The distant world of Angor was a planet much like Earth, where the super-heroes were a marvel to behold. For the most part, the history and geography of this world was identical to Earth, and Angor shared most of the same countries and cities, with only a few differences. In fact, this world was so much like Earth that some had theorized it may have existed in a parallel universe before somehow being moved into the universe of Earth-One. But none of that was important now.
On the world of Angor, a power vacuum had suddenly opened up, and the world’s heroes had fallen victim to the insidious plotting of an armored despot called Oblivion. He had emerged from his castle in the picture-postcard kingdom of Liveria and had accomplished something that had been beyond the abilities of other notorious villains like Professor Tendril, the Crimson Death’s-Head, and Doctor Atlanta. He had acquired several relics of power with which he had conquered Angor. This had been good as a start, but his ambitions — nay, his madness — was of a loftier nature. Why rule one world if others await your iron hand? Why be content to lord over billions if an endless universe full of pawns awaited you?
Thus, Oblivion had paid his final respects to the memory of his mother and had gathered his forces. He used his scientific genius to depart from vanquished Angor and journey to Earth, since he had learned months ago — thanks to the unwitting interference of the villain known as the Key — that Earth had relics of its own. (*) By gaining these, who knew how far his empire could spread? He speculated that an entire multiverse existed vibrating out of sync with the worlds he knew by his magical studies and his computer projections. Now, Oblivion would conquer Earth.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: Signs of the Times.]
Arthur Curry was brooding as he stood by a grave marker and stared out across the waters outside of Poseidonis.
“Arthur, I know I failed you. I’ll never forgive myself for that. I can’t. I can barely believe that your poor mother ever forgave me. We’re going to have a new baby. We plan to name her Nautica. She won’t replace you in our hearts or our minds, but I want you to know that this time I won’t make the same mistakes I made before. I was trying to be too much to too many — king, hero, husband, father, mentor. Plus, I was reacting to others. Now, I’m acting, making plans, taking charge. Vulko’s gone, and I can’t be king here. Mera wants me to do so, but I know my proper role is that of champion for New Venice and Atlantis. I’m going to ask Arion to take the throne. The people revere him, and they’ll accept him.”
The blond hero stood silently for a few minutes more and then swam away from his son’s grave. In his wake, at first there was silence, and then something stirred. It was just beyond the still marker.
It was a woman, and she crossed the waters with the expressionless face of one in a trance or in deepest slumber. She wore green and gold, and her ears rose to a point. Her name was Romana, and she came from the world called Angor. She scrambled at the coral, and with super-strength, she shattered it to reveal a helmet or a crown. She lifted it eagerly and departed toward her waiting master.
In a lush bedchamber, Mera lounged across her bed and idly thumbed through a heavy tome. Her long red tresses draped her pretty face as a look of intense curiosity darted over her delicate features. She was pregnant and proudly carried a girl. The child would rule this realm after she and her husband retired or died years from now, and she relished the idea of founding such a dynasty. She rolled slightly and laughed a musical laugh as she caressed her thick hair and toyed with tiny coral earrings.
“Kandor, ah, Kandor,” she sighed. “If only you could see me now. What would you think?”
She smiled as she smoothed the pages of the old book. “My, my, this promises to be of value. It appears to be about a lost city and magical relics. If Arthur refuses to be king, then perhaps my magicks — aided by the treasures of this mysticcal realm — might force him to bend to the will of his loving bride.”
Mera placed the book down and said, “It is good to be queen.”
Romana swam across the seas toward the portal that would take the aquatic beauty to Oblivion. He had enslaved and brought her from Angor to serve him as he quested for relics of power on this world called Earth. The woman saw and understood all she did, but she fought his power inwardly.
As one of a heroic band called the Assemblers, she hated being the pawn of a madman like Oblivion. She thrilled to the sensation of powerful magicks that were old before even her undersea race was born on far way Angor. The crown with its entwined serpents was a thing of beauty and sinister portent. She would not deliver it to Oblivion if she retained any free will. Sadly, she did not.
She was watched as she made her way through the waters by a handsome, if rugged man with shoulder-length black hair. He frowned and followed her silently. This sea nymph intrigues me. She may be worth following, he mused as he shifted his armored shoulder band from his not-fully healed injury.
Unknown to Iquila of Tritonis, a third figure watched him as well. This figure moved unseen, except for the occasional sparkle of light when his ghostly form reflected off a shell or reef like some undersea will-o’-the-wisp.
