After Sugar-Man’s execution of Screamer and the unfortunate first encounter with The Black Racer, he makes it to his boss Badger’s headquarters to get bandaged up and receive his next assignment. After hearing enough of the gunman’s kvetching, Badger orders a device into the room but not before announcing, “Inter-Gang must carry out what it’s paid to do!” Carrying a typically complex-looking Kirby contraption, a minion tells the bald baddie, “This ain’t no type of bomb I ever handled, Badger! What does it do?” Cigar in hand, he replies, “The Apokolips people didn’t say! But I’ll bet it’s something wild and nasty!” Another mug says, “Wow! It’s small — but it could be an H-bomb!”
Still holding the weapon, the minion comments, “I hope we got guarantees not to get caught when it goes off, eh, Badger?” The crime boss turns a key in the side of the explosive and replies, “Yeah! It’s all in the getaway plan! There! I turn this key — and now the bomb is activated! And ready to plant!” Then all hell breaks loose as Orion and Dave Lincoln smash into the hideout to capture the baddies and stop the nefarious plot. A battle ensues and Badger orders Sugar-Man not to engage in gunplay. “Stash that pea-shooter, Sugar-Man! Take the bomb! Plant it where the Apokolips crowd designated!” The bandaged assassin complies and scurries out a back door. He loads the bomb in the back of a truck and races to his destination. But The Black Racer is in pursuit and he causes the device to sing a “song of death” — a high-pitched, continuous electronic screech that scares the beegezzus out of Sugar-Man. “The bomb!! I-it’s not supposed to make those sounds!” But The Black Racer demurs, telling his prey, “Yes, it can, Sugar-Man — when its shell is penetrated by transmitted signals — they enter the truck without resistance — as does my ski pole — then, as the signals reach the mechanized heart of the bomb –” The next caption reads, “Suddenly, as the ski pole touches the bomb…” the truck is hurtled into a space-bound trajectory!
Simultaneously, Orion and his private eye friend are cuffing the Inter-Gang goons. Still, Badger gloats, “You cats cooled us, but not our bomb! By now, it’s being clamped on the communications building across town!!” Dave Lincoln responds, “We were too late to stop your man from escaping with the bomb — but perhaps –” Orion eases his ally’s concern. “Don’t worry, Lincoln! Mother Box has intercepted the bomb in transit! And has sent it toward space!” The New Genesis warrior looks to the sky, saying, “Now, the vehicle carrying the bomb is high enough to destruct there! Mother Box sends out her death signal!” Holding aloft Mother Box, Orion is witness to a tremendous explosion.
Orion then explains, “I caught a glimpse of that bomb! It would have melted every bit of communication metal within a radius of thousands of miles — No telephones — no television — not even radios or telegraph! It would have meant chaos!” Sounds like the “Wild and Nasty” Communications Bomb would have activated an electro-magnetic pulse, eh? That wily Apokolips crowd!
Vietnam war hero and wounded paraplegic Willie Walker is chosen to become the alter ego of the messenger of death, The Black Racer. The former sergeant lives in a state of perpetual paralysis in the Metropolis ghetto apartment of his sister Verna and her husband Ray Johnson, bedridden beside a window that is adjacent to a tenement rooftop. When Sugar-Man executes Screamer in full view of Willie Walker, clad in hospital gown and neckbrace, laying still in his bed, the criminal turns his attention to the possible witness. “Oh-oh! A witness to the bang bang!” Willie has a reputation, at least in the neighborhood, as the assassin exclaims, “Hey! I know you! Sergeant Willie Walker! Big Vietnam hero! Can’t walk, talk — or even feed himself! Lotsa Medals — but one big bad wound, eh, Willie?” Sugar-Man aims his pistol at the veteran but is thwarted by The Black Racer who has been observing the thug.
Then, so too does The Black Racer turn his attention to the unfortunate invalid. “Walls are no barrier to The Black Racer! He enters the room of Sergeant Willie Walker!” The harbinger of doom says, “I hear a call! A voice invoking my name!” Standing over the bed, the armored celestial observes a wide-eyed Walker. “The voice is yours! I can hear it! This is why destiny has lead me here! I understand now! And even I must do destiny’s bidding! For one of your value, The Black Racer must bow!” The messenger of death offers his hand. “Come! Take my hand! You will not live — you will die! But you will have that what you have earned — the freedom of a great power!” Miraculously Willie’s hand moves to reach out to The Black Racer! “Fear not! See? Your hand moves! Yea — even as it reaches out — the rest of your body stirs to follow!”
Miracle begets miracle as Sgt. Willie Walker speaks and rises in his bed! “Wha–? I can move! I-I can move! — A-and speak! I can speak — Who are you?” The Black Racer only replies as he takes the earthling’s hand, “In your despair — you summoned me!” But Willie is upset. “Why don’t you answer me? I’m scared! More scared than I ever was in combat! Good Lord! I’m standing! This can’t be happening! What am I saying! It’s happened! I’m whole! I’m strong! I’m no longer half-alive! Willie Walker no longer needs this aid!” He takes off the neck brace and suddenly notices the empty suit of armor laying on the floor at the foot of the bed. “Wha–? The armored stranger has collapsed! He lies motionless on the floor! There are so many questions I have to ask him!” Lifting up the helmet, the combat veteran turns it and out flows tiny grains. Willie exclaims, “Dust! There is nothing in this armor — but dust! He’s gone!”
Then begins the transformation. A brilliant glow suddenly flows from the war hero. He understands now. “But the meaning of this, now, begins to dawn on me — I’m changing — I-I am more than Willie Walker!” He has become The Black Racer!
After completing his first mission on Earth, The Black Racer flies back to the apartment where his alter ego is bedridden, explaining, “Tonight’s mission ends! I return to the ghetto of Sergeant Willie Walker!” He floats through the atoms of the building, appearing in Willie’s room. “There are no barriers for him now! Willie Walker now has the freedom of the farthest dimensions! Willie Walker is now one of many messengers! All who make the one entity — The Black Racer! The one who transferred his power to Willie has returned to The Source! The Source is all! The Source gave me this knowledge — this power! It was The Source that chose Willie Walker for this mission! I must still do its bidding! I Return as Willie Walker! I touch my helmet and vanish as I am!”
