by D.J. LoTempio
Here we wait
Long ago, the Universe was wisely governed by a race of male aliens named the Guardians of Oa. Aloof, distant, and omnipotent, these Guardians were strict but fair stewards of all life, using their Green Lantern Corps as a star-spanning police force. Their female counterparts, the Zamorans, were formidable amazons uninterested in the patriarchal dogma of the Guardians. Both races were powerful and, for all intents, immortal, but they were wise enough to know that their time was finite. They mated and begat a select race of beings chosen to be their successors as guardians of the universe. Once their breeding was done, the Zamorans left the Chosen with the Guardians, who would teach and care for them. But the Guardians and Zamorans learned that order is not the natural state of the universe, and their plans were ruined.
The Guardians were murdered by a traitor - Hal Jordan, once the greatest of all Green Lanterns. Oa was destroyed. Their laws quickly retreated from the civilized universe. Their Chosen disappeared. Sentient beings were left with only their frail wisdom to guide themselves.
The Chosen were not the only children of the space-gods, though. Darthartheen, an orphaned daughter of Oan and Zamoran parents, has appeared in the spaceways. She leads T:D:H:D, a mad sector of space against the universe, devouring whole planets and stars on her quest to assume the mantle of the Guardians. At her left hand is a renegade named Malvolio, the son of a Green Lantern, deformed by greed for the power of the Guardians. The might of the civilized planets seems insufficient to stop their awful quest.
The Zamorans have returned from their sabbatical to thwart these plans. They seek their Chosen children, but their search is fraught with peril. Malvolio stalks the Zamorans, killing them one by one, until three are left with only a riddle to lead them to their Chosen.
All was not lost, though. The surviving Zamorans reach the planet Rann and encounter Adam Strange, an Earthman who is a cosmic castaway. Adam enlists the aid of the Justice League whose number includes Kyle Rayner, the last remaining Green Lantern. Their mission - find the Chosen who are hidden somewhere in the universe; unearth the history surrounding Malvolio the evil Lantern; unravel the legacy of the Guardians; and defeat the mad goddess, Darthartheen
At stake - the stewardship of the universe!
The Concept - Wild Kingdom meets Greek myth and the JLA.
Story: - 3 part mini-series
The story plays out the oldest story in the universe - the struggle to thrive. Two sets of uber-children compete for survival; similar to Greek Myth in which the Children of the Titans are devoured by Chronos before they can become the Greek Pantheon. Darthartheen wants to devour her siblings so that she can suck unrivalled upon the teat of the Guardians. In this case, the teat is the Central Battery. Unfortunately, the death of her Guardian father has left her unbalanced. She believes that she deserves the power of the Guardians by virtue of her pain and grief. But such emotions never generate beneficial wisdom and she embarks on a rampage. She is dead inside and is willing to take the universe down with her; hence her use of the malignant universe, T:D:H:D.
MYSTERY IN SPACE #1:
Story begins at the opening of the Transpacial Xeno-ethics Conference at Rann. Recently, several planets and intergalactic races had joined together to form a federation called the United Planets (see Starman #52-53). Representatives from the member races are meeting on Rann to discuss ethical issues that will influence United Planets Law. For example, they will discuss the ethics of developing resources on a planet without a highly evolved race to speak for itself. In the past, the Guardians of Oa and their Green Lanterns often influenced such considerations and their absence requires that the fledgling federation create acceptable parameters for conduct. Adam Strange, planetary protector of Rann, instigated the event with his father-in-law, Sardath, being the host and moderator. Several former Green Lanterns are in attendance representing their races. Members of L.E.G.I.O.N. are also present.
The proceedings are interrupted by the appearance of Darthartheen and Malvolio, who claim to have inherited the authority of the Guardians and their Corps. Darthartheen explains that her heritage, pedigree and power predispose her to charting the map of justice in the universe; she pledges to create a risk-free universe. The Conference interprets her vision as totalitarian, and dismisses her; they prefer to move out from under the shadow of the Guardians. She promises to return tomorrow with a proposal that is sure to change their minds. During the night, three Zamorans visit Adam Strange and warn him about Darthartheen and Malvolio. They provide a brief run down on the history of the Guardians and Zamorans. They want his help finding their Chosen. Strange tells them that he can't leave Rann if Darthartheen represents such danger. He asks the Zamorans why they didn't directly enlist Kyle Rayner, Green Lantern. They were unaware that any Green Lanterns still existed.
