by Martin Maenza, adapted and expanded from Crisis on Infinite Earths #10 by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez
A green eagle flew overhead as Mento was hard at work battling a group of multicolored maniacs. “Damn!” the hero cursed. “Why don’t you fools get the point?” Every time he knocked one down with a mental blast, another would get back up and begin bouncing all around him.
“Face it, daddy-o!” said Mick Fleeter, a man with a red face and yellow hair, “you’ll never take us all down!”
“Yeah!” agreed one of the other Madmen. They began to circle the hero like flies. A couple pulled out switchblades. “Sooner or later, one of us’ll get ya! And one is all it takes!” They laughed crazily.
The eagle swooped down and, in a flash, changed forms. Suddenly, a thirty-foot winged dragon was on the street with a loud thud. The Madmen turned at the sound, shocked by the sight of the mythical creature. “Aaahhh!” one of the villains shouted. “Run away!”
And the five Madmen ran off screaming like idiots, waving their hands in the air.
“Losers,” said the green dragon.
“Gar, what is it?” Mento asked. “I thought you were checking on the others.”
“I was, Dad,” he said. “That’s why I’m here. Speedy needs some help with a rather hairy problem. Hop on.” Mento did as his adopted son asked, and Changeling took to the air. They soon landed about twelve blocks away.
Mento dismounted, and the dragon returned to Changeling’s human form in a red and white costume. “See?” Speedy continued to lob arrows at the Shaggy Man, but nothing slowed him down.
“Any ideas?” the archer asked.
“Let me try,” said Mento. A mental blast shot from his helmet. The beast shook it off with a mighty roar. “I can’t stop him. The Shaggy Man’s not even alive.”
A light bulb seemed to flash in Speedy’s head. “Great!” he exclaimed. “Then I don’t mind using my explosive arrow!” The archer let fly a new shaft, and the arrowhead exploded on contact. The creature blew apart into dozens of large, hairy chunks. “Scratch one Shaggy Man! Over and out!”
Changeling let out a cheer. “Way to go, Speedy!”
The rainstorms that the Weather Wizard had summoned continued to beat down upon the city, making the fight a more difficult one. One of the Metal Men, the least heroic of the team of robots, tried his best to help. “S-s-stop!” Tin stuttered.
“N-n-no!” mocked a man in yellow and green. The Molder thrust out his arms and fired a blast of energy at the robot. Tin tried to make a reflective surface with his body to block the shot.
Just then, a winged female swooped in. “You OK, Tin?” she asked.
“Hawkwoman!” the robot exclaimed as the villain’s blast shattered part of his shield. “I — I th-think I’ve been b-better!” He knew he could easily re-form himself after taking the damage, but his ego was the most frail part of him.
“Allow me!” Hawkwoman said, aiming the crossbow she held in her arms. She let the bolt fly, and it lodged with great speed into one of the Molder’s shoulders.
“Owwww!” the villain screamed in pain. He stopped firing so he could check the damage to his arm. Blood poured out of the wound underneath his ripped costume. “Hey, that hurt!”
“So will this!” Hawkwoman said as she flew right up on him. She swung the crossbow like a club and smacked him in the head with the hilt of the weapon.
Not far away, two more Justice League members were taking on the source of the foul weather. Firestorm blasted the air around Captain Cold, turning it into an ooey-gooey marshmallow. “Eat your way out of that one, Cold!” the nuclear man quipped. Then he saw something. “Vixen — watch out!”
The model-turned-heroine sprang onto her hands, bringing her feet around to kick the Icicle squarely in the chest. “Thanks, Firestorm,” Vixen said, “but I smelled this creep coming a mile away!” She then glanced around and caught sight of another villain in the air. “Firestorm, behind you!”
The nuclear man whipped around to see his old sparring partner Typhoon approaching on a funnel of swirling air. “Hey, finally someone I’ve battled before,” Firestorm said. “No problem.”
In his head, Firestorm heard the voice of his ever-present ally. “Take him out quickly, Ronald,” Professor Martin Stein suggested. “We have much work left to do.”
Right, Professor, Firestorm replied with a thought. And he went to the task of stopping the human storm generator.
While the Star-Spangled Kid and his squad were liberating the Freedom Fighters, outside the other heroes continued to take down the villainous army in the lush greenery.
“C’mon… together!” Batman shouted, continuing to rally the team to take the villains down. With a left punch, he nailed the red-and-white-garbed Calendar Man in the jaw. “Just keep pushing forward!”
“The Outsiders are doing the best we can, Batman,” Halo said as she nailed the Silver Ghost with her orange force blasts.
“He knows,” Robin said as he swooped down on a line. With a flying kick, he nailed the diminutive Dummy, who was about to shoot one of their teammates. “Hey, you’re too young to play with guns, shorty!”
In the air, the heroine called Fury had her hands full. She wrestled with the villainous Silver Slasher. “Yow,” the blonde heroine said. “I need to be careful with this one.”
Across the way, her teammate Jade just finished nailing Bolt with her emerald energy. “Need a hand with that one, Fury?” the daughter of the Earth-Two Green Lantern asked.
“Gladly, Jade,” the daughter of the Earth-Two Wonder Woman replied.
