Superman paced back at the farm as Lois Lane Kent tried to soothe his worries. “Lois, Kil-Lor would not have just deserted us with no word. He truly was happy here. I’m more than a bit concerned. Plus, the mystery of the grave-robbings in Metropolis puzzles me. Jim says he has his best men and women on it, but they’ve failed to unearth a lead,” he said, then paused. “Sorry, bad choice of words.”
“You’re taking on the worries of the world as usual,” said Lois. “That’s why I love you. Still, you can’t lose your old editor’s eye for detail. Focus on one mystery at a time. You can trace another Kryptonian like Kara once tried to find you when you were abducted.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Power Girl: Kara’s Quest, Chapter 2: In Search of Superman.]
Superman nodded. “That’s my girl. Always steady as a rock. I’ll use the detector to hunt for him and be back soon.”
Lois called after him. “That’s me, the woman of steel!”
Making a search at super-speed, he returned quickly and shook his head. “It’s no use, Lois. The detector shows no sign of him. He’s either in space or dead. I was occupied earlier today with a forest fire and could have missed something important.”
“Perhaps he decided to take a trip,” she said. “Space trips are like going to the corner store for you guys.”
He agreed and added, “I suppose I need to solve this case in Metropolis, then. Why would some person steal bodies? I’ve encountered some Dr. Frankenstein types before, but this takes the cake. It’s almost like Henry Ford meets Dr. Frankenstein.”
Lois arched her brows and quipped, “I prefer the Abbott and Costello version.”
Superman nodded. He knew her so well that he saw beneath her attempt at humor for the effort to cheer him up that it was meant to be. He appreciated it, but it had not helped much.
He turned on the television and frowned. “This is a real job for me. Some of Future’s little army are hitting the heart of Metropolis!” He flew off, leaving a bemused Lois holding a glass of milk.
“Guess supper can wait,” she said as she took a sip.
Superman had battled Colonel Future for over three decades. He knew the man possessed a keen mind and apparently limitless resources. He had always used them both to employ futuristic weapons against society in an effort to conquer the world. He had been a regular foe, and, although he had lacked the sheer ruthless hatred of the Ultra-Humanite or Alexei Luthor, he had been a perilous enemy.
I don’t have time for this, but it will be good to unwind by taking apart his latest scheme. I guess some things never change! he thought as he saw the red and green uniforms of the troops as they scattered the fleeing citizens of his old home, creating panic. He drew in a terrific breath, and the rifles they carried were ripped away from their gloved hands by the sheer suction. He gathered them up and crushed them into a ball, which he then hurled into space.
“You fellows picked a bad day for your army games,” said a determined Superman. “I am in a bad mood. You won’t like me when I’m angry, like that guy on the tube used to say.”
They held their ground and fired smaller handguns, only to be sent running as the bullets bounced off their target’s chest. He sighed and said, “This is getting old, too, or maybe I am.”
He spun around at top speed, and the whirlwind swept the thugs into one another. He scooped them up and dropped them off at the police station. “This rampage was pointless, and Future never does anything without a reason. I suspect you boys were serving him as a delaying force, or just maybe as a distraction,” he announced.
A cop blinked in surprise and said, “Superman, the city is quiet. I think they must have been working on their own. Maybe they quit their boss.”
“I’d like to think that, but I have my doubts,” said Superman. “If Future sent them out on such an open and apparently pointless rampage, then he had a more subtle motive than is obvious.”
If Superman had turned his super-vision away from his city during the battle and stared toward Gotham City and a certain region outside the city limits, he might have realized exactly what Colonel Future wanted to hide from him. While the Man of Steel had been wrapping up things with the villain’s men, other members of the army of Future had been employing some of his advanced devices for a very odd but sinister purpose. That purpose would become clear to Superman all too soon.
Back at his base, Colonel Future smiled as his son directed their men to activate some odd machines. The machines consisted of long tubes and pipes, which conducted a murky liquid through the maze of metal until the waters mixed eerily with the stolen corpses. One body was held above the rest, and the waters filtered through it before reaching the other corpses.
“See, sir?” said the Futurian. “Haldane the Sorcerer’s magical input was just what we required. It is working. The process is a success.”
Colonel Future said, “Then let’s put our new troops into combat, posthaste!”
Superman was racing back to Metropolis that night to make a swift patrol of the city’s many graveyards. He figured it was possible that the mystery man behind the body thefts might strike once more. He was not about to let that happen again.
He frowned as he caught sight of an odd figure lumbering out of the night toward the city below, and he swooped down to confront a figure out of a nightmare. It was a man with chalk-white skin stretched in patches across exposed bone. He was a skeletal figure clad in decayed rags, yet clearly animated by a purpose and will like that of a sentient being. Great Scott! A walking corpse, mused Superman as he held out one arm to stop the creature.
Falling as the monster drew closer, he felt an odd but all-too-familiar sensation. It was mild, yet painful. “Kryptonite! This zombie is emitting kryptonite radiation!” he said, standing up as a dozen more animated corpses closed in around him. All of them had a faint green aura, and he felt the pain grow stronger as their numbers increased.
“They must be the stolen bodies, but somehow they’ve been animated like Solomon Grundy,” he gasped. “However, they are even worse than him. They contain some form of kryptonite, like my old foe Doctor Kryptonite! He died not long ago. (*) Could his body have been stolen from the graveyard and used to power these things?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Power Girl: A Lesson Before Dying.]
Superman felt their blows as they hammered at him relentlessly. He decided to use their force to add to his own momentum as he reeled backward and rolled away. Distance gave him renewed strength, but the process was dangerously slow.
