Englehart concludes the Star-Tsar story, and his run on the book, with the Dillin and McLaughlin story in Justice League of America 150 (Jan. 78).
The story picks up directly from the end of the previous issue, as the Leaguers find Snapper Carr knocked out, wearing the Star-Tsar costume. The Star-Tsar's minions show up just as Snapper Carr wakes, and he uses his men's attack in order to get away.
The League sends out the alarm, and the entire team assembles. Although I did not notice this as a kid, it helps make this somewhat of an anniversary issue, being number 150 and all. Aquaman, Atom, Batman, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Hawkman, Phantom Stranger, Red Tornado, Superman and Wonder Woman all show up, and the Privateer is there as well. The Phantom Stranger decides the Star-Tsar case is not really his kind of thing and takes off right away, to Green Arrow's annoyance.
The Privateer joins Batman, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Green Lantern, the Hawks, Red Tornado and Superman follow the energy trail to a lighthouse, which proves to be the base of their old enemy the Key. The heroes all wind up captured in some neat keyholes traps, while the Key gives part of the explanation as to how he survived his death in their last encounter, John Stewart's bubble of green energy having cured his fatal illness. But the heroes note how unstable the Key is on his feet.
The other members of the team, Aquaman, Atom, Flash, Green Arrow and Wonder Woman, head to Snapper Carr's home. From his sister, they learn how Snapper's connections to the League proved far more of a drawback than a plus in his life, and actually wound up preventing him from getting any sort of decent employment. Snapper shows up and attacks the team, flying off. But he is really just trying to lead them to the Key. His plan doesn't quite come off, and they all get captured as well.
So everyone winds up in the keyhole traps. They are in limbo, and unable to make any sort of force contact, preventing the heroes from using their powers to escape. Snapper explains how the Key found him and recruited him into playing the part of the Star-Tsar. Snapper is only one of the men in the costume, as is the Key. But there is another who is the real Star-Tsar.
The escape from the keyholes is good. The Flash winds up using the Elongated Man as a treadmill, building up enough speed to break out of limbo, and free the rest of the team.
They find the Key much easier to take down than expected, as the cure for his illness shrunk all but his head, and his body proves to be a mechanical construct.
But who is the Star-Tsar? In a great conclusion, Red Tornado details how the Privateer was absent at critical moments, times when the Star-Tsar was active. The large cast made this easy to not spot, but the story plays fair. Red Tornado points out that, in the keyholes, and in Dr. Light's trap, no one was standing next to the Privateer, and those were times when the Star-Tsar was out and active. Mark Shaw has no choice but to confess, and it's a darn good one, given a full page. Yes, he had been seduced and lied to by the Manhunters, but he came to enjoy the power that being one of them gave him. He had planned to join the League as the Privateer, while running a criminal group on the side as the Star-Tsar, using his position with the League to keep his people away from them. It was a "perfect" plan, except the Red Tornado's computer mind automatically records everything, and in playback, he could spot the times Privateer was missing.
Makes for a great conclusion. And it sure took me by surprise when I was a kid.
Superman promises Snapper Carr that he will find him work, and this leads to Snapper's job at STAR Labs in the Supergirl series in Superman Family.
The Key returns a couple of years down the road, but Mark Shaw is not seen again until Suicide Squad in the late 80s. A different Star-Tsar faces the League the following year.