All-Star: 1969: Aquarius Redux, Chapter 1: Astro Smash

by Dan Swanson, partially adapted from Justice League of America #74 by Dennis O’Neil and Dick Dillin

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Astrogation alert!

Kell Orr and his twin son and daughter were in the control room of their ship, the Zavoy, waiting for the end of the hyperjump from their home planet of Xenon and anxious for their first glimpse of Earth, when the ship’s computer announced a problem. The instruments showed that something was pulling the Zavoy off course. Kell had always supposed that it was impossible for a ship to change course in hyperspace, and he had no idea what to do about it. But he didn’t get to worry long, because almost instantly the Hyperspace Exit warning blared, and the Zavoy dropped back into normal space. The three Xenonians crowded around the front viewport. Less than a second after the transition, the Zavoy‘s automatic meteor warning alarm began blaring, and the ship jolted with a tremendous crash. The ship started vibrating and clanging like the inside of a bell.

The ship’s power went out, and the emergency lighting immediately snapped on. The artificial gravity failed, and Kell felt a tremendous surge of vitality energizing his body as his super-powers returned. He used his x-ray vision to see what had hit the ship.

“By Xenon’s core!” he shouted in dismay. “We just smashed into a giant asteroid, and there are dozens of smaller asteroids falling on us,” he warned his twins. Dents were starting to appear in the inside wall of the ship as the swarm of meteors smashed into the Zavoy‘s xenium hull. Xenium was the strongest alloy known on the planet Xenon. “Get your helmets and gloves on!”

Kell and the twins were wearing costumes that covered their entire bodies except head and hands and were made from the most durable fabric known to Xenonian science. These costumes were designed not only to stand up to any damage they might encounter once their powers manifested, but to also be used as spacesuits if required. Kell wasn’t sure his twins Larre and Karre would instantly be invulnerable to the effects of space and didn’t want to take any chances. In addition, radios in their helmets would let them communicate if they didn’t develop super-ventriloquism. A meteor shattered the Zavoy‘s view port, and the explosion of air sucked the three of them into space. The invulnerability question was answered instantly as a meteor struck Karre in the back and shattered, so the environment was giving the twins super-powers. But they didn’t seem to be able to fly. Kell rushed after them at super-speed.

“Boot magnets on!” he ordered as he caught them, then threw them toward the hull of the Zavoy. “Don’t worry, your powers will protect you from these rocks. Smash them before they crush the ship. Like this!” He turned and started slamming super-powered punches into the incoming meteors, pulverizing them. Behind him, first hesitantly and then with more gusto as they gained confidence in their powers, Karre and Larre followed his example. They couldn’t powder every meteor, but they managed to break the larger ones into chunks that were small enough that they prevented the Zavoy from being smashed. After a few minutes, the meteor shower ended. The Zavoy was completely buried in smaller rocks and dust except for the areas where the two youngsters were standing. Kell swept the sky with his super-vision; he could see no more meteors approaching.

“Nice work, kids,” he complimented his twins as he landed beside them. “That seems to be the end of that meteor swarm.”

“That was so cool!” Larre was exultant. “Wait until I tell the kids back home!” He had been something of a nerd; Kell thought this single incident might change his life significantly.

“I noticed something strange about those meteors, Dad,” Karre commented thoughtfully. “They were being pulled here by something other than gravity. When you shattered the biggest ones, some of the pieces should have been thrown out into space, and the gravity of this rock isn’t enough to pull them back — but they were pulled back anyway.”

Not to be outdone, Larre picked up a chunk of rock and threw it away fairly gently. It didn’t fall back. “But that mysterious force seems to have abated,” he pointed out. He turned to his father. “We’re trapped here, aren’t we?” he asked quietly.

“We have super-powers now, remember,” Kell confidently reassured his son. “Either we’ll repair the Zavoy or contact Superman somehow. At the worst, we’ll fly to Earth on our own.” He used his super-vision to examine the Zavoy. “We saved the ship from being crushed. I think I can get the power back on, and then we can figure out how to dig her out.” He stopped, extremely startled as he saw something fantastic buried deeper inside the giant asteroid.

