Friday, March 20, 2009

DC Comics Presents #43 (March, 1982)



In the future, a band of youths will become a galaxy-spanning legend! Now... Superman and The Legion of Super-Heroes"

From the Daily Planet offices, Clark Kent used his telescopic vision to view space, and what he saw mortified him. Unable to explain his unease to Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, Clark excused himself to become Superman and investigate. The Man of Steel was terrified at the prospect of a monstrosity approaching our solar system far beyond even his ability to handle-- a Sun-Eater! Recalling his days as Superboy, Kal-El's first experience with a Sun-Eater took place in the 30th Century, when his fellow Legionnaire Ferro Lad sacrificed his life to end the threat with an Anti-Energy Bomb. Today, a bolt of red solar rays flew from the Sun-Eater as it devoured a world, flinging the Man of Tomorrow like a rag doll down toward the moon. Still shaken by his exposure, the last thing Big Blue wanted to hear was "Your timing is impressive, Superman!"

Our hero thought, "Oh no-- it can't be! Not now! MONGUL!"
"I am truly pleased at the tenor of your thoughts, Kryptonian. My telepathic abilities are limited, but they should prove ample. It will not take a great deal of ability to sense your pain as Earth dies. HA HA HA HA Do you see the beauty of my revenge, Superman? Twice you have interfered with my plans-- an insufferable act. To make you pay for it, I shall use this creature-- this Sun-Eater-- to destroy you and your world. No lesser punishment would do."

Superman thought, "You're as much a monster as it is, Mongul!"
"Monster? Not I, Superman... merely a conqueror using a weapon. And what a perfect weapon it is! When I found it on the outer reaches of the universe, I knew the Sun-Eater would fulfill my ambitions. I destroyed the one who had charge of it... and took it! Despite you, Superman, I shall rule... rule over all!"



As noted by editor Julie Schwartz, that deceased "one" was a Controller, "one of a superior race from another universe." Despite this, Superman was yet prepared to tackle Mongul for a third time. "Perhaps on your tiny world, Kryptonian-- not on mine!" In a nifty transition, a close-up of Mongul's fist shaken at Superman becomes the Man of Steel sitting in the palm of his hand, within a Cube-Trap. "Oh no-- before I could even move at super-speed he's surrounded me by one of those crazy cubes!" Mongul then dropped the Cube of Steel into the moon's dirt. "The phrase is trapped you, Superman! Farewell."

Lois and Jimmy observed all of this from a scientific observatory telescope, including the Sun-Eater, and Lane was already writing Superman off. Though Jimmy thought his pal could break out of the cube, Lois argued that "He couldn't break into it to save us when Mongul caught us in the cube! If Mongul now has the power to shrink Superman and trap him in that...?" Lois headed out to line up her story and super-help, while Jimmy remained to consider the possibilities. Olsen knew Supergirl had helped against Mongul in the past, and "maybe even the Justice League... No point kidding yourself... There's no one alive who stands a chance against Mongul and that planet-eating monster! If Superman can be defeated by them so easily, the Justice League wouldn't last ten minutes." Just then , Jimmy remembered his honorary membership in the Legion of Super-Heroes, complete with a ring that could signal the team, even in the year 2981. "They've got a couple of members in Superman's class-- Mon-El, Ultra Boy-- and a squad of them could take out the whole JLA before breakfast."



In the far future, the Legion debated the need to intercede in a past event when their very existence confirmed the Earth wasn't destroyed in 1981. Fearing an alternate timeline emerging, Brainiac 5 persuaded a team consisting of Wildfire, Cosmic Boy, Sun Boy, Element Lad, and Shadow Lass to go back in time.

On the moon, perched upon a large flying disc, Mongul had already beaten Black Canary and Red Tornado, though Supergirl and Green Lantern Hal Jordan still stood against him. "HA HA HA You did not truly think your powers would be sufficient to defeat me, did you, humans? Not one of you is the equal of Superman-- and he is helpless before me!" Supergirl believed in the power of teamwork, while Jordan ringed-up a Power-Beam Shield, but "Bah! The temerity of your insolence in awesome!" Mongul's fist shattered the shield and swept across the Maid of Might and Emerald Gladiator. Inexplicably, the four member heroic team recovered in unison, but "Enough of you all... I have the power of the Sun-Eater, here in my hands! The power to make you die!" Mongul fired energy beams from his fists at the Sun-Eater, which reflected and intensified to strike out the Justice League.

