Crisis? What Crisis?The members of the Justice League looked around their satellite warily. Dozens of other super characters were crowded in to the place, spilling out of the central meeting hall, packed into the various access corridors, milling around in the trophy room, eating canapes and swilling non-alcoholic margaritas.
"How are we fitting this many people in here?" the ever logical Batman wondered aloud.
"And where the hell is the chow coming from?" the ever pragmatic Green Arrow muttered, munching on a Ritz cracker.
"That Monitor guy took care of it," the Atom said, waving vaguely. "The food, I mean. The time and space thing I think is magic, or something."
Superman took his chin off his fist and sat upright abruptly. "Okay, I'm outta here," he declared, starting to get up.
"Don't be such a BABY, Clark," Wonder Woman advised him dryly. "This whole mess is going to turn out MUCH worse for me than for you."
Green Lantern shuddered. "I don't want to hear a word from either of you," he warned.
At the edge of the observation platform, a humanoid heap of rotting moss and muck appeared, alongside a dapper, trenchcoated fellow with upswept blond hair.
"Isn't that Sting?" Hawkman said, peering through the crowd at the new arrivals.
"No, that's Swamp Thing," Green Arrow said dryly. "Sting has a little less fungus on his chest."
Hawkman glared at the Emerald Archer. "I meant the one in the trenchcoat. Isn't HE Sting?"
"Indeed not," came a deep, enigmatic voice from the shadows nearest the Leaguers. The Phantom Stranger stepped forward, adjusting his fedora. "That is John Constantine, and oh, is his life going to suck as soon as he gets his own title."
Hawkman folded his arms stubbornly. "I think he looks like Sting, " he said, to no one in particular.
Supergirl made her way through the crowd, waving hi absently to most of the Leaguers. Upon reaching Superman, she bent down and gave him a very affectionate kiss hello on the mouth.
After a minute or so, Batman cleared his throat. "Hellooooo... Earth to Krypton... even 23,000 miles over Star City, I think that sort of thing is still illegal..."
Superman looked around, eyes somewhat glazed. "What? WHAT? It's... it's a House of El thing. Jeez. You guys have dirty minds." He paused. "Look, don't tell Lois, she'd, like, freak."
Supergirl folded her arms and regarded the rest of the heroes coolly, one miniskirted hip perched possessively on her cousin's broad right shoulder.
"Hi, Uncle Bruce, and by the way," the Girl of Steel asked sweetly, "just which one of you Gene Police was going to actually, you know... arrest us?"
"Damn you guys got cocky after that 'kryptonite turns into iron' thing," Green Arrow muttered.
"It's just WRONG," Batman said flatly, teeth clenched. "Alien chromosomes or NOT."
Overhearing this, the Wonder Twins surreptitiously disentwined their fingers. Jade and Obsidian quietly moved a few inches apart. Jan and Jase, after stealing a glance at Space Ghost, slipped off into the empty power plant chamber. After loitering for a moment to seem inconspicuous, Blip quietly followed them.
"I wouldn't be too judgmental there if I were you," the Atom squeaked. "I mean, you know, Mr. I Adopt Ten Year Old Acrobats And Dress Them Up In Scaly Green Swim Trunks."
"Hey!" Green Arrow, Aquaman, the Flash, and Wonder Woman all chimed in at once.
"NO sidekick cracks, Palmer," Wonder Woman snapped. "Just because kids don't like YOU..."
"Your teen partner certainly seems to like YOU," the Atom retorted in his high, piping voice. "And I've got the videotape to prove it."
"Tiptoeing around in people's air conditioning shafts," the Princess of the Amazons muttered darkly. "Sneaky little CREEP..."
Abruptly, a cheerful voice broke in above the babble. "All right, everybody. My name is the Monitor. If we could just get started..."
Five subjective minutes later...
"Kara is dead," wept a heartbroken, inconsolable Man of Steel. "Oh, my cousin, my COUSIN..."
"You'll get over it," Green Lantern sighed, patting the Last Son of Krypton on one massive shoulder.
"Are you kidding?" demanded the sobbing Man of Tomorrow. "For God's SAKE, Hal, I blow the back of Earth women's HEADS OFF when I..."
"Oh GROSS." GL clamped his hands over his ears. "I can't HEEEAR you Mary had a little lamb little lamb little lamb..."
Ignoring her sex crazed teammates, Wonder Woman regarded herself in the mirror. "Well, I look about fifteen years younger, that can't be BAD," she mused.