Shiera Hall, wearing a peach-silk blouse with a matching miniskirt and heels, hummed idly as she filed invoices at the Midway City Museum. “My Sharona! The Absorbascon can be a real pain sometimes when you can’t get a tune out of your head.”
The lovely Thanagarian finished her work and turned around to see her handsome husband enter. Carter Hall smiled as she fell into his arms.
“Well, what did I do to deserve this welcome?” he asked as they kissed.
“It’s not so much what you did as what you’ll do in the future. Call it… a goodwill gesture!” she laughed as he drew her closer.
“I don’t like the sound of that. Don’t tell me you want to go dancing?” he sighed with a mock look of one who suffers beyond his ability.
Shayera put both hands on her hips. “Yes, that’s right! I want to go out on the town. Some men would be thrilled with a prize like me in their arms!” she joked.
“In their arms, yes. On their hands, no,” Carter replied. “All right,” he said. “Perhaps Stewart Frazier would like to join us — he and a companion of his choice.”
The birds chirping outside their office window increased, and Carter gently put his wife down and drew closer to the window. “By Polaris, they seem agitated,” he said.
He spoke bird language due to the marvels of the electronic brain called the Absorbascon. This alien device enabled the user to gain almost any type of global knowledge instantly. He spoke and turned to his wife as she slipped off her heels and began to unbutton her blouse. “They say a swarm of strange insects has been disrupting their migration,” he said.
Shiera nodded as she unzipped her skirt. “I’m already changing. This sounds like my night on the town is going to be more like a night above the town,” she said, smiling ruefully.
Soon, the Hawks were soaring over Midway City, and they encountered a swarm of weird insects with a strange hissing sound all their own.
“Those insects are not native to Earth or Thanagar or Rann,” said Hawkman. “This needs looking in to.” Hawkwoman nodded and followed him as he gracefully flew toward the swarming insects. “Careful, Hawkwoman!” he said. “They emit heat in defense!”
Hawkwoman pointed skyward as the light faded and the sun began to set. “That figure is humanoid. She must be their mistress. See how they obey her?”
A blonde in a golden costume and fishnets swooped low. She gestured, and the metallic tiara she wore in her upswept hair crackled.
The insects moved deliberately as in response to the signal from their silent mistress, arranging themselves into a formation like a humanoid figure, and as one they charged the feathered furies.
“And me without my Raid perfume!” quipped Hawkwoman, whose Thanagarian name was Shayera Hol.
As they talked, a speeding blur entered the Midway City house the Halls were renting and searched it at superhuman speed. Jack B. Quick frowned and then spotted the device.
“The electronic brain!” he said. “It was hidden well. Still, when you can search over a hundred times in a second, it’s not that hard to find anything. I guess this will be all we need to learn all we can about this world and where Oblivion hides.”
Jack’s words were oddly lifeless and monotone, and he possessed little animation beyond his physical speed. He clicked a belt device, and a signal pulsed on the alien woman’s golden costume. The blonde tossed back her head, and the tiara pulsed again.
Hawkman shoved Hawkwoman aside as the swarm erupted toward them, and they were swept aside by sheer force.
That shameless hussy means business! thought Shayera as she fell reeling from the impact. She rolled herself up into a ball and pushed upward to slam into the other woman.
As she did so, the alien insects parted to attack Hawkman from all sides. He cleared a path with his photonic lance and struggled to dodge the burning bodies of the insects. He frowned as they returned again and again. They are loyal to her, he mused, loyal to the point of death.
Hawkwoman grunted as Beehive — for such was the name of the mentally dominated Assembler from Angor — kicked her in the stomach. Shayera elbowed her in the nose and gasped as more insects struck her from behind.
Hawkman helped his partner, and as they fought free of the alien swarm, Beehive vanished over the horizon.
“Next time, that buggy babe is mine!” vowed Hawkwoman.
Oblivion rested upon a throne-like chair in his castle. He had claimed an abandoned one in the Balkans and enjoyed the way it reminded him of his home in a corresponding location on Angor. Glancing at computer screens, he smiled beneath his iron mask.
“All goes well,” he mused. “The Serpent Crown has been located beneath the sea by the enslaved Romana, and the other relics I have located also correspond to those from my own world. Odd, how something so very symmetrical exists between our planets and how some individuals seem to be in tune to these patterns.”