“By Xenon’s core!” This exclamation had become a popular curse on Xenon since the core reaction had been discovered and dampened years ago. “There’s another ship trapped here as well!” Indeed, he could see a clear pocket, perfectly spherical, deep inside the giant floating mountain. Floating inside was a small spaceship perhaps large enough to carry a crew of three or four, with indecipherable markings on the hull and apparently undamaged. There were blisters and turrets on the hull that looked alarmingly like weapons emplacements. Alarmingly, he was unable to see through that hull. He described the ship to the twins. Since it seemed to be safe and well-protected for the moment, and the twins were starting to get a bit spooked about this giant asteroid that seemed to eat spaceships, Kell decided that they should make whatever repairs they could to the Zavoy before he investigated the other ship further.

As Karre and Larre dug a tunnel back to the shattered view port of the battered Zavoy, Kell used his x-ray vision to look for deposits of metals. Using his super-speed to melt the ores he found, he was able to separate the metals from the slagged rock, and he brought a supply of various metals into the Zavoy with him. By the time he reached the ship, the twins had cleared most of the rock and dust from the ship and were attempting to pound out some of the dents in the hull. Kell set them the task of putting an airtight patch over the broken view port and set to work restoring power. The Zavoy carried a generous supply of spares, and working at super-speed, Kell quickly had the damage repaired. He set the gravity to Earth-normal so he and his crew would retain their low-gravity-related powers and threw the emergency switch. The lights came on, and the life-support system started filling the ship with air.

Almost immediately, Larre’s voice came over the intercom: “Dad, our patch is leaking a little. We need you to seal it with your heat-vision. And–” she paused dramatically, then continued with a mischievous twinkle in your voice, “–somebody’s sending a radio signal at us! I think it’s for you.”

On the command deck, Kell melted some metal, and the twins used it like putty to seal the edges of their patch. Kell then turned his attention to the instruments. The radio direction finder showed that the signal was coming from the other trapped ship; he realized it must have a powerful transmitter to reach them through the rocky debris separating them. Kell sat down in front of the space stereophone and began to broadcast. “This is Kell Orr. We are peaceful visitors from the planet Xenon trying to contact Superman of Earth. Please identify yourself and confirm your peaceful intentions.” The stereophone was programmed to repeat the message over a wide sheath of frequencies using several different types of signal modulation, a process Kell’s scientist father Zoll Orr had developed for first contact situations such as this one. He continued to sit in front of the stereophone, transmitting his picture and hoping that the other ship had the capability of receiving and decoding his signals.

For a time there was no response. The screen of the stereophone flickered and was filled with static. Then Kell thought he could see a pattern of sorts in the static, and then the picture started to roll and change. Some flickers showed a picture, while others appeared to be random. Then a dark, unrecognizable blob centered on the screen. The image gradually took on human form, until it became that of a very attractive human female with red hair. Red hair was a very uncommon hair color on their home planet, but other than that, she could easily pass for a Xenonian. She was continually making adjustments on a panel in front of her, and as she did so, the picture continued to clear until the transmission and reception were perfect. She was sitting in a small control room and wore an orange costume with a green cape and a black and white emblem on the chest. Kell thought with interest that the emblem was in the shape of the letter T from the English language he had learned from Superman. He wondered what it stood for.

Apparently his image became clear to her at the same time, for she looked at the screen and smiled. “Superman! It’s wonderful to see you — I was so worried!” she cried anxiously, and Kell was stunned to realize that she was speaking English. “What’s going on? Where is Earth? Why are you in a spaceship? What language was that you were speaking?” When he didn’t respond right away, the tumble of questions ceased uncertainly. “Don’t you recognize me? I’m Tharka, the Superwoman of Zor.”

She paused, but he hadn’t yet decided what he was going to say — the situation was too stunning. She continued, “We met years ago when I helped you capture some gangsters.” Her face turned a little red as she mentioned this; she hadn’t helped very much, though Superman had secretly assisted her to hide the fact that her super-powers, so mighty on her own homeworld of Zor, made her little more than a strong but ultimately average woman on Earth.

Kell was thinking fast. Her intentions seemed to be peaceful, and she knew Superman. He couldn’t think of any good reason to conceal his real identity. “I’m sorry, but I’m not Superman,” he responded in English. “Although a lot of people have mistaken me for the real Man of Steel,” he chuckled, then remembered that there wasn’t much to chuckle about right now. “I’m Kell Orr of the planet Xenon, and I’m looking for Superman as well. Do you have any idea what is going on here? How did you get trapped?”

They were interrupted by a third voice, and another person stepped into range of the display behind Tharka, a large, ruggedly handsome man in a red costume who also had red hair graying at the temples. He also spoke English. “My name is Regor, defender of the planet Uuz on the outskirts of this solar system. I am also seeking Superman. My instruments show that Earth and the Moon simply vanished almost two weeks ago. I was on my way to investigate when my ship was drawn to this comet and crushed. I managed to escape and remain alive until Tharka’s ship was similarly trapped.”