Green Arrow regarded a boxing glove arrow he had just drawn out of his quiver with distaste. "How in the name of God do these things even FIT in there?" he muttered. "Nope, nope, I'm just gonna start using barbed hunting heads. Screw 'em if they can't take a joke."
"Didn't I used to have some kind of... I don't know... Canary cry thing?" Black Canary mused to herself, clearing her throat and once more giving a high little chirp, to no discernable effect at all. "This is going to SUCK if I get kidnapped and tortured in a warehouse or something..."
"Come on, what are the odds?" the Atom said cheerfully, sharpening his sword as he looked around. "Right, Hawkman?"
The Thanagarian quickly put his miniaturized spy camera back into his belt. "Right, little buddy! I'm the son of the Golden Age Hawkman, you know! Not any sort of Thanagarian spy sent to ferret out the secrets of Earth's super community! Oh no! Not at all!"
"Right," the Atom said, looking at Hawkman in puzzlement. "Are you... feeling okay there, pal?"
Superman looked up. "Um... say, everybody... I was wondering... who's Kara?"
Green Lantern folded his arms. "TOLD you you'd get over it."
Wonder Woman chewed her much younger looking lip thoughtfully. "Um... you know, doesn't the Golden Age Hawkman HAVE a son? In Infinity Inc? I'm pretty sure?"
"Ixnay on the ommonkay ensay," Green Lantern said to her quietly. " Just, you know, smile and nod."
Batman looked around grimly. "Well, at least I haven't changed," he said. "Although... didn't I used to be able to figure things... I mean... out? Whaddya call that... analysis, and such like? Something that starts with a 'd'. Didactive? Something..."
Red Tornado walked up, beaming amiably. "Say, Batman, there are some looters in the trophy room stealing everything, and I was not certain if it would be appropriate..."
"GOONS!" the former Darknight Detective howled. "COOL!" Whirling, he hurled himself down the hall and into the trophy room in two or three incredibly above Olympian level bounds. Awful sounds of carnage immediately ensued.
"Those 'goons' are, I believe, all escaped Phantom Zone prisoners," Red Tornado said worriedly. "Perhaps we.... er... that is... some of you.... should assist the Gotham Guardian."
"Nah," Aquaman said apathetically from where he had his feet up on the conference table, regarding the harpoon that had somehow replaced his right hand morosely. "No need."
"You see," Green Lantern explained, "this is the new post Crisis, Frank Miller inspired, scary as hell bad ass psycho Batman. Couldn't detect who farted while trapped in an elevator with the Kingpin eating bean dip and four skeletons."
"BUT," Green Arrow added, "leave him off panel for five minutes, maybe throw in a few gruesome sound effects..."
From down the hall: THUD! "BY RAO, NOOOO!" KRUNCH! "Help us help us HELP US -" WHAM! "AUUUUUUUuuuugggghhhh...."
"...and then, bingo," Green Arrow finished, "You walk in the room and find, like, Galactus, beaten unconscious and hanging from the rafters in handcuffs."
"Wow," Red Tornado said, seeming impressed. "Is that true, Flash?"
Everyone looked around. "Ah, Barry?" the Atom asked tentatively.
There was no answer.
"Oh, THIS sucks," Green Lantern groaned.
"What sucks?" a cheerful voice said from off panel. Looking over, the League saw a maniacally grinning guy in a blue on blue costume walking up.
"Nice goggles," Aquaman said. "Who are you? Oh, wait. Let me read your mind." The King of the Seven Seas furrowed his brow. "Blue Beetle? What kind of dorky name is that?"
"Oh, get used to the dorky names," Green Lantern murmured, too quietly for anyone else to hear. "Listen everybody, I'm taking off. My new alien girlfriend should be just about legal by now, and God knows I should enjoy something before my life goes in the toilet." With a wave, GL turned himself intangible with his ring and flew off through the satellite wall.
The Atom turned back to Hawkman. "Well, at least someone has a healthy..." The Tiny Titan stopped, regarding the leather-clad figure before him dubiously. "Katar? You weren't, like, just wearing that, were you?"
Hawkman looked around through his yellowish eye-shields. "Okay, this place is weird," he muttered. "What the hell am I doing here?"
"Lot of that going around," Black Canary remarked dryly. Green Arrow, busy shaving his head, looked up at her in puzzlement. "Hmmmm?"
