Superman: Planetary Matters, Chapter 2: The Planet Destroyed

by Immortalwildcat

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“Ladies and gentlemen of Metropolis, honored guests, today I have a unique honor. For five decades, the Metropolis landscape included one of the most easily recognized landmarks in the world. Visible from oceangoing ships and incoming planes, it identified Metropolis to the casual observer much like the Statue of Liberty stands for New York, the great arch identifies St. Louis, and the Golden Gate tells the visitor that they are indeed in San Francisco. Seven years ago, this landmark was replaced with a broadcast tower when a once-unique building was remade into the modern image of corporate America, and our city was the poorer for it. (*) Although that landmark was returned two and a half years ago during an anniversary celebration, it was damaged last fall during our city’s kryptonite meteor crisis and removed for repairs. (*) And for the last few months, that landmark has been missing from our cityscape. Now, thanks to a serendipitous set of circumstances, that landmark has returned — not to its traditional home, but to this, the original home of the institution that it stands for.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Pied Piper of Steel,” Action Comics #398 (March, 1971), “The Man who Murdered Metropolis,” Action Comics #526 (December, 1981), and “Phantom Zone: The Final Chapter,” DC Comics Presents #97 (September, 1986).]

The mayor of Metropolis was in full swing now, his prepared speech flowing like water over his tongue and into the microphones. Looking out from the podium, he saw the gathered crowd, anxiously awaiting what was coming next.

“And so, my friends, it is with great pleasure that I rededicate this building. Once again, Metropolis’ greatest paper will issue forth from a home that bears its name.” He pulled down the blue satin sheet that covered the archway over the building entrance. “I hearby rededicate the Taylor Building as the new Daily Planet Building!” Thunderous applause broke out among the onlookers, which was quickly drowned out by a rushing sound from overhead. “And to top off this edifice, ladies and gentlemen, with the most welcome assistance of Superman, I give you the Daily Planet!

High above, the last son of Krypton came into view, bearing the great copper and steel globe that once adorned the home of the great Metropolitan newspaper. He gently lowered it to the base that had been prepared for it and held it in place as he welded the globe into place with his heat-vision. The cheering of the crowd grew even louder when he released the globe and came down to join the dignitaries on the platform with the mayor.

“Superman, thank you for joining us today and for providing a helping hand with the restoration of the Daily Planet!” said the mayor, talking into the microphone even as he spoke to Superman.

“As many of the people of Metropolis know, I have a long association with the Planet and its staff. I am happy to have a chance to repay them, in this small way, for the support they have always given me in my fight for justice.” The crowd roared in response to the Man of Steel’s words. “While I wish I could stay for the rest of the dedication, I’m afraid duty calls me elsewhere.” With a final wave to the throng, Superman rose slowly from the stage, turned for one last look at everyone gathered, then accelerated away, leaving them with the clap of a sonic boom.

“Wow, he still knows how to make an entrance and an exit, doesn’t he, Lois?”

Lois Lane turned, startled to find Clark Kent standing next to her. “Where have you been, Clark? I was afraid you were going to miss the whole ceremony!”

***

April, 1986:

In the two months since the Daily Planet was sold, Metropolis settled back into its normal routine. Now that the kryptonite that had previously been scattered throughout the city was nothing more than a bad memory, the fully recovered Superman resumed his regular role as the city’s foremost protector. Out from under the shadow of Morgan Edge and Galaxy Communications, the Daily Planet flourished. The publicity from the sale of the paper and the move into the former Taylor Building brought a flurry of new subscribers.

Jeff Richardson oversaw the establishment of satellite offices in Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Miami, New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, where news was gathered and transmitted to the main office in Metropolis. In turn, printing plants in those cities were leased for the publication of weekly editions of the Planet, a precursor to localized daily editions.

In his penthouse apartment, Morgan Edge paced. “I can’t believe this! That paper was a drain on my business for the last two years! How did that little snot manage this kind of turnaround?”

Edge had no way of knowing that the answer to his question was being discussed halfway around the world.

