Champions #13

Issue Date: 
May 1977
Story Title: 
The Doom that went on Forever!

Bill Mantlo (Writer), John Byrne (Penciler), Bob Layton (Inker), Irving Wantanabe (Letterer), Bruce Patterson & George Roussos (Colorists), Archie Goodwin (Editor)

Brief Description: 

The Black Goliath returns to Champions HQ, to find the Null-Life Bomb has expanded outwards. Climbing the building to investigate, he is sucked inside the bomb. On the world of Kamo Tharn, where the Stranger sent the Champions to retrieve the Runestaff of Kamo Tharn, Hercules reveals that the Runestaff is on Earth, after he took it from Kamo Tharn in a previous battle, which is why Kamo Tharn hates Hercules so. Kamo sends his beast men against the Champions, but the heroes are quickly outnumbered. Things take a strange turn when Darkstar discovers the portal that the Stranger used to send them here quickly closing, and with time running out, she jumps though it to return to Earth to get the Runestaff - followed by Iceman. Inside the void of the Null-Bomb Black Goliath is brought up to speed on what is going on, while the Stranger continues to use his power to slow the bomb’s growth - until the Black Goliath tries to smash the bomb - which sets off the security parameters, unleashing several robots for him to fight. Darkstar and Iceman float through space, though Darkstar is not aware Iceman followed her, while back in Kamo Tharn’s realm, the remaining four Champions battle assorted perils and creatures, only to seemingly see each other die in a bizarre series of events, though their bodies remain frozen before Kamo Tharn. Darkstar and Iceman finally arrive in the void created by the Null-Life Bomb, though Darkstar ignores Iceman, heading straight to the Stranger, she explains what has transpired. The Stranger opens a portal for Darkstar to obtain the Runestaff from its Earthly location, which she does, only to be told that she must use it. The Stranger adds what power he can to the staff, wielded by Darkstar, moments later, in Kamo Tharn’s realm, the Champions wake from their hypnotic state, and Angel attacks Kamo Tharn, while Darkstar continues to restore the universe to how it was before the Null-Life Bomb was detonated, and eventually, she too wakes, in the Champions HQ. With the universe safe, the Stranger departs, and the Champions are returned to Earth. The Champions celebrate their victory, and Darkstar feels like she now belongs, while Hercules wonders if he can belong, being half human, half god.

Full Summary: 

Outside Champion’s HQ, Los Angeles, where a strange object known as Null-Life Bomb is slowly expanding, consuming all in its wake. ‘Holy crud! That’s the Champion’s new skyscraper HQ - but what’s that growing out the top of it? And where in blazes are the Champions?’ asks Dr Bill Foster a.k.a. Black Goliath as he returns to the Champions’ home. ‘First that weird lightning - then that thing - and now the Black Goliath! What’s this city coming to?’ a civilian exclaims as he, and many others, watch the strange happening at Champions HQ.

As he begins to scale Champions HQ, Black Goliath tells himself that he hustled back after his fight with the stilt-man, but already the sky was starting to get dark, and people were panicking. Knowing he will not get answers down on the ground, he continues to climb, but, suddenly, his fingers graze the glowing Null-Life Bomb, and he finds that he cannot retract them from the blackness. ‘I’m being sucked in!’ he shouts, while the crowd below hold their breath.

Meanwhile, on a world near enough to glean faint warmth from the star-sun Sol - six voyagers touch down in a city as old as time itself - the home world of… ‘KAMO THARN!’ Hercules exclaims as he sees the long-haired, rag-wearing old man. ‘You know this bozo, Herc?’ Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Angel asks his godly teammate. ‘Well he should, mortal slime! Blind though I be - never will I forget the accursed voice of Hercules! He who stole my sacred power - the Runestaff of Kamo Tharn!’ Natasha Romanova a.k.a. the Black Widow, looks at Hercules: ‘What is he?’ she begins, while Hercules slaps his forehead as he exclaims that the Stranger must have sent them here to obtain the Runestaff.

