Legion of Super-Heroes: Shadows and Substance, Chapter 2: The Black Mace Gang

by Libbylawrence

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They swooped into the office of the Lady Mayor Chandra Dis. She gasped in surprise and then rushed to embrace Tasmia Mallor. “Champion of Talok, how we need you now! You are the answer to our prayers!” said the woman who ruled Ibid-Ganar, the largest city-state of the many scattered cities on the planet. “We need your power and courage to preserve us from the latest attack of the Tara-Mahor! The desert and mountain men have united under the leadership of the demon of the desert! Kyack Ze himself leads this group!”

Tasmia’s eyes widened as she heard the news. She had always thought the old man of the sands or the demon of the desert to be a child’s myth. She never imagined that he truly existed to threaten those she held dear. “What has happened to Grev?” she asked. “He surely attempted to drive them away from the gates!”

The taller woman frowned and said, “I fear young Grev Mallor was captured. He fought them and tried to lead them away from the city, but he has not been seen since then!”

Mon-El had been using his super-vision to scan the sands around the city, and he turned to Shadow Lass and announced, “I see a band of those nomads approaching as we speak. Let’s give them a welcome they won’t soon forget!”

“We will protect the city from Kyack Ze if he is human or demon!” vowed Shadow Lass. “I promise you this much!”

The Legionnaires flew out to face the group of around sixty warriors who were making their way to the city gates. Some rode up to the gates on the odd purple-hued horses of Talok VIII, but a few drew closer within the rusty battle tanks they had assembled over the years.

“Grev is not with them,” said Mon-El. “Let me have a little talk with them!” He stood defiantly before the tanks and placed his hands on his hips. He knew such a cocky posture would attract their fire. He wanted that to be the case, since he knew his invulnerable body could withstand the weapon fire better than the city walls could.

Sure enough, the most powerful Legionnaire was quickly blasted from three different angles as red energy bathed over his body. He smiled and walked directly through the line of fire to casually toss all three tanks into the air and juggle them like a circus performer might balance colorful balls. He shook the occupants out of the tanks before hurling the vehicles into space.

Lightning Lass danced out of the path of a hurled spear and sent a blazing bolt of electrical energy crackling across the air to blind and frighten the soldiers. As they fell away in fear, Timber Wolf crashed into them after executing a dazzling triple-flip through the air. He struck with precision and skill and lashed out at the soldiers with the astonishing speed that was his to command. “You guys better give up now!” he said. “The Legion is a lot more impressive than those city guards you’re used to fighting!”

Meanwhile, Saturn Girl gave a high kick that knocked a burly soldier flat, and she ducked under a sword thrust from another trooper. I sense their fear! she thought. They fight out of a blind loyalty and fear of someone called the demon of the desert!

Star Boy caused a group of the raiders to sink to their chins in the sands around them. He could increase the mass of anyone or anything merely by drawing said mass from the stars above. Glancing around, Star Boy used his powers with careful discernment. “Tasmia, this should slow them down!” he said. “Can you get some answers out of them?”

Shadow Lass had been casting a wide blanket of inky darkness across the sands, and she heard the muffled yells of the fearful troops. They knew her power, and they respected it. Shadow Lass drew closer to them and questioned the startled soldiers. “Where is Grev Mallor?” she demanded. “What have you done with him?”

Before she could continue her questions, Saturn Girl broadcasted a mental warning, then Mon-El shoved her aside and slapped away a red beam of energy that emerged from a hand-blaster carried by a white-suited man who literally stepped out of the sands below them.

“Look out, Shady!” shouted Mon-El as he blocked the sneak attack by the now-tangible Bgtzlian.

“Mon-El, I hope you brought that little tramp Tinya Wazzo along!” sneered the black-haired villain called Phantom Lad. “I’d like to get my hands inside her!”

“Solon Darga! What brings a punk like you so far away from gullible wealthy old ladies?” said Shadow Lass as he whirled to face the now wraithlike man.

“He’s not alone! I’m with him!” said a newcomer who tossed back his hood to reveal Grev’s features. “Tasmia, I’ve decided to join them! They have a right to be angry at our people! We’ve left them out in the sands for eons!” he said as he approached her.

Tasmia frowned as she started to embrace him. Something was wrong. This was not Grev; she could sense that through the bond they shared. He raised a sword and tried to slice Tasmia in half, but she spun around and kicked the blade out of his grasp even as he drew back and changed his form.

“You are not my cousin! You can’t deceive me!” Shadow Lass said as she slipped aside seconds before his arms elongated into tentacles, and he tried to smother her in a crushing, inhuman embrace. After she connected with a hard right hook, he fell down and changed into an orange-hued muscle man from Durla.

“Chameleon Kid — Toog Lintens!” said Mon-El. “Don’t tell me your entire team of Legion Rejects have hooked up with the Tarra-Mahor!” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Last Fight for a Legionnaire,” Superboy #212 (October, 1975).]

Taking on the appearance of Grev Mallor again, the shape-shifting villain said, “We work for a new gang now. We captured the so-called champion of Talok VIII earlier. We’re just playing with him now!”

Shadow Lass jumped forward and slapped him across the face before he could react. “If you’ve hurt Grev, I’ll see that you spend all your days in eternal night!” she said. Concentrating, she surrounded them within a sphere of darkness.