Batman wandered back out, a contented expression on his face. "You know, those guys in there were Daxamites? Apparently, everyone in the Phantom Zone is a Daxamite now. It's kinda nice because, you know, Kryptonite is hard to find, but LEAD..."
A lithe, athletic young adult male in a strange looking black, blue and yellow costume strode up to Batman. "Quick, Batman, the H.I.V.E is invading Gotham City..."
Batman regarded him owlishly. "Do I know you?"
The young man stared at Batman incredulously. "I'm Nightwing. Formerly your sidekick, Robin. Leader of the New Teen Titans. Remember me?"
Batman scratched his head. "Um... oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Right. I remember now. This time travel stuff sucks."
The Atom sighed. "It's not the time travel, it's the oversight free revisions and reboots that are killin' me." He promptly stabbed himself in the foot as he tried to sheathe his sword and missed.
Superman frowned. "Nightwing... Jimmy was Nightwing. I was Flamebird! We were the Batman and Robin of Kandor!"
Batman regarded Superman doubtfully and slipped an arm around Nightwing's waist. "You'd have blown the back of Olsen's head off, Clark." Nightwing smiled in fond reminiscence.
"Not in Kandor!" Superman cried. "In Kandor I had no superpowers! In Kandor all the women looked like Lois Lane, and worshipped me as a GOD! In Kandor Jimmy could... could... Oh RAO! I was... so... HAPPY... in Kandor...." Burying his head in his arms, the pre MAN OF STEEL, post Crisis Superman wept for everything that a cruelly revised universe had robbed him of.
Wonder Woman leaned over to Green Lantern and whispered behind her hand, "Taking a while for the Byrne reboot to hit him, isn't it? I mean, wasn't he the FIRST to go?"
Hal shrugged. "He's pretty tough, Di. He might hold out for a few more minutes before he goes under."
"HE'll get over it," the young, teenage Green Arrow said in a spritely fashion. "I'VE been rebooted two or three times and I'm just fine!"
The Martian Manhunter regarded Batman and Nightwing doubtfully. "If you adopted Dick when he was 10, Bruce... and he's... 21 now... and you're... 29... that means that when you adopted him, you were..."
"Ixnay on the ogiclay," Wonder Woman whispered. "Just smile and nod."
Still weeping, Superman looked up again, then stood up "Everybody wants a piece of me," he whimpered. "They ALL want a piece of me, Ma..." Turning, he fled down the hall.
"His cape wasn't ALWAYS that torn up, was it?" Aquaman wondered aloud, watching the Metropolis Marvel retreat.
"Once he rides out the rough spots and gets to the Roger Stern run, he'll be fine," Green Arrow reassured everyone.
Wonder Woman frowned. "So the part where he gets a split personality, becomes a sociopathic vigilante by night, and exiles himself from Earth for a year... these aren't rough spots?"
Green Arrow shrugged. "Compared to being temporarily beaten to death by a mindless spiked alien that, on a day when Superman's frontal lobes weren't utterly paralyzed by marketing scheme necessity, he would have just picked up by the brow ridges and booted back into space... nah, I wouldn't call them rough spots."
"Good point," a near seven foot tall Hawkman said. "I myself wonder why I won't suggest, at that point, that we assemble a teleportation screen directly in front of the big purple goon... Whichever me I am at that point, I mean..." He trailed off, looking confused.
At the conference table, Vibe, Gypsy, and Steel were deep in conversation with the Elongated Man.
"Who the hell are you three freaks?" the Atom demanded, drawing his sword again.
"Don't ask," a nervous looking Green Lantern asked, apparently having returned when no one was looking. "They'll be gone in a minute or two."
"We're the NEW JUSTICE LEAGUE!" the Elongated Man shouted.
"Jesus wept," Batman said, appalled.
"It gets worse," Green Lantern said with a long suffering sigh.
"Impossible," Batman snapped grimly.
"Please, Bruce," GL said as he massaged his temples wearily with his hands. "Never say that. NEVER SAY THAT."
Batman got up. "Well, I'll have NO part of it," he announced. "Anything worse than THAT... no way."
"That's what YOU think," Hal said. "Still, you can consider your appearances over the next couple of years out of continuity if you like."
Batman scowled. "What the HELL are you talking about?" Abruptly, he was hit in the face by a pie thrown from off panel. He turned. "Why youse guys! I'll moiderize youse!" He leapt away.
From off panel: "BWA HA HA!"
"Nyuck nyuck nyuck! Hey Batman! Lookit this!"
