On the JLA Satellite, Wonder Woman smashed her fist against the table. “By Aphrodite’s girdle, I long for action! How can we sit idly by while this Aquarius threatens to destroy all of Earth?” demanded Nubia.
“That’s not your call to make,” said Hawkman. “We’ll be making things worse if we rush in blindly. The Black Canary says STAR Labs’ best minds are on it. When they give the word, we’ll go after him. Not until then!”
“Truly, patience in a time of crisis is a virtue even an android has trouble emulating,” admitted the Red Tornado.
Zatanna patted his arm. “It’s because you care so much, Reddy. That’s why we love you!”
“Great Neptune!” cried Aquaman. “The tracking device indicates that Superman is locked in an all-out battle with Starman!”
The Flash frowned. “Starman? He’s on our side! Ralph was singing his praises just the other day!”
“So do I,” said Wonder Woman. “He is a valiant and proven ally. I would stake much on his character.”
Firestorm shrugged. “He’s just another Johnny-come-lately type. You can’t trust ’em!”
“Well, we can’t all have your years of heroic service to fall back on!” joked Aquaman.
Superman had taken off at top speed after Starman as he tried to shake off the stunning attack. Starman is a hero according to Captain Comet, and his word is enough for me, mused the Man of Steel. Yet he acted as if he was under some spell, and he spoke in an artificially stilted manner. His passion for Lois makes me wonder if I don’t have an idea what’s gong on here. I think it could be serious as well.
He soon caught up with Starman, who was on a mountain peak in Colorado, embracing Lois Lane, who struggled helplessly in his arms.
“Starman, I don’t love you!” cried Lois. “I’ve never even met you before today. You’ve been more free with your hands than my college boyfriend. Now stop it!” she snapped as he caressed her.
“You are my soul-mate!” he pleaded. “Come, accept that fact!”
Superman landed abruptly. “Get your hands off her. The lady is not interested.”
Starman frowned, and his eyes turned red. “Perhaps we should settle this once and for all!” said a voice unlike Will Payton’s normal tone.
“Starseed!” said Superman, recognizing his voice. “You are the living star fragment that once fought me over Lois. You fell for her when you achieved sentience!” He ducked a punch thrown by the dominated Starman.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Star Who Loved Lois Lane,” Superman Family #189 (May-June, 1978).]
“That was the name I gave,” shouted the Starseed. “I have returned of late, and through this human I have learned more of love and valor and mortality. I would not live alone. I must have my mate!”
Lois shouted back, “Please, just free Starman and let us talk this out!”
“Talk is of no value!” said the Starseed as he generated red solar energy once more.
Superman lost his powers under such concentrated rays, and he fought bravely but to no avail. “Starman — Will! Fight this thing,” he shouted. “The entire planet is threatened while we waste precious time. Aquarius — remember Aquarius!”
Starman trembled, and his eyes cleared. “Superman! Miss Lane!” gasped Will Payton. “That thing… it’s been in me for who knows how long! I’m so sorry!” He frowned grimly. “I’ll make amends. I’ll prove my humanity or die trying!”
He streaked skyward and burst into space while Superman fought to shake off the red sun radiation.
Got to follow him! thought Superman. He’s desperate to redeem himself because of that Starseed. I can only guess it took control when Starman absorbed more pure stellar energy from Aquarius. Canary said he did so back in Star City.
Starman was full of confused emotions as he reached the sun. Having transformed himself into pure stellar energy, he reached the huge star in seconds.
I’ve been questioning how I could develop new powers so recently. Now I know, he mused. That living Starseed thing took me over, maybe when I re-formed after the battle against Moxumbra. (*) It’s been dormant until now — watching, waiting, learning about humanity from me. But when Aquarius came near and I drew away his poison from Canary, the Seed began to grow in power. Took me over completely and carried off Lois Lane. Superman must think I’m a total creep!
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: A Cosmos Imperiled.]
The now-luminous Aquarius was laughing madly. “I shed my Larry Lance form. Burned his corpse to ash. Now I shall drink in the sun’s fire and grow all-powerful as Earth dies!”
Starman charged him. “Not as long as I live to stop you — or die, for that matter!”
Aquarius laughed. “Little star, I can destroy you and feed at the same time!”
They grappled furiously in the heat of the sun.
Around the globe, futuristic equipment tracked the battle. Hawkman and the Justice League of America watched in concern from the confines of the JLA Satellite.
In Los Angeles, Green Lantern and the other members of the Green Lantern Corps were reunited for the first time in weeks as they tried to keep the panicked crowds calm even as they glanced upward to the skies, unable to assist in the struggle. Despite their considerable might, they remained completely impotent against this peril thanks to the yellow solar discharges affecting their power rings.
In their own headquarters in Gotham City, New York City, and Vumania, respectively, the Outsiders, the New Titans, and the Forgotten Heroes watched as well.
Captain Comet worried as they fought above. If only I had completed the sapper sooner, he fretted. Will could save himself so much effort if the machine was draining Aquarius instead of his own powers.
Dolphin watched with worry and something more. She still loved Will, though she had turned to Captain Comet when he had departed in such haste.
“Starman is one of the best men I’ve met,” said Hawkman. “His courage deserves our respect.”
“The STAR device is not complete,” said Red Tornado. “I fear this battle must be his alone!”
In space, Superman tried to draw nearer. Great Rao! he thought. Just as the yellow discharges keep the Green Lanterns away, so do the red ones stop me from doing my part!
Starman fell as Aquarius drew larger. “I feed on your essence!” cried the living star.
Then Starman had an idea, and his thoughts raced. Got to go all out — for Dolphin, Mom, Jayne, all my friends, he thought. I’ll explode like when I fought Moxumbra — one burst of pure stellar fire to purge Aquarius from the sun. All I can do is try!
He gave one final blow and erupted into light. No man can do more than give his life for another! he thought.
After that glow, all was still. The sun looked normal, and light and heat had returned to Earth in the absence of the draining power of Aquarius.
“Adam, he did it! But he’s gone!” sobbed Dolphin.
Firestorm thought, Professor, I was a jerk. Starman proved himself a hero in the highest sense of the word. I mean, Supes and G.L. couldn’t get close — none of us could!
“Brave young man!” said Aquaman.
Zatanna gasped, “Look! Is that him?”
A humanoid figure re-formed in space. It was indeed Starman.
Cheers echoed within the various heroic bases around the world and in space.
“He’s alive!” said an excited Captain Comet as he hugged Dolphin, who wept openly and with joy.
Superman clasped Starman’s hand as they descended. “You saved Earth,” said the Man of Steel. “How’d you do it?” he asked.
“I thought I was going to just surrender all my energy to burn Aquarius away,” explained Starman. “Try to take over his stellar composition like the Starseed took me, but at the last second, something changed! The Seed — it responded to my thoughts, to my desire to make a difference. It sacrificed itself in my place! I’d say it proved its humanity and love for others in the end, too.”
Superman nodded. “Love makes a hero out of the strangest beings. The Starseed was no different from any of us at that last moment. He gave his life for Lois and Earth.”
Starman smiled. “I owe her a big apology, and you as well.”
Superman grinned openly. “I’d say we can just deduct it from the debt all of us owe you, pal!”