Even as Superman reached the hovering, cloaked ship from space, an opponent awaited him. She had red hair and wore a green and gold costume. Erupting into a fiery green nimbus, she threatened to halt the Man of Steel’s charge almost before it began.
“You can’t just destroy every world you come to like this!” he said between gritted teeth as the energy battered him. Must have magic behind it. It’s weakened me already, he mused. His mighty arms shoved forward against the tide of the emerald energy that crackled like fire. It’s almost like G.L.’s ring’s energy!
On impulse he let himself drop backward as if pushed by the fiery force. He altered his direction and, at super-speed, jetted back with a wooden log in his hand. It cleaved the energy-field of the alien woman’s creation. It even allowed Superman to push her aside and reach the ship, which was vaguely outlined to his super-vision. Same wood weakness as G.L., too! he realized. He was stopped by several aliens in differently hued costumes, all of which featured gold as a color.
The male who met him murmured something, and a crystalline cage encircled Superman. More magic — backward spoken words, like Zatara! said Superman as he shattered the cage and gripped the alien.
A woman lashed out at him with stellar energy. It did little to stop him as he fought ever upward. Power like that from Starman’s cosmic rod! he thought, mentally cataloguing each new attack.
His sheer speed and strength had swept them aside like dust in a windstorm. However, he fell beneath an onslaught of magical force like that of Doctor Fate and raw power like that of himself or Wonder Woman’s. He fell short, and as the energy combined to blast him out of the sky, he dropped, knowing that he had learned the secret behind the alien powers.
“These aliens are mimics, using the powers of various superhumans from the entire history of our world!” declared Superman back at Transformation Island.
Wonder Woman spoke up. “That explains the chronal probes. They must learn of each world’s superhuman defenders from history with the probes, and then somehow duplicate their powers in their armies.”
“More than that!” added the Flash. “They replicate the powers and any weaknesses inherent in them on several matrix-type creations of non-living protoplasm.”
“These mooks aren’t even alive?” said Wildcat in amazement.
“Not that we can detect,” said the Flash. “That’s why they are silent and lack individualism.”
Red Robin chimed in, “I did notice similarities to the fighting styles of Batman, Mister Terrific, and Wildcat in the ones I encountered. That means they replicate talents, or non-superhuman abilities as well.”
“True, plus unusual disciplines like Fate’s magic,” added Superman.
“But what do they seek other than destruction?” asked Wonder Woman.
Halk Kar then sat up. “I can tell you. They visit worlds on end which have been gifted or cursed with his presence and his… reality-warping song. They follow him like — you would say fans? … worshippers? — who will destroy the… the arena where their idol performed!”
“Who?” asked Superman. “Who visited both our worlds?”
“Chroma,” declared Halk Kar.
“Chroma!” cried Green Lantern. “That was the weirdo, other-dimensional, androgynous alien that sang some song that played with reality a while back! He spoke of destruction and death, and his song resonated on a mental or emotional level!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Concert in the Key of Chroma,” Infinity Inc. #14 (May, 1985) and “Song Without End: Amen,” Infinity Inc. #15 (June, 1985).]
“So why do these things follow him, aside from this worship or fan motive?” asked Wildcat.
“They — or he, for the armies are lifeless, protoplasmic beings empowered as you deduced — are driven by some frenzied desire to be near this being wherever he may roam,” said Halk Kar. “When he appears, they follow and destroy whole worlds in his wake.”
“So you’re sayin’, since Chroma has left the building, so to speak, these freaks are gonna destroy Earth!” said Wildcat.
“Exactly, unless you can stop them!” said the Thoronian as he tried to stand up.
“Whoa! You’re not well yet,” cautioned Superman. “Stay here and recover, and leave the heroics to us!”
Halk Kar nodded like the broken man he was. “I suppose you are right, but my desire to see them punished drives me ceaselessly.”
“We’ll take them down for you!” said Wildcat.
“We’d better hurry!” said the Flash. “Because they’ve figured out Chroma has moved on, and they’re massing for what I’d say was all-out war!”
Indeed, the aliens were now acting very differently from before. They were taking action and were emerging en masse, swarming from their hidden ship like deadly bees or mindlessly destructive locusts.
“Can we duplicate the song of Chroma?” said Green Lantern. “Play it back for them and stall?”
“There are no recorded versions of that song,” said Red Robin. “It defied all human technology!”
“Human technology does not exactly describe Amazon science! The combination of the Magic Sphere and the memory reader…” began Wonder Woman excitedly.
“And my photographic memory!” added Superman.
“Exactly!” she finished.
Soon the odd but wondrous devices were employed, and with the Man of Steel seated between them, an image and a sound manifested on the screen.
“That is Chroma, all right,” declared Green Lantern.
The Flash reported back again. “Sorry, fellas. The song isn’t loud and just lacks that resonance he gave it. I don’t feel it, just hear it like normal music.”
“So much for Amazon science,” said Wonder Woman. “It, too, has limits.”
The aliens did respond, however. They stopped their warlike movements and listened intently. “How can they hear it from up there?” asked Wildcat.
“I guess they are attuned to it,” replied Green Lantern.
