Justice League of America: 1985: Breaking the Mold, Chapter 2: Well-Oiled Machine of Justice

by Martin Maenza

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Outside the fenced-in facilities, a quartet of heroes arrived on the scene. “Hold it!” one of the police officers called out to them. “You can’t go in there!”

“Yes, we can!” Elongated Man announced. “We’re the Justice League, and we’ll have this situation under control in no time flat! Come on, kids!” He grabbed Gypsy and started to stretch himself over the fence.

“Who chu calling kids, E-man?” Vibe asked.

Steel grabbed his friend and crouched down. “If the shoe fits, amigo!” he smiled as he leaped into the air and over the metal fence. He landed with a solid thud and released Vibe.

“Hey! I could’a got over that myself!” he protested.

“Just trying to help, buddy!” Steel said in his own defense.

“Save it, boys!” Elongated Man ordered. “We’ve got company!” His outstretched finger pointed to a half-dozen or more featureless orange figures that suddenly appeared out of nowhere in the factory yard. “Let’s work our way through this mess, fast!”

Steel took the point, his fists swinging. “We’ll see if they can take a good old beating down!” Before the powerful punches could connect on their targets, two of the Plastoids reshaped themselves to the punches, so that they passed harmlessly through their bodies. “What the–?”

Next, before Steel could recover, they quickly re-formed their bodies again, trapping the hero’s two arms. “Hey!” Steel exclaimed. The silent but versatile foes then started to punch the hero. “Let go!” He tugged with his arms, but they remained held fast. “What are these things?”

“Hmmm,” Elongated Man said as he stretched out of the way to avoid an attack. “They don’t appear to be human. Reminds me of the Putty-Men that the Queen Bee once sent after us. That was the case in which I joined the JLA.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Specter in the Shadows,” Justice League of America #105 (May, 1973).]

“Spare us the history lessons,” Vibe said as he took aim. From his hands shot forth a shockwave of energy. It slammed into a trio of the Plastoids, sending them rattling to the ground. “Yes! Score three for me!” The figures remained still for a moment, then rose back up to their feet. “Hey! Chu s’posed to play dead!

Steel was tired of struggling. The punches he was receiving were little more than annoyances, thanks to his armor-like flesh. Still, he wasn’t getting anywhere other than holding two of them at bay. “OK, since you ain’t real, I guess I can cut loose!” He leaned back on his feet, lifting the two Plastoids off the ground. He thrust his arms out to the sides, dragging the latchers-on with them. Steel then brought his two arms forward fast, slamming the two figures into one another hard. The shock of the collision was enough to get them to release his hands. “There!”

Gypsy stood back, watching her teammates fight. Her powers were not of the offensive variety, so they were of little help here. Suddenly, a crate near her shimmered, and one of the Plastoids took its natural form to spring at her.

“Aaahhh!” she cried out in surprise. There was a surge from her mind, and Gypsy felt her illusion abilities go into effect. In her eyes, she changed the scenery around her and the Plastoid to that of the moon. This jarring effect had worked on a bear when they had been hunting Amazo. She hoped it would do the same again.

Instead, the Plastoid kept moving, unaffected.

“These things don’t scare!” Gypsy said. As she ran, she kicked in her chameleon powers and faded from view, blending in with the brick face of the buildings.

The Plastoid, having lost sight of its target, turned toward one of the other heroes.

“This is getting us nowhere!” Elongated Man sighed as he struggled in the grasp of one of the attackers. He own stretching abilities were equally matched by the orange being. “We need some help!”

“Will we do?” a sultry voice called from above.

The Elongated Man looked up to see a beautiful, black-haired young woman in blue and white and a dark-skinned woman with beaded hair and a brown bodysuit lofting in from on high. The former used her magical abilities to carry herself and her friend though the air on the wind currents. “Zatanna! Vixen! Excellent!”

“What’s the plan?” Vixen asked as they landed.

“I want you with me and Gypsy,” Elongated Man ordered. “Zee, see if you and the boys can put a stop to these shape-shifting goons!”

“Right!” the sorceress replied. The six heroes broke into two squads.

***

“What are you waiting for, Frawley?” the Molder snapped. “Sign the paper or get a taste of hot jets of molten plastic!” The villain aimed his fists at the captive man.

“I can’t very well sign it with hands bound, can I?” the owner replied.

“Oh,” the villain said, realizing the error of his ways. “Right! Sorry.” He started to step around the chair to where the hardened plastic held the hands back. “Just give me one second…”

Suddenly, the office window behind them shattered. “Your time is up, creep!” the Vixen cried out as she burst through the glass. Tumbling, she rolled to her feet with the agility of a cougar, standing ready to pounce. “Step away from the hostage now!

The Molder recoiled back. “I don’t think so, sweetie!” He fired a blast of molten plastic toward her. With grace and ease, she flipped backward onto the desk while the plastic singed the floor with a hot sploosh. “Damn it, hold still!” He tried to fire at her again.

For the model-turned-heroine, it was simple for Vixen to move with animalistic agility and avoid the attacks. This was mostly thanks to the Tantu Totem, a mystic amulet she wore around her neck. With it, she could summon up animal powers for her own use. “Sorry, Charley!” she said mockingly. “You gotta do better than that to hit me!”

