SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINS was approaching its final days, not that that was known either to me or to the people who were producing it. It would become a casualty of the fabled “DC Implosion” in just a few short months. But for now, it was continuing to be published and it was still a book that I enjoyed an awful lot, so when a new issue such as this one dropped, I was definitely there. In addition, this two-parter brought back the Earth-3 Crime Syndicate of America, who I’d loved in one of the earliest Justice League stories that I had read. Thanks to Grant Morrison, they’ve become far better known and far more regularly used, but in 1978 it had been 14 years since their previous appearance.
SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINS was a bit of a weird series as by design it featured a rotating cast of villains. In order to counter-balance this, early on series creator Gerry Conway had re-invented and brought in a long-forgotten DC character from Julie Schwartz’s science fiction title STRANGE ADVENTURES: Captain Comet. Comet had been recast in more of a traditional super hero style, with just a little bit of Captain America’s “man out of time” ambiance thrown in to give him some characterization. I really liked the character in this iteration for some reason, and kept hoping that he’d win one of those “Who should join the JLA” polls that would run on that book’s letters page. But it never happened, and he faded back into obscurity, only to be brought back and re-created again a couple of times, never in a way that caught my fancy in the same manner.
Anyway, at this point in the story, the Secret Society was trying to get to Earth-2, the Wizard’s home universe, where he intended to pit them against his regular foes of the Justice Society of America. But along the way, they and Captain Comet wound up diverted to Earth-3, a parallel world in which good and evil were reversed, and whose champions were all evil-doers. In order to power the spell necessary to get the Society the rest of the way to Earth-2, the villains mixed it up with the Crime Syndicate members, stealing Superwoman’s lasso, Power Ring’s power ring and Johnny Quick’s helmet–that last one was a bit weird as it didn’t seem to have any inherent power as the other two items did. Regardless, while on the trail of the thieves, the Syndicate crossed paths with Captain Comet and, figuring that he was connected to their attackers, promptly clobber him.
Captain Comet wakes up in the hospital, where he learns he was brought by a new face in the story: the Lois Lane of Earth-3. She’s a reporter for the Daily Star, and she’s never seen a super hero before–as such, she is fascinated by Captain Comet in a more-than-professional way. This is the Earth-23 Lois’s first appearance, which makes this issue a bit noteworthy, as she would go on in future stories to marry the Luthor of Earth-3, and her child would be the only survivor of the destruction of Earth-3 and a major player in the CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS.
Meanwhile, having been freed from the inter-dimensional prison that the JLA and JSA had imprisoned them in tears before, the Crime Syndicate members waste no time in in going on a crime spree, leaving terror and devastation in their wake. They’re also inadvertently turning people around them into monsters: Power Ring has been forced to carry his mystic power battery around with him to use in lieu of his purloined power ring. But the battery has corroded and spoiled after years of disuse, and so it’s leaking dangerous magical energy that is transforming those around it into monsters. Reports of these creatures stir Captain Comet back into action, and he flies off from his hospital bed to rejoin the fight.
Using his advanced mutant mental powers, Captain Comet is able to trail the energy residue of Power Ring’s leaking battery back to the Syndicate’s Eyrie of Evil headquarters. The three Syndicate members aren’t faring well either–they’ve all been changed and distorted by the battery’s energies as well, and one by one they attempt to kill Captain Comet. But Comet is able to triumph over first Johnny Quick and then Superwoman, and finally confronts Power Ring. Comet’s greater mental strength is able to wrest control of the power battery from Power Ring and put down the last of his attackers.
In the last-page wrap-up, Captain Comet uses the power battery to restore those people who had been turned into monsters before using the battery himself to travel to Earth-2. Given how messed up it’s shown itself to be, it’s a wonder that nothing bad happens to Comet as a result–but I suppose that plot has been wrapped up at this point. Similarly, did the Society really need to steal all of those other items when the battery itself (and presumably Power Ring’s power ring itself) could do the job all by itself? I guess that’s why they’re criminals, not too bright. Anyway, the next issue promises a showdown between the mostly-absent-this-issue Secret Society and the Justice Society, but it would be a few weeks before we’d get to that issue.