In an old manor outside Midway City, a sinister assembly met for equally dark purposes. A slightly portly man with a scraggly red goatee glanced around the room and shivered.
“I’ve heard rumors that this old ruin was haunted,” he said. “I’d almost believe the stories. It’s certainly grim enough for a tale by Poe.”
He clutched a wand in his now slightly sweaty hands and said, “Bah! Pull yourself together, Mandrill! You are a man of science! In spite of your fanciful nom du crime, the Mentachem wand is a purely scientific device. There is no need to fear imaginary ghosts or jump at every shadow.” The Matter Master grinned ruefully and stood a bit taller. “Why fear the supernatural? I’ve seen how little such supposed powers benefited bunglers like Faust and the Gentleman Ghost. Why, Faust failed me both in Vermont and Japan!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Brave and the Bold: The Atom and Hawkman: Times Past, 1980: Spooks and Spells and “Luthor’s League of Super-Villains,” Secret Society of Super-Villains #7 (June, 1977).]
A gaunt man in black seemed to step out of the shadows into the center of the room. “Your own record is not exactly marked by a number of victories,” he said.
“Sands? I knew you’d turn up. You always do,” snapped Matter Master. “As for my record, I think it compares favorably with your own. After all, you’ve been beaten by the Hawks more than any one of us!”
The Shadow-Thief, alias Carl Sands, grinned as he stroked his oily beard. “Now, Mark, I come in peace. At least, I bear you no ill will. You are here because of a notice in the underworld papers. Someone has invited those of us with enmity toward the Hawks to come here this night.”
Secretly, Sands thought, I know Matter Master is not clever enough to have orchestrated such an assembly. But who could have summoned us? Quimby? Perhaps he wants to trap us in order to win favor with his newfound allies in the Justice League.
An older man in an elaborately decorated cloak stepped into the room from what appeared to be empty space. “Good evening, gentlemen. The Fadeaway Man is here!” he said with a courtly bow.
The Shadow-Thief and Matter Master exchanged knowing looks, and the Shadow-Thief said, “Welcome, Anton. I see you’ve been invited here as well. Congratulations. You are now in the big leagues!“
The Fadeaway Man scowled as he raised his voice. “You dare belittle me?” he cried. “I am no mere felon. I, Anton Lamont, am a scholar. I seek higher knowledge, not mere financial gain!”
“You use a stolen magical cloak to rob museums. You have met with failure at every turn. Batman and Hawkman have both defeated you. For that matter, none of you have been very capable in your past endeavors!”
The words came from a pretty, if rather severe-looking blonde woman who wore a gleaming golden costume that consisted of golden high-heeled boots that flared at the knee, matching gauntlets, and a breastplate of the same material over a short white skirt. A winged tiara rested on her blonde hair.
“I summoned you all here. My name is Corla Tavo. Here you may simply call me Valkyrie.”
“Valkyrie? Ah, you take your name from one of the Norse death maidens who rode the winds,” said the Fadeaway Man. “You look the part, my dear.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere,” she said. “I have no use for any Earthling, but I hold an especial hatred in my heart for the Hawks. I know you share my feelings. I want to offer you a chance to destroy them. Because of them, I have been trapped here on this world without an ally. I was sent here during an aborted invasion by my people. When that effort failed, I assumed the role of a meek Earth woman, but my ploy has failed me. (*) My world has forgotten me by design or by accident. I am alone and must depend on you for my revenge on the Hawks. If you will follow my orders, I will promise you the elimination of Hawkman and Hawkwoman. Will you join me?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “No Sound of Clashing Wars,” Shadow War of Hawkman #4 (August, 1985) and Super-Team Family: Starman and Hawkman: Can Even an Immortal Die?]
The Shadow-Thief eyed her shapely figure and nodded. “Count me in,” he said. “I hate Hawkman more than any of you.”
Matter Master nodded and said, “He ruined me. I will join your cause.”
“As will I,” said the Fadeaway Man, “but what of the others? Surely Konrad Kaslak and I.Q. should be here as well.”
The Shadow-Thief smiled grimly. “You are out of touch with your peers, old fellow,” he said. “I.Q. now walks the straight and narrow path. (*) The traitor.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Atom: The Adventures of Ray Palmer, Theoretical Physicist.]
“Anyone who would aid my enemies must be dealt with,” said Valkyrie. “Fadeaway Man, I would ask you to kill Ira Quimby, the former I.Q.”