Suddenly The Black Racer is transformed into the prostate form of the war veteran and, within a few seconds, Willie’s sister Verna and her husband Ray enter the room, fretting that they had left the invalid alone and of Sugar-Man’s rampage earlier in the evening. As one of them ponders, “Poor Willie! What must he be thinking?” a caption reads, “Willie Walker’s eyes grow wide! He is aware! He now knows his next quarry! Who is it? Him? — Her? — You?”
The following issue, after The Black Racer has taken Seagrin to his Valhalla, he streaks across the Metropolis sky, glimpsed by a police officer. “Casey! Look! Up there! Did you see it?” Casey responds, “I don’t see anything but that fire! Cough! Cough!” The next captions read: “But he is there! Swift! Silent! Present at the finish of a man — or a god! Even stranger is his destination! When he makes his descent, it is in the humblest of places — the ghetto district! Ahead of him is a tenement of fading brick! Then a wall! Then — a window! Without hesitation, he enters, through material barriers that are not for him! For a moment, the room is lit by a blinding flash! Then — it’s gone! Sergeant Willie Walker has come home! Where but in the hands of a paraplegic, made helpless by war, would a wandering, god-like being have placed the most awesome power?” Just after the eternal changes back into his paralyzed alternative identity, Verna bursts into the room, which is filled with vapors. “Under the constant care of his sister and her husband, who would suspect that Sergeant Willie Walker is The Black Racer, messenger of death!?”
During the climax of the regular series, we last see Willie Walker being cared for by his sister. “In a shabbier district of the city, the gathering clouds of disaster have yet to shroud the sky! Willie Walker lies still as ever! — Unable to move — for all time!” Verna administers medicine and the caption says, “Willie Walker is also forever silent! His eyes can move, but at this moment they are fixed on the distance –! — A distance far beyond his room –!” After his sister despairs that her brother “just doesn’t seem to hear or see us anymore,” husband Ray responds, “Willie’s lost in the stars, Verna! I think nothing here has any meaning for him now!” The caption to follow states ““And what does Willie think? And see? — And hear? What of the voice that calls to him — from — out there — !”
Here we witness the most explicit connection, I suspect, that Willie and his alter ego have with The Source, the closest to an omnipotent God (capital “G”) we get in this series when that disembodied voice is heard by the stricken Willie Walker. “It’s time, Willie! A messenger is needed! — A messenger, both swift and — final!” The next caption reads, “…A messenger of death — !! With powers beyond the standards known by men! Powers that can make an invalid rise and stand firm with new strength!” The voice orders him, “On your feet, Willie! You can do it! That’s it, Willie! The change is coming! Even as you stand, the change is taking place!” And then: “Where the commanding voice comes from is a mystery to Willie! He only knows that it changes him! And with that change he is given a grim mission! And a new name!” Willie Walker is no more. In his place stands: “Once again — I’m The Black Racer!”
Did Willie Walker die when The Black Racer first took his hand? The celestial death-dealer seems explicit about that, given The Black Racer’s comment, “Come! Take my hand! You will not live — you will die! But you will have that what you have earned — the freedom of a great power!” Yet the figure that remains is recognized by his sister and brother-in-law as Willie Walker. It appears that many others have assumed the role of the Messenger of Death — “Willie Walker is now one of many messengers! All who make the one entity — The Black Racer! The one who transferred his power to Willie has returned to The Source!” — and begs the question, many others over time, one at a time… and/or simultaneously? Interesting to ponder…
The Black Racer is the so-called Messenger of Death born of The Source and allied with neither New Genesis, Apokolips or Earth. His mission is merely to return his unfortunate and ill-fated quarry to The Source, commanded by a mysterious voice and suited in armor complete with a set of skis and ski-poles. When called, this god-like Dark Bringer of Death rides the spaceways, often at the speed of light to complete his grim missions. To be touch by The Black Racer is to die.
We first encounter this ominous being at the start of our current tale, as friendly Lightray is being pursued in space by the harbinger of doom. The young New God is desperate and very afraid. The caption reads: “Death is The Black Racer! Like the very source of all things, he is an ever-present fear that sweeps through the universe on swift, silent skis. The charred husks of great stars are left in his passing… and small lives vanish with their dreams at his touch! Yes, even the New Gods fear the Black Racer! For he brings –”
Lightray: Oblivion! I face oblivion! I am the quarry of a power that challenges all power!
The Black Racer: Hail, young Light-Ray! Destiny has decreed that our paths should cross! The flotsam of the universe cannot hide you! I am as swift as you are!
Lightray: But not as eager as I am to avoid your touch!
Orion’s best friend flies through a field of crystallized space rocks and suddenly stops behind one. He thinks, “I govern the power of light — and I must use it to ward off the racer! The jewel-like substance of these meteoroids may intensify this power of mine!” The Black Racer is catching up, telling the hapless New Genesis youth, “I am almost upon you, Lightray! Even one such as you must submit to me!” But our hero suddenly emits flashes of light energy from his hands, thinking, “I shall flash the brightest of beams through this prism-stone!” The next caption states, “So intensified are the light-beams passing through the massive jewel that they emerge with the power of a fiery holocaust!” Lightray explains, “Thus, as on Earth, the principle of the laser is invoked!”
As the consuming flame leaps at him, The Black Racer leaps even faster!
The Black Racer: Foolish one! Was it not told to you on New Genesis of The Black Racer’s superb agility? You cannot escape me!
Lightray: [Thinking] He is right! Though I fly at the utmost speed of light, he easily paces me! — Toys with me — but I shall not stop! I dare not stop!
The Black Racer: Your time has come, young one! I am no respecter of tender years! Prepare for my touch!
Lightray: No! No!
The scene shifts to Metropolis and a meeting of Orion and his Earth allies, with this caption: “This is the drama of desperation and death, enfolding the destinies of gods and men! Lightray, fighting madly to prolong his last, cosmic moments…” And, then, a little later…
Meanwhile, in the vast wilderness of stars, a giant, new sun flares into being!! Lightray, in a final burst of desperation, spends his remaining energies by exploding a filed of drifting matter to block his pursuer!!
Lightray: This must do it! This must halt him — and give me time to escape!
But from its flaming heart emerges death! The Black Racer is more than powerful! He is relentless… unshakable in his purpose! Lightray, mustering his failing strength, does not see the planetoid coming in his path!
Lightray: [Thinking] Can’t give up! Must escape!
He strikes its harsh surface with damaging effect!
The Black Rider: It is the end, Lightray! It could only end this way!
