Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The True Identity of Starfinger” (Adventure Comics #336,

With Chameleon Boy, Shrinking Violet and Triplicate Girl appearing in this issue, 18 of the 19 Legionnaires have joined the battle with Starfinger. Only Supergirl is excluded, and she often was. But one of the Seven Wonders of the 30th Century, threatened last issue by Starfinger, reminds us of her, if our memory goes back that far.

The Global Tunnel parallels one dug by Supergirl in her first (unsuccessful) bid to join the Legion. This time, Hamilton introduces the idea of how fragile such a structure could be.

Wonder number four, The Giant Hall of Fame, shows only statues pre-20th Century European men. Kind of unimaginative, that, but I suppose it served for readers of the time. A few fictional future geniuses would have been nice. But it doesn’t matter, because Starfinger smashes them, and, apparently, Ultra Boy with them.

The timing of the last lines in Part 1 is unfortunate: “[Ultra Boy]’s not moving… He’s dead!” is followed by Superboy saying, “And Starfinger has shattered another wonder of the world!” True as far as it goes, but you think he’d be more traumatized by the crushed body of his friend. Oh, wait, in Part Two Ultra Boy turns out to be okay.

The rest of the Wonders are imaginative, and show Hamilton’s genius for creating fantastic worlds and the features of them. The reverse waterfall is a masterpiece of technology and terraforming (from a time when few people had qualms about effecting change to the environment) which keeps a desert alive. The wind control center isn’t quite as spectacular, but shows that one of the conceits of Silver Age science fiction was that humanity would master all, in this case the winds and currents of the Earth.

It is the first appearance of inertron, a substance which is resistant to all type of force, which presages Starfinger’s downfall. Brainiac 5 builds shields out of the substance so that the Legionnaires can fend off Starfinger’s blasts. And when he makes his play for the seventh Wonder, the fusion powersphere, the shields allow the Legion to surround, capture and unmask Starfinger.

Turns out he’s Lightning Lad, who was hypnotized by his physician, Dr. Hanscom, the real Starfinger, into dressing up and playing the same role, only with powers. See, Hanscom has rigged Garth’s arm to channel his lightning powers into any number of other powers. Remember, Garth, when I said nothing good comes of you starting an adventure in a hospital bed? Last time your doctor inserted a miniature alien spy into your leg. Now this. Don’t trust Doctors, Garth, and try to always know where your limbs have been.

Hanscom is caught a little too abruptly by Superboy after all that buildup, but I have to admit it was pretty good buildup. Truly a major story, packed in 32 short pages. That’s what they did in the days before decompression. Today Legion of Super-Heroes: Starfinger Genesis would span six to twelve issues of its own title, with tie-ins across eight or ten titles.

Firsts: Inertron

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

 

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