Oh, perfidy! Here is that horrible moment when I was first faced with that recurring bane of a comic book collector’s existence: a periodic price increase. Throughout the 1970s when I was first collecting, this seemed to happen with frightening regularity. You could always tell when one was in the offing because the price would suddenly start getting called out as “STILL ONLY XX”. In this era as well, DC invariably raised its prices first, and then Marvel followed suit usually around three months later. That all said, because at this point I was young enough where it wasn’t really my money that was funding my habit, the increase didn’t terribly faze me.
If I bought this issue of SUPERBOY for any reason, it was probably the presence of Ferro Lad on the cover. He was my favorite Legionnaire for some reason, based on a single reprinted story from a few months earlier, and I’m not even sure whether up to this moment I was even aware that he had died. Invisible Kid’s demise I had read a few months earlier.
This was a pretty creepy story, the impact of which is almost totally neutralized on the final page. It opens with Superboy arriving to demolish a condemned building, as has been scheduled by the authorities. But before he can act, a shadowy super-powered figure does the job for him. Wading into the dust and the debris, Superboy finds himself face-to-face with Ferro Lad, who is not only supposed to be dead, but who comes from 1000 years in the future.
Pondering this turn of events, and not even considering the time-travel explanation that this is Ferro Lad come back from the future before he died there, Superboy resumes life as Clark Kent. On his way to class, he spies a skydiver in peril, but before he can switch to Superboy, the falling figure is caught by an unseen force that materializes into the form of Invisible Kid.
That evening, the two resurrected super heroes confront Superboy in his basement workshop. They tell him that they intend to rejoin the Legion, but as they’ve been inactive since their deaths, they’d like Superboy to test them, to make sure they’ve lost none of their fighting skill. Superboy’s super-senses confirm the pair as the genuine friends that he saw perish.
Suddenly, Superboy is alerted to the presence of a huge robot rampaging on the outskirts of Smallville. The trio of heroes moves to intercept, but Superboy is struck down by the machine. He tells the other two weaker heroes to withdraw, but they respond that they’ve already given their lives in the line of duty, and are prepared to do so again. So saying, Invisible Kid and Ferro Lad use their combined talents to destroy the attacking robot.
Having proven themselves, the pair depart for teh 30th Century. But when they arrive, their Time-Bubble blows up, obliterating them. It turns out that they were experimental clones created by Brainiac-5 from the stored DNA of Invisible Kid and Ferro Lad, but that the process only gives the clones a 48-hour lifespan. Brainy contacts Superboy, who seemingly knew about this all along (despite our being able to read his puzzled thought balloons earlier in the story) and thanks him for testing the clones with the robot he had constructed for that purpose. It’s a story that raises a lot of questions. It’s completely a cheat that Superboy suddenly has been aware of the plot the whole time when he was clueless for the preceding 12 pages. And it’s also odd in that, even if the clones only last 48 hours, they still would have been extremely useful assets in many future Legion adventures–but the process is never spoken about again.
The back-up tale is a solo adventure of Princess Projectra and Karate Kid. Projectra is journeying home for rest and recuperation on her homeworld of Orando as she’s got Rigel Fever. But rather than her home, she winds up on a planetoid where her own powers, directed in her ill state, create an elaborate illusion of her family under siege and a threat which needs to be conquered. Karate Kid sows up to help her do just that.