Then, just when we think Lightray will fade from being: “Suddenly, a rumble of sound like the crack of doom erupts about Lightray! A Boom Tube appears in mid-air and swallows The Black Racer! Then it quickly fades — revealing to an astonished Lightray the presence of his rescuer — Metron of New Genesis!”
The intellectual of New Genesis appears on his Mobius Chair and tells his ally, “Fear no more, Lightray! The Racer is gone! I merely deflected his flight elsewhere! You could have done the same, Lightray! You must learn to think more coolly! However, a brush with The Black Racer is a humbling experience at best! In my Mobius Chair, I master Time! Space! Infinity! Luckily for you — I am everywhere when needed!” If Lightray is grateful, you wouldn’t know it, as the young god is more concerned about where the interdimensional bridge will reappear: “The Black Racer — Where is he now? Where had the Boom Tube taken him?”
In a grandiose, full-page splash that follows the Messenger of Death bursts forth into the skies of Metropolis, exclaiming, “So, destiny has changed my course and takes me here — to Earth! The sound of deadly weapons reaches me! I sense that this area is ripe for my arrival! instinct guides me to my quarry!” Gunshots ring out! The Black Racer is gliding above the littered streets of the city’s black ghetto. “There, below — a place of black men! Those who fight to live — others who risk my presence!” We see Inter-Gang criminal Sugar-Man engaged in a rooftop gun battle with another bad guy. “I’ve got you, Screamer!” boasts Sugar-Man. “You’re running out of ammo!” The god-like being thinks, “It is true! One of them can no longer shoot! He must run!” Bullets ricochet off chimneys as the Inter-Gangster closes in for the kill. Sugar-Man taunts his prey, “You can’t get away, Screamer! It’s useless to run, baby! Your last scream won’t be to the law!” With that, Screamer falls, now eternally silent.
Sugar-Man looks about, muttering to himself, “Inter-Gang gets rid of cats they can’t trust! Especially when he can blab about the Big Caper!” Then, looking at the taller portion of the building, the criminal notes a window that has had full view of Screamer’s execution. Within, we see a still prostrate form in a neck brace lying on a bed. “Oh-oh!” exclaims Sugar-Man, “A witness to the bang bang! Hey! I know you! Sergeant Willie Walker! Big Vietnam hero! Can’t walk, talk — or even feed himself! Lotsa medals — but one big, bad wound, eh, Willie?” Targeting his intended victim at point blank range, the criminal is about to make his second elimination in as many minutes. “Well, Sugar-Man is gonna help you, Willie! Sugar-Man is gonna blot out all that misery inside you — It’ll just take — one squeeze –” Suddenly a hand appears from the ether, enveloping the pistol as Sugar-Man pulls the trigger. “The gun blasts, and backfires in Sugar-Man’s hand! Its barrel has been blocked and its torn metal flies in all directions!” The criminal’s face is recipient of the shards! He screams, “Aaaaa! My face! I’m hit! I’m hit! Gotta get outta here!”
Then, the death harbinger turns his attention to the paraplegic war hero. “Walls are no barrier to The Black Racer! He enters the room of Sergeant Willie Walker!”
The Black Racer: I hear a call! A voice invoking my name! The voice is yours! I can hear it! This is why destiny has led me here! I understand now! And even I must do destiny’s bidding! For one of your value, The Black Racer must bow! Come! Take my hand! You will not live — you will die! But you will have that what you have earned — the freedom of a great power! Fear not! See? Your hand moves! Yea — even as it reaches out — the rest of your body stirs to follow!”
Suddenly the wounded war veteran miraculously rises from his bed! And he speaks! “Wha–? I can move! I-I can move! — A-and speak! I can speak — Who are you?”
The Black Racer: In your despair — you summoned me!
Sgt. Willie Walker: Why don’t you answer me? I’m scared! More scared than I ever was in combat! Good Lord! I’m standing! This can’t be happening! What am I saying! It’s happened! I’m whole! I’m strong! I’m no longer half-alive! Willie Walker no longer needs this aid!
A transformation is occurring before our eyes, Sgt. Willie Walker metamorphosing into this new — yet eternal — persona as the Earth warrior takes on a solemn mantle. “Wha–? The armored stranger has collapsed! He lies motionless on the floor! There are so many questions I have to ask him!” Picking up the knight-like helmet, Willie pours out granules, exclaiming, “Dust! There is nothing in this armor — but dust! He’s gone! But the meaning of this, now, begins to dawn on me — I’m changing — I-I am more than Willie Walker!” A blinding flash consumes the hospital johnny-clad war veteran and instantaneously he is adorned in the colorful armor of the messenger of death! “I am a power to make all tremble! I am The Black Racer!” He steps through the wall and onto the rooftop, where stand ready are his skis and ski poles. “My instincts have cosmic sharpness! My mission is ever clear! Destiny has opened all barriers to the most helpless of beings! Now I mount my skis — and ride the night! Beware, my quarry! You are marked for oblivion!”
After Sugar-Man meets with his superior, Badger, and is assigned to carry the “wild and nasty” Apokolips-made bomb, Orion and Dave Lincoln smash into the Inter-Gang hideout. Sugar-Man then makes his escape with the explosive device, which he loads into the back of a box van. As he takes off in the truck, the caption reads, “But Sugar-Man is unaware that he’s been joined by another — one new at his mission — but old as time!”
The Black Racer: And so the chase begins! Faster, Sugar-Man! Go faster! We are linked in a moment of dying!
Sugar-Man: That reflection in my rear view mirror — I’m being followed! That clown’s not from Earth! But I’m not stopping to find out which side he’s on!
The Black Racer: You know me, Sugar-Man! You’ve sent many to The Black Racer!
Sugar-Man: I do know him! It was him — standing in the shadows on that roof — when my gun blew up in my face!
The Black Racer: Your luck has run out, Sugar-Man! Listen to the song of death!
Inside the truck, strange, electronic sounds rise to a strident pitch from the activated bomb!
Sugar-Man is in a panic behind the wheel. “The bomb!!” he screams, “I-It’s not supposed to make those sounds!” The Black Racer parallels the vehicle, both traveling at high speed, and he points a ski pole towards the truck’s cargo area. “Yes, it can, Sugar-Man — when its shell is penetrated by transmitted signals –” And then the pole pokes into the truck to make contact with the bomb inside! “They enter the truck — without resistance — as does my ski pole — Then, as signals reach the mechanized heart of the bomb — ” Amid the unnerving “RRRREEE” sound, “Suddenly, as the ski pole touches the bomb…” and Sugar-Man and the truck are space-bound, flying into the Metropolis sky! Despite Sugar-Man’s screams of “No! No! No!” The Black Racer bids his quarry adieu. “They trigger its anti-gravity circuits! Farewell, Sugar-Man!”
