Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read: “Starfinger!” (Adventure Comics #335, August, 1965)

And Happy Birthday to me! Actually, this issue would have hit the stands a couple of months before I was born, but it does carry my birth month and year, so I guess Starfinger is officially my Legion spirit guide.

With this issue we begin what I would call the first true Legion epic. Yes, we’ve had a two-part story before, but the Dynamo Boy affair was so disjointed, and its second part featured so few Legionnaires, that it only counts as the comic book equivalent of what on TV would be called a “bottle episode,” or, worse, a “clip show.”

Making its inspiration clear–Starfinger is compared to James Bond’s Goldfinger on the cover, though they have only the word “finger” in common, The Starfinger saga features a full Legion cast. Nearly every member appears, by the story’s end, including less-used characters like Invisible Kid, exotic locales, mystery (who is this guy?) and the drama of learning that the villain is, in fact, one of their own. There are also a couple of nice character moments, which is what the Legion is really all about.

Up first, we have an episode of “Dirk is a douche!” as Sun Boy “suddenly remembers” a Legion meeting when he’s got a date with a girl. So, Dirk, first off, how do you forget a Legion meeting? Oh, because you were thinking about girls. Necking with girls. Yeah. That’s all that would have happened. So you were so eager to get, um, necked (pun intended) that you forgot the meeting. So why did you remember the meeting? Maybe she wasn’t willing to get necked with you?

Yeah, Dirk, buddy, you really are a douche.

As Cosmic Boy leaves a family gathering to attend the Legion meeting, we’re treated to the first appearance of his little brother, Pol Krinn, who would later become the Legionnaire Magnetic Kid. The boys’ mother laments that she worries for Cosmic Boy’s safety, since the Legion has had more than one casualty.

“More than one casualty?” I guess if you count Lightning Lad and Proty I, but only one of them stayed dead. Granted Lightning Lad also lost his arm. So I guess if you count Lightning Lad, Proty, and Lightning Lad’s arm, that’s three casualties.

In a hospital room that was retro even for 1965, much less 2965, the Legionnaires visit Lightning Lad, who apparently needs to be bed-ridden while Dr. Hanscom checks out his robot arm. (Garth, d’ya remember what happened the last time we began an adventure with you bed-ridden? Yeah, keep that thought in mind…) As the Legionnaires all wrap their regular medical checkups, they’re summoned back to HQ by the Science Police. And here we see that the SP uniforms have finally stabilized to the point where they’re the same as they were in their last appearance.

The Legion needs to retrieve and deliver a substance called Rejuvium, which can make old people young again when ingested. Aging people the world over would kill to get the stuff, so it makes sense to send the youngest, most powerful people in the galaxy. Unfortunately, no sooner has the Rejuvium made it to Earth than a new baddie calling himself Starfinger shows up with his gang to steal it. Starfinger’s face is masked by a bug-eyed helmet, and each of his fingers is capable of blasting forth with a different power. He claims to be able to duplicate all the powers of the Legion. It does him no good in this instance, however, for the Legionnaires drive his gang away empty-handed.

Returning to his lair, where he hides a shadowy, bed-ridden figure from his gang, Starfinger menaces said gang with his powers, and then releases a televised statement telling the people of the Earth to turn over the Rejuvium to him, or he’ll destroy the Seven Wonders of the 30th Century. A group called the United Planets responds that they will not negotiate. This is, I believe, the first mention of the alliance of worlds that would later become part of the Legion’s 30th Century backdrop.

We only see two of the Seven Wonders in this first chapter: Sun City and the Stratosphere Laboratory. I’m pretty sure Sun City appeared again later in Legion Lore, but I can’t find a reference. Anyway, it’s impressive: a city on an elevated set of rails which follows the light of the Sun around the globe. Believability is stretched, however, when the city’s moving platform must be stopped because Starfinger has melted the rails ahead of it. The city’s own brakes can’t slow it down in time… But Colossal Boy can. Um, if the brakes can’t safely halt motion in time, about all Colossal Boy should be able to do is dash the residents to their deaths on impact a few moments sooner than they would have died by plunging into the sea, but we’ll ignore that. It’s a cool concept.

Superboy arrives just as the Legion is moving on to the next threatened Wonder, the Stratosphere Laboratory. He says, “I was away on a mission… which is why I’m late.” How can a time-traveler to the future actually be late? This concept appears often in Legion stories, and it makes no more sense for its frequency of use. Theoretically, Superboy should be able to arrive as soon as or even before a message is sent to him.

The Stratosphere Lab falls—literally—as Starfinger steps up his game and shows himself as a truly credible threat, taking away the powers of multiple Legionnaires, as shown on the cover. And this is after he’s damn near killed poor Star Boy with one of his powers, proving Starfinger truly is what Saturn Girl called him early in the story: “The most dangerous lawbreaker we’ve ever faced!”

And in this final confrontation comes the revelation picked up by Saturn Girl’s powers, actually telling us something useful for the first time in several issues: “Starfinger is one of us!”

Firsts: Pol Krinn, Seven Wonder of the 30th Century, United Planets, Starfinger

Roll Call: Brainiac 5, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Element Lad, Invisible Kid, Light Lass, Lightning Lad, Matter-Eater Lad, Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Star Boy, Sun Boy, Superboy, Ultra Boy

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1 thought on “Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read: “Starfinger!” (Adventure Comics #335, August, 1965)

  1. Pingback: Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read - "The Hunter" (Adventure Comics #358, July, 1967) - Steven H. WilsonSteven H. Wilson

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