‘So we obtain it - to save Earth!’ the Black Widow replies. Hercules explains that the Runestaff is already on Earth, taken there by him and Lady Sif to aid the Mighty Thor. ‘You stole it! It is mine!’ Kamo Tharn shouts, boasting that he has moved this entire world through time and space, following in Hercules’ wake that he might find revenge. ‘Irony of ironies - you are now delivered to me!’. Kamo Tharn orders his beast men to bring him the head of Hercules. Hercules tells his teammates to stay back, as it is his blood only that the beast men seek. He shoves one aside as it lunges at him, while Black Widow blasts another with her widow’s bite, telling Hercules that they are a team, and for better or worse, they work together. ‘Then if we fall - we fall as Champions! Gods, but they will sing of this day in Olympus!’ Hercules exclaims. Laynia “Darkstar” Petrovna unleashes her powerful Darkforce on the beast men, while Bobby “Iceman” Drake attacks them with a blast of freezing ice, suggesting to his teammates that thy knock off all the “falling” stuff and plan on being there for the chorus.

Angel has taken flight, but two of the beast men clamber on to him. ‘I’m glad the mutual admiration society is having a good time for itself down there - but in case you’ve forgotten, the Stranger sent us here to get the only thing that might stop his out of control Null-Life Bomb from destroying Earth!’. Warren punches one of the beast men in the face, before throwing it into the other, freeing himself from their grasp while telling his teammates that scoring points against Kamo Tharn’s monkey-men is not going to mean a thing in the end.

Down below, Johnny Blaze a.k.a. Ghost Rider finds himself in the grasp of one of the beast men, and points out that while they live, they may yet find a way to victory. Ghost Rider realizes that the touch of cold fire will not physically harm the beast, so moves his head towards the beast, catching its fur on fire, exclaiming that the soul-searing flames will make it abandon its grip, which it does, freeing Ghost Rider, and enabling him to smash the beast across the stone chamber.

The battle continues, and Darkstar takes out two of the beast men at the same time with bolts of Darkforce, while being the first to realize that it is endless, for each one they dispatch, a dozen more take its place. Laynia tells herself that there must be another way back to Earth, when, suddenly, she sees the faintest trace of the portal opened through space by the Stranger. Laynia realizes that it was meant to open again for their return when they had the Runestaff, but that the portal is shrinking, meaning the Stranger can apparently not maintain the portal and fight the Null-Life Bomb at the same time.

Laynia prays that the Darkforce will hold the portal open for a few more seconds - then she jumps into the portal. Her act so brave and so unselfish - but unfortunately for Darkstar, it is also misunderstood. ‘LAYNIA!’ Iceman calls out, turning from his opponent, he thinks that something has caught Darkstar, and follows her through the portal. ‘Something’s got her - but it keeps her only over Iceman’s dead body!’. The Black Widow watches this happen, and calls out to Bobby, telling him to stop, that he doesn’t understand, but Iceman does understand, not that he would be able to explain it, as sound doesn’t travel in the vacuum of space, not even the sound of a scream - as that is where he finds himself….

‘Your allies diminish in number Hercules! Well do I sense it!’ Kamo Tharn exclaims, declaring that it is time for those who remain to feel the world rending power that is his. Hercules, Black Widow, Ghost Rider and Angel find themselves stranded on a small piece of rock, while the landscape around them has turned into an inferno! ‘I have not seen the like since I walked the corridors of Hell!’ Ghost Rider remarks. ‘Surely thou art jesting…art thou not?’ Hercules replies, while Black Widow spots a narrow path, and tells everyone to get down it before the flames rise and cut them off.

Meanwhile, far away, in a place removed from normal space - Black Goliath completes a climb that began in Los Angeles, as he finds himself completely engulfed by the Null-Life Bomb. ‘The Stranger! What in -?’ Bill exclaims as he sees the Stranger, kneeling in the darkness as he uses his powers to slow down the Null-Life Bomb. A woman suddenly calls out to Black Goliath. ‘Over here, it’s me, Regina Clayborne!’. Bill approaches Regina, who explains to him that they are all inside the bomb that her boyfriend Willie stole from Tony Stark. ‘The Stranger says it’s gonna swallow the world!’ Regina adds, helpfully. ‘And then it’ll contract and crush everything!’