Darthartheen returns with T:D:H:D and unleashes gravimetric havoc upon Rann - tectonic plates shift, etc. Malvolio attacks the Conference by destroying Rann's Translator Office, a centralized service that allows the different races to understand each other. Strange and the Rannian army are able to drive him off but he captures another of the Zamorans. Darthartheen tells the Conference to discuss who truly deserves the spaceways with their leaders. Strange decides to take the remaining Zamorans to Earth, away from danger, and to recruit the Justice League. L.E.G.I.O.N. pledges to try and protect the United Planets from T:D:H:D.
Adam Strange takes the Zamorans to the JLA Watchtower, after a brief Earth orientation, where they explain their situation to the heroes. It becomes clear to the combined JLA membership that they have some investment in the crisis: Adam Strange is a friend and ally in need; the legacy of the Guardians is important to Green Lantern; and some members would like to clear up the suspicions surrounding Malvolio and Hal Jordan.
The story divides into two fronts: The quest for the Chosen and the struggle against T:D:H:D.
The Zamorans, Batman, Flash and Wonder Woman try to solve the riddle of the Guardians, while the rest of the JLA and Adam Strange try to protect Rann from Darthartheen and the Mad Sector. The Zamorans are defensive with Batman trying to help solve the riddle, and insist that he and his allies should concentrate on defeating Malvolio.
Zamoran #1: I find it presumptuous that you [Batman] expect to decipher the clues left by the Guardians. They are an Omega-level civilization; the act of creation was less than a mystery to them.
Batman: There WERE an Omega-level civilization. And one that left a riddle written in the English language, meaning that they hoped someone from Earth could interpret it. Besides, are you really bothered by me trying to understand this riddle or is it that I'm not bent on my knees in your presence?
The issue ends with T:D:H:D incinerating Adam Strange and the JLA Team 1 in a red sun.
MYSTERY IN SPACE #2:
Kyle Rayner uses his ring to protect his fellows from the red sun, but it still succeeds in weakening both the Martian Manhunter and Superman. Darthartheen and T:D:H:D press their offensive and hope to wither Rayner's defenses. Adam Strange posits that Kyle can use his ring to alter the incoming solar radiation to something more agreeable to Superman. The subsequent power boost enables Superman to destroy T:D:H:D's attacks with heightened heat vision. Darthartheen and T:D:H:D retreat and the JLA regroup.
In the meantime, the Zamorans and JLA Team 2 have found the remains of the Power Battery of Oa floating in space, lost after the destruction of Oa in GREEN LANTERN #0. The Zamorans are surprised to discover that the Chosen do not seem to be within it. Batman points out that it would have been negligent for the Guardians to leave their children abandoned in the Battery, particularly in its broken state. He posits that the riddle oath must contain more information about the location of the Chosen. The Zamorans use their magic to retrieve the pieces of the Battery and Flash assembles it.
Malvolio appears and disrupts their investigation. He has defiled the Zamoran left on Rann, stealing her secret thoughts to follow her sisters, and he discards her dying remains before the heroes. A battle erupts between the only space-worthy characters - Wonder Woman, the Zamorans and Malvolio. The villain has the upper hand though because he has an old link with the original power of the Guardians. Using this link, he accesses the Power Battery and uses its latent power to overpower the amazons, leaving Flash and Batman to tackle the mad Green Lantern. Malvolio approaches the hapless pair and Flash, following Batman's suggestion, uses his super-speed to spin the Power Battery, making it into a rapidly swinging, indestructible hammer. Wonder Woman uses her lasso on the unconscious villain to ascertain his link with Hal Jordan's corruption.
Adam Strange and JLA Team 1 make it to Rann and find the battered remains of the L.E.G.I.O.N. fleet. Their ships are unable to withstand the Mad Sector's assault, and reinforcements are unable to get through its distorted region of space. They realize that it will take much more than their brute force to defeat Darthartheen and T:D:H:D, and so they concoct a piece of subterfuge. The Guardians of the Universe have an emotional lock on both Darthartheen and T:D:H:D; she misses her disgraced Oan father and T:D:H:D fears the power of the Oans. Therefore, the Martian Manhunter masquerades as Darthartheen's Oan father, returned from the dead, with Superman and Adam Strange as recently deputized Green Lanterns. Kyle Rayner uses his ring to fabricate Lantern disguises for Superman and Strange. The Manhunter tells Darthartheen that she has disgraced his memory and she must tame her mad galaxy. Overcome with emotion, she complies with his request until Malvolio returns and disrupts the illusion.
The issue ends with Malvolio triumphantly corrupting the Zamorans, Wonder Woman, Batman and the Flash, with the Power Battery in tow.
MYSTERY IN SPACE #3:
Things look bleak for the JLA and Adam Strange, but like all good heroes they still have several tricks up their sleeves. It is revealed that Malvolio does indeed have a corrupting influence and has taken control of JLA Team 2. Adam Strange and Kyle Rayner combat Malvolio and his corrupted JLA while the Martian Manhunter and Superman confront Darthartheen and T:D:H:D.