Lamont nodded and said, “I am willing to do so. While I pride myself on my brain, I am more than willing to earn the image of a fatal man.”
“As for Konrad Kaslak, I approached him personally, but he rejected my offer,” said Valkyrie. “He also claimed to be planning something against the couple, but he muttered about an infernal pact, and I left the man to his own devices. I think he may be mad.”
“Perhaps, but I’ve heard certain whispers about other felons making deals with a mysterious figure,” said the Shadow-Thief.
“No matter,” said Valkyrie. “The Hawks will be dead before the wizard can strike. We need not concern ourselves with him, be he mad or merely drunk with newfound power. The group agreed readily as the Thanagarian explained her plan.
“The Hawks will die all too soon!” cried Matter Master.
As the group laughed eagerly at the thought of the defeat of their hated targets, none of them saw a final weird figure clad all in white watching from his own place of concealment.
What a pack of rogues! he thought, caressing the empty space that rested beneath his floating top hat. Still, none of them have my years of experience. None of them have glimpsed the likely fruits of the life we lead. Could there be a greater test of daring and skill than to steal the Hawks away from them all? Jim, old boy, you’ve got some deuced troublin’ thinkin’ to do!
Within a comfortable house near the Midway City Museum, the objects of so much hatred were oblivious to their peril, due to their own customary domestic bliss.
A beautiful woman with long reddish hair and a playful smile sat perched on the arm of a plush chair in which a dark-haired, ruggedly handsome man sat in deep thought. They were Carter and Shiera Hall, co-curators of the city museum, but they were also much more. The Halls were also secretly the high-flying alien super-heroes Hawkman and Hawkwoman.
“Carter, you look as if finding Oliver and Dinah suitable wedding presents was as difficult as performing all the Impossible Day feats of Rhon Du himself!” said Hawkwoman, whose Thanagarian name was Shayera Hol.
Her husband Katar Hol, alias Hawkman, nodded in good humor but failed to smile. He pulled her onto his lap and said, “You may have a point there. After all, for all of his aristocratic background, Ollie is certainly no snob. A few indestructible pots in which he can cook that infernal chili of his might please him well enough.”
Shayera laughed and said, “See? You worry too much. Now, kiss.” They kissed passionately and then sat in a close embrace.
I hope Dinah and Oliver will be as happy as Katar and I have been, thought Shayera. Even though we separated once when I disagreed with his tactics in dealing with the more aggressive members of our home planet, we never doubted our true love for one another. It is like we were soul-mates, like the other Hawks of Earth-Two.
She referred to some of the couple’s super-heroic allies from another planet. Concepts like parallel Earths and time or space travel were almost mundane to them, since they had seen much in their years as Thanagarian police officers and as Earth super-heroes. Nothing we’ve seen can be as remarkable as the love we share, mused Shayera.
They had traveled through space itself from Thanagar to settle on Earth and study the police tactics of the Terran law-enforcement agents of Midway City. This mission had enabled them to develop a happy life as museum curators as a cover for their costumed actions. The Thanagarian uniforms that marked them as two highly decorated officers on Thanagar looked like colorful super-hero costumes on Earth, and thus the two cops had become celebrated crime-fighters known as Hawkman and Hawkwoman. Their names Katar and Shayera Hol had easily been modified to homonymic versions: Carter and Shiera Hall.
Carter knew his bride so well that he could almost read her thoughts by her pensive expression. He took her hand and said, “Ollie’s wedding makes me realize more than ever how lucky I am to have you. You’re more than just a partner to me. You are my home. As long as we are together, I’m home.”
“Poetic sentiments from the grim Carter Hall?” she said. “Why, I’ll blush!” She laughed as her teasing brought a smile to Carter’s face.
He takes so much upon himself, she thought. It kills him that the honored law-enforcement agency we once served so proudly now serves a brutal tyrant like Hyathis. Why, to make matters worse, there wouldn’t even be a Thanagarian police force — or at least not one that uses antigravity belts and wings — if Katar’s own father Paran had not created the very equipment used by the force.
They had tried to bring down the aggressive rule of the alien invader Hyathis of Alistair once before, but desperate circumstances had enabled her to reclaim her throne, and that left the Hawks as exiles. But how can two people change a world? Defending Earth from the hostile aliens allied with our beleaguered world’s new government was the best we could do! she thought, rubbing his neck as she turned to lean her head on his chest.
“As much as I’d like to stay here like this forever, I’d better hurry into the kitchen,” said Carter. “Our guests will be here in a few hours, and I don’t want them to go hungry.”
