And now, an answer to the burning question: WHY would you make a gun that turns people you shoot into you? Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Mystery In Space #103 awaits!
Writer: Dave Wood
Penciler: Howard Purcell/Lee Elias
Inker: Howard Purcell/Lee Elias
Letterer: Henry Boltinoff
Editor: Jack Schiff
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 12 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $0.00
Previously in Mystery In Space: Launching in 1951, ‘Mystery In Space’ was all about outer-space adventures, promising “astonishing experiments of super-science” at a time where comic book superheroes weren’t in vogue. By the late 1960s, though, the heroes were back in the zeitgeist, which led to Hawkman taking the lead role in the book, followed by the science fiction/superhero hybrid known as Space Ranger and his plexiglass helmet. With the sorta/kinda success of Space Ranger, fate and DC editoral conspired to bring readers a new and different spacefaring evil-puncher! Witness Ace Arn, star pilot among star-pilots, on a routine run to Jupiter.
Captain Arn’s quick-thinking saves the day for his passengers when the ship is stuck in a strange magnetic anomaly, but he is unable to get free himself. Ace negotiates a crash-landing on a strange nearby asteroid, unaware that nearby in space, an alien creature is about to change his life forever…
Thanks to an amazing new invention, this space criminal is prepareing to create an army of aliens who not only share his abilities but will follow his commands unerringly. Unfortunately, the leader of the crime ring has died in an accident, meaning that his underlings are rushing back to the asteroid to claim their boss’s power for themselves. But they didn’t count on our man Ace Arn or what might happen if four of their Life-Guns struck one being at the same time!
The Life-Gun blasts give him the powers of all four aliens at once, as well as all their knowledge of the evil scheme to something-something-blackmail-exploding suns. It also gives our man Ace full knowledge of how to USE their various alien abilities, including magnetism, electricity, flight and superhuman strength.
Ace is a walking explanation of Unified Field Theory, embodying four fundamental forces of the universe (electromagnetism is obvious, super-strength for the Strong Force, magnetism for the Weak Force, and flight for Gravity, because SCIENCE!!!!) and punching the hell out of the would-be crime lords. Lee Elias is probably best known for his work on Harvey Comics’ Black Cat and Golden Age adventures of The Flash and Green Arrow, but I really enjoy the strange alien designs and dynamic action sequences of this issue. Having defeated his foes and thwarted a massive intergalactic criminal enterprise, Ace Arn realizes that he’s now perfectly suited to be… a superhero! But what do you call yourself when you have the powers of aliens from Ulla, Laroo, Trago and Raagan, but the mind of Ace Arn?
ULTRA THE MULTi-ALIEN! Sadly, Ultra really didn’t catch on with the fans, and after eight appearances, he sort of rolled off the end of the pier, only referenced by jerks who wanted to mock the sensibilities of the Silver Age. Mystery In Space #103 is a pretty solid issue from top to bottom, with dynamic art, wild creativity and a fun little plot, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. If you dig the “Composite Hero” archetype the way Thomas Perkins and I do, you’d do well to seek out Ultra’s appearance from back in the day, and don’t let the cynics sour you on his wacky origins or design. There’s a reason he’s had more modern apperances than he had in his original run, after all.
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MYSTERY IN SPACE #103
Not the most memorable issue on many levels, but Ultra's debut features stylish art and a plot so silly it wraps back around into brilliance, making it well worth tracking down.