accompanied Adam on many missions, just as she is shown in this issue. She may not always be the one the to save the day, but she’s not simply a damsel in distress. She’s the one leading the scientific investigation at the beginning of the story, and Adam trusts her to help him figure a way out when they are trapped. Interestingly, this issue provides two subtle links to the Tom King, Mitch Gerads, “Doc” Shaner Black Label series.
I’ve already mentioned that this is the first time Adam meets the JLA, but in Strange Adventrues #1, Batman comments that he and Adam are friends and that Adam has saved his life multiple times. Mystery in Space #75 is that first time! At the end of the issue, we see Adam tell Alanna that one day he may be able to bring her to Earth, and what do we see in Strange Adventures #1? Alanna and Adam on Earth together! It’s no surprise why this is issue was selected as the facsimile edition to tie in with the launch of Strange Adventures!
These facsimile editions transmute a ton of nostalgia. Whether you encountered them upon their first publication, or later. Whenever you first discovered the story, the facsimile issue takes you back to who you were then as both a comic reader and a person. Adam Strange has been a favorite since I first discovered him in the early ’80’s when I began buying back issues.
The original ads show just how different the world is now than it was back then. The science pages are a welcome addition. Along with the “Flash Facts” that appeared in The Flash, these pages were educational.
With all reprints or facsimile editions, older comics will always read differently. While it doesn’t bother me, I can easily see how the format and characterization may not strike a chord with some readers. However, for historical purposes, this is an excellent example of ’60’s DC Comics science fiction genre character.
The Mystery in Space #75 Facsimile Edition is a time capsule into the past. Not only does the reprint include the landmark first meeting of the JLA and Adam Strange, it has significant connections to the new Black Label Series, Strange Adventures by Tom King, Mitch Gerads and “Doc” Shaner. While it’s not necessary to read one to understand the other, the connections provide a continuity. Adam Strange has always been a different character, a “modern” extension of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars archetype. Adam uses his brain first. Not something every comic character does. Give this facsimile edition a chance and see if it doesn’t present a unique character! And don’t forget, the creative team is a Comic Book Hall of Fame lineup!