WARNING! SPOILERS ON THE WAY! YOU MUST HAVE BIG SPOILERS IF YOU NEED HATTORI HANZO STEEL!


Title: Trial by Fire: Conclusion
Release Date: Late December 2003
Writer: Joe Kelly
Penciller: Doug Mahnke
Inker: Tom Nguyen
JLA Members: Plastic Man, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern (John Stewart), the Atom, Faith, Major Disaster, Manitou Raven, and the Martian Manhunter.
Guest Stars: Scorch, Firestorm, and Luke McDunnagh.
Bad Guys: Fernus the Burning.

So what happens?
The nuclear missile that got dropped last issue hits Chongjin, North Korea, and 532,000 people are about to get cooked extra-spicy. But the Flash, running just a little slower than the speed of light, is able to get the entire city evacuated before anyone gets injured. Remember, kids, when you need a good deus ex machina, always make sure you've got a speedster on your superteam.

So Flash saves all the people in Chongjin, but Fernus, the evil fireproof Martian who used to be the Martian Manhunter, isn't down yet. He needs fire and suffering to be able to reproduce--the nuke provided the fire, and the anguish caused by all those North Koreans watching their city destroyed is providing enough suffering where he figures he can pop out an offspring or two. Plastic Man, immune to Fernus' mind control, is trying to keep the evil Martian down, but isn't slowing him down much. And for whatever reason, Scorch, Fernus' kinda-sorta-maybe girlfriend, has made it all the way to North Korea for this last battle...

Meanwhile, the Atom, Manitou Raven, and Major Disaster are trapped in Fernus' mind, fighting off his many alter egos and trying to convince what's left of J'onn J'onzz to fight off Fernus' influence. And out in the real world, Plastic Man is keeping Fernus occupied, and Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Faith, and Green Lantern are trying desperately to shut the evil and seemingly unstoppable Martian down. Then Fernus' flames suddenly die out--Scorch has finally seen the light and is using her fire powers to somehow keep Fernus from using his powers. Fernus, unsurprisingly, is pissed. He moves to take out Scorch, but the JLA leap to her defense, literally tearing Fernus to shreds. But it's too late, and Fernus is able to shoot a hole in Scorch's skull with a blast of flame. Even worse, Scorch's suffering, combined with the return of Fernus' fire powers, are going to allow him to reproduce some of his offspring.

But what bursts out of Fernus' chest isn't a bunch of monstrous Martian hell-babies--it's the Martian Manhunter in all his green glory! Thanks to a combination of the JLA believing in him (uggh--so cheesy) and his rage at Fernus' attack on Scorch, J'onn has been able to get control of his mind back and split himself off from Fernus! And he calls Fernus "Abhorrent Thing", which I think I'll yell next time someone cuts me off in traffic. That'll show 'em.

Anyway, Fernus still thinks he's got the edge, 'cause J'onn still can't stand fire, but the Justice League is able to raise a gigantic tidal wave, which not only puts out the fires raging in Chongjin, but also deprives Fernus of the ability to use his own fire powers. Now underwater, Fernus brags that he may be down, but he will breed someday. So J'onn blasts him apart into tiny Martian molecules! Huzzah! The good guys win!

And so we wrap things up. Scorch's head injury has stuck her in a coma for the foreseeable future. Plastic Man decides to take the responsibility to be a superhero and a good father for his son. J'onn says Fernus isn't dead, but is just hiding out and biding his time for his eventual return. Firestorm finally gets his powers back (The robot he saw during JLA #84 is dismissed as a mental illusion created by Fernus. Translation: they wrote it into the story, then couldn't decide what they wanted to do with it). The Martian Manhunter is back in the JLA and now says he can withstand physical flames, but not emotional or psychic flames. Say what? Does that make any sense at all?!

Cool Moments!
J'onn's arm popping out of Fernus' chest was pretty nifty; and Scorch's fate is suitably tragic, for a comic book. Come to think of it, Scorch's character seemed well-handled all the way through this issue.

Uncool Moments!
"You believe in me! You really, really believe in me!" Gag me. Introducing the Martian Manhunter, played by Sally Field. Oh, and his new weakness to emotional flame or whatever the hell it is they were trying to say is just monumentally lame.

Cool Quotes!
Faith, when the battle looks bleak: "I'm done, gang. Missiles used up my T.K. I'm pretty much down to throwing rocks. What do we do now?"
Batman: "I..."
Wonder Woman: "Please don't say 'I don't know.'"
Batman: "All right, I won't say it."

Final Grade: C+

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