The next comic I purchased was this issue of SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINS, which I’d been anticipating as it had been called out prominently in house ads running this month. It also clearly had a focus on the world of the Flash–not only his protege Kid Flash, but also his enemies the Trickster and Grodd were highlighted on the cover. I really didn’t need any further excuse to pick it up–I was already a regular reader of the title. But all of this didn’t hurt.

The schizophrenic saga of the Secret Society was about to take another turn this month, as returning to the writer’s chair was series creator Gerry Conway. In the scant few issues that Conway had been gone, his “bad guys battling Darkseid” concept had changed considerably in other hands. But here, Gerry would start to steer certain elements back more towards his own sensibilities–which might have worked out wonderfully, except that his return to SSoSV was again going to be short-lived.

The issue opens with the book’s hero-in-residence Captain Comet breaking into the Sinister Citadel. After being captured last issue, special-guest-villain Lex Luthor had spilled the beans to the authorities concerning he Secret Society’s whereabouts–and here, Conway through Comet takes a moment to editorialize that it didn’t really make much sense that Comet couldn’t locate them before this, given that they were still hanging out in the same building they’d been in when he had been a short-lived member of the group. Now, though, new Society spokesman Funky Flashman has had the foresight to relocate the team’s HQ–which means that, once again, Comet is out of luck.

Funky’s also got a new hook for the group as well, and he shows off his Paladin-style business cards which declare “Let the Villain Fit the Crime!” He proposes to become a super-villain booking agent, pairing up the right bad guys for the right heist–and for the first job, he’s called in the services of both Grodd and the Trickster. (Not sure what he might have offered Grodd–the big gorilla’s hardly interested in mere money.) Meanwhile, off in Blue Valley, Wally West is alerted to the whereabouts of a crook who stole a crystal from the school museum. But this isn’t just any crystal–it’s a dangerous sorcerous weapon from an old World’s Finest story.

Becoming Kid Flash, Wally goes into the hideout to retrieve the purloined crystal and capture the guy who stole it–but he’s quickly taken out of play by the crystal’s ability to redirect energy. Turns out the crystal is also what the Secret Society’s latest benefactor is also after, so suddenly a quartet of super-villains come crashing through the wall. And while the would-be crime-lord Mell is able to hold off one or two of them with his stolen crystal, his cut-rate talents prove no match for the ferocity of the Star Sapphire–who fries him to a crisp.

Making their way back to the Cortney Building with their prize, the Society is suddenly confounded when, rather than wait for any pay-off, the Trickster decides that he’d rather just make off with the crystal itself. It’s a pretty marvelous turn in an otherwise-ordinary story–of course the assorted villains aren’t going to play fair. Sadly for James Jesse, he doesn’t get far before Grodd takes him down, and he’s tossed out on his ear.

But the crystal is just one portion of s set of mystic weapons once used against Superman and Batman–and the Society’s benefactor wants them all, So, the next day, the team sets out in pursuit of a mystic glove–only to find Captain Comet and Kid Flash waiting for them. Having seen the Society’s involvement at Mell’s, Wally contacted Comet through the JLA, the two compared notes, and the glove, on display in a different museum, was the next obvious target.

But while Captain Comet’s mental powers prove strong enough to put the kibosh on Grodd, Copperhead once again makes a monkey out of Kid Flash, and Star Sapphire makes off with the power-glove while the heroes are otherwise occupied. It’s pretty much a bust for the good guys on this outing. Heading back home, Comet in his guise as Adam Blake runs into the woman with whom he’d had a liaison in a previous issue, Debbie. But now, she’s calling herself Camille, and she doesn’t seem to recognize him at all. This completely confused me as a kid (and it never entirely gets resolved during the remainder of the series) and it would become even more confusing in subsequent issues–as we shall see.

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