Whether Sugar-Man is dead or not by the time Mother Box activates the bomb’s detonation is unknown, but suffice to say there is a massive explosion in the night sky over Superman’s adopted city and Sugar-Man is no more. As Dave Lincoln and Orion are roundng up the gangsters, Badger says, “Nailing our unit won’t stop Inter-Gang!” Dave retorts as he dials the phone to alert the cops, “We’ve made a good start, eh, O’Ryan? Now to call the police and drop this little package in their lap!” Standing grimly, Orion answers, “We’ll deliver them all, except the man who took the bomb! I’m afraid he’ll never be found!” And the following caption reads, “No one knows this better than The Black Racer, who has seen Sugar-Man die in space!”
The Black Racer flies back to Willie Walker’s domicile, telling us, “Tonight’s mission ends! I return to the ghetto of Sergeant Willie Walker! There are no barriers for him now! Willie Walker now has the freedom of the farthest dimensions! Willie Walker is now one of many messengers! All who make the one entity — The Black Racer! The one who transferred his power to Willie has returned to the Source! The Source is all! The Source gave me this knowledge — this power! It was the Source that chose Willie Walker for this mission! I must still do its bidding! I return as Willie Walker! I touch my helmet and vanish as I am!”
We then meet the sergeant’s caretakers, Willie’s sister Verna and her husband Ray, and after she frets for her invalid brother’s safety, her spouse ponders, “Poor Willie! What must he be thinking?” and the next caption, closing the issue, reads, “Willie Walker’s eyes grow wide! He is aware! He knows his next quarry! Who is it? Him? — Her? — You? Don’t run for the exits! You can’t escape The Black Racer!”
We next encounter the harbinger of eternity in the very next adventure, as Orion mourns the death of Seagrin, the gentle warrior new god, who has been killed by the Deep Six. A veritable viking’s funeral erupts on the dock, which bursts into flames, and as Orion and Dave Lincoln leave the tragic scene, “behind them, leaping from the heart of the flames, a dark, blood-chilling figure silently swoops into the night sky!” It is The Black Racer. A police officer points at the flying figure, exclaiming, “Casey! Look! Up there! Did you see it?” Casey responds, “I don’t see anything but that fire! Cough! Cough!”
But he is there! Swift! Silent! Present at the finish of a man — or a god! Even stranger is his destination! When he makes his descent, it is in the humblest of places — the ghetto district! Ahead of him is a tenement of fading brick! Then a wall! Then — a window! Without hesitation, he enters, through material barriers that are not for him! For a moment, the room is lit by a blinding flash! Then — it’s gone! Sergeant Willie Walker has come home! Where but in the hands of a paraplegic, made helpless by war, would a wandering, god-like being have placed the most awesome power?
Verna: Willie! Willie! Are you all right? How did these fumes get in this room? I’ve taken all precaution against fire!
Under the constant care of his sister and her husband, who would suspect that Sergeant Willie Walker is The Black Racer, Messenger of Death!?
Verna: [Thinking] But how could this be?
In the final issue of The New Gods, The Black Racer appears as Orion and Kalibak are culminating their savage blood feud. We learn a little more about the character’s connection with The Source — or so we think! — when upon administering medication to her brother, Verna notices Willie Walker seems completely detached from her and reality. “Willie Walker is also forever silent! His eyes can move, but at this moment they are fixed on the distance –! — A distance far beyond his room –!”
Verna seeks the comfort of Ray’s embrace as she laments her sibling’s condition. “He just doesn’t seem to hear or see us anymore!” Ray holds her close, telling Verna, “Willie’s lost in the stars, Verna! I think nothing here has any meaning for him now!”
The caption reads, “And what does Willie think? And see? — And hear? What of the voice that calls to him — from — out there –!” And a voice comes from out of the air itself, telling the invalid, “It’s time, Willie! A messenger is needed! — A messenger, both swift and — final!”
–A messenger of death –!! With powers beyond the standards known by men! Powers that can make an invalid rise and stand firm with new strength!
Voice: On your feet, Willie! You can do it! That’s it, Willie! The change is coming! Even as you stand, the change is taking place!
Where the commanding voice comes from is a mystery to Willie! He only knows that it changes him! And with that change he is given a grim mission! And a new name!
The Black Racer: Once again — I’m The Black Racer!
With the change come new and strange powers! The Black Racer walks through the wall of Willie’s building — into the night outside –
The Black Racer: My equipment lies waiting! My mission begins!! Death is on the wing this night! –Death for an angry god!
Thus, as the ferocious slugfest between half-brothers reaches a crescendo, “At that deadly moment, The Black Racer arrives!”
The Black Racer: The time is at hand!
Then, as Orion lifts Kalibak for a last crushing act of violence, he sees The Black Racer rushing toward him!
The Black Racer: Death approaches, Orion! Both of you have taken incredible punishment! But I’ve come for only one!
Orion: If it be me — then come and be swift!
There’s no stopping The Black Racer! Orion is struck by a fierce wind! And every fiber quakes and screams in the shadow of what overwhelms him!
The wind shrieks on and flings debris everywhere! The Black Racer has come and gone — and gone, too, is Kalibak!!! A heavy silence falls on the city in the wake of the sudden gust! Then, the normal sounds of the city return –
Orion: [Thinking] The Black Racer spared me! It was Kalibak’s moment of dying! — not mine!
Dave Lincoln: Orion! What was all that? Where is Kalibak — and that guy on skis?
Ye ghads! What a climax and resolved on the very last page of the final issue of The New Gods, at that!
There is one other appearance for the character, during a “Young Gods of Supertown” vignette starring Fastbak entitled “Beat The Black Racer!!” Fastbak, as we previously learned, flies the skies (and apparently spaceways) courtesy of his phenomenally quick “Aero-Pads.” In this adventure, we see him in space about New Genesis as a lethal ski pole advances toward him.
The Black Racer: Greetings, Fastbak!! You face a difficult challenger this day!
Fastbak: The Dark Bringer of Death! [Thinking] Young Esak is missing –! And The Black Racer is a sorry clue to his situation!!
