WARNING! SIXTY-FOUR SLICES OF AMERICAN SPOILERS! I THINK I'M BLIND!


Title: Trial by Fire, Part Four
Release Date: Late November 2003
Writer: Joe Kelly
Penciller: Doug Mahnke
Inker: Tom Nguyen
JLA Members: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Wonder Woman, the Flash, the Atom, Faith, Major Disaster, and Manitou Raven.
Guest Stars: Scorch, Plastic Man, Luke McDunnagh, Krypto, and Lois Lane.
Bad Guys: Fernus the Burning.
Cameos: Dawn, Perry White, and Jimmy Olsen.

So what happens?
Inside Superman's Fortress of Solitude, Fernus the Burning--who used to be the Martian Manhunter--has sprung a surprise attack on the Justice League, and his telepathic powers have allowed him to overpower his former teammates with ease. Batman was able to teleport away, but most of the rest of the JLA are at Fernus' mercy. He's forcing Superman to spin helplessly at superspeed, he's trying to strangle Wonder Woman with her own magic lasso, he's forcing Faith to use her powers to break Major Disaster's arms, he's got the Flash standing stock-still while Manitou Raven, in his "Swarm-of-Ravens" form, picks at him (he even pulls out Flash's eye! Ewww!), and he's got Superman's dog Krypto using the Atom as a chew toy.

Fernus has brought Scorch, a member of Superman's rogue's gallery who helped the Martian Manhunter get over his fear of fire, to the Fortress of Solitude, and she's pretty damn perplexed--and more than a little frightened--about J'onn's new attitude. Fernus tells Scorch that he intends to play with the Justice League for a while, then kill them. After that, he has plans for the whole damn planet...

But luckily, Green Lantern, healed up by the Guardians of the Galaxy and wearing a power-ring-generated machine that hides his thoughts from Fernus, finally makes it back to Earth and starts whuppin' Fernus' fiery Martian ass. But he's not going to be able to keep Fernus down forever, so GL teleports everyone out of the Fortress of Solitude and all the way to Ireland.

Meanwhile, we take a quick trip over to Chicago for a picture of modern domestic bliss: Plastic Man's son, Luke (we met him all the way back in JLA #65), working on his homework while his dad, in civilian clothes and everything, does the dishes. Things get disrupted, however, when Batman, beaten and bloody, shows up at the door, insisting that only Plastic Man can save the world. There's a problem, though. Plas says his name is Ralph Johns, and he's never even heard of Plastic Man...

Back in Ireland, everyone is in the process of getting healed up, and Green Lantern is filling the JLA in on some stuff he learned from the Guardians. First, while he was able to keep Fernus out of his mind briefly, it wouldn't work a second time--the mental technique he was using worked fine for the Guardians but it tended to burn out human minds after about a minute. Second, the Guardians told him that, about 20,000 years ago, all of the inhabitants of Mars were "Burning Martians" like Fernus--savage barbarians who lived only for warfare and mayhem. The Guardians intervened and, instead of wiping them out, wiped their memory and genetically altered them to be weakened and frightened by fire. Why fire? Because Burning Martians needed only two things to start reproducing--the suffering of others and metric buttloads of fire.

And speaking of fire and suffering, Furnus is, right now, trying to persuade Scorch to burn down a city. Scorch refuses, saying that, though she loves him, she doesn't want to use her powers to hurt innocent people anymore. Fernus, surprisingly, doesn't use his telepathy to force her to do it. Hell, maybe he loves her, too.

We return to the British Isles, where Manitou Raven has relocated to Stonehenge to cast a spell to locate Fernus again. Meanwhile, Green Lantern explains how J'onn getting over his fear of fire was enough to trigger his full transformation into a Burning Martian. Basically, though none of the Martians remembered that there were once Burning Martians, the species' collective consciousness made it possible, once he no longer feared fire, for J'onn to access race memories of the Burning Martians. It's why he also attacked Vandal Savage a few issues back--because Savage had once killed a Burning Martian, J'onn gained access to the dead Martian's memories once he'd turned. (Yes, this all makes just perfect sense, doesn't it?) A bit of news from Manitou Raven first--he hasn't zeroed in on Fernus yet, but he's found one place where he's been: Metropolis. Trouble for Superman, because Fernus is mind-controlling everyone in Metropolis to want to kill Lois Lane.

We return to Chicago, where Mr. Ralph Johns is hyperventilating over having a scary mofo like Batman sitting on his couch. Luke hands Bats a note that Plas wrote before he got amnesia and explains that when he quit the JLA, Plas decided he wanted to be Luke's father full-time, so he made an arrangement--how and with whom is not explained--to come home, fall asleep, and forget everything about Plastic Man. It's been a good thing for Luke, because he's had a good father to raise him, but Batman is still convinced that only Plastic Man can stop Fernus...

And what's Fernus up to anyway? Well, if Scorch won't cause fire and suffering on his behalf, he's going to find someone who will. He mind-controls a general, who shoots some important people, punches a couple of important buttons, and starts launching a few important missiles...

Cool Moments!
Green Lantern is very, very cool in this issue; also, Plastic Man may have amnesia, but it looks like he's coming back, and all is right with the world.

Cool Quotes!
Fernus, tying Wonder Woman up in her own lasso: "How long have you secretly wanted to be tied up? To have all power and responsibility stripped away? Remember, you have to tell the truth--"
Wonder Woman, pissed: "Hggch!"
Fernus: "Thought so."

Scorch, shocked at what's happened inside Superman's Fortress: "Holy hellfire, J'onn... What in God's name happened here? What's happened to you?"
Fernus: "Not J'onn, Aubrey. Fernus. I've graduated. Evolved. I've become... thanks to you. I thought you'd like to see it first-hand. My official resignation. Maybe we'll move in after I lobotomize Superman."
Scorch: "Aren't they... your friends?"
Fernus: "You're from the South, Aubrey... Was the house slave friends with his master?"

allseeingeye's favorite line from this issue, bellowed by Fernus at Green Lantern: "OAN LAPDOG!! WHY AREN'T YOU DEAD?!?"

Final Grade: B+

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