Phantom Lad drew closer, but Mon-El said, “Don’t try anything! If you become solid enough to hurt Tasmia, then I’ll knock your head off before you can move! I’m that fast. Try me!”

“He won’t need to do anything. He has friends now! He and Chameleon Kid belong to the Black Mace Gang!” said a bald man in black who came up from the rear of the desert warriors.

“Is that some kind of new version of the old Taurus Gang or somethin’?” said Timber Wolf. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Mission: Diabolical,” Adventure Comics #374 (November, 1968).]

“New and improved!” snarled Black Mace, raising the weapon for which he was named.

“It will take a bit more than your little weapon to hurt me!” said Mon-El as he turned to face the leader of the gang of hired mercenaries who assisted the desert nomads.

Black Mace, alias Mick Yardreigh, smiled coldly and balanced his mace carefully. He was not a coward. The hulking Avalonian named Rogarth and the white-bearded Khund called Gharf were equally formidable, but Mon-El was more than a good fighter. He was famous across the galaxy for his Daxamite super-powers.

Saturn Girl touched one of the fallen soldiers and read his mind swiftly. She yelled, “They are holding Grev at the shrine to your ancestors! They’ve set up a rough base there!”

Shadow Lass inhaled sharply and said, “Thank goodness he is still alive!”

Timber Wolf snarled as he moved closer to the black-clad Black Mace. “So, Mick, how’ve you been doing since the last time I kicked your teeth in?” he asked.

“I have looked forward to getting a second chance to pay you back for that defeat!” said Black Mace.

Rogarth flexed his muscles and said, “Allow me to chastise the knave!” He charged at Timber Wolf, only to fall flat as the agile Brin Londo dodged aside and slammed one elbow into the back of the bigger man’s head.

Lightning Lass flew out of the path of a sudden barrage of arrows and used her powers to burn them to ashes before they could hit her or her friends. “Guys, the soldiers are attacking again!” she said.

Star Boy gestured, and all of the bows dropped to the ground, to the surprise of their users. “I guess these fellows can’t hold their weapons, now that I’ve made them weigh five times as much as before!”

“Let’s go free Grev!” shouted Shadow Lass. But as she flew higher, she gasped in shock as brilliant light struck her and knocked her to the ground.

Mon-El jumped forward to shield her as the light’s intensity increased and a blond man appeared in the air above them. “Quanto! I thought you quit the old Taurus Gang and reformed!” said Saturn Girl as she recognized the other-dimensional light-bearer.

Quanto shook his elfin head and said, “I do this against my will! I assure you I am sorry for this!”

“Don’t be sorry! Just stop!” said Star Boy. He tried to make the yellow-suited man fall down by increasing his mass, but the alien being merely turned to pure light and sped off to return as a solid light rocket that knocked Thom Kallor cold.

Saturn Girl yelped in pain as well, as she was knocked across the sands by Gharf. He had moved so suddenly that even the Titanian had been unable to avoid his quick attack. The Khund lifted her by her long hair and smiled maliciously. “She will make a pleasant diversion for my leisure hours!” he said.

Black Mace darted forward to block Timber Wolf’s efforts to free Imra. He swung his mace around and connected with a sudden thud that sent even Timber Wolf reeling. Brin punched back and found his attack blocked by the spinning mace.

Rogarth roared in a type of battle rage and grabbed Lightning Lass in a crushing embrace. She yelped in pain and touched his armor with one palm. He screamed and toppled like a fallen tree to land at her feet. “That metal armor makes a great conductor!” she said as sparks crackled from her hands.

Mon-El was already shielding Shadow Lass from the light-blasts of Quanto, but even he was caught off-guard as a giant orange-skinned monster charged into view and loomed above them all. “Great moons of Daxam! Shagrek!” he said. “It’s even bigger than it was before!” He gestured at the huge humanoid figure that drew closer and scowled at them in savage rage.

Shagrek was a monster of unknown origin. He had been found at a mining camp years before and had even been placed in the Tokyo Zoo as an animal of mysterious nature until he had manifested the power to generate blasts of disintegrating energy from his two antennae. He had killed forty people before he was finally sedated. Now he stood taller than ever before, and Mon-El rushed to block his attack.

“Fall back! Leave him to me!” said Mon-El.

Timber Wolf scowled as well as he bounded away from Black Mace and kicked Gharf away from the fallen Saturn Girl. Lightning Lass used her own powers against Quanto, who ignored her energy and merely flickered away to return directly behind her. He created a solid light cocoon that wrapped around Ayla’s struggling arms and legs until she passed out. Timer Wolf turned to help her and fell to a three-way assault from Black Mace, Gharf, and Phantom Lad.

Chameleon Kid changed into a Venusian battlecat and pounced on Shadow Lass as she tried to recover her powers enough to help her friends. She was too late, and the recovery came too slowly to do any good. She fell flat and gasped in pain as the heavy weight of the battlecat knocked her down again.

Mon-El had been slugging it out with Shagrek, only even he could not stand against a concentrated blast from the creature’s antennae beams. He collapsed and moved no more as the triumphant Black Mace Gang gathered the heroes and took them all away, while the soldiers of the Tarra-Mahor resumed their assault on the city gates.

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