WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! WATCH FOR ICE ON BRIDGE!


Title: The Tenth Circle, Part VI: Heartbreaker!
Release Date: Late July 2004
Writer: John Byrne and Chris Claremont
Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Jerry Ordway
JLA Members: Batman, Green Lantern (John Stewart), the Flash, the Martian Manhunter, the Atom, Superman, Wonder Woman, Manitou Raven, and Faith.
Guest Stars: The Doom Patrol (Robotman, Negative Man, Elasti-Girl, and Niles Caulder), Nudge, Vortex, and Grunt.
Bad Guys: Crucifer and his vampire minions.

So what happens?
Another issue, another freakin' flashback. This time, we drop back to just after the JLA and Doom Patrol meet. And then someone tells the history of the vampiric Tenth Circle. That's right, it's a flashback in a flashback. Anyway, Crucifer is the only vampire to manage to escape from the dimensional prison where they were banished by the Amazons thousands of years ago. He's tried to discover a way to use humans as host vessels for the other vampires, but humans aren't able to withstand the vampires' life force, so they tend to melt away immediately. However, he realized that superhumans would be able to survive being possessed by vampires, and that young superhumans would be easier for him to mentally dominate, so he founded his cult to attract a bunch of super-kids who he could hypnotize. Also, he made contact with an other-dimensional race of lizard monsters centuries ago (they're the folks who the Atom and Elasti-Girl have been visiting for the past several issues) and made an arrangement with them that made him impossible to kill.

Anyway, it turns out that the dimensional portal that Nudge and Grunt used to teleport here is still open, so the JLA take Nudge and Grunt, assuming that the portal could require their bio-signatures to operate. Caulder stays behind to coordinate things from Key Mordaz. They end up in Crucifer's castle, which appears to be empty except for Vortex and a still-entranced Superman. After everyone is convinced that Vortex is one of the good guys, they all prepare to teleport to Crucifer in Saskatchewan, though Manhunter decides to stay in the castle to try to find a way to break Superman out of his spell.

So finally, the JLA and Doom Patrol get back to fighting Crucifer and his vampires. What with trying to protect and contain the hypnotized townspeople and fighting the vampires and vampire-possessed metahumans, they've got their hands full, but they make steady progress, so Crucifer returns to his castle to get Superman, planning on using him against the JLA. He dispatches Vortex, but suddenly Wonder Woman shows up to fight him, with Batman and Nudge close behind. Crucifer transfixes Bats and Nudge, then has Superman fight Wondy. Supes is able to beat her fairly quickly, then Crucifer moves in to put the bite on her and make her a vampire! But instead of normal blood, the vampire gets a mouthful of green blood! Or I guess it's supposed to be green, 'cause Nudge remarks over how gross green blood looks, but someone forgot to tell the colorist, because that's still mighty red blood. It appears that Wonder Woman was actually just a shapeshifted Martian Manhunter. Anyway, the shock of the green/red alien blood breaks Crucifer's hold over Superman. At that moment, Caulder orders the Atom and Elasti-Girl to shatter the reliquary in the alien dimension. Apparently, it contained Crucifer's heart, and with the case destroyed, it is returned to his chest, so Superman is able to destroy Crucifer by punching a crucifix through his chest.

So everything is okay. Nudge, Vortex, and Grunt are going to join the Doom Patrol, and Faith quits the JLA to help train them. The Doom Patrol returns to their headquarters only to discover that some of the vampires have escaped and captured Caulder! Oh, no! Wanna learn more? You'll have to read the Doom Patrol's new series, which this entire storyline was just an oversized advertisement for.

Uncool Moments!
The dialogue bites, there was way too much crap with the new/old Doom Patrol, plot points and characters vanished without a trace. Superman, Wonder Woman, Faith, and Manitou Raven did almost nothing, and Plastic Man, Firestorm, and Major Disaster were absent completely.

Final Grade: D

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