by Goose Gansler
Superman switched off the weapon and dashed to catch the Kandorian before he collapsed. Putting his super-senses to use, Superman could tell that all of Ar-Val’s life signs seemed to be normal.
Ar-Val’s eyes were closed as he tried to regain his footing. His eyes then fluttered open. “Kal-El,” he whispered hoarsely.
“Yes, Ar-Val,” Superman replied. “You’re alive again.”
“Then… then the process failed,” the blond man stammered. “I didn’t restore your powers.” More certain of his footing now, he brushed away Superman’s support. He ached from the long period of immobility. He stretched his arms painfully, although the pain subsided unusually quickly.
“No, it did work,” Superman countered. “You gave me back my powers.” He paused. “Now, at long last, I’ve found a way to reverse the calcification effect that it had on you.”
Ar-Val continued to loosen up. The stiffness was still there, but the pain had vanished. As the realization of being alive once more began to sink in, his expectation was to feel like he had as a normal resident of Kandor, his powers sacrificed to restore Superman’s. However, this felt different.
“Kal-El, thank you.” He reached out and grasped Superman’s hand. “I was willing to give up my existence to make up for my mistakes as the New Superman. To gain my life back again is more than I could have expected.” He looked out in the direction of where he remembered the bottle city to be. “I don’t know if I can face my fellow Kandorians with my shame.” Even though the spot was a considerable distance away in the Fortress and separated from him by several walls, Ar-Val could see that Kandor was no longer there. “Kal-El, where is the city?”
Superman chuckled. “So you can see across the Fortress, eh? And your grip tells me that you still retain a portion of your strength.” He let go of Ar-Val’s hand and looked the Kandorian in the eye. “While you were immobile, Kandor was enlarged.”
“Great Rao!” Ar-Val was incredulous. “Can this be true? He was visibly staggered.
Superman reached out and placed his hand on Ar-Val’s shoulder. “It’s true.”
Ar-Val tried to compose his thoughts “So where is Kandor now?” He employed his super-vision, trying to scan the globe for the gleaming towers of Krypton’s capital city.
“Not on Earth, my friend,” Superman explained. “The Science Council decided that it would be better for Kandor to be on a world that mimicked Krypton. They wisely decided that it would be problematic to have a city of superhumans on Earth. They chose a distant world that they now call Rokyn.”
“Rokyn — Rao’s Gift.” Ar-Val bowed his head in shame. “The Science Council chose wisely. Some do not have the maturity to deal with super-powers, such as myself.”
“But you redeemed yourself,” Superman argued. “And your sacrifice has not been forgotten, either by me or by Kandor.”
“No,” Ar-Val shook his head. “I do not deserve to be honored. I could not handle that if I faced them.”
“Well, you won’t be able to do that right now,” Superman said, shrugging. He was surprised by the emotion that Ar-Val expressed. “Rokyn is a phase world. It only exists part of the time in this space-time continuum. Right now it’s out of phase.”
“A phase world? Why would the Science Council choose such a world?” Ar-Val wondered.
“They wanted to have Kandor chart its own future, and not rely on me… or Kara to be their perpetual savior.”
“Kara?” Now it was Ar-Val who noted the emotion in the other. “The way you said it. What is wrong?”
“Kara is dead,” Superman said grimly. Her death still pained him. “She gave her life in a battle to save all of existence.”
“Kal-El, I’m…” Ar-Val didn’t know what else to say. This was a revelation that shook him almost as much as Kandor’s return. To Kandorians, Kal-El and Kara Zor-El were thought to be invincible and immortal.
Superman quickly changed the subject. “You’re welcome to stay at the Fortress. Once Rokyn’s in phase again, I can give you a ship to take you there.”
“I can’t return to Kandor. I am not yet redeemed.” Ar-Val’s tone was insistent.
“The Kandorians and I beg to differ, but I won’t argue with you.” Superman rubbed his chin and pondered for a moment. “I suppose you could resume your role here as the ‘New Superman,’ although you might have to come up with a new name.”