“I brought him aboard, and my force-shield was able to protect my ship,” Tharka said, continuing their tale, “but the force that brought us here overpowered my engines. We’ve been trapped here for about a day. This is the first time since we were trapped that we haven’t been able to feel the constant thudding of incoming meteors.”

“I suggest we join forces and compare notes, and figure a way off this rock,” Regor suggested.

This time Tharka chuckled. “In my experience, whenever two good guys have their first meeting, there is usually a free-for-all brawl. It will be a pleasure to break that tradition.”

Now that the asteroid was no longer under constant bombardment, Tharka felt safe dropping her ship’s shield, and it was only a matter of minutes before Kell Orr was able to open a tunnel between ships. And so these three mighty champions, as well as the twins, peacefully met for the first time to see if they could solve their mutual problems.


Back where the Earth used to be, Aquarius was getting bored and a little frenetic. He had been exerting his full powers for almost two weeks and had still been unable to squish Doctor Fate’s mystical spherical shield and his supposedly insignificant foes. He sat in space and sadly contemplated the tiny bubble that was resisting his best efforts, fretting about what he should do. He was totally unprepared when the Justice League suddenly appeared, seemingly from nowhere.

Impossible! he thought in stunned amazement. There CAN NOT be other mortals — yet there ARE! He was confused and demoralized. I need time to think! — to understand! Before the JLA could do anything, he acted and cast a powerful magical spell. I shall let the mortals within the globe delay these interlopers! Within the air I place a mesmeric command… and flee!

As Aquarius fled, he relaxed his attack on Doctor Fate, and Fate let his bubble collapse. Temporarily panicked, Aquarius cancelled some of his earlier spells and drew as much power as possible from them back into himself. At that moment, far away in space, the power Aquarius had left in the selected asteroid also vanished, and it stopped irresistibly attracting nearby space junk and the spacecraft also trapped there. Aquarius used some of this power to reinforce his mesmeric command, and it hammered at the wills of the released Justice Society members, who were mentally exhausted after two weeks of hopeless inactivity trapped in the small bubble.


Superman of Earth-One (Kal-El) greeted his Earth-Two counterpart (Kal-L) for the first time. What should have been a historic meeting between two legendary heroes instead became a historic battle as Kal-L brutally attacked an unsuspecting Kal-El. The two Supermen, equally powerful, fought a drawn-out battle and eventually battered each other into unconsciousness.

The Flash and the Atom of the JLA teamed up to defeat an exhausted Doctor Fate, Batman of the JLA was able to defeat Doctor Mid-Nite, and a stray bolt of magic from the blue and gold mystic Doctor Fate interfered with Wonder Woman’s control of her magic lasso, causing her to be bound with her own weapon before she could ensnare Hawkman of the JLA.

Green Lantern of Earth-One easily defeated his Earth-Two counterpart, whose ring had run out of power days ago, leaving him free to command his own ring to seek out and return Aquarius, a decision that was to have disastrous consequences.

Green Arrow of the JLA trapped Black Canary with a trick arrow he called a stickum shaft, but while he was concentrating on the blonde bombshell, Larry Lance slugged him from behind, knocking him unconscious.

Miles away, Green Lantern’s emerald energy beam wrapped itself around Aquarius, stunning the giant energy being. How can this be? he demanded of the universe. I am threatened by some unknown foe! It matters not! I am equal to the challenge — to ANY challenge!

He used the cosmic rod to generate a yellow shield and then cast a shimmering ball of energy back at Green Lantern. But the ball careened instead toward Black Canary, who still lay trapped by the glue from the stickum shaft. As he was about to kill Green Arrow with one of his own arrows, the mesmerized Larry Lance saw the crackling ball of deadly energy floating toward Canary, and the power of his great love for his wife enabled him to break the strength of Aquarius’s hypnotic hold. He raced toward the fallen and trapped Black Canary and leaped desperately, intercepting the deadly globe, which discharged and killed him instantly.

The energy released by the burst of the sphere caused both the hypnotic order controlling the JSA and the limbo spell to vanish. And as the members of the Justice Society of America recovered, the Earth, all its people, and the Moon suddenly reappeared as quickly as it had vanished.

Aquarius continued to flee, although by now he’d decided it was a strategic withdrawal, and the heroes were too devastated by the loss of one so close to them to follow him.

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