“Fine!” the Molder said. He turned to the Plastoid in the room. “Kill her!” The featureless being followed his order without question, launching itself at her. With its strength and surprising speed, the Plastoid knocked Vixen to the floor.

“Ooof!” she said as landed on her back. “You move fast!” It started to pounce at her. Vixen swung up her feet to meet it, placing her soles against its chest. Then, with a swift and fluid motion, she rolled backward with its momentum and kicked outward. The Plastoid was launched into the air and out the broken window frame to the yard below. “Fast, but not fast enough!”

The Elongated Man burst through the barricaded office door. “All right, Molder!” he announced. “Game over!”

“Not yet!” the villain replied, opening fire with both fists. From the special gauntlets of his costume shot forth twin streams of gushing plastic. Elongated Man was caught in the crossfire of the goop.

“Its like gelatin!” the hero said as he struggled to swim through it. Suddenly, the resistance increased tenfold. “Quick-hardening gelatin!”

“Quick-hardening plastic!” the Molder corrected him as he started to run past. “And that should keep you heroes busy while I make my escape! Don’t think you’ve seen the last of me, Frawley!” The villain started to run down the hall.

Vixen rushed to her teammate’s side. “Ralph, I’ll have you out of there in a minute!”

“Nooo,” the stretchable hero struggled. “I can do this!” But he was quickly realizing that the plastic was closing tighter and tighter about him. “Get… the… Molder…!” His face was starting to darken as it became harder and harder for him to breathe.

“Friends come first!” Vixen said. “Great bear, I need your claws!” She lashed down at the plastic shell again and again with her hands, slicing away at the substance that kept Elongated Man a prisoner. It would take her a few moments to free him. She hoped that would be enough time.

***

The Molder continued down the stairwell. “Cursed heroes!” he muttered under his breath. “Always there the last place you want… themmm!” The villain had tumbled forward, falling down the last three steps to the bottom and landing next to the exit door.

A teenage voice giggled. “Gotta watch where you’re going, mister!” Gypsy said as she materialized on one of the steps. Her chameleon powers had blended in enough to allow her to trip the fleeing villain unseen. “Now, why don’t you just give yourself up?”

“Bah!” the Molder said as his shoulder winced with pain. “I’m not out of tricks yet, girlie!”

***

In the yard, Steel, Vibe, and Zatanna continued to pound at the Plastoid troops. “For every one we knock down, another gets back up!” Steel said.

“Keep trying!” Zatanna said. “I might have a spell that can do some good, if…” She wasn’t able to finish her thought. Suddenly, the various figures dropped to the ground. “By the ancient alchemists!”

The figures turned from solid to liquid as they all retreated back to one spot. Then the liquid pooled together and re-formed, this time into one giant Plastoid figure that towered over fifteen feet tall.

“Chu got to be kiddin’ me, man!” Vibe explained.

The giant Plastoid spun around and pounded its right fist against the factory wall, breaking through the brick as if it were a child’s blocks. It bent down, reached in, and picked up its green-and-yellow-costumed master.

“Yes, my creation!” the Molder said. “Now, let us away!”

“Steel! Vibe! Slow it down!” Zatanna ordered. “I’ll take it from there!” She began to concentrate on a spell.

“Easier said than done, lady!” Vibe replied. His vibrational shockwaves hit the thing in its chest but barely slowed its forward motion.

“Quit whining, Vibe!” Steel said as he threw himself against one of the huge legs. With all his might, he tried to keep the behemoth from lifting its foot to walk. “Just keep nailing it!”

“I’m nailin’! I’m nailin’!”

Meanwhile, Zatanna finished concentrating and began her incantation. “Semalf fo sedaH, raeh ym llac! Tlem siht tnaig nwod ot a llab!” (*) Jets of fire shot forth from her fingertips, and the fire began to swirl about the giant Plastoid’s form. The flames grew greater and greater in intensity as they started to consume the creature.

[(*) Editor’s note: Read Zatanna’s spells backwards to find out what they mean.]

“Pull back!” Steel called. He and Vibe got clear of the inferno.

“No! Nooo!” the Molder cried out. Try as he might, the Plastoid was not responding to his mental commands. And he was held fast in the hand of the beast as the fire rose up toward him. “Save me!”

A figure landed on the arm with a sudden swiftness. “Some villain you are!” Vixen scoffed as she slashed at the fingers that held the Molder prisoner. “More like a wimp to me!” The fingers fell way on the third slash, and the man dropped down into the air, screaming. Vixen merely jumped to safety herself.

“I’ve got you!” Elongated Man announced as he stretched past, plucking the Molder out of the air. They landed safely on the ground and ran back.

The flaming figure of the Plastoid fell forward to the ground, landing with a great thud. The fire consumed it like a starving man would a meal, and when it had done its work, the mystical flames faded.

Nooo! My work, all my work — gone!” the Molder explained. “Curse you, you and these meddling kids!”

“Shut up!” Steel said, nailing the man with a right hook. The punch knocked the man backward, and he fell to the ground, unconscious.

“Nice going, team,” Elongated Man praised. “We’re turning into a well-oiled machine of justice. I predict we have a long future together!” The others congratulated themselves as the police came to apprehend the beaten villain.

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