Beneath the ocean, the beautiful Angorian named Romana gasped as strong arms closed around her neck. Iquila of Tritonis had watched her long enough. He also suspected that the crown she carried came from a lost city beneath the waves whose crumbling ruins were well known to him. His brawny muscles held the struggling and entranced woman, and he tore the crown from her hands.
He tossed back his long black hair and smiled. “The Reptile Helm of Valencia!” he cried. “I’ve read the old legends but little realized such an item existed. You’re too pretty by far to tamper with this infernal thing!”
It was his turn to gasp as she spun around and broke his grip by bringing her fists down on his still-tender injured arm. He yelped and swung at her, but she agilely dodged his grasp and punched him across the chin. She caught the crown and swam off at a speed even he could not match. He frowned and said, “Bah! Another danger thrust upon us from either the surface or Aquaman’s Poseidonis! This is the final insult!”
He swam off, leaving the waters empty except for a slightly sparkling image that played across the murky depths. This image of vaguely humanoid form hesitated for a second, then followed Romana.
As for her, Romana failed to reach Oblivion’s base, because as she emerged from the waters, strong creatures attacked her and drew her back with stunning force. Knocking her cold and carrying her off, the mindless things left the crown to float in their wake.
A woman laughed coldly as her pets drew nearer with Romana. The water-beings, obeying the costumed Naiad, brought her inside a huge base beneath the sea. The base was called Styx, and its current owner was a costumed schemer called the Black Manta. He did not realize the crown she had lost was any item of power. He merely viewed the woman herself as a prize worthy of his time and experimentation.
“Take her below and learn all her capabilities,” instructed Black Manta. “If she can be of use to me, then by all means do not injure her. If she is a mere curiosity, then depose of her quickly.” His troops went scurrying off to obey him.
Meanwhile, the crown was found by a young guardsman who had been instructed to search for such relics by his queen. He smiled with pleasure, since he recognized the helm’s appearance from the tome his mistress had shown him.
Queen Mera will reward me for this night’s work, among others, he thought.
The shimmering outline followed once more with patience born either of careful deliberation or simple helplessness.
Clark Kent glanced toward Lana Lang as she signaled their waiter that they were ready to order. She wore a sheer green gown and heels and looked radiant. She was also confidently in command of their dinner plans.
“Let me do the ordering, Clark,” she had sighed with a smile. “Honestly, if I left it up to you, you’d order steak with ketchup!”
Clark had shrugged. “I like it that way.”
Presently, however, his keen hearing picked up an alarm at his Fortress of Solitude. The alarm meant someone had broken into his Arctic headquarters where he stored his trophies and memorabilia, which came from his heroic identity as Superman. This was of vital importance, since most of the mementos from his Superman role could be deadly if used by the wrong people.
He gasped and said, “Lana, the sight of that rare meat on the next table — all bloody — makes me feel unwell. Got to go get some air.” At that, he rushed out.
She smiled and crossed her legs. “Now, why does that not surprise me?” she said calmly.
Clark was soon zooming skyward at super-speed in his costumed identity of Superman. He scanned his Arctic retreat and frowned. Odd. I know that man, and he’s no villain, he mused as he entered and faced a hulking bald man.
“Wandjina? What brings an Assembler to Earth, and why the desperation?” he asked.
The hero from the world called Angor frowned and drew back his arms. He slammed them together with a sound like thunder, and the impact buffeted even the Man of Steel. He noticed Wandjina had little expression on his face, lacking even the brash arrogance so prominent during his last visit to Earth. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Batman, King of the World,” Justice League of America #87 (February, 1971).]
“Great Krypton! He’s entranced!” said Superman as he received a series of rapid blows. He then caught his foe’s arm and blocked the swing as he delivered an uppercut of his own. “I don’t want to hurt you!” he said as he fired his heat-vision toward the reflective surface of a displayed piece of glass.
The reddish light bounced off the Kryptonian surface, and as Superman moved back and forth at super-speed, the play of light danced across Wandjina’s eyes.
The hero of Angor rubbed his face and groaned. “By the bristling beard of my father!”
Superman gently touched his arm. “It’s OK, friend. Let me help you!”
But the super-hypnosis quickly wore off as Oblivion’s control reasserted itself, and Wandjina brought a display case tumbling into Superman. He flew off as Superman got back to his feet.
“If one Assembler is here and in a trance, then the others could be as well,” the Man of Steel mused as his JLA signal device sounded.