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PART SIX: "Making It Right" (May 16, 1995)
Previously in this column:
We have talked about heroes, real and imagined, and how both sorts have the power to enhearten and inspire. We have discussed the alteration of the DC Universe from a place of hope and wonder to a guignol of rage and despair...and we have promised to rescue it from its tormented existence.
"This is the story," he said to the eager young faces around him, "of how the world's greatest super-heroes were given another chance to get it right."
As the first rays of dawn flowed over the still-resting city of Metropolis, the Man of Tomorrow burst through their shimmering glory and into the darkness beyond.
All night long, he'd been tormented by thoughts of the world gone terribly wrong, of his friends and allies becoming more grim and desperate with each passing month. Then, he had been snapped to cold awareness by a warning, a revelation burned into his mind from so very far away.
Darkseid had the anti-life equation.
Darkseid had the anti-life equation, had possessed its awful power for years, and had used that power to corrupt the universes into twisted playgrounds for his malevolence. That mad master of Apokolips could control the minds of all living beings, and, with that control, had reshaped reality itself again and again.
The glowing portal boomed into existence before him. In the unimaginable distance, he could see the profane energies escaping from the very soul of Darkseid's world, the anguish of the damned given blazing corporeity.
Without hesitation, Superman entered the Boom Tube.
Space and time lost their meaning as the last son of Krypton tumbled through the vortex. He saw realities explode and reform, all at Darkseid's whim. He saw visions of loved ones, the memory of their courageous lives wiped from the universes as if they had never lived at all.
And, when he seemed likely to drown in that vile tempest, he was delivered from its toxic pull by the "voice" which had roused him from the shroud of Darkseid's treachery, carried to safety by a will every bit as determined as his own.
The will of Hal Jordan.
Jordan did not know when Darkseid had wrested the secrets of the anti-life equation from him. He did not know how long he had been held prisoner in the dungeons beneath the blistered crust of Apokolips. He did not know how many pieces of his flesh and mind had been torn from him and reshaped into evil simulacrums spawned to do Darkseid's loathsome work.
He only knew that he could not surrender to his captor, that he could not yield to the threats and temptations laid before him in that dark place. Darkseid could flay the flesh from his bones one layer at a time. Darkseid could restore life to his murdered friends. Darkseid could cast his soul into hells beyond rational imagining and leave him shattered within the blackness of his own mind. Darkseid could grant him power beyond reckoning.
And, at long last, when Darkseid let his vigilance relax for but a single moment, Jordan triumphed. He gathered up a will too strong to be held by the chains of Apokolips and send his warning out into the cosmos.
His own will linked to and strengthened by that of his long-lost friend, Superman scattered the forces of Darkseid as if they were but a mad child's toy soldiers. It was the beginning of the end for the lord of Apokolips.
A man from Krypton stood side-by-side with a indomitable man of Earth. With the extent of his malevolence now fully revealed, Darkseid held no power over them. He who had sought to subjugate all living thought was now himself ruled by an outside force that he had never known before.
It was fear and, as hero after hero joined with Superman and Jordan, it grew within Darkseid like a cancer.
There were battles, battles in every corner of every reality that had been touched by Darkseid's evil, battles in the heart of life itself. Heroes were born and heroes fell, but the armies of anti-life were pushed back, back, ever back.
Superman and Jordan were there at the end. The Man of Steel fought the brutal killer called Lobo, now revealed as yet another creature of Apokolips, while Jordan faced Darkseid on a different battlefront, one beyond the physical universes.
Four men, for that is what they were, met in final combat at the end of the universes and beyond. Two came back. Neither the Kryptonian or the earthman would ever tell their fellows what had transpired on the day Darkseid fell.
The universes were free once more, but they were not as they were meant to be. The heroes considered using Darkseid's secrets to make things right once more.
It was Oliver who talked them out of it, an ordinary man who once more served as the conscience of the Overpeople. Like them, he had been cruelly twisted by the darkness. He had done evil in the misappropriated name of justice and he stood ready to pay for those deeds. But, first, he would be heard.
Darkseid had tampered with all of reality and visited misery on their world. How could they ever be sure they were not merely perpetuating that evil by attempting to reconstruct the realities to their own liking? What gave them the right to wield the power that had nearly destroyed the very concept of hope?