“No, Earth is not for me, Kal-El. There is an entire universe out there. Perhaps I can find redemption in the depths of space.”
“Hmm,” Superman said. “If I might make a suggestion, I know of a task that you might find appealing.” He directed Ar-Val to the monitor board and then explained, “You know of the Superman Revenge Squad.”
“Of course,” Ar-Val said, nodding. “A league of villains bent on your destruction. The Superman Emergency Squad of Kandor helped you on a few occasions against them.”
“While you were incapacitated, I managed to trap most of them on their base of operations.” He punched up the spatial coordinates for Ar-Val to see. A view of Maggon, along with a few statistics, came on the data screen. “They’ve broken out of my trap. This was the last data I received from my spy satellite before it drifted away from the planet.” His face showed his consternation. “I have too much to do on Earth to take any preemptive action against them again. Perhaps you could be my weapon against them.”
A light shone in Ar-Val’s eyes. The notion was very appealing. He could prove to himself and to the universe that he could be the hero he had envisioned himself as the New Superman to be. However, he could not be the New Superman now. He had lost all claim to that name. “I would take up that challenge, but I could not do it in my previous role, or in this outfit.” He looked down on the Superman costume he wore.
“I might just have a suggestion,” Superman said with a smile. “Come with me to one of the memorial rooms.”
Shortly, Superman and Ar-Val were in a room dedicated to a fallen hero. The figure at the center of the room was unknown to the Kandorian. “Who was this champion?”
“He was called Wonder-Man.” Superman pointed to the blond figure draped in a purple bodysuit with golden cape, boots, and trunks. A stylized golden W was emblazoned on his chest. “Once he was Ajax, one of my Superman robots. He was captured by the Revengers, and his robotic mind was put into this android shell. He became part of a Revenger scheme to destroy me, but he overcame their influence to defeat them, and save me as well. You two have a lot in common, and I’m not just talking about your looks. If you’re going to take on the Revenger Squad, I couldn’t think of any more appropriate way to do it than as Wonder-Man.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Wonder-Man, the New Hero of Metropolis,” Superman #163 (August, 1963).]
Ar-Val didn’t need to think about the suggestion. It all fit together perfectly. He would honor the memory of Ajax and strive to regain his own honor. “I shall be Wonder-Man.”
A few minutes later, Ar-Val was bedecked in a copy of the purple and gold of Wonder-Man. It felt right to him, more comfortable than the Superman suit had ever been. He stood with Superman in the open doorway of the Fortress and grasped the Man of Steel’s hand. “Thank you, Kal-El, for bringing me back to life and for giving me a chance to redeem my life. I won’t fail you.”
Superman shook Ar-Val’s hand. He could sense a new confidence in the Kandorian. “Rao’s blessings go with you.”
“Thank you.” Ar-Val took to the air and began accelerating past escape velocity. “Let the Revenge Squad beware!”
A few days later, a small convoy cruiser navigated its way through an asteroid field. This fleet was part of the exodus of the Superman Revenge Squad from Maggon. That world’s use as a base had come to an end. Their destination planet was meant to be a new base of operations for the Superman Revenge Squad. In recent months, without the support of Maggon, their power had been decidedly reduced across the galaxies. Now, most of their attention was spent on staving off any incursions by the Cosmic Police.
Inside one of the ships, the pilot and the navigator were once again engaged in a heated discussion. There was not much else to do when on escort. If they did not argue, they would simply watch their scanners for the unlikely entry of the Cosmic Police into the Squad’s space lane.
“And I’m telling you that we ought to be doing something,” the green-skinned reptilian pilot exclaimed.
“What are we going to do, Skorva?” the yellow-skinned ape-like navigator replied. “We barely have enough strength to fight off any Cosmic Police Patrols. Maggon was our armory, and most of the weaponry there was salvaged to free the planet. It’s not like we’re able to launch another full-scale strategy on the enemy.”
“To Qward with the Cosmic Police! Our whole existence is based on destroying the enemy that has stopped us from looting the universe, Zim,” Skorva hissed.
