THE DOOM PATROL #95|
Summary written by Lou Mougin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
"Menace of the Turnabout Heroes" (25 pages)
Villain: The Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man
After Robotman, Elasti-Girl, and Negative Man thwart a prison breakout, The Chief summons them back to headquarters with shocking news. He tells them he can cure Larry and Rita of their "freakish" conditions, merging Negative Man permanently into Larry's body and negating his radioactive condition, while removing the expansion / contraction powers of Rita. When Cliff and Larry protest that Rita is normal in appearance, The Chief reveals a further shocker: he has determined that the process that gave Rita her powers will eventually kill her.
Reluctantly, Larry and Rita begin to undergo the processes to remove their powers, while Cliff looks on in anguish, knowing there is nothing The Chief can do about his robotic condition and that he will be alone if the other Patrollers are "cured". With his chestplate open for servicing, Cliff breaks away, smashes the power unit for the curative devices, and takes a terrible jolt of electricity himself, shorting out his body.
The Chief determines that Cliff's brain is still functional, but that he will need a total body replacement, which will take some time. The DP is alerted to a menace, and The Chief unveils another innovation: a robotic shell which he enters, using its mechanisms to enable him to walk and function normally, with metallic strength. With Robotman set in a wheelchair to watch their exploits on a closed-circuit TV, the other three Patrollers go to take care of the menace.
The menace turns out to be the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, who changes from one deadly form to another to combat the Chief, Larry, and Rita. Furthermore, they learn that Larry and Rita have exchanged powers due to the interrupted curative process: Larry now possesses the power to grow and shrink, while Rita can release a "Negative Girl" from her body. Even though the threesome are relatively inexperienced in the use of their new powers, they prevail and defeat the A-V-M Man. After the battle, both Larry and Rita feel weak, dizzy, and hurt, and The Chief deduces that their exchanged powers may kill them both. He hurries them back to headquarters, reverses the curative process, and imbues Larry with Negative Man again while restoring Elasti-Girl's size-powers. Some hours later, The Chief restores Robotman's body to full power, having already forsaken his own robot shell-body.
Another goodie. Exchanged powers are a frequent trope in superhero comics, but Drake manages to make it work here with a bit of imagination. One problem: if Rita really had absorbed Negative Man into her body, she should have been radioactive, giving her an "X-ray skeleton" appearance and requiring protective bandages like Larry's. Then again, when Valentina Vostok gains the Negative Being's power, it is some time before she has to don mummy-wrappings. Perhaps women have better resistance to such stuff.
Nice character bits: The Chief's realization that curing Larry and Rita will lose him part of his "family", but his willingness to go through with it nonetheless; Cliff's anguish at knowing he will be all alone, and his refusal to let that happen, even if it will benefit his teammates (very Thing-like; cf. Fantastic Four #25, where Ben Grimm refuses to let Reed Richards cure him of his monstrous form, for fear of losing Alicia); and Robotman's return to brashness once his new body gets hooked up. Nobody even seems mad at him, in the end. After all, he is family.
Larry's line, "Water? At a time like this, Chief? Get us out of here and I'll buy you a beer!" is also a hoot.
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