Adam Strange knows that they will lose if their forces remain divided. He decides to manipulate the Zamarons into using their magic against Wonder Woman. Zamoran magic has neutralized Guardian energy in the past. Once free, Wonder Woman uses her lasso of truth to liberate the Flash and Batman.
Batman and Adam Strange quickly confer about recent events. Strange suggests that the Chosen don't live in the Battery but instead need it to incubate, in which case, they must be hidden elsewhere. Inspiration hits Batman and he guesses that the Chosen are hidden within the riddle oath. Wonder Woman battles Malvolio, Kyle Rayner and Flash tackle Darthartheen, and the Zamorans implant the riddle oath into the Central Battery.
Wonder Woman confronts Mavlvolio with what she learned about him, off panel, in the previous issue. He is indeed insane, but his problem is in part genetic; he suffers from in-breeding on his Earth-side. In essence, he has too much blue blood, a not-so-subtle joke that plays into the story's theme of descendents. He is a degenerate form. Malvolio and Wonder Woman play power beams and bracelets. Malvolio charges Wonder Woman, and Batman trips him. He raises his power ring to attack and discovers it gone, stolen by Batman. Wonder Woman notes that Malvolio is like an adolescent boy, hiding behind bluster and bullying. Bereft of his power ring, she is able to use her lasso to force Malvolio to confront his own inadequacies. He slumps in surrender.
Concurrently, the Flash and Green Lantern team are trying to stop Dartartheen from aborting the birth of the Chosen. Darthartheen has thousands of years practice with the Guardian power and quickly outmatches Kyle one-on-one. Flash attempts to mimic Batman and steals Darthartheen's ring but they discover that she only needs it to focus the power. Adam Strange attacks Darthartheen directly but he is too weak. Darthartheen throws off Strange, but the Chosen return in a shower of lotus petals (see below for explanation). Darthartheen attempts to maim the Chosen, as she has been maimed. They immediately see Darthartheen's pain and absorb the remaining power of the Guardains, except for Kyle's, rendering Darthartheen powerless.
Chosen (collectively) - "Why do you see the universe as selfish? As your circle of necessary control grows wider, your hold grows tighter, until the objects once loved are hated for their remaining shreds of independence, their perceived unwillingness to conform to the precise and impossible accommodations of your ever-changing wishes. There are other lessons to be learned, step-sister."
Superman refuses to allow Rann's destruction and valiantly struggles against the enormous power of T:D:H:D. Even though Superman and the Martian Manhunter are the strongest members of the JLA, their strength is nothing compared to the threat of T:D:H:D. Superman has Manhunter insert his consciousness within the Mad Sector. He begins to tell it stories, a ploy used by Sinestro and Darthartheen to rouse the entity in the past, but his stories focus on positive virtues. He is forced to draw on his experiences as Clark Kent, from the maudlin pleasures of Ma Kent's cookies to the passionate struggle of Helen Keller. He knows that while the universe is filled with the triumph of evil, it also contains the overcoming of it. In the end, he calms the Mad Sector by telling it the story of Anne Frank. T:D:H:D uses its power to create a gentle rain of lotus petals upon Rann.
Flash - Slow down, Superman. Are you saying that you tamed an insane galaxy, a veritable god, by telling it stories about truth, justice and the American Way.
Superman - Truth, beauty and hope. The only values worth living for. Never mess with a writer, Wally.
In the end, the Chosen explain that their time is still to come but they can evolve safely now that Darthartheen is taken care of. Kyle Rainer's ring will care on the Guardian's legacy until their ascension. The United Planets are left to decide their own destiny. The Chosen turn T:D:H:D into a galactic memorial for Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, one that will nurture and grow races that will form the basis for the Chosen's future aides. Malvolio becomes a prisoner of the United Planets and is sent to Takron-Galtos.
The JLA basks in its victory with Adam Strange, but Batman is perplexed by a final mystery - Who sent the puzzle riddle to the Zamorans. Story pulls back to reveal the remaining members of the Quintessence, the five entities who represent the patriarchal universe. Ganthet, the sole remaining Guardian, is shown weeping, whether in joy at the victory or sorrow knowing that the time of the Guardians is over is not known. To everything, there is a season.
The main antagonist is Darthartheen, the daughter of a Zamoran and Guardian (last seen in Ganthlet's Tale), who desires the inheritance of the Guardians: oversight of the universe. Unfortunately, she has been past over, because the Zamorans and Guardians have already breed their successors - the Chosen. Like Richard III, Darthartheen, a bastard and maimed child of royalty, is unhinged by her situation and conspires to eliminate all who stand before her birthright. She embarks on a scheme to kill the remaining Zamorans and the Chosen, future Guardians of the Universe. Darthartheen wants to kill The Zamorans before they can mid-wife the uber-children. She views her maimed hand, withered to the bone by entropy, as a symbol of her authority.
