Black Lightning looked up from the computer. “Rex, since you know Element Girl is not a crook and Java’s powers were fleeting and artificial, that leaves one suspect: the so called Elemental Man!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Villain of 100 Elements,” Batman #294 (August, 1961).]
Metamorpho nodded. “I’ve heard of the stiff. He uses a gizmo to do what comes naturally or unnaturally to me. Can you get a handle on him?”
“He has an ex-wife,” said Black Lightning. “Maybe she can help.”
“So come on!” said Metamorpho. “Let’s go meet the wife!”
“This Rainbow Raider sounds like a strange guy,” said Halo. “Kinda sad. He’s color-blind, yet a gifted artist. I almost feel sorry for him.”
“Your compassion does you credit,” said Katana. “However, do not forget he is a proven rogue and most dangerous.”
Windfall nodded. “Sometimes compassion can be used against you.” They knew she referred to her psychotic sibling New-Wave, who had tried to kill her in the past in spite of the pretty girl’s love and concern for her twisted sister.
Black Lightning put his arm around the girl called Windfall and said, “Just be true to yourself, honey. You have good instincts.”
Halo nodded as she added her support. “Wendy, I’m here for you.”
Rex Mason smiled. “OK, enough with the Hallmark moments. I’m gonna melt. Let’s go.”
Meanwhile, the Elemental Man in question was on his way to see his ex-wife.
“Dolan, I don’t think the old man’ll like this. He said to lie low,” said Wind Pirate.
John Dolan sneered at the pirate. “I don’t care what the Schemer thinks. I’m doing what he pays me for, and this little revenge trip won’t cost him a cent. The tight old miser.”
Wind Pirate adjusted his long-tailed coat and old-fashioned cocked hat. “As you say, it won’t cost him anything,” he said.
They crept through the halls of a tenement until they reached one door.
“Phyllis lives here,” said Elemental Man. “I’ll teach her to reject me. I’ve been waiting ever since Schemer got me out of stir. I want to turn her very flesh to acid, or maybe to lead! She could sink to the depths of Gotham Harbor that way!”
Wind Pirate nodded. “Revenge is fine, but hurry, eh?” The Elemental Man gestured, and the wooden door turned to a yellow gas. Wind Pirate adjusted his handheld device, and a breeze swept it inside the room. “Keep it away from me, please!” he snapped.
A metallic fist crashed into him from within the open room. “What the–?” he gasped.
“Hi, Mom, Wally, we’re home!” quipped Metamorpho.
The Elemental Man cursed and used his belt to turn himself into a iron-clad behemoth. “I’ll take you apart!” he roared.
Black Lightning darted forward and blasted him with electrical energy. “Iron conducts, so say goodnight, Cap’n Hook!” he said as the current surged through the lumbering form of the Elemental Man and into the Wind Pirate, who cowered behind him.
Metamorpho snaked out a long arm and ripped off the Pirate’s wrist-mounted device. “Nothin’ but hot air from this punk now!” he said.
Black Lightning agilely flipped through the air to land beyond the furious Elemental Man, who was trying to alter the air within the room to a toxic gas. Jefferson Pierce displayed the form of the Olympian he had been by rolling to freedom and carrying a frightened woman to safety. “Hit the road, Phyllis!” he yelled. “We’ll shut down your angry ex-husband!”
Phyllis Dolan nodded and ran as Metamorpho activated Wind Pirate’s device, creating a whirlwind that swept the startled Elemental Man across the room.
Metamorpho contained him in his own altered body and concentrated. He gulped out the belt, retaining the inert form of John Dolan within his own body. “Got him trapped,” said a smiling Rex Mason. “Without the belt, he can’t return to human form.”
Black Lightning nodded. “Smart idea to use Wind Pirate’s air device against his partner.”
“Hey, I’m not just part of this group ’cause of my good looks, you know!” said Rex.
The Schemer frowned. “I can’t understand why Batman has ignored my challenge. The police have also ignored the apparent renegade acts of his peers. He must be away! The fortune-teller claimed a woman would ruin me! Surely a woman has not been responsible for Batman’s absence.”
He cursed and spat a command to several costumed figures. “Go find Windsor and Dolan! But be careful!” he said, then spoke into his intercom. “Miss Anderson, where is young Volar?”
“He said he was going to find the Outsiders for you and make you proud,” she replied.
The Schemer smiled. “Good. Perhaps a show of his type of raw power is just what is required to draw them out. I can guess they are inactive without their leader to think for them. Just like the police. Bah! Batman runs this town, but that’ll change if I can just create the panic I envisioned.”