Black Goliath exclaims that there must be a way to stop it, and asks where the Champions are. Straining under the pressure, the Stranger tells Black Goliath that his friends are even now on another world, seeking the only power that can destroy the bomb, while here within the hyper-space vortex of the bomb, even he can do nothing but slow it’s expansion. ‘So that’s what was in the box hijacked from my lab. I wonder if Tony knew?’ Bill thinks to himself, before asking if anybody thought to try and smash it. But increasing his mass to bring his fist down upon the Null-Life Bomb.

‘Fool! The bomb is programmed to defend itself - by whatever means necessary!’ Indeed, Black Goliath is suddenly smacked in the back by a robotic arm, and turns to see a mechanoid standing before him. ‘At least I don’t have to worry about pulling my punches!’ Bill remarks, realizing that the mechanoid is as big as he is - but as he takes the first one down, more replace it, until they are coming at Black Goliath from all sides. ‘This fight’s not going to go more than one round - ending in a murder! Mine!’ Bill exclaims as the malevolent mechanoids move in on him. What follows is short, as Black Goliath is punched from all angles, before being knocked out.

A heartbeat - or a lifetime - away, Iceman floats through space, and sees a Iceman floats through space, and sees a Darkforce bubble float nearby, realizing that Darkstar is cocooned inside, and therefore she doesn’t know he followed her. Bobby tells himself that his own cold slows down his bodily functions, but realizes he is slowly losing air. He suddenly surrounds himself in an ice-sphere, maneuvering it closer to Darkstar so he is in her orbit. But once he is in line with Darkstar, he is returned to his human form, as he had to take the ice from his body to create the sphere, given there is no water in space, though this action leaves him dehydrated. ‘The only thing that can save me might just end up killing me!’ Bobby thinks to himself, as the two spheres - one snow white, the other jet black - move silently through space, their fate unknown to the teammates they left behind.

Angel flies above his teammates who run along the path, and Warren remarks that if this is the worst that Kamo has to throw at them, then they are home free, adding that he can’t help but worry about Bobby and Laynia. Black Widow tells her teammates that Darkstar returned to Earth, as she knew Kamo Tharn had shortened the distance she would have to travel, while the Darkforce will protect her until she reaches the Stranger. ’But Drake may have just killed himself by following her, a defector! Stupid!’ Ghost Rider mutters. The Black Widow reminds him that she was a defector too. Blaze begins to make a response, before noticing something above them, and alerts Angel. ’Winged demon - clawing at me!’ Angel exclaims as the horrid creature latches onto him.

‘…so…the battle doth begin at last!’ Hercules exclaims before he climbs a nearby cliffside, telling Warren to have courage, for it will only be a moment before he comes to his aid. Black Widow watches and realizes that is no ordinary cliff, and informs Hercules that molten rock is running down at him. Hercules casually replies that it is no hotter than the infernal realm of Pluto, which he has braved before - when, suddenly, a molten lava fists lashes out at him. ‘By the cloven hooves of Pan!’ Hercules exclaims as he falls backwards, exclaiming that madness reigns, for the rock moves, coming to life like some flame-crested titan of old. ‘Come thee on, monster! Though wilt find thy nemesis in the son of Zeus!’ Hercules boasts.

‘Look out, Herc! He’s gonna -’ Ghost Rider exclaims as the molten lava giant brings a fist down towards Hercules - and slams it down, with Hercules dodging it just in time. Ghost Rider admits that he doesn’t think his spook act will impress the walking nightmare, but that is where his hellfire comes in - at full strength this time. Ghost Rider blasts the lava creature with hellfire, but whatever it was supposed to do, it has no effect on the creature at all, and it picks Ghost Rider up, and throws him hard against some rocks.

