Sunday, January 4, 2009

Justice League of America #96 (February, 1972)

"Space-Mariners speak in soft, guarded whispers when the starwinds cease to blow, for it is a portentous sign of storms at hand, screaming in violent fury! But... on this day the winds suddenly stop! And then... the starwinds stir and swirl, ominously building, bellowing into a cosmic hurricane! -- THIS IS A DAY OF HOLOCAUST! A DAY OF DREAD, A DAY OF DEATH-- 'THE COMING OF-- STARBREAKER!'"

In the two previous issues, the Flash Barry Allen, Hawkman and Green Lantern Hal Jordan had vanished while teleporting to the JLA satellite. Green Lantern had managed to call on Superman for help with his Power Ring, and now the Man of Steel was making his way toward the planet Rann. There he found the trio of star-lost heroes at the mercy of giant mechanical insects powerful enough to withstand direct action from the mighty Kryptonian. "Huh-- not even a dent-- and my hands... hurting?!" Superman determined that his X-Ray Vision mucked with command transmissions being sent to the ant-like monstrocities, and confused them into turning "their jet-streams on each other! --Turning to molten metal--" The bugs exploded in an atomic blast contained by Green Lantern.

The recovering Hawkman explained to Superman that Black Canary's having made routine maneuvering of their satellite had unintentionally crossed its teleportation ray with an incoming Zeta-Beam, which periodically links Earth to the planet Rann. Green Lantern continued, noting that the trio had found Rann threatened by the villainous Starbreaker. The Guardians of the Universe had information about this evildoer invested in their Power Rings...

"Starbreaker is unique among galactic humans! He has the ability to absorb enormous amounts of energy into his body-- and release it at will! From time to time, he dispatches 'Mechanix' to tap the energies of solar system planets... by causing them to hurtle into their suns... The crashing of planet-into-sun releases waves of tremendous energy... picked up by Starbreaker's stand-by spaceships, and thence relayed into his own body! In due time, Starbreaker discovered that the greatest of energies were contained in the minds and emotions of intelligent beings... energies heightened tenfold in the face of solar death! Thus, this living battery constantly seeks out populated planets for his prey! Without compunction, Starbreaker auctions off his ruthlessly gained power to the highest bidder! Though one of the most wanted men in the galaxy, he has defied capture-- even by the Green Lantern Corps!"

The "Cosmic Vampire" intended to devour the world of Rann, like some curious cross between Dracula and Galactus. Flash bemoaned that no one had been able to "find a weakness to drive home a silencing silver spike!" The four Leaguers split into pairs to fend off another couple groups of the Mechanix insects that were preparing Rann's demise. This did not go unnoticed by Starbreaker: "Though I come from the outer limits of space, even I have heard tales of the legendary Superman! Now I find he had a hand in destroying two of my planet-moving deputies! To avoid a repetition of this, I shall personally protect the others-- with energy-duplicates of myself at the two remaining sites! This will necessitate the utilization of a great deal of energy, especially in my specialized offspring who will deal with Superman! But to rid myself of the Kryptonian-- along with a Green Lantern as bonus, is a fine investment! --A very fine investment indeed!"

Disgruntled citizens of Rann had created an experimental new city-state named Narzam, but had to abandon it to the Mechanix. Ever the science geek, Flash Barry Allen felt compelled to gather "valuable inventions and priceless instruments" caught in their wake, "hopefully to be used another day!" Hal Jordan meanwhile fretted over his recent absence from the Justice League during his trip with Green Arrow in "search of America," Barry's having gotten married in the meantime, and his diminished status amongst the Green Lantern Corps in the face of his new found doubts. Jordan capped the antennae of the Mechanix, only to have his Power Ring constructs shattered by a Starbreaker. "My power is of a hundred suns, Green Lantern! Your ring is weaker than most of your corps-- and I can best them at will! To survive, you must surrender--"

The Flash briefly spun Starbreaker "like a top," but the villain recovered, and forced the duo back. Green Lantern determined this Starbreaker was a copy by his limited powers, and that it required concentration like his own to command its power. Jordan tricked Starbreaker by "jiving" him, telling the "Star-Baby" his masters "get their jollies cuttin' off my power every now an' then!" GL pretended to turn over his Power Ring, but instead KO'd Starbreaker with an energy fist. Flash tied up Starbreaker, and dismissed Jordan's previous concerns about their partnership. "Hey, Hal-- c'mon! You always were the moody type! Only you could worry about something as irrelevant as that!"

A Mechanix rolled through a wall of the holy city of Abdukara, curled up like a pill-bug. From above, Hawkman was offended by this sacrilege. "For this winged one knows deeply the past of many worlds, rooting himself in their treasures-- richness which he will ferociously fight to preserve..." The Winged Wonder cleverly wrapped his anti-grav belt around the artificial insect's leg, flipping it over so that he could skewer it with an ancient diamond-tipped spear he had found.

Elsewhere, Superman launched a Heat Vision-enabled precision strike against the final Mechanix, to prevent it from detonating another A-Blast. Struck from behind, the Strange Visitor from Another World was told, "Though you defeat my machines, Superman, you are no match for Starbreaker! I alone have solved the mystery of linking science and magic! Today my power is that of star-suns... tomorrow it will be that of galaxies!" Hawkman again protested, but was left with his wings and belt torn from his body, falling to certain death. "Think, Hawkman-- think! In your moment of peril, you will energize my battery of power!" Superman rescued his cohort, but demanded "That mind-sucking monster must be stopped! But even thinking of solutions works against me!" As had Flash and GL, Superman distracted Starbreaker long enough to simplistically beat him into submission. "While I gather up your feathered wings, Hawkman-- blindfold, deafen and gag Starbreaker so he can't use his magical science when he comes to!"

The four reunited heroes congratulated one another, and were applauded by the people of Rann. The earthman Adam Strange, Rann's usual defender, had also arrived on a follow-up Zeta-Beam. That was shortly before the effects of the first Zeta-Beam wore off, returning three of the super-heroes home. Superman watched as the faux Starbreakers vanished back to their template's lair, where he slapped and reabsorbed them. "It's intolerable that I was beaten! Compared to Starbreaker, the Justice Leaguers are infants-- physically and mentally! To have been outwitted by such insignificant beings galls me! Almost as bad, I expended a great deal of salable energy! The situation is this-- the Justice League has returned to Earth-- Superman will rejoin them! Shortly thereafter, I will follow-- with the raging power of a super-nova, contained in one body! Yes-- I will restore my lost energy-- at Earth's expense! Beware, Justice League! Beware Earth! Your hours are numbered!"

Written by Mike Friedrich. Illustrated by Dick Dillin and Joe Ciella. Edited by Julie Schwartz.

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