***

“Plans are coming together, Talia. The cooperation that we, ah, encouraged around the USA is bearing fruit. The Planet is prospering far more than it ever did in its heyday.” A satisfied Ra’s al Ghul steepled his fingers before him. “Even better, they seem to be working more closely with Superman than they have for some years. As I surmised, Edge must have been discouraging their association. With him out of the picture, it is almost as if Superman himself is reporting his exploits to the paper.”

Talia’s eyes widened. “Do you suppose it is possible, Father? Could Superman actually be one of the Planet’s reporters?”

“Unlikely, dear daughter. Superman is a being of great power. Men such as himself, even those alien to our planet, are unlikely to forego that power, even on a short-term basis. I am quite sure that, if Superman has chosen to disguise himself as a mere mortal, it is as one in a position that befits him.”

The nigh-immortal genius turned to a control panel. “Now, it is time to begin the next stage of the Kryptonian’s downfall,” he said, pressing one of the studs on the panel.

***

It was a clear, sunny, late April afternoon in Metropolis. Superman streaked through the sky, returning from saving a sinking freighter in the North Atlantic. He applied a burst of speed to render himself invisible as he approached the Daily Planet Building and streaked in through a rooftop access door. Slipping in through the door, he changed clothes as he moved quickly down the stairs. By the time he reached the floor where the editorial offices were located, Superman was no more, and it was Clark Kent who strolled into the reporters’ pool.

“Clark! About time you got here!” screamed Perry White from the door to his office. “Where have you been, son?”

“I’m sorry, Perry. Lunch didn’t agree with me, and I went up to the roof for a bit of fresh air.”

“You and your sensitive stomach! Look, I got a call here about ten minutes ago, about some bozo causing a ruckus out at Metro Stadium. Get on out there and see what’s going on!”

“Yes, sir! On my way!” Clark turned on his heel and dashed to the elevator. It started down, but when it reached the building lobby, the car was empty.

***

High over Metropolis, Superman streaked in a parabolic arc. At the peak, he looked down and sized up the armored figure hovering over Metro Stadium. “Looks like some type of solar-powered armor. Red-tinged energy blasts from the gauntlets. Have to watch myself going in — gauge the strength of those beams.” He turned downward and soared down toward the lone figure.

BAM! The Man of Steel collided with chromium plating, sending the other figure down to impact on the Astroturf. “Sorry, the game isn’t until Saturday. Advance sale tickets are available at the box office, though,” said Superman, hoping to distract his opponent from the battle.

“Bah, Superman! The only game I’m interested in is a bit of rugby with your worthless head!” The other man leaped upward, boot rockets igniting to propel him into Superman at over two-hundred miles per hour.

WHAAM!

Superman was thrown back nearly a hundred yards. He halted his flight and turned just in time to feel the heat of the raging criminal’s energy blasts over his body. Great Rao, I felt that! He must be generating energy similar to a red sun!

As if reading his thoughts, his opponent taunted him, “Not so hot under my blasts, are you, hero? Get ready for more, ’cause MadFire is here to toast your alien hide!”

***

“Looks like the solar generator you stole from Luthor’s ship is working against him, sir,” said Jeff Richardson over the communication link. He was watching the battle from a penthouse on one of Metropolis’ tallest buildings. Officially, the penthouse belonged to a reclusive millionaire, one whom nobody ever saw. In reality, it belonged to one of Ra’s al Ghul’s dummy corporations, for use by his people whenever they needed a location in Metropolis.

“Of course it is. Lex Luthor my be a pathetic fool when it comes to strategy and planning, but as a scientist and inventor, he is without equal. The devices on the suit will work precisely as intended, as will the other device I liberated from him,” came the reply. “That poor wretch that we, ah, convinced to wear the armor and attack Superman thinks he knows the full extent of its powers. But when I tell him to attack the Daily Planet Building, he will be most surprised!”

***

In the skies over Metropolis, the battle raged. Blasts of heat-vision were deflected by the highly reflective armor. Sizzling bursts of stellar energy flashed across the sky, barely missing the dodging Man of Steel. They came close to each other, exchanging blows that echoed through the streets below. The battle carried them over the heart of midtown Metropolis.

Jimmy! See if you can get a good shot of them the next time they grapple with each other!” Lois Lane pressed the record button of her miniature tape recorder. “The determination is clearly evident on Superman’s face as he throws punch after punch at the mysterious armored attacker.”

