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“Ravage of Ronthor”

  • Writer:  David Kaler
  • Pencils:  Steve Ditko
  • Inks:  Frank McLaughlin
  • Letters:  A. Machine
Eight million light years away, an alien spacecraft crashes on an alien world.  Giant insects emerge from the craft and begin attacking the alien world’s civilization.

Thousands of light years away (what happened to the millions?) on Earth, Captain Atom is reporting to a military base.  The besieged planet has sent an SOS and the American military is responding.  He is to pilot an experimental space craft that uses space warps rather than traditional rocket fuel.  Realizing that it has been thousands of years since the SOS was sent, the rocket was developed to actually “break the time continuum” so that Captain Atom can arrive just after the message was sent.  The craft will only work with Captain Atom supplying his own power.

Gunner asks Cap if someone else can pilot the ship; he is clearly worried for his friend’s safety.  Cap says it has to be him supplying the energy for the craft to work.  With luck he should be back within a week.
Eve Eden (Nightshade) calls Captain Atom, also worried about him.  She also asks him what she should do about Abby Ladd’s ongoing crusade to discredit Captain Atom and bed Captain Adam.  He has no good advice for her.
The rocket launches, using conventional fuel to escape Earth’s gravitational pull.  Once in space, Cap plugs into the controls and the ship vanishes into the time continuum.  It emerges above the planet in peril centuries in the past.
As soon as Cap exits his craft, it is set upon by the giant insects that have been ravaging the planet.  He rams into one but the thing’s exoskeleton is a thick armor he can’t penetrate.  Cap is at abit of a loss, as he has to conserve his energy for the return trip.  The creature begins to trap Captain Atom in a spider-web like substance but a well-aimed atomic fireball knocks the thing down.
Another creature attacks, stunning Cap with a blast of “x-rays,” then attempts to eat him.  He smashes the thing’s mouth (evidently killing it) then goes back into his spacecraft and collapses.  He awakes from an hours-long nap to see the nearby city in flames.  He quickly packs a bag and then begins to follow the radio signal that lead him to this planet in the first place.  The city appears deserted – even the sections not engulfed in flames.  A flying monster grabs him and he blasts it with the fire extinguisher he had packed.  It slows the creature down but doesn’t stop it.  Cap flings the monster away and it bursts into flames for no apparent reason.
Finally finding the source of the signal, Captain Atom is greeted by a voice on a PA system welcoming him to the planet Ronthor.  The voice says it scanned Cap and learned everything about him, including his language, and stored it in its computer systems.  The voice explains that the people of Ronthor were so technologically advanced that they had machines do everything for them and they grew bored.  They built huge rockets and left their home, leaving Ronthor as a “memorial to stifling perfection.”  The voice itself is a machine and it convinces Cap that the planet must be preserved so other species can learn from their mistakes.
Returning to his ship, Cap uses the chemicals in his lab to make an insecticide that will kill the attackers.  He blasts off into space with one of the creatures wrapped around his ship (the gigantic bug is killed in the take-off).  From space, Cap drops his chemical concoction onto the planet and it does the trick.  Commenting that this has been the weirdest thing he’s ever done, Captain Atom warps his ship back to Earth.  As he prepares his landing, Gunner notices another object on the radar, setting up the next adventure.
Cap was right, this was a pretty weird one.  It seemed a little pointless and Captain Atom’s sudden motivation to save this lifeless world was kind of baffling.  As a military man, he should have grabbed some Ronthor technology or something before he left.  As a story, Captain Atom versus space insects fell a little flat, especially when all he did to defeat them was spray some DDT (still better than that Fiery Icer fiasco, though).  But the artwork was beautiful.  Frank McLaughlin’s inks of Steve Ditko’s pencil work was outstanding, better than Rocke Mastroserio.  And I am a big Ditko/Mastroserio fan (the editor indicates on the letter page that Ditko “doesn’t want to ink Captain Atom”).  The A art and C story combine for an overall rating of B.  Not too bad.  There is also another Nightshade back-up story in this issue.
This “universe” was absorbed into DC Comics’ Multiverse when the Charlton characters were purchased by DC.  This universe became Earth-4.