It was only after he had finished his passionate appeal that Oliver felt the hot tears streaming down his face. Diana ran her soft hand over his cheek tenderly. Hal clasped his shoulder with a firmer hand. And, although he could not be certain of what lay behind the typically somber expression of the Batman, he hoped it was something like forgiveness.
There would be no prideful attempts to recreate existence as they might prefer it. They would accept the reality around them, but always striving to better it with their courage, their deeds, their examples. This time, they would get it right.
Quietly, slowly, so quietly and slowly that the heroes never saw it happening, reality began to heal itself.
Aquaman, Arthur, looked at his new prosthesis with a hopeful expression. That there were serious differences between the land and the sea could not be denied, but, now, he would try to bridge those disputes with the hand of peace.
The Batman confronted the demon that had ruled his existence since the dark moment he saw his parents brutally murdered on the sidewalks of Crime Alley. There had to be more to life than this endless anger. He had to be more than the obsessed avenger or he would never make a real difference in his city, would never truly honor the memory of his parents.
He thought about it a long time. Then, he called for Alfred and Dick and Tim. They had all pledged their lives to his cause. They had a right to be part of this.
"We're reopening the Wayne murder case," he said.
The courts would have been more lenient with Oliver Queen if he had not insisted they hold him fully accountable for his cold-blooded murder of a corrupt politician. For justice to rule, all men must be judged equally.
Oliver was sentenced to a life in prison, but he was never a prisoner. He did what he could to make the world a better place, writing, teaching from a room that could never be a jail cell for someone with his unquenchable spirit.
It was Kyle Rayner who sought out Jordan afterwards, certain the older man would want to resume the role of Green Lantern. He was surprised when Jordan declined.
"Life is change, Kyle," Hal told him. "I learned that there was an incredible power within me, something Darkseid was able to corrupt to his own ends. I think that power is within all of us. I want to understand it and, when I do, I want to teach others to understand it as well. I want to use that power for good.
"Sounds pretty corny, doesn't it?"
"Can I be your first student, professor?"
It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Clark Kent had just finished his column for the Daily Planet when his super-hearing picked up a roaring sound in the distance. A missile of some sort was about to crash in the woods miles away from Metropolis. It was flashing downward at an incredible speed and he gasped as he realized it held a living passenger. He knew he could not reach it in time.
Swiftly flying to the crash site, Superman was amazed to see the rocket had not disintegrated on impact. Though its nose cone has crumpled, the body of the object was intact. Still, no human being could have survived such a crash.
His amazement turned to utter shock when a young girl, maybe thirteen years old, literally flew from the wreckage. She smiled with obvious excitement as she said, "Don't worry, Superman. I'm alive without a scratch!"
"You...you're unharmed," he sputtered. "But that would mean you're invulnerable like me!"
"Why not, Superman? I'm also from Krypton."
Her name, he soon found out, was Kara.
The youngsters had listened to the stories eagerly up to the very moments they drifted off to sleep. Hal smiled as he wrapped the soft blankets around them, then stepped through their bedroom wall into the pleasant Martian night.
He had heard the rushing of wind even from within the energy shields that gently surrounded the house. He had heard the sound a hundred times over the vast centuries. It signaled the arrival of his oldest friend.
Something had happened to Hal and Superman during that final battle with Darkseid at the end of the universes. Though neither realized it at the time, they had somehow passed beyond the grasp of time. It was difficult, at first, watching loved ones age and move on to other realities, but, like the great heroes they were, they had found a purpose to their own eternal lives.
Superman spent the centuries traveling throughout the length and breadth of the universes, inspiring new generations of heroes and learning their stories. Then, he would seek out Hal and tell him these tales of adventure and courage and hope.
Hal would tell the stories to the children and the children, someday, would tell them to their children. And, sometimes, they would even have new stories to tell to Hal.
It was a fine way to spend one's days.
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Heroes and Villains: Real and Imagined
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Part 2 |
Part 3 |
Part 4 |
Part 5 |
Part 6 |
Part 7 |
"My Back Pages" (September 22, 2001)
"My Heroes Have Always Been Heroes" (March 24, 1995)
"There Are Heroes Among Us" (April 5, 1995)
"Heroes and Hope" (April 10, 1995)
"Crisis of Faith" (April 19, 1995)
"Oklahoma City" (April 26, 1995)
"Making It Right" (May 16, 1995)
"Columbine High School" (May 4, 1999)
"Unfinished Business" (September 23, 2001)