On Earth-One, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, along with Black Condor, Phantom Lady, and the Human Bomb of Earth-X’s Freedom Fighters, arrived at the South American jungle, where the huge Cosmic Tree was blooming in weird, alien splendor. A stocky, human-like creature made of wood who had leaves in place of hair stood by one of its broad roots, seeming to be in silent communion.
“Why, that’s not the Floronic Man, after all!” said Wonder Woman as she recognized the creature. “It’s Redwood! His real name was Professor Marc LeGrand, and he was transformed into this creature by Poison Ivy, his former botany student, as her revenge when he attempted to murder her. But I thought he had died.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “A Kiss of Death Times Three,” World’s Finest Comics #251 (June-July, 1978) and “A Poison of the Heart,” World’s Finest Comics #252 (August-September, 1978).]
“He seems to have survived, only to become a pawn of the Cosmic Tree,” commented Batman.
“This madness ends here!” said Superman as he tore into the huge tree. “That tree could spell the doom for three universes. We won’t allow it!”
Wonder Woman followed his example, attacking it by hurling her tiara. She watched as it sliced through one tendril of many on the massive tree. “Hera help us! That thing is immense!” she mused.
The Human Bomb removed one glove and slammed his fist down at the roots. “I marvel at all science, but science like this that distorts what is natural is just wrong,” he said, reeling back as the bizarre tree absorbed his blast and channeled it via its snaking roots toward his allies. Phantom Lady gasped as Black Condor carried her to safety.
“It redirects all force used against it,” said Batman. “Try a direct approach.” He swung up and over the limbs to drop down in front of Redwood. He grabbed the woody being and said, “LeGrand! You have no desire to die with this world. Can you resist the tree’s compulsion?”
The being once called Marc LeGrand made no reply. Batman realized that Redwood had probably been controlled by the alien plant all along; he was certainly no longer in command of even his own faculties.
Superman’s strength, even allied with Wonder Woman’s own might, could only slow the growth of the alien tree. He said, “Phantom Lady, can your blackout beam stop its spread? Darkness is a foe of most plant-life.”
She tried to shine the blackout ray on the tree’s nearest limb, and it did slow its growth, which had become all-too visible. “It’s working, but at such a tiny scale. It will finish Earth off before I make any progress!” she said.
Black Condor said, “The birds of the region say that there are predators for many plants. Could we find one for the tree?“
The Human Bomb said, “You’ve hit on something there, Condor! A cosmic parasite to feed on the tree!”
“Of course!” said Superman. “Of all the simple solutions. White kryptonite kills plant life.” He rushed off, and only a few moments passed before he had returned with a massive meteor. “Took me a while to locate such a large specimen,” he said, smiling.
The Human Bomb slammed his fists against one root, and Wonder Woman danced forward to rip open the gash before it could heal. Her limbs trembled as she fought to keep the opening wide. Superman inserted the white kryptonite and jumped out as it closed tightly. In moments, the Cosmic Tree shuddered and crumbled before their eyes.
“You did it! Great work, old friend!” said Batman.
Superman took his friend’s hand and shook it. “We did it.”
Wonder Woman led the near-comatose Redwood away with them. “I’ll bring you to Paradise Island, LeGrand,” she said sympathetically to the wood monster. “We’ll find a cure for your condition.”
Black Condor said, “But what of Earth-X and Earth-Two? Will they find a solution in time?”
Phantom Lady said, “We can only pray they do!”
On Earth-Two, Green Arrow and Black Canary of the JLA joined the Flash, Green Lantern, and the Huntress of the JSA, and the Ray of the Freedom Fighters. To the Canary, this was something of a homecoming, since she had been born on this world. But she had little time for sightseeing, as she and her allies soon faced the Earth-Two counterpart of the Cosmic Tree. A weird growth sprouted from the center of the alien plant, looking like a two-headed or two-bloomed humanoid.
“That’s the Maldita Toxicohedron!” said the Flash. “It’s a sentient plant I fought back in the ’40s.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Plant that Challenged the World,” Comic Cavalcade #5 (Winter, 1943).]
The Ray said, “You don’t mean to say that thing is human.”
“Not human, but sentient.,” said the Huntress, who had long ago familiarized herself with all the major threats that the JSA members had faced. “It has a mind, and a powerful one at that.”
Green Lantern gasped as his emerald fire was smothered by an explosion of wood. “Great guns! It knows my weakness!” he said as the Flash raced to take his beleaguered pal out of the firing line.
“It reads minds,” warned the Flash. “It knows our moves before we make them.”
“My light bursts don’t faze it,” said the Ray. “It’s sure not nocturnal.”
Green Arrow fired an arrow into the opening that appeared when Black Canary’s canary cry shattered one area of the tree. He rolled aside as a vine slammed down and narrowly missed him. “Canary! The pesticide I fired inside the thing didn’t slow it down!” he warned.
The blonde bombshell nodded. “I get the idea that this is one plant which isn’t affected in any manner by talking or singing to it.”
“You tried. That’s all we can ask,” said the Huntress. “Flash, can you try to vibrate it out of this reality?”
“It’s too big,” the Flash replied. “Never could move something so large.” He added, “Besides, where would we put it? We’d merely be endangering one reality in place of ours. Why, that could even strengthen it if we put it on a world it has already touched.”
The Huntress fired a crossbow bolt toward Black Canary’s chest, and her lover reacted with blinding speed. He fired his own shaft and knocked the bolt aside. Green Arrow frowned at the daughter of the Earth-Two Batman. “You’re under its control!” He whirled as the Huntress kicked his bow out of his hand, spun in place, and delivered three swift blows that staggered the bowman.