Things came and went. At some point when Green Lantern wasn't watching, the Atom got a new costume and modified powers, then vanished again. Hawkman disappeared completely and was apparently forgotten by everyone. Over in one corner, Animal Man, Captain Atom, Guy Gardner, a fat Blue Beetle, the Crimson Fox, Fire, Ice, and Metamorpho were eating popcorn and watching the movie INDEPENDENCE DAY, which they all seemed to agree was the most comprehensively intelligent science fiction film that had ever been made.
Batman stumbled up to Hal's chair, weeping. "Hal... Hal! Superman is DEAD! Kal El, the Man of Steel, last survivor of Krypton... is DEAD! Not a hoax, not a dream, not an Imaginary Story!" The Dark Knight broke down and sobbed on GL's shoulder.
Green Lantern patted Batman's back absently. "It's okay, Bruce. He'll get better."
After a while, Batman wandered off again. To Green Lantern's bemusement, the room below seemed to fill with various weird humanoids in Superman-variant costumes. "It's a veritable RAIN of the Supermen," Hal mused to himself.
After a while, they faded away, and Batman came over once more. "Hal, Superman is alive again! He's alive!"
Hal sighed. "Told you."
Batman looked puzzled. "But... he needs a haircut."
Wonder Woman came over and sat down at the table with them. "Hal, are you still up here? You have you own title, you know. Plots and storylines. People are depending on you. You should get back down there... out there... whatever."
Green Lantern shuddered. "Oh, PLEASE, Diana. You know who's writing me right now? Mr. 'Hank Pym Was Only Interesting When He Was Beating His Wife'. Captain 'Let's Turn Wonder Man into a superpowerful psychopath'. Senator 'The Zenith of Good Melodrama Is A Pie In Batman's Face'. Prince 'Let's write a history of comics and give more space to THE TROUBLE WITH GIRLS than we give to Steve Engelhart, Steve Gerber, Cary Bates, Curt Swan, Kurt Schaffenberger, and John Buscema COMBINED'. HIM. That... JONES... freak." Hal shuddered again. "No thank you VERY much, I'll just stay right here and watch the reboots roll out."
Wonder Woman squinted at him doubtfully. "My GOD, Hal, are you AFRAID?"
Green Lantern jumped to his feet and roared "Of COURSE I'm afraid! The first thing Peter David DID to me post-Crisis - besides forcing me to make out with a Rich Howell drawn Arisia -"
There Wonder Woman and Batman shuddered, as well.
"- was make me AFRAID! Ohhhhhh, a person without FEAR is sociopathic, Hal! Ohhhhh, it's the Guardians messing with your HEAD, Hal! Oh, let's give you a normal survival instinct, Hal! CHRIST!" The Emerald Gladiator was tugging his hair and rolling his eyes frantically now. "Well, guess what, Skippy? I've GOT a damned survival instinct now and it's telling me to STAY THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY IN THIS RIDICULOUS UNIVERSE!"
Batman frowned. "You were a lot cooler... before, Hal," he said.
"DUH!" Hal practically shrieked. "Not that YOU should talk, Mr. Couldn't Deduce Who Bane Was With His Rap Sheet, Lexcorp Personnel File, and 14 Page Playboy Interview In Front Of Me!"
Wonder Woman got up. "Well, Hal, all I can say is, I'd trade you Gerard Jones for John Byrne any day." She shivered. "He's going to replace me with my mother. I mean, please."
Batman got up as well. "Seems like... we ALL used to be kind of cooler," he muttered, and moved away.
Green Lantern sat forgotten at the table, chin resting on his hands, mind numb.
Finally, after a long, seemingly timeless interval, he looked around.
"You know your life sucks," he mused, "when you're just sitting around WAITING for..."
Someone tapped on his shoulder. He turned and saw a little blue Guardian standing there, along side an apparent male model, with black hair, a good build, and an utterly vacant look in his eyes. "Dude," the extremely good looking black haired fellow said. "Hey, dude, like this bald guy says you have to give, like, a power ring to me. Like, kewl, huh?"
Hal regarded the two numbly. "It's like that McDonald's commercial with the little Mongoloid kid," he muttered. "Oa institutes a hire the handicapped program."
The Guardian sighed testily. "Well, if you're going to sit up here and mope, Hal Jordan of Earth, then... he'll have to do."
Hal stood up and surrendered the ring in disgust. "Take it," he said. "I'm just about fed up with this post Crisis crap anyway."