He stared out into the night and said, “Batman, I’ll pay you back for the ignominious defeat you dealt me. Years in prison enabled me to become even richer through coded letters to my ‘spouse’ which detailed crime plans for my clients. Still, the idea of a man of my accomplishments languishing in jail with common blue-collar types…!”
The Schemer stared out the window in silent rage.
The other faux Outsiders reached the Binder Park area of the city and conferred quickly.
“There’s Elemental Man!” cried Rainbow Raider.
Electrocutioner grunted. “He’s turned himself into some freak!”
“Metal man, not freak!” replied Metamorpho as he displayed the belt belonging to the defeated John Dolan.
“Whatever. Let’s return to our base,” snapped an elegant British woman with long blonde hair and a gleaming sword.
“Lady Vic, you have to learn to loosen up,” said the Rainbow Raider.
Victoria Bonham-Carter snorted in disdain. “Where is Wind Pirate?” she demanded.
“Would you believe gone with the wind?” said the disguised Metamorpho. “He split.”
They led him toward their base with mutters and snide remarks.
Above them flew Halo. “Katana, Metamorpho has fooled them, just like Black Lightning suggested,” said the pretty girl as her long blonde hair blew in the air. “I’ll follow and keep you posted.”
“Be careful, Halo!” warned Katana through the communicator.
“Batman and the rest should be back any time,” said Windfall.
Katana smiled grimly. “We should have this ended before they reach home.”
Halo reported the descriptions of the felons below to her partners.
“Rainbow Raider, as suspected, is the Halo of the group,” said Katana. “Elemental Man was the Metamorpho. Wind Pirate fills Windfall’s role. This British woman called Lady Vic is my counterpart, while Electrocutioner serves as a faux Black Lightning. The Canadian called Tundra must approximate Geo-Force’s powers. Looker and Batman lack counterparts. I suppose it is because they lack powers that would allow distinctive impressions upon victims. Looker’s mental gifts and Batman’s physical prowess would be less detectable in a fallen victim.”
“They’ve reached a big penthouse,” said Halo.
At that moment, Halo gasped in shock as she recalled the deaths of Violet Harper’s parents. She had once believed herself to be Violet, and the trauma still gave her nightmares. She blinked into view as her distortion aura faded. She curled up in a fetal position and lay on the penthouse deck.
“Halo! Something has happened to her. She is not responding. Move in!” ordered Katana.
The Outsiders rushed toward their fallen partner.
“She was using the distortion aura, so if something happened to her, it must have been directed by someone who could detect where she was or by some wide-range weapon,” mused Black Lightning.
Windfall lifted them skyward on a current as they rushed to Halo’s side.
“She’s scared spitless. She’ll be fine — if she lives long enough!” said Electrocutioner as he bounded forward.
Rainbow Raider nodded. “The fear-projector caught her when I spotted her aura. My lens can pick up things all along the spectrum.”
Lady Vic whipped out a blade as elegant and deadly as its owner. “En garde!” she cried.
Metamorpho — still posing as Elemental Man — sprang into action. He formed a gaseous cloud over Tundra as the silent Canadian lurched forward. He can’t use those fancy earth-moving powers up here! thought Metamorpho as he knocked out the hulking man.
“A spy!” cried the Electrocutioner as he spotted Metamorpho’s attack and reached for the prone Halo. But his hands sparked as they hit the deck’s smooth floor. “She’s not here!” he gasped.
“Distortion aura!” said Halo as she used her tractor beam aura to haul him directly into Lady Vic. She yelped but jumped aside and fought onward.
“Katana, you are very good, but you lack the superior skills of the British!” she sneered. “The finest empire ever to grace the world came from England!”
Katana danced away and kicked out to trip her agile foe. “I believe, like your Empire, you fell!” she replied.
Rainbow Raider generated a red beam that drove Windfall mad with rage. She screamed as her powers created a miniature whirlwind.
“Easy, Wendy! You’re gonna blow us all away!” cried Rex.
The Rainbow Raider laughed and then gasped as his ray was reflected back upon him by a mirror-like extension of Metamorpho’s body. He screamed in rage and then fell to the ground as Black Lightning connected with a solid right hood.
“Guy’s too emotional,” quipped Jefferson Pierce.
The Electrocutioner whirled to grab his counterpart, only to receive a surprise as Jeff staggered him with three quick jabs.
This jerk relies on his shock power entirely too much,” mused Black Lightning.
The Schemer gasped in dismay. His home invaded, his foes triumphant, and no sign of Batman — how could this be happening?
A woman! he thought. Did some woman cause that foolish Dolan to go out in violation of my orders? He must have walked right into their clutches. That fortune-teller was right! A woman has ruined me… but not for long.
