“The Legionnaire Who Killed!” (Adventure Comics 342, March, 1966)

Here’s another story that proclaims readers didn’t believe DC would dare to print it. (What was the last one? Either one about renegades, or…?) Star Boy has killed, and the Legion wants to expel him.

It begins quietly enough, with Star Boy going to visit his parents at an observatory on a distant world. Before he leaves, he’s invited to join the other Legionnaires in a game—asking the big computer to pair the Legionnaires off to kiss each other. Invisible Kid, who never had an on-page romance until literally the day he died, observes that Star Boy has “no time for romance.” Romance? The girls involved in this game—Light Lass and Shrinking Violet—have declared their love for non-Legionnaires already. (And, as we know, would later declare their love for each other.) Seems more like just getting cheap thrills to me.

He also greets the latest Legion applicants, Calamity King, whose powers cause misfortune, and Color Kid. Calamity King is told in no uncertain terms to get out and not let the clubhouse door hit him in the ass, but Color Kid, whose face we don’t even see, is advised to apply with the Substitute Heroes. Brainy condescendingly describes the Subs as “rejects who have banded together and are doing fine work.” Wow. Remind me never to ask Brainiac 5 for a letter of reference!

Star Boy arrives to find his parents have already left for Xanthu, but there is yet someone anxiously awaiting his arrival: one Kenz Nuhor, native of Naltor and a rival for Dream Girl’s affections. He has decided, as you do, to kill Star Boy in order to prove to Dream Girl that he’s the better man. Nuhor carries a shield which rebuffs Star Boy’s power to increase weight and turns it back on Star Boy himself. Too heavy to move, Star Boy reacts the way pretty much anyone would when staring down the barrel of a gun in the hands of a determined killer—he picks up his own blaster and fires.

Dream Girl arrives in time to witness the death of Nuhor, and goes with Star Boy to Science Police Headquarters on Earth to testify on his behalf. Star Boy is happily acquitted, having killed in self defense. When he returns to the Legion Clubhouse, however, he’s confronted with the stink-eyed gaze of the Bastard People. His colleagues declare that, self-defense or no, he had violated the Legion Code against killing and must stand court martial.

Brainiac 5, fresh from damn near destroying humanity by creating Computo, declares that, as Legion leader, he will prosecute. Okay, Ed, Jerry and Mort, enough is enough! Saturn Girl was the last elected leader, yet, in every other story, you guys tell us Brainy is leader. And then you switch back again! Brainy was named as leader when the Time Trapper attacked, Saturn Girl was leader in the Beast Boy war, nobody was given as leader during the Computo arc, and Saturn Girl will again be leader when the Legion faces the Luck Lords.

Seriously, the hell?

Bastard People Indeed! Star Boy is dragged off to a detention cell. At no time does anyone dispute the morality of his act of self-defense; and, despite Dream Girl’s proclamation on the cover that he’ll kill again, she doesn’t actually say it in the story, and no one suggests it’s a possibility. So why lock him up? Because we’re Bastard People! This is the dark side of the Legion: they’re so self-important about their rules and regulations that they forget to be friends and comrades to each other sometimes.

The trial would make Perry Mason blush for its theatrics. Superboy acts as counsel for the defense. Dream Girl testifies that Star Boy had no choice. Brainiac 5 offers video evidence of other Legionnaires facing kill-or-be-killed situations, which aren’t really kill-or-be-killed situations, and have nothing to do with Star Boy’s case. Then he offers the argument that Star Boy could have used his powers to drop a tree branch on his attacker’s head, and the case is closed.

Now, dropping a tree branch on someone’s head, especially if you’ve increased its mass significantly, is a potentially fatal act. Does Superboy argue that? No. He gets Proty II to masquerade as an acid-spitting monster and crash into the courtroom. Brainiac 5 is a bastard in this story, but I’m proud of the aplomb with which he dismisses this silly stunt.

The Legionnaires vote, with all the female Legionnaires voting for Star Boy “because of his romance with Dream Girl.” Seriously? And I suppose Element Lad voted against him because of his romance with Dream Girl? And he’s expelled. Graciously, the Substitute Heroes invite him to join their ranks. Don’t look back, Thom! You’re better off!

This is set up at the end as the latest in a series of “jinxes,” promised to culminate next issue in “The Evil Hand of the Luck Lords!” Stay tuned—it’s a much better story! Although it’s worth noting that the first five pages of this story were inked by Sheldon Moldoff, and are a joy to behold.

Firsts: Color Kid, Calamity King

Membership: Down to 18

Roll Call: Star Boy, Saturn Girl, Phantom Girl, Ultra Boy, Brainiac 5, Superboy, Element Lad, Light Lass, Chameleon Boy, Shrinking Violent, Invisible Kid, Duo Damsel, Dream Girl, Sun Boy, Mon-El

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