Back in the air, Angel tries to pry the winged creature’s claws out of his neck, Black Widow thinks to herself that Ghost Rider is dead, and possible Iceman and Darkstar too. ‘And now the Angel! Is this what my leadership has done to us?’ she asks, before firing a grappling hook, which wraps around the creature’s arm. But Angel tells Natasha that she cannot handle the creature up here. ‘You’ll be out of your element. Let me -’ he begins, when, suddenly, the creature takes flight, and drags the Black Widow up with her. ‘Pulling me up! Too fast! Can’t -’ Natasha begins, while Angel calls out to her - then, the creature slams Natasha into a rock face. Her motionless body is found by Ghost Rider, who calls out to her.

An instant later though, all four Champions appear standing in a line before Kamo Tharn…as if they had never moved at all!

But Ghost Rider turns from Black Widow’s body, mounts his flame cycle, he races up the side of the lava creature, then lunges at the flying beast, with no use for the things that men call words, he pushes the winged beast into lava creature, where, as Hercules points out, demon encountering demon cause a flame to rise, engulfing both. Hercules shouts that the Hades spawn are gone, except the resulting action spews forth molten stone which seeks to consume the Prince of Power! It happens quickly, and Hercules is engulfed faster than his far famed strength can do anything about…leaving on the Angel flying over head - three down and one to go - with two unaccounted for….

In the darkness inside the Null-Life Bomb, the Stranger is suddenly startled: ‘By the mysteries that rule us all! The portal I opened for the humans begins to shimmer!’ the Stranger exclaims, adding that it pulses as if some living force within sought to release itself. ‘But who would have such power?’ he asks, when, suddenly, Darkstar and Iceman emerge! Laynia exclaims that the Darkforce is apparently greater than even she suspected, but she knows there is no time to deal with that now. ‘Lord! We’re…we’re alive!’ Bobby stammers, announcing that he can hardly move, and that he feels like he has been through a wringer.

Bobby reaches out for Laynia, but realizes she is not even listening to him. ‘I came after you - risked my life - and you act like you don’t even care!’. Sometimes though, when the fever of human emotions is at its peak, we do things we never meant to do - hurt those we never meant to hurt. And where a word - a sign might have set aside the pain - that word is lost in the turmoil of the moment - forgotten - and the wound it might have closed remains open and unhealed. ‘Stranger! Hear me!’ Darkstar calls out as she flies towards the awesome being. ‘Speak, woman! The Stranger will listen!’ comes the reply. Darkstar speaks, and when she is finished explaining the situation, the Stranger withdraws his power into himself - and the Null-Life Bomb once more resumes its world-devouring growth!

The Black Goliath has since regained consciousness, but no sooner does his robotic opponents suddenly fade from view. ‘It’s a cinch I didn’t scare ‘em off! So who?’ Bill asks, when the Stranger announces the bomb’s programming has told it there was no further need for internal defense. Black Goliath turns and sees the Stranger and Darkstar (“the Russian girl” as he calls her). ‘Are the Champions -?’ he begins, but Darkstar replies that she has no knowledge of the fate of her comrades, only that their quest was futile for that which they sought… ‘Is on Earth, where I would have detected it had not the bomb preoccupied all my senses!’ the Stranger completes Laynia’s sentence, though Laynia points out that, equally it may not have happened had the Champions not attacked him, blind to the Stranger’s warning while the bomb triggered itself.

‘Enough!’ the Stranger exclaims. ’It is past!’. He announces that he has caused a rift to appear in the hyper-space within the bomb’s dimensional wall, and asks Darkstar to reach through, guided by the emanations of power that she feels. And so Laynia does as requested, her grasp spans hyper-space blackness at the bomb’s epicenter, to a broom closet in a certain New York City hospital…’I have it!’ Laynia announces. ‘The staff! The Runestaff of Kamo Tharn!’. Laynia brings the staff into the Null-Life Bomb, whereupon the Stranger tells her to use it. ‘I…? But -’ Laynia replies. ‘There is no other! You have proven able to wield the madman’s staff!’ the Stranger tells Laynia, adding that he will add what remains of his own power to Laynia’s, as his own existence hangs in the balance as well as that of Earth. ‘And I choose to live, woman - whatever be the cost!’. Darkstar holds the Runestaff of Kamo Tharn over her head, and begins to glow.