The Black Racer: Destiny has sent us on the same mission, Fastbak!! Life or extinction!! — It depends on which of us reaches our quarry — first!!
A race to the death! Fastbak had guessed as much from the start!
Fastbak: [Thinking] My new circuits check out! I hope they do their job well!
They do well — enabling Fastbak to elude the fatal rush of a meteor swarm! Apokolips has turned space into a great trap for New Genesis life!! It’s littered with dangers like the great Terror-Bats which pursue and kill!! Then there are the roving patrols of fierce Para-Demons!
Para-Demon: Close in on him! Don’t let him escape!!
But stopping Fastbak at his blinding speed is like trying to halt a dodging missile!!
Fastbak: Out of my way!
Fastbak whizzes on!! He know that the most sinister space-trap of all is the Magna-Target which holds its prey and pulls it toward Apokolips — where it can be shot down and destroyed!!
Fastbak: Just as I thought! The victim on that Magna-Target is young Esak!
The Black Racer: He was ever curious! As curious as Metron!
Fastbak: [Thinking] The Black Racer! I thought I’d lost him!
The Black Racer: The Black Racer catches up with everyone, Fastbak!
Fastbak: No! No!
The Black Racer: One of us must claim him! Fastbak!
Fastbak: I’ll do it! I must do it!
Esak: Help me, Fastbak!
At the last moment, Fastbak executes an unheard of burst of speed! Then –
Fastbak: The weapons of Apokolips have spoken! Their target is destroyed! But not its living prey, Esak!!
Esak: That was fantastic, Fastbak! You outdid yourself!
The Black Racer is nowhere to be seen! But he’ll return again!! He’s neither lost nor won! — But merely thwarted for a time!!
We’re not exactly privy as to how exactly the musical instrument influences those exposed to its sound, but The Infinity Man’s destruction of the “Demon’s Organ” confirms the device’s sinister intent! After basking in the sound of his hypnotized audience members at the start of “Life vs. Anti-Life,” Glorious Godfrey tells his flock, “I hear you, right thinkers! You’re shouting Anti-Life — the positive belief!” Behind him we see a fellow playing a high-tech organ bellowing out monstrous notes. “Listen,” the preacher beckons, “as the great organ catches your words and finds the wonderful music in them! And what am I, Glorious Godfrey, but another poor instrument that vibrates to your message? And I say, come to me! And I shall give you the power to wield death!”
Later, when The Infinity Man infiltrates the next revival gathering in Godfrey’s big tent, the hero focuses on the musical device. As Godfrey berates him with “You fool! Do you think your spectacular gimmickry can stop this operation? The forces of Apokolips are many! — And mighty!” Replies The Infinity Man, “You secret is wind, Godfrey! An evil wind that rushes from your throat — and this Demon’s Organ! Which must be destroyed!” The amalgamated character’s hand begins a Kirby sizzle as the organist flees and Godfrey protests, “No! No! You can’t!” But, yes, yes, with a “ZZZOWWSSHHH,” he does and the musical instrument is destroyed, as IM tells us, “Its sonic chords will no longer stimulate the brute instincts that drive men into your service!”
I’m betting it’s safe to assume the translated sounds of the “Demon’s Organ” — the rantings of the converted are filtered in and some kind of controlling power comes out of the instrument — are what makes the Justifiers such zealots, though the recruits do appear predisposed to persecuting those they hate…
This entry is a slight departure in that rather than simply replicate Jack Kirby’s captions and dialogue on a given subject, I’d like to editorialize a bit and simply expound on what an innovative and daring aspect the Glorious Godfrey affair was to mainstream culture and perhaps why it’s concepts like this which sets the Fourth World apart from super-hero comics of that era and today. You might think this better included in the “Cooke Look” issue review, but I insist this is a bona fide Kirby concept and quite worthy of its own entry. So there.
For my 12-year-old mind, reading “Life vs. Anti-Life” was a combustive experience, igniting synapses throughout a tender brain and motivating me to start thinking about mainstream comics as containing concepts deeper, more resonate, vital even than usually seen. As a youth I certainly was familiar with the underpinnings of this particularly dark aspect of the Fourth World — the persecution of innocents en masse to serve the whims of a death-worshipping tyrant — as an extrapolation of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich and its war against the Jews and other “undesirables.” That, in itself, was nothing new in comics, where Fuhrer-esque villains and Nazi-like regimes abound, the savagery of World War Two reduced to pulpish melodrama (though the harsh reality of the Holocaust was rarely even hinted at other than depictions of victms being rounded up into concentration camps). But here, with the character of slick, handsome and vainglorious Godfrey, with all his oozing charm, and promotion of an elixir that will solve all of our discontents — Anti-Life, the “Happiness Package” — and the decidedly unpretty implementation of his flowery rhetoric… here Jack was talking about much deeper stuff, things that spoke to his own heritage, his own blood and his own experience.
And today, as a 52-year-old reader, poring over the story again and again, I derive even more nuance, much of it unintentional I’m sure. I note today’s discontent in the American electorate, a good portion being swayed by promises, homilies and affirmations of being told they are “special” and “deserving” — those folks afraid of change and fearful of an unknown fate — and how this story speaks to that contingent. And then there’s the prescient use of a suicide bomber, a fanatical scourge the world now deals with on a daily basis though virtually unknown in the early 1970s…
When we first view the Justifiers descending upon city rooftops, an Aero-Van pilot explains, “This is the part of town we want! The people we’ve chosen as targets live here!” The vehicle unloads its occupants, one ordering the troopers, “Move in swiftly! Before the swine realize what’s happening!” The pilot adds, “Seize as any as you can!” Another says, “Don’t bother to discriminate! The women and children are as hated as the men!” Surging down the building stairwell, one yells, “Break in the doors!” and still another, “Waste no time on mercy! Drag them out! Treat them rough!” Dragging a hapless victim from his apartment — who pleads, “Help! Help! Stop this!” — one armed thug boasts, “Listen to their cries! I’ve been waiting to do this for years!” And his comrade adds, “Get going! We’ll show what we do with your kind!”