Katana reeled as Lady Vic brought her sword flashing down in an arc. She rolled aside and caught her blade between two perfectly positioned hands. The Japanese woman tossed it to the left and connected with a left hook.
“Lady Bonham-Carter seems to be an English rose with a glass jaw,” she said grimly.
“Maybe it’s a greenhouse jaw!” quipped Metamorpho.
Halo had calmed down Windfall, who had recovered from the Rainbow Raider’s rage ray. “I guess his yellow ray made me afraid,” she explained.
“We better take down the brains behind this plan,” said Black Lightning. “This is not the home of a band of thugs like these.”
The Schemer appeared and said, “Indeed, it is not. As you astutely surmised, I am the brains of this little operation, and my fear-projector reduced that fair creature to tears. Now, I’ll do the same to you all!”
“No need to exert yourself, sir!” announced Volar as he swooped down. “Let me handle them!”
The Schemer grinned broadly. “By all means!”
Windfall sighed. “He’s dreamy.”
“I hate to do this, but your behavior makes it essential,” said Volar. “You betrayed your noble past, and I’m going to stop you!”
Volar’s eyes flashed, and Metamorpho’s gaseous form froze solid in a sheath of ice.
He stomped one booted foot and sent Katana staggering backward.
Volar grabbed Black Lightning and ignored the voltage surging into him. “Your strongest current can’t harm my super-body!” he said.
He lifted a startled Black Lightning and hurled him directly into Halo and Windfall.
“Sorry, ladies,” said Volar. “I don’t like to lift my hands against the weaker sex, but since you seem bent on being more than merely decorative, I’ll have to treat you like your corrupt male allies!”
He tapped lightly, and as he touched each Outsider’s face, they fell into a stunned state.
“The lad’s as strong as Superman!” crowed the Schemer. “Now, let’s see any woman stop me while he serves me!”
“Why, dahling, you sound like you aren’t glad to see little ol’ Looker!” cooed the redhead as she, Batman, and Geo-Force swooped down.
“Batman! At last!” sneered the Schemer.
Batman walked forward. “The Schemer. It’s been a long time.”
Geo-Force grabbed for Volar. “Try to toss me around like that,” said Prince Brion. “I dare you!”
“Like so?” taunted Volar as he slugged the Markovian and hurled him into the air.
Geo-Force slowed his fall with gravity-reducing bursts and spun back for a second go at the dashing Volar. He nearly took my head off! mused Brion Markov.
Looker bent over her fallen friends. “They’re OK — just stunned!” she called out.
Batman grimaced as he saw Volar dodge Brion’s charge and send him crashing into the frozen Metamorpho. When the ice broke, the gaseous Outsider swirled into Geo-Force, who choked and fell forward.
He’s not just a muscleman, mused Batman. This Volar is smart. Still, he sounds like a misguided do-gooder. Maybe I can talk some sense into him… or let Schemer do it for me.
“You tried to frame my team by having these goons with similar powers kill the Coyote Gang,” said Batman. “You were the alleged mastermind behind it all! I’ve radioed Gordon. He filled me in on what happened in the city in my absence. It was a stupid plan. You relied on pure luck. Not even worthy of Cluemaster.”
The Schemer hit the switch on the fear-projector. “No! It was a carefully planned masterstroke! Who else but me could assemble so diverse a collection of super-powered villains all to match the powers of your team? The Joker could never think so clearly. The Penguin is crippled by his bird obsession!” He shouted in rage, using the fear ray to bathe all the combatants in its wide-range ray. “You’ll all crawl before me in abject terror!” he smirked.
Batman walked directly past the ray and kicked it over as he gripped the Schemer’s costly smoking jacket and said, “I’m afraid not.” He shoved the shocked Schemer aside and helped his allies recover.
Volar stood immobile. “He lied to me! He tried to make me think he was good and you were bad when he set the whole thing up all along. Can you forgive me? I’m lost from my own world. I fight crime there, and I need to go back there. I have amnesia!”
“I know someone who may be able to help you find your way and do some good here until you can go home,” said Batman.
“Batman, you resisted his fear ray with no visible effort!” said Katana.
Geo-Force grinned. “You expected any less from the Dark Knight?”
Batman shook his head. “The ray never worked. It must be defective.”
“It sure worked on me earlier,” said Halo.
Looker sidled up to Volar. “My, my, my! What have we here? Someone so very strong and brave! We really should get together and talk crime-fighting tips.”
“Sorry,” said Volar. “You’re not my type.”
Looker fumed silently as Halo smothered a laugh.