DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Villain War, Chapter 8: New York on Fire

by Martin Maenza, adapted and expanded from Crisis on Infinite Earths #9 by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez

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Earth-Four:

Two domino-masked rogues stood atop a tenement roof as the sun was rising in the red-hued skies. “So, what’s the deal, Trickster?” asked the man in green with question marks all over his costume. “I heard through the grapevine that you’d gone straight.” The Riddler elbowed the other man in the chest. “You playing both sides, or what?”

“My, aren’t you full of questions, Riddler?” the blonde Trickster replied. “But ain’t that always the way.” He laughed, but his colleague was not amused. “OK, seriously, I did hang up the air-shows for a while. Wanted to head out to Hollywood to try my hand at the special-effects industry. Thought it’d be good to have something fall back on, you know?”

“So you did drop out!”

“Yeah, I did. But lately I’ve been thinking of dropping back in. Sure, the Hollywood scene was fun and all — lots of babes and fringe benefits. But something was missing. The thrill. The suspense. The surprise.”

The Riddler nodded.

Suddenly, a loud screeching sound came from the sky above them. Both villains turned quickly, startled at the sound, and their jaws dropped as they looked up.

An emerald-green hawk with a four-foot wingspan was diving down at them. What surprised them, besides the color, was that it talked. “Hi, guys!” the bird said in perfectly clear English. Then, in an instant, the green bird changed into a three-hundred-pound green gorilla. The creature slammed into them hard and sent them flying. “Bet you didn’t expect to find me up here, didja? You guards gotta remember — always look for low-flying apes!” Changeling laughed as the two rogues scrambled.

In the air above the smoldering city, an African-American man in red and blue flew next to a red-haired young woman with crystal-faceted wings. “The Changeling did his job, Kole,” the man said.

“From what I gather, Tempest, he usually does,” the young girl agreed.

“That’s not the rumor I heard in the new Doom Patrol,” Tempest replied. “Celsius says she heard–”

Suddenly, something below caught the man’s eye. His mood became even more serious. “Uh-oh. There’s our target.” He pointed toward a group moving along the ground. “They’re the ones who set our city afire!” Earth-Four’s New York was very similar to the city of the same name on Earth-One, so seeing it damaged hit home for these heroes.

On the ground, the four members of the Masters of Disaster had little warning as Tempest’s biologically generated energy blast rained down on them from above. The shot hit the wall above where they were standing, sending rubble down upon them.

“Shakedown, protect the others!” New-Wave ordered. But before the bald man could comply, chunks nailed Heatstroke and Coldsnap, taking them out of the picture. “Damn!” The water-shifting villainess turned her back on her team, making this into a situation of survival. She didn’t want to be captured as quickly as the others and changed into a wave of water, diving for the nearest sewer entry.

***

“Uh, Grodd,” a man in orange and yellow said as he tapped the large hairy gorilla on the shoulder.

Gorilla Grodd continued to look through a pair of binoculars. “Be quiet, human!” the gorilla snapped. “There is some activity on the West Side, and I do not believe it is our forces!”

“But…” Cat-Man started to protest, backing away from an approaching figure.

Grodd felt a tapping once more at his shoulder, this time more insistently. “Human, I warned you!” he growled. “You will pay for ignoring my request.” He spun around, only to see a half-man/half-machine slam him hard in the chest.

“How much is it gonna cost me, Grodd?” Cyborg joked. “My armor ain’t got no pockets, but I think I can scrape something together.” He nailed the gorilla with a solid right hook. “How’s that for a starter payment?”

“Bah!” Grodd said as he shook of the blow. “I’ve taken down mightier opponents than you!”

Cyborg wound back his fist again and let it fly. The gorilla toppled from the roof’s edge due to the punch’s force and momentum. “Funny, I was about to say the same thing to you!”

Cat-Man stepped forward uncertainly, hoping to catch Cyborg off guard while his back was turned. Then he let out a large grunt as a metallic fist slammed him against the brick wall faster than he’d thought possible. The villain slumped back down, his orange cape spreading out around him.

Down on street level a few blocks away, a red-and-yellow-clad archer stood atop the roof of an abandoned yellow cab. He notched another arrow and took aim at an approaching form. “Ollie once told me all about you, big fella,” Speedy said to the seven-and-a-half-foot-tall Shaggy Man. “I hear you’re tough, but I’m no slouch myself.”

Speedy let the arrow fly. As it struck the ground at the behemoth’s feet, the arrowhead opened and released a large cloud of gas. The young archer hoped that this might slow down the creature’s attack. The cloud soon enveloped the beast, and for a moment there was no movement. Then, suddenly, Shaggy Man continued to charge forward, ignoring the lack of breathable air.

“Uh-oh,” Speedy said. “Didn’t count on that. Good thing I’ve got a quiver full of arrows to draw from.” He reached for another shaft.

Not far away, a green-costumed youth with red hair sent a green-costumed-and-caped man flying. “So much for the so-called Dragon King,” Red Star said. “Your kind never learns.”

“We took down the heroes of this world,” another male voice said. “We’ll do the same to you.” Evil Star fired his starband beam at the Russian hero.

“No!” Red Star said as he shook off the blast. “It is you who will fall!” He charged up on Evil Star and nailed him in the chest with his left elbow. Winded, the villain dropped to the ground, ill-equipped to handle such a powerful physical assault on his person.