Meanwhile... "No use-- no matter how hard I try, I can't even affect the cube! I don't know what it's made of, but it's Superman-proof. I never thought I'd have to sit on the sidelines watching Earth get murdered!" Just then the Legion of Super-Heroes appeared from a Time Bubble, "Because you needed us, Superman... Because we love you, and your world!" Brainiac 5 determined the cube-trap's nature, and that its probable fuel was red-solar power, "which would explain your progressive weakness." Though Superman's heat vision could shatter the cube at full size, in his diminutive form it was worthless. However, Sun Boy was good for heat, as "the fire of stars burns for an instant." The cube shattered, and Superman returned to his normal size. When asked how he so quickly doped out the cube's nature, Brainy explained "Basic research-- I experimented with it as a potential alternative to my shield. It was much too unstable, though." Superman couldn't thank the cavalry enough for coming.



"Touching, Superman... extremely touching. My knowledge of your primitive tongue is limited, Superman. You must elucidate for me-- did the 'cavalry' usually come charging to their doom? I have no concept of who you fools are, but you may flee now if you have enough wisdom! It is only the Kryptonian who needs feel my wrath! I wish him to watch as his adopted planet dies-- and then to feel death's touch himself!" The Man of Steel refused the Legion's help as he set against Mongul one-on-one. Superman landed the first punch, but Mongul's was a crushing blow to Kal-El's spine. "Superman, you have never beaten me in battle! Why try again? Can it be that you enjoy pain?!" Another thrust destroyed the Legion's time bubble, and after Superman scored a painful sock that threw Mongul's head back, the Legionnaires retaliated. "You stand by the Kryptonian-- now you will die by him as well!"

After slapping the Legionnaires about, Mongul's uniform was shredded by Wildfire's energy blasts. "Whatever that force is, human-- it burns! But it cannot stop me!" Element Lad stated, "Wildfire's power is anti-energy, Mongul. But now try mine-- transmutation! Feel the molecules around you change-- into inertron-- the hardest substance on-- H-he broke through like it was p-paper!" Mongul swung again at the Legion. "Of course, you fools! Did you truly think to hold Mongul in mere metal-- no matter how strong?"



As the Sun-Eater headed straight for Earth's own solar center, Superman cried "NO-OOO!" Smoke wafted from Mongul's chest console, and he chastised "See what your foolish resistance has done! You have ensured the destruction of Earth! The devices I had built to control the Sun-Eater were concealed on my person-- and now they are destroyed! I shall rebuild them-- regain control of the creature-- but first, it will devour the nearest star-sun-- YOURS!" Element Lad announced his team must deal with this greater threat, even as Shadow Lass protested, "But what about Mongul? He'll kill Superman!"

"So, your allies desert you, Superman. A shame. I had hoped for an audience for your demise." Brainiac 5 had figured out how to destroy the Sun-Eater through teamwork, though Wildfire erupting into pure anti-energy at its core was the deal maker. The explosion thrust Mongul and Superman across the moon's floor, before leaving their backsides on it with a thump. Both combatants then struggled to their feet, though Mongul looked the least steady by far. "I... I grow tired of this game, Superman! Whether that shock was the beginning of your star's death-- or my creature's end-- I would have you die at my hand now." The Man of Steel wasn't having that. "I chased you half across the universe, Mongul... watched you laugh as you planned murder... stopped you again and again... How stupid can you be if you think I'm going to let you get away now! You're big, Mongul-- and very tough. But that's my second home up in the sky-- and I'm not letting it go the way of my first one!"



Superman angrily pushed Mongul to the ground, and punched him in the head for several panels. "You might be stronger than I am, Mongul-- but in my time on Earth I've learned that doesn't matter much. Not when you're fighting for something you believe in-- and, Mongul-- I am! You're death, Mongul-- death incarnate-- and you can't have Earth!" Mongul lay unconscious on the ground, while Superman collapsed on his belly at the beast's side. "Not now... Not ever..."

The Kryptonian awoke to find himself cradled by Shadow Lass, while Element Lad built a cage for the still napping Mongul that would "hopefully" be strong enough to hold him until permanent arrangements could be made. Superman teared-up in the belief Wildfire had sacrificed himself like Ferro Lad, until the Legionnaires reminded him Wildfire had no actual body, and simply burned through his containment suit. Everyone, even the fragmented energy residue of Wildfire, had a hearty "closing credits freeze frame" laugh.

"In Final Battle" was by Paul Levitz, Curt Swan and Dave Hunt

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