At that same second, Angel exclaims to himself that this is not happening, that it is all lies. ‘All I have to do is shut my eyes and - holy smokes it worked! You’re all back - alive!’ he exclaims, looking around him as the flames vanish, and the landscape returns to normal. ‘Us? But I thought you -’ Black Widow begins, while Ghost Rider declares that he saw Angel die first. Suddenly, Kamo Tharn stands up and tells the Champions that they “saw” what he wished them to see ‘I fed on every moment of your glorious agony! But the games is past! The next death you feel - will be your own!’. Suddenly, Angel swoops towards Kamo Tharn: ‘Mister…that…is what you think!’ he exclaims as he grabs Kamo Tharn and slams his head against the concrete steps.

Black Widow covers her face, while Hercules rubs his head, before Angel remarks that they are now left with the million dollar question. ‘Aye, lad! How are we to return to Earth?’ Hercules asks. Natasha tells Hercules that she thinks Angel meant something else - more like, ‘Is there an Earth to return to?’

Darkstar holds the answer to that question, glowing, and yet at the same time hidden in darkness, she asks the Stranger what is happening to her. The Stranger replies that she is adding the power of the staff to the bomb, forcing its growth. ‘Growth? But I thought -?’ Darkstar adds, to which the Stranger tells her to understand that the bomb’s danger lies not in expansion, but the moment when it contracts. ‘But by pushing it to grow faster and farther - driving it to engulf entire galaxies…we have exceeded its programming, driven it mad!’ The Stranger explains that the Null-Life Bomb will continue to expand forever - on into that great nothingness that is the cosmic all.

An undetermined time later…’Hey! You okay? You hear me? C’mon, honey! Wake up now! We’re back - thanks to you!’ Regina Clayborne tells Darkstar, before informing the Stranger and Black Goliath that Darkstar is opening her eyes. ‘She’s going to be all right!’. The Stranger exclaims that the danger is now truly past. ‘Farewell, young one! You have taught me much about this human thing called…courage!’ the Stranger tells Darkstar, before he fades from view, at the same time the four missing Champions are returned to their home.

Angel approaches Iceman who is sprawled on the floor. ‘I’ll call for a doctor!’ Warren tells his friend, but Bobby replies ‘Ask him…what’s good for a case of neglect’. ‘Home? Guess maybe it is, at that’ Ghost Rider thinks to himself, while the Black Widow approaches Darkstar, ‘Laynia - somehow we owe you for -’ she begins, but Laynia replies that the Champions have given her belonging, which is enough. Ghost Rider wonders if what he said to the Widow during the fight was all in his mind, while the Black Widow asks Hercules if something is wrong. ‘You look awfully glum for someone who’s just helped save the world’. Hercules replies that it is nothing, merely a passing thought, while wondering to himself whether he, who is both man and god, can share in this belonging.

Characters Involved: 

Angel, Black Widow, Darkstar, Ghost Rider, Hercules, Iceman (all Champions)

Black Goliath

Mrs. Regina Clayborne

The Stranger

Kamo Tharn



Lava creature

Flying Gargoyle


Story Notes: 

The indicia incorrectly dates this issue as May 1976.

The Null-Life Bomb was set off in Champions #12.

Black Goliath fought the Stilt-Man in Champions #12.

Hercules stole the Runestaff of Kamo Tharn in Thor (1st series) #235.

The Stranger sent the Champions to the world of Kamo Tharn in Champions #12.

Darkstar later encounters the Stranger, years later, in the “Starblast” crossover.

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