In the air above, Lady Lunar struggled as a black energy form wrapped around her tightly. “Ugh!” the villainess cried. “Release me now!” But the energy form continued to squeeze until she ceased to struggle. Then Lady Lunar dropped down to the pavement next to the prone body of a woman in red with bandages covering her exposed flesh. The black energy slipped back into this second woman’s body.

“So, it is true, Colonel Vostok,” Red Star said in a moment of rest between struggles. “You did defect to the United States.”

Negative Woman slowly rose to her feet. “I did, Kovar,” she replied, “and I am pleased with my decision. Do not try to take me back. You would not like what my energy powers can do to you.”

Despite the situation, tensions ran strong between the two native-born Russians, each holding an opposing view from the other.

***

Out on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty welcomed many an immigrant to the American shores. Her face was the first thing they would see arriving at this new world of opportunity.

Today, that was no longer the case. Lady Liberty had been decapitated hours ago, along with her torch being shattered off her extended arm. By breaking this symbol of freedom, the villains hoped to break the American spirit as well; for the moment it had worked. It was a good thing Lady Liberty could not see what was going on around her.

A twenty-five-foot-tall form stood on the island, its smooth surface clear to reveal churning chemicals inside its body. Chemo looked out upon the water, opened the orifice that would correspond to a mouth, and began to spew forth a spray of chemicals. Seventeen different corrosive acids shot down into the waters, a number of them causing the liquid’s surface to burst into flames. The rest would seep into the waters themselves, causing pollution that would likely take years to clean up.

Just below the water’s surface, two pairs of combatants fought.

“My, my,” the mutated creature known as the Shark said as it bared its teeth. “What do we have here? A pretty little morsel if ever I saw one.” He began to choke the purple-haired female swimmer that challenged him.

Aquagirl grabbed at his hands. It took every bit of her strength and her limited telepathic abilities, but she was eventually able to break his grasp. “I didn’t come here to be your lunch,” said Tula. “We came to stop you.”

“You think you can?” the Shark asked. “I’ll–” Suddenly, the creature paused for a moment and turned his head. The natural shark instincts he possessed kicked in. “Even with my protective aura, this place is no longer safe!” And with that, he broke off the combat and swam off.

“Come back here,” Aquagirl yelled and swam after him.

Nearby, a dark-haired young man in a red tunic battled it out with a man in a dark diving suit and helmet. Black Manta laughed, “Well, Aquaman’s pups have come to play. Maybe I can add another family kill to the list.”

Aqualad grew furious at the remark, recalling how Black Manta had callously murdered Arthur, Jr. a few years ago. “I’m no infant,” the Titan said. “And I have more than what it takes to handle the likes of you!” He smashed the villain back with a mighty punch.

Just then, the male hero looked up. “Oh, my lord!” Aqualad cried as he saw his love struggling in Chemo’s toxic waste. The water Aquagirl was trying to breath was burning her from the inside, as evidenced by her clutching her throat with both hands. “Tula! Noooo!

He swam with all his might to her side, pulling her down and away from the deadly chemicals on the surface. In the back of his mind, all he could do was pray that she would be all right. From the way the terror filled her eyes and how she gasped, it already appeared that it might have been too late.

***

Back on the streets of New York, Kobra was furious at the sight of these heroes. “Damn that Luthor!” he yelled. “He assured us that we’d be protected from the heroes of our world! Once more he has betrayed us! He has insulted Kobra with his deception and broken promises!”

“Shut up, Kobra,” a villain in purple with an orange mask yelled. The costume had an arachnid theme to it. “And give us a hand here! All you do is complain.” The Black Spider then took a red-fisted punch to the face.

“To hell with all of you!” Kobra spat. “From now on, Kobra looks out only for himself.” And with that, he fled the scene.

“Hawk, we got a runner!” a man in a black costume with a purple helmet announced. “Can you get him? I’m busy.” Mento was focused on taking down a man in a green suit with long white hair. The Fiddler was about to slide his bow across the strings of his instrument when Mento’s mental energy blast floored him. The fiddle clattered onto the pavement, followed by the older villain.

“One second!” Hawk replied, the red-and-white-costumed hero still busy fighting Black Spider.

Suddenly, there was a loud roar as a white-skinned figure in a black suit came crashing around the corner. “Solomon Grundy crush you all!” the seven-and-a-half-foot-tall creature vowed, a piece of shattered concrete held high above his head. Mento fired a mental blast from his helmet at the newcomer. Grundy roared out in pain and lost hold of his weapon, which flipped into the air and crashed.

On the ledge above, Hawk took out Black Spider with one final blow. “Now, where’d that snake creep get to?” Looking around, he laughed as he noted that Solomon Grundy’s piece of concrete had smashed against the wall behind him, knocking out Kobra.

The stunned chalk-skinned villain shook his head and then began to advance once more. “Uh-oh,” Mento said. “This one’s tougher that I thought.”

“No problem,” Hawk said and leaped onto Grundy’s back, beginning to pound on the creature’s skull. “Between your brain and my brawn, we’ll have ugly, here, stopped in no time!” Grundy tried to grab for the hero upon his back but found it hard to do so.

Mento nodded. His adoptive son had spoken of Hawk’s unyielding attitude; the two youths had worked together briefly when Garfield was in California shooting his television series. After today, Mento would never doubt Hawk’s reputation again. He let fire another mental blast at Grundy, this time hoping it might have a stronger effect on the target’s minimal brain.

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