Story: John Broome
Art: Gil Kane & Sid Greene
The cover, by Gil and Murphy Anderson, is a grabber. One Guardian of a delegation intones, "Turn in your power ring and uniform, Hal Jordan! Alan Scott is replacing you as Green Lantern of Earth!" Hal, lunging angrily at his Earth-2 comrade, sputters, "That has-been's not cutting me out unless he can beat me in a power-ring duel!" Alan stands ready, his ring-hand balled into an emerald-energy-radiating fist! Quick, turn the page! The splash, apparently but not actually occurring a moment later, has Alan shooting a ring-bolt at Hal, knocking him toward us! Quick, turn the page!
A "come as you were" party at Earth-2's Gotham Broadcasting Company serves to introduce Alan Scott, who, "20 years ago" was an announcer at the company where he now presides. (By inference, he's now in his early 40s.) Also seen is Doiby Dickles, Alan's Man Friday, who had been a cab driver. Doiby is a Derby-wearing, shaven-headed, diminutive "dese-dem-an'-dose" sorta guy, straight out of Damon Runyan. During the drive home in the old cab, "Goitrude," which was 20 years old 20 years prior, the radio news announces that a large meteor is on its way toward Gotham. Alan, now in the red and green costume, flies skyward and shoots a beam in front of the meteor. It blasts right through... and vanishes! Then... CRASH! Doiby had been watching Alan rather than the road and drove straight into a tree! Instantly, Alan surrounds the cab with a force bubble, deflecting the toppling tree, to the astonishment of himself and his long-time confidant. They both know his ring is ineffective against anything made of wood. Yet, with ring energy, Alan is again able to lift the fallen tree, as well as some planks from a wooden fence. He concludes that something about the meteor must have eliminated the ring's weakness, and can't wait to tell Hal over on Earth-One about it. Obviously, contact with a similar meteor might well overcome the necessary impurities that keep Hal's ring from affecting anything colored yellow. With that thought, he's off across the dimensional divide.
Soon, at the Ferris Aircraft Company, pilot Hal Jordan receives a mental summons from Alan, changes into costume and meets with his comrade, who explains his good fortune. However, Alan's attempt to demonstrate his power over a packing crate meets with failure. He is sheepish; it must have been a temporary effect. Hal is intrigued by the odd turn of events, though. Alan asks his ring to spell out all details of what happened. The ring begins by explaining that what he was involved with was not a meteor, but a packet of energy that had been created ten billion years before! The ring's beam, upon contact, absorbed the contents of the disembodied mind within.
In order to explain everything fully, the ring turns the story back to its beginning, ten billion years earlier. We see the blue-skinned Oans, an already highly scientific race who never needed sleep, whose infants showed tremendous mental powers. The adults delved into the nature of, well, nature, when not involved with sport and other recreation. Theirs was a paradise but for one disturbing note: a malcontent named Krona. His obsession was to probe the beginning of all things, in shocking disregard of a timeless legend that to learn the secret of creation was to destroy themselves and the rest of the universe. Krona has no use for such legends, in spite of all pleas that he stop.
One day, his efforts paid off. On a monitor, he has received an image of an enormous shadowy hand cupping a star cluster. But, when he probed further back, a cosmic lightning bolt abruptly splintered his machine! Krona survived only due to his immortality. But, at that moment, EVIL was loosed on the universe! Brother killed brother! And the Oans, those mental giants, knew that the cause was Krona's reckless ambition. Confronted by concerned citizens, Krona declared his contempt for their fears and announced his intention to continue his researches. Well, it doesn't pay to mess with the Oan establishment, who disembodied his consciousness, imprisoned it in an energy ball and send it hurtling out to circle the universe. Then, feeling guilt over the actions of one of their kind, they designated themselves the Guardians of the Universe and established a corps of agents to combat the wickedness that Krona had unleashed. Further, they imbued their power battery with radiation that insured that none of them, and none in their power ring corps, would be able to attempt what Krona had begun. The universe must keep its secrets forever hidden. Eons passed, ring-bearers came and went, and the aging Oans kept their promise.
Eventually Krona was forgotten by his fellows, but his ambitions lived on. As he crossed over into the universe of Earth-2, he became aware that its resident Green Lantern owed his ring power to occult energy, a difference that could be exploited to result in his freedom. By willing his energy-prison to increase in heat while entering Earth-2's atmosphere, Krona brought attention to himself and gained the desired reaction from Alan/Lantern. Then, through a prodigious act of will he skipped across to the mystic beam and settled in Alan's ring. There, outside his own universe, he was imprisoned again. But Krona, using his own will, gave Alan control over wooden objects, knowing that the ring-bearer would think at once of his friend on Earth-1. The moment Alan crossed into Universe-1, Krona was able to detach and operate independently again, at which point the ring had no further information to report.
Hal's immediate reaction is that the Guardians must be notified, and that he must find Krona. Alan corrects him, that it's something they both must do, as Alan is responsible for Krona's freedom. Soon, Hal achieves contact, and the pair is told that the Guardians were listening to Alan's ring as well. Krona, he continues, is still on Earth but has shielded himself from their probes. Doubtless he will continue his investigations, resulting in the instantaneous destruction of the universe. Further, the first results of his efforts will be a disastrous outpouring of evil in his immediate vicinity!... and so Earth-1 will be in great danger! The Guardians themselves are on the way to Earth-1 to set up a temporary headquarters, but meanwhile it's up to the two ring-bearers to keep things under control.