“Now that we’ve got the memory copied, we can keep it playing,” said Superman. “But what good will it do us in the big picture?”
“I guess it will delay their attack until…” began Red Robin.
“Until what?” asked the Flash.
“Until we can find the real Chroma and bring him back to meet his fans!” he finished.
“Hold it, kid!” said Wildcat. “We never knew what that Chroma’s purpose was or just what the meaning of that weird death is glorious song of his was. We don’t need him again!”
Wonder Woman spoke up. “They are listening to the sounds we’ve generated and are not attacking. If we don’t take some action, then they will start again.”
“Look, Wildcat, I don’t think we have much of a choice,” insisted Red Robin. “If it’s Chroma that these aliens worship, then he’s the only one who has a chance of stopping them without bloodshed. Besides, he did no real harm with his cosmic song before, did he?”
The Flash raced back with a pompous-looking man with upswept gray hair and a green suit. “Here’s the Fiddler, as promised,” he said. “Now do your thing and copy these recorded sounds!”
The master musician called the Fiddler scornfully glanced at the hero and said, “I do get full pardon if I comply, right?”
“Ya get a broken bow if ya don’t!” menaced Wildcat.
“I’ll play, you Philistine!” sniffed the Fiddler.
Superman knew the Fiddler had the best chance of any Earthly musician to mimic the cosmic song on his own magic instrument. The effect was otherworldy and instant.
A white-skinned, androgynous figure appeared and said, “I am Chroma! I hear my song faintly echoed, and thus I have come to enlighten you all of death and rebirth and life altered anew!”
“That’s him, all right,” said Green Lantern.
The aliens swarmed downward to cluster around the odd creature as he set aside his cloak and gazed around him. Wonder Woman secretly picked it up and placed it in the Magic Sphere. “Hera help us all! Don’t let him sing again!” she cried after a brief moment under the memory reader.
“Diana, what do you mean?” asked the Flash. “The recording had no real effect, and his real song can alter reality. He’ll surely subdue those aliens. See how they flock to his feet.”
Wonder Woman spoke hurriedly. “The Sphere showed me his other songs and where he performed them,” she said. “One was on Krypton not long before your escape, Superman! A different one was back here on Earth, as you recall. It spoke of death and rebirth. At the time we didn’t get it. Now I see. It’s the Crisis. Chroma’s song is a harbinger of destruction, be it natural as on Krypton or cosmos-altering as the one that we heard before the Crisis. Don’t you see? His songs trigger destruction of various levels. If he sings again, we could have another Crisis!”
“Great Scott!” said Superman.
“But surely the Monitor and his evil counterpart instigated the Crisis!” said Red Robin.
“True!” said Wonder Woman. “But it still shows that Chroma’s songs have always preceded destruction of some kind, whether it be a natural disaster like Krypton, the alien seekers on Thoron, or our Crisis, which shortly followed his singing on our world.”
“The alien seekers are preventing us from getting near Chroma!” yelled Green Lantern as he and the Flash made valiant efforts to approach the albino youth.
“Where’s Halk Kar?” asked the beautiful blonde Paula as she ran in with her tunic blowing in the wind from her speed.
“He’s gone!” said Wildcat.
“With the aliens here, perhaps he’s trying to get in their ship!” said the Flash. “Would he destroy the Earth with their weapons just to get revenge on them as well?”
“Never!” Superman insisted. “He’s a hero!” And he streaked off to find his friend.
“Why is he so protective of Halk Kar?” asked Paula.
“He sees this super-powered alien protector of a world like Krypton who even resembles him, and of course he identifies with him,” said Wonder Woman. “He actually wrongly assumed Halk to be a Kryptonian relative, possibly even his own brother, when he first landed here with memory loss in 1952.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Superman’s Big Brother,” Superman #80 (January-February, 1953).]
“I hope he’s right about the guy,” said Wildcat.
“He usually is,” she replied.
Just as Chroma began to sing, he and all the alien seekers clustered around him vanished. Above, in the now-empty ship save for Halk Kar, Superman smiled in wonder as Halk used the time-probe device to send Chroma and all the entranced seekers back through time before he could sing.
“But Halk, what good does it do us if he sings at some other point in Earth history?” asked Superman. “Won’t the destruction or Crisis occur again?”
“No,” explained Halk Kar. “For I used their time device to send Chroma and his admirers back to the exact instant he sang on Earth before! Thus there’s no new Crisis and no Seekers, since they will just stay with their idol from that moment on! In fact, I’d say we won’t see them again, since they would have left Earth when Chroma did before! If only that would mean…” He trailed off as he began scanning the universe with a powerful device.
“It does!” said an excited Superman. “Thoron is back, and safe anew! You saved your world! And you saved ours, too!”
“I’ll take the ship with me, and hopefully my next visit here won’t be due to a cosmic crisis,” Halk said, shaking hands with Superman. “Take care, little brother.”
“Don’t take thirty years between visits next time, big brother!” called the waving Man of Steel. He returned to his friends with the news, and they celebrated, along with the recovering Power Girl and Starman.
“I’ll take Benny Goodman over Chroma any day,” joked Wildcat.