In Star City, Black Canary — a woman whose traditional costume could never be called ugly — rolled across the floor as her green-clad companion fired arrows in the path of the costumed male who was trying futilely to hit the tumbling Blonde Bombshell with razor-sharp throwing cards.
Green Arrow grinned as his trick arrows illuminated the warehouse with magnesium flares. “What’s the matter, King Friday?” he taunted. “Did you wander into a bad neighborhood?”
The man in an ornate red, blue, and gold costume with a crown and matching tunic said nothing as he continued to hurl his own weapons at the duo.
Black Canary rolled nimbly to her feet and said, “Green Arrow, he’s not blinking. Either he has special contacts, or–!”
“Or he’s as phony as the wind-up Ace that Mrs. Feathers ran into the other night!” replied the Ace Archer.
The King of Spades moved closer, and suddenly his arms extended wildly across the room to smash into the Battling Bowman.
“Talk about a boarding-house reach! Sheesh!” said Green Arrow as he brought his own superbly muscled arms down to break free of the robotic attacker.
Black Canary smiled and flipped through the air to land between them as she opened her mouth and released her canary cry. The sonic force shattered the robotic King but failed to stop him. He clutched for her, but the fishnet-clad blonde used one arm to lift herself up and over his shoulders, leaving him as a helpless target for another precisely aimed shaft from her archer’s bow.
The arrow embedded itself into the shattered King’s chest cavity and released an acidic liquid that melted his inner systems until he fell at the Green Arrow’s feet. “Well, we know Timex didn’t make him!” he joked.
Black Canary nodded and said, “Ivo again! He must have rebuilt the whole Royal Flush Gang for some odd reason.”
Green Arrow stroked his beard and said, “Yeah, collect them while they last.” In spite of his swashbuckling manner and rapid-fire sarcasm, Oliver Queen truly cared about other people and had long waged a tireless crusade to bring about positive social change in both his costumed role and in his job as Daily Star columnist. That was why he could brush aside encounters with mechanical beings dressed like human playing cards so easily. He recognized such episodes as being mere distractions from what he considered to be his true calling — keeping the streets safe for the poor, who lacked the means to defend themselves or make their voices heard.
“Pretty bird, can you imagine what the money it took to whip up this gonzo Go-Bot could have done for folks in the slums around here?” he said. “You could replace a whole tenement for the cost of that reject from Lost in Space!”
Black Canary nodded and caressed his arm as she drew closer to her new husband. The two had only recently been married and had returned from their honeymoon when the Hawks contacted them about the current problem. (*) Dinah Queen, as the former Dinah Lance was now named, loved him for his passionate devotion to helping others, and she ached for the pain his frustration at not being able to bring about the sweeping changes he longed for created within him. As a girl, she had witnessed the same crusading zeal in her father Donald Drake and had found equal courage and selflessness in her late husband, Larry Lance.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Green Arrow and Black Canary: Let No Man Put Asunder.]
Now she faced the Emerald Archer as he looked down at the fallen robot. “Well, pretty pird, beak-puss was right when he tipped us off to the fact that records showed a guy named Ives owned the place,” he said. “This must be one of the Prof’s storage buildings. I won’t lose any sleep over trashing his metal watchdog.”
Black Canary nodded as she activated her JLA signal device. “I’ll check with the satellite to see if any of the others came up with any leads on just where our elusive criminal genius is hiding out,” she said.
After a quick conversation with Hawkman, Green Arrow and Black Canary joined some of their teammates outside a New Jersey mansion. Thanks to the speed and resources of the Thanagarian spacecraft, it was easy for the heroes to reach their goal in mere minutes.
“We managed to get this address from one of Ivo’s jailed former thugs,” explained Hawkwoman. “He claims this is Ivo’s current base.”
Hawkman nodded and said, “He’s in there, all right. A misshapen man has been spotted from outside the upper windows.”
Green Arrow shrugged and said, “Don’t tell me a little bird told you.”
“Actually, it was a moderately large sparrow,” said Hawkman. “Come on. We’ll divide up and cover the exits.”
Black Canary and Green Arrow moved swiftly to the rear of the old Georgian townhouse, and the Blonde Bombshell climbed up a trellis to peer into a window. “Lab equipment everywhere,” she whispered. Green Arrow nodded and deftly drew an arrow from his quiver.
On the other side of the house, the Atom piloted a small, sled-like vehicle through the air. I.Q. sure did come up with a honey of a craft for me, he thought as he steered a silent flying craft down the chimney. This little beauty is perfect for a guy my size. Modifying his old jet skis was a clever idea!
As the Atom emerged from the fireplace, Hawkman and Hawkwoman crashed in through the front door and an upper window, respectively, and Green Arrow and Black Canary broke in through the rear door.
The heroes converged upon one startled figure whose scarred and distorted face belied his almost superhuman intellect.
“Avon calling!” said Green Arrow as he fired a net arrow to snare the villain.
Professor Anthony Ivo cursed and struggled as the net wrapped around him. “Why can’t you leave me in peace?” he said. “I was not bothering you. I was merely trying to cure myself of the condition my association with your kind created!”
“You turned into a monster because your quest for power and immortality came with a price,” said Hawkman. “We are not to blame for that.”
Green Arrow added, “You know, I don’t see any kind of nutty robot or weapon around. Just chemicals!”
“Listen to him!” said Ivo. “I am only trying to restore my very humanity!”
“What about the robotic Royal Flush Gang?” asked Hawkwoman. “We’ve encountered two robots that clearly came from your plans.”
Ivo scowled and said, “I have neither the desire nor the time to build such petty toys! I am fighting for my very soul!”