Who are the people “chosen as targets” and “your kind”? They all apparently live in a specific neighborhood in the city and, given the women and children comment, seem to share more an ethnic or racial rather than an ideological distinction. As the unfortunates are loaded into the Aero-Vans (with one pleading, “Help! Where are you taking us?” and a Justifier replying, “Shut up! You’re nothing but animals! Get in that van! Stop shouting and get IN!”), we see a bad guy with clipboard and list telling his comrade, “We’ve got all on this list!” What is the common connection of those being rounded up? As the Aero-Van flies off to Happyland, a Justifier says, “Anti-Life works! We’re justified in ridding the city of this human trash! The city should thank us!” Certainly this indicates that a specific minority is being persecuted.
Then there’s the book-burning incident, when a flamethrower-wielding Justifier bursts into a library to order, “Put down those decadent books! Get out of the library! The nonsense stored in this place shall never pollute another mind! You need know no more than the proper things! Who but myself is justified in burning down this library!” Now, becoming a Justifier gives one that “Cosmic Hunting License,” so maybe this ignoramus is just acting on a personal vendetta against literature, but since it’s the second in a series of Justifier acts in the city focused on by Jack, I’m sure it’s an act sanctioned by Apokolips (albeit perhaps to mollify reactionaries in the ranks, which I suspect would be most of ’em!).
Especially mind-blowing is to see Glorious Godfrey, sitting in his hairdresser’s chair, being delicately attended to as the preacher, holding a hand mirror, watches a video screen showing his Justifiers wrecking havoc on city business establishments. “My little legion is doing well, too! There’s one of them defacing a store with an ‘S’ for scapegoat!” Weirdly un-ironic choice of nomenclature, given a scapegoat is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as: “2. A person or group bearing blame for others,” and if your intent is to blame a group, you’d hardly want to advertise the persecuted are stand-ins for the real culprits and themselves not guilty. But though slightly clumsy (and everyone in earshot could possibly be Apokolips denizens who are “in” on the whole scheme, so maybe I’m wrong), we do get Jack’s point and the startling direct allusion to a notorious evening in the late 1930s.
If people had any doubt about Nazi Germany’s intentions regarding the “Jewish Question” before World War Two, when, as cited in The Holocaust Chronicle (Louis Weber, publisher; 2002 Publications International, Ltd.):
November 9-10, 1938: Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) occurs across Germany and Austria. Ninety-one Jews are killed; others are beaten. Thirty thousand male Jews are sent to concentration camps, though most will be released in a few weeks. 267 synagogues are desecrated and destroyed (almost all of the synagogues of Germany and Austria). SS Security Service chief Reinhard Heydrich instructs security agencies to burn the synagogues unless German lives or property are endangered. Jewish businesses are looted and destroyed.
Painted on Jewish businesses were the Star of David and the word “JUD,” German for Jew. One estimate had Nazis and sympathizers shattering 7,500 storefronts — hence “crystal night,” for the glass shards littering the pavement — and we, indeed see a Justifier, breaking a window with a brick. Some 2,000 synagogues were damaged, many destroyed, in the “spontaneous” persecution, and yet it was a relatively mild precursor for the horrors perpetrated against the Jews which was to come…
There’s absolutely no doubt that Jack, himself of Jewish heritage, was making a not-so oblique reference to Kristallnacht with his “‘S’ is for Scapegoat” incident, astonishing for a mainstream comic book and an inclusion that still floors me.
The best way for Apokolips invaders to transport dozens of Earth prisoners quickly and under the radar of local authorities? Why, the flying Aero-Van, of course! Sporting a roomy, box-like interior for maximum people-packing and flanked on each side with jet propulsion engines, there’s also an exterior cockpit for the pilot’s maximum visibility of 360 degrees! Its hovercraft vertical take-off and landing capability and design to ride the Electron Stream make it perfect not only for transporting undesirables but for traveling dignitaries, as well! Even great Darkseid has used an Aero-Van during his visit to Happyland!
The Aero-Van is primarily used by Glorious Godfrey’s Justifiers and we first see its usage during the “targets round-up” in “Life vs. Anti-Life,” when, “swooping down upon the unsuspecting city –” an Aero-Van is landing on an apartment house rooftop. The pilot explains, “This is the part of town we want! The people we’ve chosen as targets live here!” Armed Justifiers, wielding Apokolips-made rifles, swarm out of the cabin doors, raid the dwellings and drag the victims into the vehicle to cart off to Desaad’s Happyland. A little later, the captured Forever People are also kidnapped via Aero-Van to suffer the attention of the Apokolips great tormentor.
Not long thereafter, “One of the strange hovercraft that service ‘Happyland’ arrives with a cargo of highest priority!” A visitor to the theme park tells his son, “Head’s up, Junior! There’s another one of those aircraft!” The boy says, “I can see the air-jets on the underside of it, Dad! See ’em?” The next caption reads “In a part of ‘Happyland’ reserved for the invisible ‘management,’ the hovercraft descends!!” As the Aero-Van vertically drops into an underground landing area, a controller radios the ship, “All clear for landing! The realm of Desaad hails our leader!” The pilot replies, “Message acknowledged! Stand by for the coming of Darkseid!”
Later, when Happyland is devastated, “Air-van ‘shuttles,’ flown by Glorious Godfrey’s ‘Justifiers,’ take off in panic!! The prisoners they brought for Desaad will now set the law on their trail!!” Aero-Vans are flying en masse out of the aera, with one pilot hollering, “Let’s get out of here!”
But one of the “Justifiers” is delayed from leaving the secret landing strip!
Big Bear is restraining the Aero-Van from departing by his own power! “Hey! Cut that out!” orders the pilot, whose helmet has come off because of the Super-Kid’s action, “I’m trying to get this Aero-Van off the ground!!” But Big Bear implores the fellow to lend an ear. “Oh, please, sir!! I’m seeking transportation for myself and my friends! Please listen!” The pilot is outraged and powerless, “Mad-dog hippie!! You’re holding back this tonnage with your bare hands!! You must be stronger than a bull elephant!!” Big Bear is balancing the huge vehicle with a single hand and, with characteristic good manners, he replies, “My stars, sir!! Can it be that high density atoms flow through, and reinforce my own atomic structure?” Suddenly the pilot screams, “You moving mattress!! You’re from New Genesis!” and he pulls out a pistol and fires at point-blank range to the back of Big Bear’s head, who is startled but apparently uninjured as he replies, “Oops!! Well, Big Bear is the name, sir! — and power is my game!! That’s my bag, sir!!” explains Big Bear. “I store an excess of free atoms and send them where they’re needed!! Here, perhaps!!!” With that, Big Bear punches the underside of the exterior cockpit and the impact sends the pilot flying skyward.
