Dark clouds hover menacingly over Metropolis. While the Phantom Stranger quietly observes, Superman blocks a bolt of lightning from striking a couple, then plunges into the clouds. Superman discovers an extra-dimensional rift, hidden in the clouds. Before he can enter it, a cluster of stones spews forth, endangering the civilians on the streets below. Superman works quickly to destroy the falling stones, but fails to keep one from pulverizing a vehicle, seemingly killing the driver. Superman is horrified at his failure until he sees the driver, alive, standing with the Phantom Stranger. At the Phantom Stranger's behest, Superman travels to Arkham Asylum, and sets the Joker free. The Phantom Stranger revels that the space within the rift is really the universal consciousness of Maaldor, the Dark Lord. Having lost his corporeal form in combat with Superman and Power Girl, Maaldor's sentience was then scattered in conflict with Superman and Madame Xanadu. Now all that remains is Maaldor's madness, completely filling and infusing the universe distilled from his essence. The Joker balks at being pressed into service. The Phantom Stranger entrances the Joker, long enough for Superman to carry him into the rift. Once inside, the Joker's mind returns to clarity. Immediately, Superman and the Joker come under attack. The fireballs that menace them, however, burst into flowers, as they break across Superman's chest.
Superman falls prey to another illusory pitfall, but the Joker talks Superman though it. With the Joker guiding Superman through Maaldor's hallucinations, the Dark Lord tries a more directed approach, manifesting a giant version of his corporeal form to challenge Superman. This illusion, too, falls away, reconfiguring into wraith-like demons radiating bone chilling cold. Unprepared for the assault, Superman cannot keep Maaldor from getting a foothold within the Man of Steel's mind. With Superman largely incapacitated, the Phantom Stranger calls upon the Joker to challenge Maaldor on his own level. The Joker opens his mind to Maaldor's madness, literally becoming one with the universe within the rift. The Joker is able to harness Maaldor's madness, using his insanity to gain nearly godlike powers. The Joker comes to Superman's aid, but the Man of Steel believes it to be another trick, and lashes out at the Clown Prince of Crime. The Joker uses Maaldor's harnessed madness to best the Man of Steel, then leads Superman to the core of Maaldor's universal consciousness. While the Joker distracts Maaldor's psychic essence, the Man of Steel rallies, with the support of the Phantom Stranger. Bringing his heat vision to bear,Superman incinerates Maaldor's active consciousness. With Maaldor, in effect, lobotomized, the threat from his universal essence is ended. The Joker finds the connection to Maaldor's madness broken, and thus is no longer in possession of his godlike powers.