Down below, the small but powerful Atom from Earth-Two had just taken out the villain known as the Rainbow Raider. He looked up at the two heroines from his world and smiled. Those two kids work great together, he thought. Maybe we should have let them into the JSA after all. Perhaps that was something he could propose at a future team meeting.
Up above in Brainiac’s ship, Lex Luthor continued to monitor the situation with growing concern. “Unbelievable, Brainiac,” he said. “Despite our overwhelming power, the sides seem equal.”
Brainiac stood calmly by. “Not unexpected, Luthor,” the computer said. “The humans on our side are overly suspicious, highly uncooperative. They fight alone, disdaining the aid of others. Our foes work in teams. Only in unity is there strength.”
“I know, I know,” Luthor said as he pounded on the monitor’s surface. “But I expected a better showing. I wanted those so-called heroes dead and buried!“
Just then, the monitor’s view surged and began to fluctuate as if refocusing itself elsewhere. “Hold on,” Luthor said. “Something’s happening! Good Lord! I’ve never seen an energy influx like that before!” He checked the readings as best he could, but they were off the chart.
Suddenly, the space above all five interconnected Earths began to shimmer. Among the twinkling stars an image appeared, instantly coming into focus. It was that of a green-cowled head and two huge, green-gloved hands. All across the five Earths, the image could be seen in the sky like a great vision. For, indeed, the one responsible for it had power often immeasurable and mysterious.
“STOP!” yelled the Spectre, his words reverberating in the soundless space and somehow carrying loud and clear in the atmosphere of the five worlds below. “You must cease this mindless battle, for while you fight, the end of all the universes is at hand!
“Hear the word of the Spectre and learn what you must do! The Anti-Monitor still lives! And now he seeks the destruction of all life! He has fled from this era, retreated to the past — before life evolved, before this Earth was formed. He has traveled to the very dawn of time itself! From there he will change the course of all time! No longer will there be positive matter. Only antimatter will prevail! All Earths, all universes, all life will be eliminated.
“While your foe remained in the antimatter universe, I was powerless. But I saw. I observed! The Monitor recruited all people — heroes and villains — not to fight amongst themselves, but to combine their awesome powers! Half must travel to the beginning of time. The others must go to the planet Oa, where history must be changed! There must be cooperation or all life is doomed to nonexistence. Decide now! There will be no second chances!”
The members of the Teen Titans and the Doom Patrol had been in the process of freeing the captive heroes of this world when the Spectre’s voice got their attention.
“Whoa! Who’s that?” Tempest asked as he stood protecting the still-manacled Captain Atom.
“My teammate Nightwing mentioned him once,” Cyborg said, stopping his battle with Tokamak. “That guy’s the Spectre, and he’s supposedly the avenging hand of God.”
“You serious, Cyborg?” asked Hawk. “Someone actually has that gig?”
“That’s what I heard,” the half-man/half-machine replied. “I think we’d better listen to what he has to say.”
A crowd of both heroes and villains ceased their fighting when the Spectre appeared. Instead, they looked up in awe through the stormy skies at the one who appeared above it all.
“Wow, he’s huge,” said the slow-speaking Lead.
“And he looks like he means business,” said the Creeper. He then realized he still held Deadshot in a headlock. “Whoa, sorry, man.” He released the villain.
“He does mean business,” said the demonic-looking Lord Satanis. “Take it from someone who knows about mystical powers. He exudes it beyond comprehension.”
Insect Queen from Earth-Two in the 1950s nodded in agreement. “Definitely,” she said. “He even makes Superman appear like a mere mortal.”
The fighting ceased when the Spectre appeared in the sky. Both the Justice Society of America and Infinity Inc. members knew that the spectral hero only involved himself in truly major circumstances these days.
“If the Spectre is here,” the gray-haired Superman said as he stood proudly and listened, “then we have a serious situation on our hands.”
“We have a serious one here, too,” Northwind said as he held his godfather gently in his arms, his eyes closed and his breathing shallow. “Hawkman needs medical attention.”
“Yes, Northwind,” the graying Wonder Woman said. “And we will ensure he gets the best available before we go into battle. He has fought hard and deserves that much.”
Shimmer stood by and watched the display of concern. “They care,” she started to say under her breath.
“They sure do,” said Metamorpho. “They care for one another just like you care about your brother. Sort of gives you some perspective to consider, don’t it?”
The villainess said nothing, but she did silently ponder the element man’s words.
And back aboard the space ship where this whole villain war began, the two masterminds considered the Spectre’s words as well.
“We can still have some leverage,” Lex Luthor schemed. “A world or two for our participation.”
“Perhaps, Luthor,” Brainiac replied. “But should they refuse, we will all be eliminated.” The machine paused for a moment, processing. Luthor looked at him, waiting for some other response.
Finally, Brainiac spoke again. “This organism cannot accept that possibility. Call in our warriors. For now there must be cooperation! But only for now.”
Luthor hated to admit it, but the computer was right. When faced with the alternative, living and having to work hard to get what they wanted seemed like the best choice.
“You’re right,” Luthor agreed. Then he smiled. “But who says we can’t try again sometime, right?” In his eye, there was a gleam of hope, a gleam of possibility, a gleam of the future. As long as there were dreams and hopes, there would still be a chance to turn the tide of the Crisis.