Next to her, the redheaded reporter quickly attached a monopod to the telephoto lens of his camera. Steadying the camera on the single leg of the support, he lined up his shot of Superman and MadFire. Trying desperately to track them across the sky, he clicked away.

“I think I got them on that last one, Lois! Any idea who that clown is?”

“No idea, Jimmy, but he can’t be that much of a threat to Superman. Just another bozo with a hopped-up suit of armor. Get another shot before Superman puts him away.”

***

“Give it up, MadFire! We may be evenly matched, but you can’t outlast me!” Superman called to his opponent.

“I don’t need to, Superman. It’s not you I’m after!” With that, MadFire turned his attention to the Daily Planet Building. Both hands unleashed a blast of blue-tinged energy. The bolts struck the building.

On the roof of the building, Jimmy and Lois saw the blast a split-second before it struck.

There was a blinding flash of light, strong enough to even cause the Man of Steel to blink. When his vision cleared, all that was left of the Daily Planet Building was a smoking crater.

“Great Scott!” cried an astonished Superman, quickly sweeping the area that had previously held the Daily Planet Building with every form of vision that he had available. In the air he spied stray molecules splitting apart into their component atoms as they fell through the air.

“You see, Superman? You cannot protect Metropolis! You cannot even protect one single building from me if I choose to destroy it! You cannot — urrk!

MadFire’s gloating was cut off as Superman flew headlong into him. The armored murderer brought his hands up to blast the rampaging Kryptonian, only to find his arms had been stripped bare.

Enough, MadFire!” screamed the enraged Man of Steel. “This ends now!” A fist with the power of the stars behind it plowed into MadFire’s armored face. He streaked backward over the city, far out over the ocean. When he plummeted into the sea, Superman was there. The exposed circuitry at the felon’s wrists sputtered and sparked when he hit the water, shorting out the rest of the armor’s systems. When Superman pulled him back up into the air, MadFire was unconscious.

Moments later, Superman deposited a now-unarmored MadFire in a holding cell in the Metropolis Police Department Headquarters and left the armor in a separate holding area for analysis. Then he returned to the site of his failure.

Curious onlookers were gathering around the smoking hole in the ground that marked the location of the Daily Planet Building. Spying Superman, hushed voices exclaimed the truth that Superman knew but had not been ready to voice.

“Superman failed to save the Daily Planet.”

***

“Exactly according to plan, Father!”

“Of course, my dear. How could it be any other way?”

Talia and Ra’s al Ghul gazed upon a strange sight. On the table before them stood a glass bottle perhaps two feet in height. Connected to the top of the bottle were tubes for air and water and electronic controls of unknown design. Within the bottle, partially obscured by water vapor collecting on its inner surface, was an eighteen-inch scale model of the Daily Planet Building.

“An inspired use of Luthor’s purloined technology, Father. The teleportation ray that you discovered in his ship and the shrinking technology that your discovered in the computer disks you took during your brief alliance with him.”

“Yes, my dear. His records indicate that it was used by the android Brainiac who has menaced Superman from time to time. By using them together, I was able to substitute our stone facsimile of the Taylor Building for the real thing just in time for MadFire’s energy burst to vaporize it before Superman’s eyes.” Ra’s’ eyes lit in satisfaction as he eagerly anticipated the torment that Superman was sure to subject himself to, thinking his failure had resulted in the death of so many people, close friends among them.

***

Inside the bottle, two tiny figures gazed up into their newfound sky. Though distorted by the curve of their bottle prison, they could see the faces looking down at them.

“Jimmy, do you realize what has happened?” asked Lois Lane.

“I’ve been there, too, Lois. We’ve been shrunk, just like the city of Kandor! But even more important, I recognize those two faces!” exclaimed Jimmy Olsen.

“Who are they?”

“I saw them in some of Batman’s records during one of my last adventures with Robin. That’s Ra’s al Ghul, the immortal madman who’s tried to kill Batman several times. The other is his daughter, Talia.” Jimmy turned to his long-time friend. “If they have us, it can’t be good!”

Continued in Justice League of America: The Planet Seekers

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