“I searched the whole place and didn’t even find more than a typical burglar alarm,” said the Atom. “You did notice how easily we got inside. Not a deathtrap to be found!”
“Ivo, if you are telling the truth, can you at least tell us who could have gotten access to your designs?” said Hawkman. “These robots in the shape of our old foes were based on designs you’ve used before, and very recently, too. The Flash told us about the new Amazo robot you built.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Flash: From the Ashes.]
Ivo shuddered and said, “I have no idea! I would not wish a fate like mine on anyone else! My work is not to be tampered with lightly.”
“I believe him,” said Green Arrow. “If I’d made myself look like that, I’d care about a cure more than any kinda revenge.”
“I even turned down an offer to join an alliance that seeks your deaths,” said Ivo. “I said I had to put my restoration before revenge.”
Before he could continue, six costumed figures raced into the house and attacked the heroes. The six villains were dressed in the card-themed costumes of the Royal Flush Gang. Their leader was a older bearded man with a crown and an ornate blue, red, and gold tunic. The King of Spades was joined by a regal, red-haired Queen of Spades in a matching tunic and hosiery. By the royal pair stood a white-faced Jack of Spades, a pair of male Aces of Spades, and a female Ten of Spades with long black hair. All of the villains had chalky white powder or, in some cases, a mask over their faces.
Hawkman swooped forward and brought an ancient morning star down across the back of the larger Ace and nodded with approval as the man fell forward with an audible grunt. The Winged Wonder frowned and shouted, “He’s human! Don’t treat them like automatons! We’re dealing with costumed people, not machines!”
Green Arrow ducked under a razor-sharp card and wrestled with the King until he had forced the older man against a wall and into the winter sunlight that streamed into a window. “Far freakin’ out! It’s Jim Gordon!” he yelled as he recognized the man beneath the makeup.
Black Canary had already spun around with a blindingly fast martial arts kick that dropped the female Ten to the ground, even as she tried to counter with an exotic twist of one leg. “Klurkor! Krypton’s martial arts! That’s Lois Lane!” said the Canary as she flipped across the other woman’s body and pinned her to the floor.
Hawkwoman danced aside as the Jack and the Queen tried to smash a table over her body. The Pinioned Princess dashed across the shattering wood and kicked both villains in their chests. She used her wings to sweep them away again as they tried to attack anew. “I can’t say I know my pair of cards, here,” she said.
After a few moments of concentration, she realized that she did know the Jack of Spades from seeing his face in public. “Tom Kalmaku!” she cried. “Ferris Air’s top engineer and G.L.’s pal certainly is not a criminal by nature!”
She grappled with him, and her superior strength enabled her to hold him in place as a glue arrow from Green Arrow coated the Queen of Spades and left her stuck next to the shorter and heavier Ace of Spades, who had been trapped by the normal-sized Atom.
“The second Ace is a fellow lawman!” said the Atom. “It’s Chief Gil Baxter from Ivy Town!”
Green Arrow grimaced and said, “Got to be some kind of mind game. All these people wouldn’t turn sinister at once, if at all.”
“The Queen is Asian-American, but I’m not sure who she is,” said Hawkman. “But something tells me she has some connection to one of us JLAers.”
The Atom rubbed the powder off the Queen’s face and removed the red wig she wore. “It’s Linda Park,” he said. “She’s a Central City TV newswoman.”
“No doubt she has met or worked with the Flash in the past,” added Hawkman.
“That leaves the taller Ace,” said the Atom. “From his build, he could be an athlete.”
“We’ll I.D. him easily enough once we get him out of here,” said Hawkman.
Anthony Ivo shrieked in anger and shouted, “Your fight wrecked my lab! My experiment is ruined! I may never replicate what has been lost! You’ve cost me years! I will never forgive you for this!”
Green Arrow looked around and said, “Stow it, Ivo. Maybe some of the JLA’s lab jockeys can help you. Maybe we should’a a long time ago.”
“The first Atom offered, but Ivo wouldn’t allow it,” said the Atom. “He claimed that Ray would try to poison him!”
“Whatever drove these people to pose as a Royal Flush Gang is also keeping them from talking,” said Black Canary. “I think they are all under some kind of spell.”
“Ivo insists he had nothing to do with them, nor does he know how anyone could get to his plans,” said Hawkwoman.
“But you said you were asked to join up with some anti-JLA gang, right?” Green Arrow asked the mad scientist.
“I’ll say no more!” replied Professor Ivo. “Let them kill you all! You deserve nothing less!”
Later, after Anthony Ivo was jailed, having refused any offer of aid from the heroes, they gathered on the JLA Satellite with the captive faux Royal Flush Gang.
“I think the group Ivo turned down set him up in order to pay him back for spurning their offer,” surmised Hawkman. “The robots somehow came from his designs and led us right to his base. We were meant to find him, and the battle was meant to ruin his work, among other things.”
“We originally thought they were trying to steal game-related items like the robot at the Midway City Museum, but I’m having second thoughts,” said Hawkwoman. “What if the whole thing was nothing more than a distraction?”
“A distraction that could have proven deadly for these pawns!” added Black Canary. “One of us might have injured them accidentally during the battle. We know that would also indirectly hurt some of our friends who are close to them.”
“I’ve identified the taller Ace,” said Hawkwoman. “His name is Ed Harding. He was the Martian Manhunter’s old boss years ago, when J’onn was a policeman in Middletown.”
Green Arrow slammed his fist into the palm of his other hand. “That nails it! Not only does some snake know the victims were friends of some members, but he also just might know who those members are behind their masks and cowls!”