The pair rings out to Coast City, where the Coast River is suddenly flooding its banks! To the left side of the channel goes Alan, who freezes the enormous wave, while Hal, to the right, creates huge atomic ovens, evaporating the water as quickly as it pours. A stranger spectacle is Mount Pacific, which spontaneously tilts toward the city and, like a huge whip, shoots a veritable tongue of boulders toward it! Hal's emerald jackhammer and Alan's enormous handsaw break the flow. Immediately, though, nearby clouds whip into a tornado! Our boys in green seed it with silver iodide, turning it to a relatively less harmful torrential rain. Then, suddenly, a Guardian appears, announcing their arrival on the planet and calling the pair to join them at their temporary HQ, since their very presence is now holding Krona's evil in check. Soon, in an unused courthouse, the Guardians unceremoniously call for Hal to turn in his ring and uniform while appointing Alan the new GL of Earth. In this elongated retelling of the cover, Hal reacts with anger and dismay, just as any of us would.
INTERLUDE: House ad for Brave & Bold #62 with Starman and Black Canary's second team-up, also featuring Wildcat; then, Rocky & Bullwinkle for Cheerios, as well as ads elsewhere for Cocoa Puffs, Tootsie Roll Pops (twice) and Trix. Silly rabbit, comics are for kids!
A short while earlier, in a cave outside Coast City, we see that Krona had set up an incredible apparatus. Peering into its monitor, he gloated that this time he would discover the Secret Origin of the Oans. However, just in case the ancient legend about such probing leading to the destruction of the universe is true, he'd made plans to ensure his own safety. But first, his mental defenses had warned him that the Guardians had arrived on planet. In order to carry out his scheme, he had to surreptitiously enter among them. So, he again reduced himself to energy and slammed his consciousness into Alan's tornado-fighting body while ejecting Alan's own ego. Soon, standing next to Hal and facing the Guardians, Krona cast them under his spell to do his will: to issue the incredible order for Hal to resign. Now, Hal challenges the "Green Lantern of Earth-One," his rage blinding him to the fact that Alan's world is properly if oddly termed Earth-Two, and they ring each other for a few mighty panels. Krona reflects that Hal has surprising endurance, and Hal muses that "Alan" sure has a temper, and then Hal is knocked for a loop.
Soon after, Krona has transported the helpless Guardians to his cave, as they reflect on Krona's dominance over them and Alan. Krona boasts that his pleasure will be only increased by their terror when the Truth is revealed. He then casts Alan's body aside and restores his own, announcing at the same time that he has willed into existence a duplicate of Alan's ring, a vital part of his plan. For, that ring is not a part of the Guardians' universe, and should that universe collapse, it will immediately take Krona to the universe of Earth-Two! Bwa-ha-ha! Then, before the horrified Guardians, the on-monitor scenario unfolds... the formless hand-like cloud... but now Krona must recalibrate to go back further.
Meanwhile, Hal is roused by a telepathic call from Alan, who informs him of the situation. Summoning his groggy will, Hal rings Alan's consciousness into his own mind so that they can continue the fight together. Alan guides Hal's flight through dark skies punctuated by incredible lightning. Doomsday is almost upon them! Hal impels into the cave and is immediately on the attack as Krona rings up a yellow shield. Unexpectedly, Hal shoots a bolt through it, knocking Krona for a loop! Krona rings him right back, but Hal charges forward again, and, Alan's will joined to his, they deliver a solid uppercut, which leaves him dazed. The Guardians seize the moment and destroy his apparatus, then levitate the still-defiant Krona while scoffing at his belligerence. Reducing him again to energy, they send him into an orbit that "will NEVER intersect any planet or star!" Have subsequent writers found a way around this yet?
Outside the cave, the boys chuckle good-naturedly over the inspired trick of switching rings, so that Krona's expectation of a weakness against yellow would be off the mark. But, Hal wonders, whose idea was it? Makes no difference, answers Alan, and, grown people that they are, both are satisfied with the conclusion. Alan flies off to return to his own Earth, and Hal stretches in the sunlight, weary but glad that life is beautiful again.
Writer John Broome schnockered us: we still haven't learned the Secret Origin of the Guardians, but we do learn that they seem to have come into existence first thing after Creation. Or maybe not, as they don't want to take a look and risk everything in the process. Or maybe not. It can be argued that since Krona created the duplicate of Alan's ring while on Earth-1 that it is in fact part of the Guardians' universe, but I don't see that this would affect his evil plan at all.
Gil Kane was delivering sizzling figurework at every opportunity, and even in some of the static shots. We aren't looking up people's noses too much at this point in hit career, and that's okay with me. The mecha was showing no sign of Kirby influence, but the cross-dimensional effects leaned surprisingly toward Ditko. Sid Greene's inks were by no means understated, but still tasteful. The man really liked to apply texture and must have been having fun with all that wavy hair. Murphy Anderson's finishes will probably always be the fan fave, but Greene's were nothin' to sneeze at either.
This story was reprinted in DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #4, which is probably harder to find than this issue itself.