After his fellow Forever People are consigned to different time zones courtesy of Darkseid’s Omega Effect, Serifan is bowed in the Aero-Van terminal when police officers arrive on the scene. The Super-Kid jumps into action, climbs into a damaged Aero-Van’s cockpit and applies one of his Cosmic Cartridges to “atune itself to the principle that powers this vehicle!!” Just as the cops burst in with guns drawn, Serifan is successful and the Aero-Van has a vertical lift-off! “Hold it! Come back or –” says one policeman. “We’ll stop him!! We’ve got helicopters in the area!” says another.
But no flying vehicle made on Earth can overtake an object that speeds in the Electron Stream! — Still undiscovered — and never traveled — here!!
Serifan’s flies toward the Super-Cycle, which takes defensive measures and the copycat cowboy leaps from the Aero-Van to join the Forever People vehicle.
In other Fourth World tales we see vehicles that are similar to the Aero-Van but not identical. Darkseid and Uncle Steppenwolf use a hovercraft, albeit one that travels between planets, for their fateful hunting trip to New Genesis in “The Pact.” The Magna-Lift is more like a helicopter, which we see dropping off a bunch of minions who are stalking Big Barda in “Doctor Vundabar and His Murder Machine.” We also see some AntigravShips in “The Apokolips Trap” and “Himon” used for transporting troops and Granny Goodness Finishing School recruits.
It appears that Aero-Vans are specifically constructed for Glorious Godfrey, as the Magna-Lifts are manufactured especially for Virman Vundabar and no doubt the entire Granny Goodness contingent. The ability to fly the “Electron Stream” certainly indicates Apokolips design but were they assembled here, on Earth? They surely look too big to be transported via Boom Tube (unless one can summon an inter-dimensional bridge of varying width!)…
The Justifiers are the zealots commanded by Glorious Godfrey and his lieutenants, crusading on our planet to do the ultimate bidding of Darkseid. They are recruited on Earth through Godfrey’s big tent revival meetings, mesmerized by the preacher’s rhetoric and hypnotized by the “Demon’s Organ,” the musical instrument which has some power over human minds. We first encounter Godfrey’s soldiers as attendants during a sermon — some holding up placards, others singing in the chorus, one playing the sinister organ, and another displaying the Justifier masks, telling the captivated audience, “Wield death! Wield oain! You can be justified — if you wear one of these!” The masks and accompanying Justifier costume have a medieval vibe to the fashion — think Boris Karloff’s Mord in Tower of London, only with revved-up Kirby panache — and they’re quite effective in conveying their fanaticism and executioner ambiance.
The recruits appear to be generally bitter, disaffected people who see themselves as victims and that others as taking what said “victims” deserve. Big Bear calls them discontents. Godfrey appeals to those who feel threatened by change and “outsiders.” Audience members appeal to the preacher: “Tell it, Godfrey! Tell us how our pride is being attacked and dragged in the dust!” And another: “It’s the others, Godfrey! Those who don’t think right!” And a third: “This is our world! Our world! They have no right to meddle with it!”
Who “they” are is not immediately recognizable, but Godfrey promises the sun and the moon to his converts — the right to kill any perceived enemy! “Yes, friends! Though Life is ever filled with those who threaten us, it is Anti-Life which gives us the power to eliminte them! The holocaust is coming! The day of Apokolips on Earth! The Day of Darkseid, who brings this power for only us to use! Yes, it is his gift to us, friends! The Cosmic Hunting LIcense! The right to point the finger or the gun!” Godfrey holds forth a Justifier accoutrement. “When we wear this helmet, we feel unified! Glorified! Justified! Step up, friends! Take your helmet! Be superior! Be fierce! Be a justifier!”
One wonders if the helmet contains a device that keeps a Justifier on-mission as immediately after the sermon we are witness to the hell one of these zealots can unleash on any of us. In the middle of Uncle Willie and Donnie’s apartment stands a thuggish Justifier, his hands grabbing hold of the young cripple’s shirt.”Where are your friends, boy? Tell me, you little garbage! — Or I’ll kill you!” Holding the kid up in the air, the zealot demands, “Where are the Forever People, little swine? Tell me! Tell me!” Beautiful Dreamer creates the illusion all of her teammates are on Glorious Godfrey’s side. “Wha-? Who are you? Where did you get those Justifier helmets?” Suddenly the Super-Kids grab Donnie and bolt out of the apartment, with Big Bear explaining their panic: “If that Justifier was sent here to destroy us — there is only one way he can get us all in one stroke! He’s wired to explode! The Justifier is a human bomb!” Adds Serifan as they all run in the street, “Yes! He must die — in order to destroy all of us!” Beautiful Dream says, “There is no stopping a Justifier! He can justify his own death!” Mark Moonrider carries Donnie and says, “The Anti-Life principle is now part of him!”
Coming outside, through the apartment window, is the zealot. “You tricky, young dogs! You won’t get far! When I jerk this igniter you die! The bomb I carry was not made on Earth! What is conceived on Apokolips can eliminate those from New Genesis! Die!” With that, the Justifier pulls his ignitor chord and sacrifices his life for Glorious Godfrey’s nefarious plan… The kids survive and Mark comments, “The Justifier died willingly — but in vain!” Vykin recognizes the touch of one of Darkseid’s elite: “And the one who sent the Justifier to kill us — can only be — Glorious Godfrey!” The Forever People prepare to engage Godfrey with their sentient computer as navigator: “Wherever Glorious Godfrey and his Justifiers are — Mother Box will reach out and find them!” says Beautiful Dreamer.
As the team travels the Electron Road, Aero-Vans descend on the city rooftops. “This is the part of town we want! The people we’ve chosen as targets live here!” says the pilot. Landing on an apartment roof, the back door of the transport opens to reveal armed Justifiers. Barks a leader, “Move in swiftly! Before the swine realize what’s happening!” The pilot instructs, “Seize as many as you can!” Another Justifier adds, “Don’t bother to discriminate! The women and children are as hated as the men!” The Justifiers flood down the stairwell, smashing into apartments. “Break in the doors!” scream one. Another, “Waste no time on mercy! Drag them out! Treat them rough!” Dragging occupants out of their homes, one Justifier gloats, “Listen to their cries! I’ve been waiting to do this for years!” As a victim pleads, “Help! Help! Stop this!” his capture yells, “Get going! We’ll show what we do with your kind!”
