"Three days ago," a storm rages outside a remote monastery in Tibet. The lone monk wandering around is getting the creeps, there's something off, something not quite right...and then...TAKABOOM! It's not just thunder, a giant is attacking the peaceful mountain retreat. The monks have been watching over a villain by the name of Andreas Havoc, who was defeated by Thunderbolt, one of their disciples. Now though, he's been freed to seek revenge! He wastes no time either...a page flip jumps us to "today" where Havoc, now referring to himself as "Vajra" has created a huge energy bubble in New York City and is offering peace in exchange for the life of Thunderbolt.
Sergeant Steel contacts Captain Atom, since the energy bubble has already injured several people he needs someone who can handle this type of situation, and Cap fits that bill. Sarge has also coordinated with Blue Beetle and Thunderbolt himself and in no time they all rendezvous in NYC and take care of Havoc. Local law enforcement get a little jumpy when a portal appears, but it's all good...Cap has brought along a secret weapon...Nightshade! With our team in place, they head into Central Park to take down Havoc! They're not the only ones though. A mysterious, duffle bag toting, figure is watching from the crowd "waiting for an excuse to jump in".
As our four heroes approach Havoc's energy dome Cap notes that he's not detecting any trace of radiation attached to the energy and Thunderbolt explains it's because Havoc draws his power from his mind. Captain Atom decides to fly right into the bubble while Nightshade takes Thunderbolt and Blue Beetle in through one of her portals. No sooner are they inside than Havoc and Thunderbolt start trading insults...until Havoc unleashes an army of fire trolls*.
While the rest of the team deals with them, Thunderbolt takes off looking for Havoc himself. Sadly though by opening his mind in an effort to seek Havoc's mind he inadvertently lets the villain into his own head...and Havoc wastes no time, attacking TBolt in the guise of a beautiful woman from his past. As this is going on, Captain Atom, Blue Beetle and Nightshade make pretty quick work of the fire trolls...only to find there's a fresh batch of earth trolls ready to take their place. These trolls have new trick too! They swarm around our super friends and morph into a mud dome. Luckily Nightshade is quick on her feet and manages to use another portal and miraculously warps them right to the base of Havoc's throne. The downside though is Thunderbolt, the only one who really knows what they're up against, is still fighting Havoc in his head. The others soon find themselves under the villain's spell too, each battling their own demons...Cap afraid he'll lose control of his power...Nightshade afraid she won't be able to control the darkness inside the Land of the Shadows...and Ted dealing with some power envy, "just a clown in a costume". Lucky for them the all new Judomaster (the guy with the duffle bag) just crawled through a sewer to join them, eager to make his debut!
Judomaster is just the help they need too! He attacks Havoc's giant, only to find it's intangible, just a projection. Luckily while his punch passes through the giant, it connects with Havoc! And Havoc, spread a little thin toying with four minds, making giant constructs, trolls and domes, suddenly loses focus. Our heroes defeat their demons, break Havoc's hold, and charge the big baddie. In a last ditch effort he tries to attack with the giant one last time...only to have Nightshade open a portal and send the behemoth, along with Havoc's mind, into the land of Shadows. And just like that...it's done! Everything is suddenly back to normal. And it's at that moment that Ted realizes they acted like they'd worked together before...like they had a connection**..."Naw! I guess it's just my wacky imagination, huh?"
I liked this story as a kid, and I still like it (even have more appreciation for it) now as an adult, with a little more knowledge of the characters and history. I like that it works on more than one level too! It's not just the Charlton ties...there's Captain Atom and Blue Beetle in the JLI, Sarge Steel and Nightshade both involved with Task Force X and Suicide Squad...its just cool to look at the layers and connections...and some great characters that, sadly, don't get used often enough.
*ok, no one ever calls them that, but that's what they look like
**of course they do! They're all Charlton characters!