“It’s not like Superman’s been seen in this part of the galaxy in the last few years,” Zim countered. “Once he put up the amnesium field, he figured us few freelance agents weren’t a menace anymore.”
Before their discussion could continue, an alarm bulb illuminated on the ship’s control board. Skorva looked out the viewport to the wide field of stars beyond. Suddenly, he saw something approaching them at tremendous speed. “Look! Out in the stars!” He pointed at the viewport.
Zim pressed his hairy face against the glass. Its configuration looked like it might be organic. “Is it an space bird?”
Skorva shook his head. He checked the scanners. It was moving too fast to be a space bird. “Is it a star craft?”
The object came into clear view now. It was a humanoid male. He wore a purple bodysuit with yellow gloves and cape. A yellow belt was strapped around his waist. A large W was emblazoned on his chest. He had blond hair and a wide smile plastered on his face.
“No, it’s Wonder-Man!” Skorva and Zim said as they looked at each other.
“Superman Revenge Squad!” Wonder-Man said, speaking via ultra-wave so that the Revengers could hear him inside of their ship. “You made Wonder-Man to be your instrument of revenge upon Superman. Now I’m his instrument of revenge upon you.”
Zim opened a channel to the other ships. “Open fire!”
Immediately, the plasma blasters on each of the Revenger ships began to blast away at Wonder-Man. However, when the energy beams reached his position, Wonder-Man was no longer there.
The collision of the plasma streams was now playing havoc with the Revengers’ sensor systems. They could no longer detect Wonder-Man.
“We disintegrated him!” Zim proclaimed triumphantly.
“Not quite,” came an ultra-wave broadcast that reverberated through each of the ships. Suddenly, the engines of one Revenger ship were disabled by a massive blast of heat-vision.
Some of the ships began to panic and blasted off into space. Others continued to fire ineffectually at Wonder-Man. The plasma bursts bounced harmlessly off of his body.
Skorva could quickly tell that this battle would not go the Squad’s way. “We’re dead space ducks out here.”
“Not if we get out of here first.” Zim took the controls and pointed the ship to speed away from the convoy. “Let’s hope Wonder-Man will keep busy battling the others.”
Wonder-Man was fighting his way through the plasma barrage to disable ship after ship. His heat-vision was constantly lancing out, while his super-strength was literally tearing ships apart. As Zim and Skorva’s ship began to fly away, Wonder-Man caught sight of them and flew off in pursuit. He left the other ships behind, as they had all been incapacitated.
“Go to hyper-speed!” Skorva implored. He checked the tactical readout. “He’s gaining.”
“I haven’t gotten the hyper-engines online yet,” Zim shouted angrily. “Try to slow him down.”
Skorva’s hands danced across the weapons controls, and a fusillade of space torpedoes roared out of the aft torpedo bays. The torpedoes created massive explosions, but Wonder-Man flew right through.
One of the Revenger ships, carrying unstable hyperium ion ore, erupted in a violent explosion. It blanketed the area with a cascade of high-energy waves. The ionic energy detonated all of the spaceships that Wonder-Man had disabled. Wonder-Man looked back momentarily to see all of the carnage behind him. He increased his speed to make sure the waves did not catch him, and he closed in on Zim and Skorva’s ship.
“No good,” Skorva cried.
“Almost ready.” Zim waited impatiently for the green light to illuminate that would tell him that the hyper-engines were online. “Almost…”
The control board began flashing red. The hyper-engines were down, completely down. “Frax!” Zim moaned. He turned at the sound of crunching metal behind him. Wonder-Man had torn through the bulkhead. Automatic environmental systems had already generated a small force-field to temporarily plug the whole.
“No escape for you Revengers, but at least you’re better off than your comrades who were destroyed,” Wonder-Man remarked.
“But how can you be back?” Zim asked in surprise. “We built you to fail.”
Wonder-Man smiled. “That’s my secret.” A quick blast of super-breath scattered the pistols that the Revengers were trying to draw. “Now, you two are going to Kronis.”