“Stewart Frazier and Whitney Nichols come here for stimulating conversation, not just delicious food, but you have a point there,” said Shayera. “I want to slip into something a bit more dressy before they get here.”
Hopping off her husband’s lap, she ran up the stairs into their bedroom. As she started to pick out a new dress for the evening, a noise at the window attracted her attention.
She saw a bird perched on the ledge outside and swiftly opened the window. “Hello, there, little one! What brings you here?” she asked in the language of birds. The ability to speak to birds came from the couple’s use of a device called the Absorbascon, which allowed them to access all Earthly knowledge and draw upon aspects of it through concentrated time and study.
The bird replied, “One of the odd humans you asked us to watch out for has been sighted in the heart of your nesting area. He wears green and has foliage on his chin of red.”
Shayera sighed. “Matter Master. Thanks, little one.” She released the bird and called out to her husband. “Carter, we’d better put the meal on ice. We have work to do! Mark Mandrill has been spotted.”
She slipped out of her dress and into a green and yellow costume with red boots and an ornate Hawk-shaped helmet and wing-harness.
By the time she was ready, Carter had joined her in his own guise as Hawkman, wearing a uniform of green and red with a larger hawk helmet, complete with a mark of distinction known as honor wings. His chest was bare except for the harness that held his own wings.
“Having our avian pals act as sentries in case any of our more notorious enemies pop up is a good plan,” he said. “We can’t expect them to recognize obscure types like the Raven or agents of C.A.W., but for repeat offenders like Matter Master and Shadow-Thief, this tactic is a natural.” They exited through a rear window and swooped into the sky to gain altitude.
“Matter Master is loose near the House of Jewels, no less,” said Hawkwoman.
Hawkman shook his head. “He’ll never learn. That Mentachem wand he accidentally created gives him control over natural matter, but he’s never used that power to any degree of effectiveness.”
“Well, look on the bright side,” said Hawkwoman. “We don’t really want our foes to become too skillful, now, do we?”
Hawkman grinned briefly and said, “You do see the bright side in everything, don’t you?”
They drew closer to the exclusive section of Midway City where wealthier residents shopped at pricey themed stores like the elaborate House of Jewels.
Hawkman frowned as he recognized their foe. Matter Master wore his usual bright green costume with a pointed hat. A twisted tree that rose up from the city square’s revitalization area held two struggling police men and three security guards in gnarled but unyielding grips.
He could enrich himself legally through more legitimate uses of that wand of his, but his ego or his sheer lack of decency allows prods him into trying to pull off thefts, he thought, shifting a battle mace from one hand to another.
Long ago the Thanagarians had vowed not to rely upon their alien weapons on Earth, because they feared what might happen if the advanced science ever fell into criminal hands. Thus, through use of a remarkable device called the duplicator, they merely made copies of the ancient weapons and gear stored in their museum and employed items like the mace Hawkman now held.
Matter Master looked up as a familiar shadow fell across the scene. “Ah, the feathered fiends!” he said. “I expected you, but not so swiftly.”
“You’ll be glad know we validate parking now as well!” said Hawkwoman. “It’s all part of our quest to better serve the criminal element!” She avoided a burst of energy from the wand and began to pry the branches away from the grateful cops and guards.
Hawkman hurled his mace, nodding with satisfaction as it knocked the Mentachem wand out of Mandrill’s outstretched hand. “Now, are you going to surrender, or do I have to perform a bit of physical alchemy all my own and transform your teeth into broken shards?” he said, gripping the disarmed Matter Master by the shirt.
Mark Mandrill smiled coldly. “You’re in no position to threaten me,” he said. “I hold all the power here!”
Hawkman pulled the man off his feet and said, “Are you delusional? Your wand is halfway across the street, and you know you can’t fight without it!”
Hawkwoman had lowered the captives to freedom, and her eyes widened as she spotted a lumbering figure advancing from the shadows toward her husband. “Hawkman, behind you!” she yelled. “It’s some kind of monster!“
Hawkman whirled to see a giant humanoid figure step into the light. The being was almost devoid of features but clearly possessed a rudimentary body and head with arms and legs. As it moved, the ground below its feet changed its texture or seemed to shrink away from the walker or, contrarily, be absorbed into its mass.
Dropping Matter Master, Hawkman cried, “By Polaris! Matter Master’s created a golem!“
The villain laughed harshly and scampered over to retrieve his wand. “Correct!” he said. “And my golem is entirely composed of Mentachem! All the better to kill you two!”