Sentinels of Justice: The Calm Before the Storm, Prologue: Son of Vulcan

by Doc Quantum

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As newsman Johnny Mann, I’d seen it all over nearly thirty years. I’d received a leg injury in Korea as a soldier, then covered the Vietnam Conflict (or at least that’s what they called it then) as a reporter in the mid-1960s, and later at the tail-end of the war through to the mid-1970s.

Between those times, I happened to cover a smaller civil war on the Mediterranean island-state of Cyprete. The year was 1965. And was I ever unprepared for what happened when I got there.

Visiting some ancient ruins, specifically the great Hall of Jupiter, I mused on the foolishness of mankind in engaging in so many wars. This island alone had seen hundreds of wars since prehistory. My passions got the best of me then. In the spirit of the moment, I shouted up to the heavens and asked the gods for whom these ancient temples had been built exactly why they permitted man to wage pointless wars. Why, if they had the power to stop them, did they allow crime to continue? Why, why, WHY?

A strange thing happened then. A thunderstorm suddenly broke out, and a great deluge of rain came down. Then lightning and booming thunder appeared. I began idly wondering if Jupiter and the gods of Olympus themselves were sending me a warning for my harsh words. Soon I would wonder no longer.

In a thunderclap, I was struck down. Nearly unconscious, I was stirred by a huge sandaled foot that prodded me awake. And there were voices speaking about me, wondering how I had come to be there, wherever I now was.

I got up and looked around, only to see something my mortal eyes could scarcely believe to be true. I was surrounded by humanlike beings of seeming power and majesty in a great hall in the clouds. Directly before me was a great figure of a being seated upon a throne.

It was Jupiter himself.

They demanded my name. I told them, and in the boldness I had gained during all my years of covering the wars on this globe, I again asked them why they allowed man to commit countless crimes and wage endless wars. Jupiter became angry and commanded me to hold my tongue. But I had nothing to lose and stood my ground, even as the king of the gods prepared to strike me down.

Just then, fair Venus, goddess of love, dashed before me and stayed the mighty sword of Jupiter. Vulcan, god of fire and the forge, also rose to my defense. In me he had seen a kinship. Our infirmities were similar — his limp from being hurled from the heavens as a child, and mine from the war in Korea. The god of war, Mars, opposed them and demanded justice for my affrontery. And so a trial was held.

Again I held my ground and stated my case, then went on to tell them of my own war on crime and evil as a reporter. Jupiter stopped all further arguments by his decision. It is man alone, he said, who is to blame for man’s evil, greed, and violence. However, he conceded, they owed man some help. If one of the gods sponsored me, he asked, would I be willing to do my part in the war against evil? I vowed to do so with all my heart. My ally Vulcan then stepped up and volunteered to be my sponsor, thereby gaining his own redemption, of sorts.

The god of the blacksmiths forged magical armor and weapons for me then. But I was scarcely able to even walk in the heavy armor, let alone fill it out. Venus granted me then the gift of strength and vitality and dubbed me Son of Vulcan, for the god of blacksmiths had taken on the role of father to me.

I then returned to Earth to battle the forces of evil in Cyprete and over all the world. I did as much as I could, battling such foes as Doctor Kong, King Midas, and even Mars himself. But my time as Son of Vulcan was all too brief. And not too long after I began my action-hero career, for every time I transformed into my powerful alter ego, there was another time I found that the power was denied me. I soon found that as time wore on, I was able to become the Son of Vulcan less and less frequently. Months and even years began to pass between my successful transformations. And although I had been fortunate enough to meet and join with my fellow allies in the Sentinels of Justice, which accepted me as a reserve member despite my limited time as an action-hero, I felt helpless to change my situation.

Almost as soon as it had begun, it seemed to me then, my career as the Son of Vulcan was over. Had I displeased the gods? I wondered. They had warned me that the boons granted me could be taken back at any time. And except for those few brief moments of shining glory as the Son of Vulcan, for the most part I was a mere mortal once more.

Over the next two decades, peace and justice became the sole passion of my life, since my episodes as an action-hero were few and far between. My reporting days helped bring about the end of the Vietnam war, exposed the corruption of the Nixon administration, and brought down more than a few crime families.

But as time wore on, I felt powerless once again to really make a difference in the world. After all, what had I really accomplished?

My reverie was interrupted by a great Crisis on Infinite Earths, which sent our humble world into chaos. In July, 1985 — twenty years since the day I first visited Olympus — the gods once again summoned me before their presence and granted me the power to be the Son of Vulcan once more. But the slight fear I detected in their eyes gave me pause. What could possibly cause a god to fear?

The Crisis was averted, but only after a great struggle following the destruction of countless worlds. Only five parallel universes, each with its own Earth, now remained.

I still had my Son of Vulcan powers, but I wondered what was to become of me after this conflict of conflicts. Would the gods take away my powers again out of spite?

Mere hours after the end of the Crisis in early August, 1985, I was summoned once more to the throne room of Mount Olympus. There the ancient Roman gods, greatly relieved over the end of the Crisis, appointed me to be the overseer of the world. I was now to be this world’s Monitor, one of five such monitors in the remaining universes.

And as the Monitor of Earth-Four, I am now quickly familiarizing myself with its heroes and history. Ever since the golden age of the 1940s, many heroes had sprung up, among them all three Blue Beetles, Captain Atom, Catman of the U.S. and Catman of Australia, the Question, Phantom Lady, the Green Mask, E-Man, Samson, and many others. I now see a storm brewing on the horizon, and I’ll need to know the strengths and weaknesses of this world’s heroes in order to mount a proper defense.

I now begin my duties by reviewing the status of the world’s super-protectors, the Sentinels of Justice. And I’ll start with the team’s leader, Captain Atom.

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