Black Canary kicked her in the face and said, “The plant’s mind is strong. It’s reaching out for me even as I speak.”
“I can try to shield us,” said Green Lantern, creating a bubble that failed to keep out the wooden projectiles but did weaken the mental probing from the Maldita.
“Ray, can you follow my lead?” said the Flash. He then shouted, “Create an opening now!“
The Ray shattered the bark and followed a streaking Flash into the tree and out again at superhuman speed. He relied on the light he was riding to travel into the tree’s opened maw at top speed.
“Shut off all photosynthesis!” called the Flash. “Drain all sunlight from the plant for as long as you can!”
Green Lantern flew higher and tried to screen the tree from above. “Artificial shade is slowing its growth, but not by much!” he called.
The Flash continued to vibrate, and as the plant lost its vital light resources and the Ray strained to hold in the light, the Cosmic Tree shuddered. The Flash realized that only by shattering its heart from within while it was shielded from life-giving light could he disrupt its spread.
He then gasped and fell forward as Green Lantern retrieved him and the Ray exploded a burst of light skyward. “That almost took me down with it!” the Ray gasped.
“You did it,” said the Flash. “You held its light within your body long enough for me to shatter the root system. Cut off from nutrients and light, the tree died like any plant.”
Green Arrow helped the Huntress to her feet. “You OK, Bat-lady?”
She nodded. “Sorry. That thing took me over.”
“It was a dangerous foe in the ’40s, too,” said the Flash. “The rate that tree grew required me to exert myself at top speed, and even then it almost beat me.”
The Black Canary kissed the heroic man on the cheek. “Still, no matter the Earth, nothing outruns the Flash,” she said.
On Earth-X, a race against time was also occurring as the gathered heroes led by Uncle Sam fought their own Cosmic Tree. Power Girl and Johnny Thunder of the JSA, Hawkman and Red Tornado of the JLA, and Uncle Sam and Doll Man of the Freedom Fighters gazed up at the huge tree. It also carried a weird plant growth that seemed separate from its main body.
Doll Man whistled. “Mandragora — back after all these years. It’s a sentient plant I battled years before, when it tried to conquer the world.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Monstrous Mandragora,” Feature Comics #139 (October, 1949).]
Johnny Thunder said, “I may never go to a greenhouse again!”
Power Girl ignored their talk and slammed her body through the tree. She was knocked backward as the Cosmic Tree diverted even her mighty power. “This overgrown weed is making me mad!” she said.
Uncle Sam ripped up a root and frowned. “Tarnation! This thing is regrowing its roots faster than I can tear them up!”
Doll Man said, “It replicates almost instantly.”
Red Tornado swirled around the roots at top speed. “Even at this rate, I cannot hope to outpace its growth,” he announced.
“If only we had a Thanagarian boremite,” said Hawkman. “Those voracious beasts feed on plant life at a frightening rate.”
Johnny said, “Say, you know, it would be even better if the tree ended its own life. That Mada… manda… that sentient part could kind of kill the other part.”
The magic words worked then, and the sentient Mandragora tried to shut down its connecting roots, but just as in the case of Redwood and Maldita Toxicohedron, the hosts were no longer in control of the Cosmic Tree.
Johnny said, “The T-bolt did free the thing Doll Man fought from the tree. Maybe it has an answer.”
Power Girl snorted. “Yeah. Talking to plants. Bright idea.”
“Actually, it is,” said Doll Man. “Mandragora knows that thing intimately, and thanks to John, it’s now free of the Tree’s control.”
Uncle Sam said, “Can that Thunderbolt talk to the Mandragora?”
Johnny smiled. “Sure. T-bolt, translate the plant talk to English.”
The Thunderbolt nodded. “Prepare to gab with the gardenias!” The Thunderbolt’s spell enabled the Mandragora to speak directly to the heroes.
“I hoped to use the alien root to conquer this world, but it dominated me,” said the Mandragora. “I now wish it nothing but a rapid death.”
Red Tornado said, “Do you know how to stop the Cosmic Tree?”
The Mandragora said, “It serves as a gateway between worlds. If its roots were grafted back to its own stem system, it would in effect consume itself.”
Power Girl said, “I’m on it!” She ripped free a root and joined Uncle Sam and Red Tornado as they tried to bind the roots back on to one another.
Hawkman said, “John, fuse them now.”
Johnny Thunder’s Thunderbolt did so, and to their amazement, the Cosmic Tree’s warping portals opened upon themselves and left the area empty. “Well, I’ll be–!” mused Johnny.
Uncle Sam said, “Good work, everyone! We didn’t free this world to lose it to the likes of that alien weed!”
Doll Man nodded. “I hope the others did as well.”
Back on the JLA Satellite orbiting Earth-One, Superman talked with Hawkman. The Justice Society of America and the Freedom Fighters had already departed to their own worlds with their villains in tow. “You know, Batman belongs here,” said Superman. “I wish I could make him see that.”
“He’s stubborn,” said Hawkman. “I think you’d have more luck sweet-talking a tigrabeast.”
Superman smiled sadly. “At least we were able to free all three worlds of the Cosmic Tree.”
Hawkman nodded. “Polaris! I hope that’s the last we see of the infernal thing.”
Superman said, “We destroyed the plants, and I can’t imagine we missed any remnants, unless that thing planted seeds, perhaps on yet another parallel Earth.”
But that would be another story.