She enlists two entities to help her: Malvolio and T:D:H:D, the Mad Sector of 3600. Both entities have connections with the Guardians and bear their legacy ill will. Malvolio is her lieutenant and utilizes a broken power ring originally worn by Hal Jordan. Malvolio's duty is to find and kill the Zamorans and Chosen. In return, he will receive the Oan Power Battery, and will lead Darthartheen's twisted version of the Green Lantern Corps. He is a controversial character, both conceptually and in the fan community. In his first and only appearance, he attempted to manipulate Hal Jordan into freeing him from the mysterious prison crafted by another Green Lantern. His machinations involved destroying Jordans's Green Lantern ring and replacing it with his own stolen ring. Presumably, Malvolio was going to use the ring to free himself once Jordan had it outside the prison. Hal Jordan was wearing and using Malvolio's ring for months before his betrayal of the Guardians and Corps. Therefore, there has been some speculation that Malvolio's influence via his ring may have caused Jordan's corruption. The JLA is aware of this information and will be interested to ascertain its veracity. Appearances: Action Comics 632- 635.
Note: According to Christopher Priest, the creator of Malvolio, the insane villain did indeed hope to use Hal Jordan as his liberator. He acknowledges that Malvolio could have been a corrupting influence on Jordan. But hey, this is my story.
T:D:H:D, Sector of 3600, is an entire region of space that gained sentience and went crazy. Darthartheen utilizes the Mad Sector as her mobile base of operations/power source/attack vessel. It is a cancerous piece of reality that tunnels into other universes and plants its chaotic tendrils within healthy worlds. In the past, it took the full compliment of Guardians to corral this abysmal entity. T:D:H:D's only vulnerability is its will; it requires total confidence in its own supremacy. If that belief is undermined or won over, than it can be controlled. Darthartheen has roused it from sleep by telling it the story of Hal Jordan's treason, and cowed it by using her Oan pedigree and power as intimidation. Appearances: Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #1, Green Lantern Corps #219-220.
The Zamorans have returned to our universe with a mission to find and protect the Chosen from Darthartheen's scheme. They had hoped to retire from the universe and its worries but the machinations of their stepdaughter are unbalancing their legacy. The Guardians transmitted the location of the Chosen in code to their mates, but the code only reveal a series of puzzles. The Zamorans are unable to discern it, since it requires the perspective of three-dimensional beings.
The Puzzle Riddle:
Here we wait
The Zamorans are roused from their sequester by the arrival of a Puzzle Riddle sent by someone, presumably the Guardians. Most likely, the sender was Ganthet who has taken a non-interference attitude to the universe. The Puzzle Riddle has form and appearance, manifesting itself as a gem or four-colored textual words. It provides guidance about how to locate the Chosen, but it also IS the Chosen. The Guardians, possibly Ganthet, hid the Chosen in an English-based text where in the 32 syllables represent the four component chemicals of DNA: adenine, cytosine, thiamine and guanine. They are multi-dimensional beings compressed into three dimensions, which isn't so far-fetched if you consider that every human nucleus contains over a hundred million miles of DNA. The puzzle carved of English as an additional clue that Earth is birthplace of the new Guardians. The Puzzle Riddle needs to be placed within the Power Battery - a giant lantern - so that the Chosen can incubate in the Guardian energy.
The space-based nature of the events predisposes this story to the involvement of other characters. Why not have L.E.G.I.O.N. or the Omega Men or even the Blasters as the main protagonists? There are several reasons why the JLA could and should be involved, not least of which is their recognition factor, both in sales and attention. The JLA are big and bold, matching the threats encountered in this story. Second, they and Adam Strange joined forces initially in MYSTERY IN SPACE #75, so there is a precedent. Third, the administration of justice, whether by the Guardians, the Chosen or Darthartheen, is a significant theme in the story. Finally, the JLA become involved for one more reason - Green Lantern is ill prepared to solve riddles left by Omega-level beings and Adam Strange can not defeat mad galaxies on his own, although he'd give it a whirl. Furthermore, the individual dynamics of the League bring interesting perspectives to the story.
Ultimately, the struggle pulls back and attains a broader significance. Neither Darthartheen nor the Chosen are appropriate successors. It is up to the JLA and Adam Strange to grasp the reins of self-government else they will become serfs to Darthartheen's fractured psyche.
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This piece is © 2002 by D.J. LoTempio.
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