Another figure loomed up out of the night to strike him. He recognized this body, since it was not decayed like the others. The stark features were unmistakably those of Kil-Lor. “Kil! They’ve gotten you, too!” he muttered before he was attacked with a silent fury. Kil’s got all my powers, years of experience, and now has Grundy’s odd durability, too, he thought as he wrestled with the super-corpse. Still, he alone of this bunch of ghouls does not give off green K. I guess he is still vulnerable to it like me!
From his hidden base, Colonel Future and the Futurian watched via a view-screen. The elder villain smiled warmly. “Indeed, by draining Slaughter Swamp and filtering the odd waters through our stolen corpses with certain magical adjustment supplied by our sorcerer for hire, we have done what no man has done before. Namely, we have deliberately manufactured an army of Solomon Grundys!”
“Don’t forget that by killing and reviving that old man, we’ve also made a Super-Grundy,” added the Futurian. “Plus, by filtering the waters through the body of Doctor Kryptonite, we’ve made all the rest toxic to Superman!”
Colonel Future laughed. “To think, in death two of his foes will accomplish on my behalf what they failed to do in life — slay Superman!”
That boast was looking increasingly accurate as Superman was pummeled by Kil-Lor’s corpse. Gone was any trace of the contented farmer. He’s stronger than I am because of the weird process of reanimation, but I have to finish this quickly, thought Superman. Can’t let our friendship stop me from bringing peace to him, even by drastic means.
Superman gripped the struggling corpse and flew high into the sky. When Kil-Lor broke free of his hold, they fought in the sky. “He still flies and has all our old powers,” he said. “Guess he’s still weakened by kryptonite.”
He dodged the weird form of the dead warrior and brought both fists crashing down on his back to send him rocketing down toward the looming crowd of corpses. He bowled several over and did not rise as their collective radiation left him finally still. “If I get too close to that army, I’ll suffer a similar fate, but I have to stop them before they hurt anyone else,” said Superman. “I think I need some help on this one.”
Colonel Future nudged his son from his remote view-screen and said, “See, lad? The Man of Steel is too witless to stop them. Grundy alone would have given him pause, but these zombies are nearly limitless and full of green kryptonite.”
The Futurian nodded. “I offer his body to you in honor of your noble efforts.”
Superman had no choice but to physically slow the marching army of the living dead, because they were drawing ever closer to the city he loved. He had formed a hasty barrier of lead and was using it like a plow to drive back the first wave of the creatures. He knew the lead could shield him from their poison, but for every one he shoved down, others forced their way forward. They also possessed superhuman strength and fought with the tireless energy of the inhuman. They also were potentially fatal to Superman merely because of their radiation-spewing bodies. Still, he was Superman. That in itself said much. He was Superman, and that meant he embodied heroism on a level unsurpassed in the annals of history. He cared for others. He would die for them. This gave him the will to fight on when any other man would have quit or fallen in defeat.
Two figures zoomed into view, and he yelled out, “Kara, stay back. Just let G.L. seed them as I instructed you earlier via super-ventriloquism!” He spoke those words to his beautiful blonde cousin Power Girl and the heroic Green Lantern, who hovered above them with a gleaming energy platform that held numerous glowing white rocks.
“OK, OK! We get it. Don’t treat us like idiots!” snapped Kara as she helped him to withdraw from the battle.
Green Lantern smiled as he considered how few people could ever talk to Superman like Power Girl did. He obeyed Superman’s instructions as he opened holes in his green platform and dropped the white rocks into the mass of struggling corpses. They began to stiffen and fall as the energy struck them. Green Lantern gave a thumbs-up sign and said, “Your plan is working, Superman!”
Power Girl smirked. “Sure it is. He is Superman, you know.”
“I figured if these poor things combined Grundy’s plantlike nature with Kryptonian elements from altered body of Doc Kryptonite, that white kryptonite would render them inert,” said Superman. “It is fatal to Kryptonian plant life.”
“Sorry it took us so long to locate some,” said Green Lantern. “It’s not nearly as plentiful as the green kind.”
Superman watched the army as it returned to nothing more than decayed bones and rags. “You were just in time. I only wish I could have saved Kil-Lor. He died purely to be used as a weapon against me. It’s hard to know that someone’s malice for me robbed a man of his life. I know Colonel Future is behind this. He used his goons to occupy me while he drained Slaughter Swamp. My vision check proved that swamp had been emptied.”
“You can’t blame yourself for that loon’s actions,” said Power Girl. “Kil-Lor must have died on the side of the angels. That helps.”
Superman stared grimly into space. “Yes, but not nearly enough. Colonel Future has just declared a war that he is going to lose!”
Back in their headquarters, Colonel Future and his son watched and listened in anger.
“Bah! How was I to know mixing the stiffs with kryptonite energy from Dr. Kane would make them vulnerable to white kryptonite?” shouted the Futurian. “I’ve never even heard of it before.”
Colonel Future shook his head. “Nor had I. Still, we gained some new data. That is a victory in itself.”
Later, Superman, Lois, and Clark Junior stood by Power Girl as she spoke alien words over a burial plot. “We return Kil-Lor to the soil he had grown to love,” she said. “He died after becoming the hero he had been as a younger man. May we all learn from and aspire to his example.”
Superman thanked her and said, “I’m glad you were able to conduct this funeral. Your Kryptonian is infinitely superior to my own. You learned it all via the Symbioship that schooled you as it brought you to Earth long ago. I only picked up a bit through my studies.”
“I hope we did him honor,” said Power Girl. “When he was alive, I thought he was a creep.”
“That was before he changed for the better,” said Superman. “Now I hope his war is over at last. My own may never end.”