The unfortunate souls are being herded into the Justifier Aero-Van. Screams a woman, “Help! Where are you taking us?” A Justifier responds, “Shut up! You’re nothing but animals! Get in that van! Stop shouting and get in!” A Justifier with a clipboard confers with a comrade, saying, “”We’ve got all on this list! Now, take off, before the police interfere!” The Aero-Van takes to the skies and we hear an interesting comment: “Anti-Life works! We’re jsutified in ridding the city of this human trash! The city should thank us!” Up to now we are lead to believe Justifiers are humans doing tasks for Darkseid, but this comment may indicate that at least some are originally from non-human Apokolips.
Then a Justifier, wielding a weapon, enters a library. “Put down those decadent books! Get out of this library! The nonsense stored in this place shall never pollute another mind!” Suddenly we realize his device is a flamethrower, which the zealot ignites and fires into the stacks. “You need know no more than the proper things! Who but myself is justified in burning down this library?” A bystander exclaims, “Call the police! This guy is a dangerous nut!”
Glorious Godfrey, receiving a trimming, is viewing the goings-on via video screen. “My little legion is doing well, too! There’s one of them defacing a store with an ‘S’ for scapegoat!” One of his underlings says, “Anti-Life is a heady, exhilarating experience, Godfrey! They’re in ecstasy.” Glorious Godfrey replies, “Yes, they no longer think! They revel in emotion! They will do anything I say — in order to feed their emotion! They are now no more than zombies in my control!” Godfrey then learns the suicide bomber has failed to eliminate The Forever People, who swap places with The Infinity Man and advance into Godfrey’s revival meeting. (The caption reads: “The grim, silent crowd, ever seeking the answers to its discontent, enters the giant tent of Glorious Godfrey! — And so does The Infinity Man!” But after the defeat of The Infinity Man and the Super-Kids, Justifiers load the unconscious new-agers onto an Aero-Van. “Open those doors!” says one. “Load these enemies of Apokolips aboard one of our departing Aero-Vans! No need to treat them gently!” Another explains, “We’re taking them where we took the others! To the Camp of the Damned!” The pilot says, “It is not the first of its kind seen on Earth! But Desaad is the master of this one! Even as Justifiers make a mockery of life — Desaad plays with death as if it were a fine art!” The Justifier carrying Mark Moonrider (one-handed!) says, “I wonder what sort of masterpieces he’ll make of these brats!”
Next comes the Justifiers tussle with the Super-Cycle. At the onset of “The Omega Effect,” a Justifier security patrol, flying courtesy of their “Flight-Shoes,” happens upon the parked Forever People transport. “It’s the vehicle left behind by those New Genesis brats we captured!” Orders another, “Destroy it! Where they are — they won’t need it anymore!!” The hapless Justifier assigned to attend to the Super-Cycle whines, “Huh! I get all the ridiculous chores!!” while the others fly down to Godfrey’s encampment. “Turn down the noise on your ‘Flight-Shoes!‘ Glorious Godfrey is still receiving recruits in his great tent!” The lone sentry wields a threatening device, telling us, “This Apokolips weapon should do a thorough wrecking job on that thing!!!” But the Super-Cycle start to make unusual noises. “Strange! The darn thing is makin’ sounds — like it was alive!! Wha-?! It’s moving!! — Changing!! — The handle-bars – The cabs — The wheels –!” And then the Super-Cycles fires upon the Justifier, paralyzing him! The security patrol returns to investigate. “That spooky vehicle — it’s turned into some kind of weapon!!” Another says, “Careful! It’s already scored!”
The caption reads: “Then — more shots — more stiffened, falling figures!!! All in full view of Glorious Godfrey down below!!!” Godfrey orders his Justifiers to “Destroy that abomination!!” and a crew of newbies steps forward. “We’ll volunteer for the job, Glorious Godfrey!! Give us the chance to serve you!!” Godfrey asks his first lieutenant, “These are new recruits!! Can they do it??” The officer is enthusiastic, “Zealots will do anything!! Just point them in the proper direction, Godfrey!” The leader turns and raises his arms above the fresh soldiers as if in benediction. “You Earthmen are the shining embodiment of ‘Anti-Life!’ You leap at the throat of death — because you’re transformed!!” Volunteers one, “Belief in Anti-Life makes all Justifiable! Belief in you, Glorious Godfrey, makes us — ‘Justifiers!’” A jubilant Godfrey sends them off. “Then, ‘To arms!!’ Get to your weapons and instructions!! — And finish that job!!!” The Justifiers are ecstatic, one yapping, “Yahooo! We’ll blast that thing into twisted junk!!!” Godfrey’s number one gushes, “They’re really eager to destroy! What’s the secret, Godfrey? The helmet? The uniform? The creed?”” Godfrey beams and answers, “Earthmen are given all those things at birth!! I merely justify their readiness to use them!! That’s why they love me!!!”
Next we see a zillion — or thereabouts — Justifiers swarming up the incline to lay final siege on Serifan and the Super-Cycle. Godfrey says, “My followers are ready! My Justifiers champ at the bit!! — In one moment they’ll surge over that hill! — Weapons blazing!! — Shouting with the joy that comes in the release of destruction!! Kill, men, kill!! Darkseid absolves you of all guilt!!” But the Super-Cycle riddles the Justifiers with its paralyzer gun, yet the fanatics keep up the onslaught despite their losses. “They’re still coming!” Serifan thinks, “Like all zealots, Justifiers never give up! The Super-Cycle is defending itself magnificently!! But some attackers are bound to break through!!” Choosing a capsule from his headwear, the cowboy muses, “It’s best that I choose the correct Cosmic Cartridge from my hat-band — and hold it in readiness for instant activation!!” A Justifier rushes the youngest Forever Person, screaming, “Die!! — You New Genesis whelp!!” and fires his weapon. The following caption reads: “Even as the Justifier’s weapon fires, the Cosmic Cartridge generates a shield of atoms — strong enough to repel the shot and cause it to rebound on the attacker!” Serifan is determined to hold out until death takes him. Godfrey is happy to comply and says to a minion, “I’ve wasted enough zealots!! Use the Induction Rifle!!” Its wielder says, “It’ll pressurize the ground above the brat — and bring the cliff down on him!” Is this the end of Serifan and the Super-Cycle? We’ll see, but we do know this is the finale of the Justifiers, who depart after this scene!