Sunday, April 6, 2008

The First Book of Despero

Blank-eyed heroes sat at their meeting room table, surrounding the standing chairperson of the proceedings. As their judge thumped a gavel, his decree was made. "Members of the Justice League of America, you are gathered here to deal with the menace of Despero! But I--Despero himself--am taking over! Since I have defeated you all, I now declare this meeting adjourned... forever!"

Their involvement began earlier, when Barry Allen’s car lost all power while travelling a lonely country road. The Flash made his way to a farmhouse, where he was surprised to spy a green-haired alien girl and her elderly father. She feared he was one of Despero’s hunters, but father explained, "No, Saranna! He’s an earth-being! I can read his thoughts!" Saranna enlisted Flash’s assistance by describing the circumstances of their presence on his planet.

"We come from a dimensional world called Kalanor! There a three-eyed tyrant called Despero--has seized control and made slaves of our people! Some days ago my father--Jasonar--and I fled from Kalanor in a dimensional traveler, hoping to find asylum on Earth where we could perfect an anti-weapon... Then Despero’s super-energy weapons would be useless---as was your four-wheeled vehicle---and our people will be able to overthrow the tyrant!" Jasonar continued, "Even now he’s searching for us! If he finds us, he’ll drag us back to Kalanor and our people will never be free!"

Flash sent a call out to the Justice League, but upon arriving was faced with the grim scene previously described. "Come in, Flash! I, Despero of Kalanor---have been expecting you! Don’t bother to look to your friends for help or information, Flash! Only I can release them from this trance, which is why you won’t dare attack me!" Despero kidnapped Saranna and then launched his surprise attack via teleport beam. "...My mystic mental powers overwhelmed all the members but you, Flash! You are still protected by that blue glow you absorbed," radiation from Jasonar’s lab. "Being a sportsman, I have decided to play a simple game with you! Win---and I will release your fellow JLA members and go back to Kalanor, freeing Saranna and giving up my pursuit of her father and his anti-weapon device!" Despero then described a game that bore a passing resemblance to poker and chess, with each Leaguer represented by a game piece. As explained, the odds were overwhelmingly in Flash's favor. "If you place your piece on a single disaster square, your fellow member will be teleported instantly into a dimensional world---from which I’ll make sure he can never return!"

Flash agreed to play, only to lose piece after piece to his shock and horror. With his entire team wiped out, Flash was led to a rocket ship to be sent off world, as the rads that protected him from Despero’s mind-control also prevented him from being teleported. One thing they didn’t guard against was sensory manipulation. "Flash didn’t realize my third eye was causing a change in the number of every card he chose---blanking out the right number and causing the disaster square number to appear!"

Despero continued his pursuit of Jasonar, but was distracted by Snapper Carr. "Rash youth! Do you think you can match mental powers with Despero?" The League mascot pretended to be effected by Despero’s telepathy, though actually protected through exposure to Jasonar’s equipment. "Now to punish you for defying me, Jasonar..." With his back turned, Despero didn’t catch Snapper reaching for Jasonar’s energy-absorbing machine, which was turned against his very person! "I saw how you worked this gizmo before! I’ll leave Despero just enough energy, like to barely stay alive..." An ignominious end to the inaugural appearance of what would become Martian Manhunter’s greatest foe. Moments after the League’s return to Earth, Jasonar departed for Kalanor to reunite with his daughter, the helpless Despero and his anti-energy weapon in tow.

“The World of No Return!” was written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Mike Sekowsky with Bernard Sachs.

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