Title: Elitism
Release Date: August 2004
Writer: Joe Kelly
Penciller: Doug Mahnke
Inker: Tom Nguyen
JLA Members: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Martian Manhunter, the Flash, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Major Disaster, Manitou Raven, Faith, Plastic Man, Firestorm, and the Atom.
Guest Stars: Pete Ross and Gaia.
Bad Guys: The Elite (Sister Superior, Coldcast, Menagerie, and the Hat).
Cameos: Manchester Black.

So what happens?
Joe Kelly really likes writing stories that jump forward and backwards in time, and he really goes over the top with this one. There are a lot of jump-cuts from yesterday to today to tomorrow and back again, sometimes from one page to the next. It can get very challenging to figure out what's going on during the story, but everything gets worked out in the end. I think. Rather than following the story exactly as Kelly lays it out for us, I'm going to try to straighten some of the kinks out and try to keep the time-jumping to a minimum.

The Justice League has spent the last few days trying to take care of one bizarre ecological crisis after another, as floods, earthquakes, and volcanoes run wild. And something seems to be wrong with Major Disaster. Normally full of macho bluster, he's started getting weepy. And finally, he breaks down, starts glowing and floating, and begins speaking in someone else's voice -- someone who calls herself "Mother" and says she's very, very disappointed in everyone.

And after that, there are a bunch of sudden terrorist attacks. Who's behind them? It's the Elite, a band of hyper-violent, uber-powerful, pissed-off pseudo-superheroes who have occasionally worked to make Superman's life hell. They've had some personnel changes since their last appearance. Former leader Manchester Black is dead, so his sister, Vera Lynn Black, has taken over. She's calling herself Sister Superior, and she has heavily-cyborged arms. Coldcast is still around, though he's ditched the "chained black man" look for the "black man in cool leather" look. Menagerie has been replaced by her sister. And the Hat is no longer a slight Japanese man. In fact, it appears he was never human at all. He's now a huge, fire-breathing Japanese dragon, though he still keeps the nifty fedora.

When the Elite show up in Washington, DC and announce that they're disbanding all the governments on the planet and taking over the world because humanity won't get its stupid act together, the JLA are quick to respond. Things do not go well. Vera Black disrupts Plastic Man's molecules, while Coldcast temporarily turns off Faith's and Firestorm's brains. While Supes fights Vera and Menagerie distracts Batman, Coldcast kills Manitou Raven. After that, Menagerie sprays Wonder Woman with acid blood, the Hat splatters Batman all over the pavement and burns the Flash to cinders, and Coldcast and Vera team up to kick Superman's ass. With the JLA pummeled and unconscious, the Elite make their exit to plan Earth's takeover.

Now we need to make a little time-jump, back to "yesterday", soon after Major Disaster started speaking in tongues. Everyone's debating what's the matter with him and what's going on with all the ecological disasters when someone teleports into the Watchtower: it's Vera Black! But she's brought a pie, and she says she has answers to everyone's questions...

Now back to "today". The UN is in a panic, and no one knows what to do about the Elite. Wonder Woman, one of the few non-hospitalized or dead Leaguers -- and Themyscira's official ambassador -- steps forward to tell the world that the JLA is unable to stop the Elite, and if the world gives in to fear, distrust, and anger, there's nothing that can stop them from conquering the world. But if everyone will lay aside their differences and work together, there is still hope...

Later, the Elite are confronted by Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Martian Manhunter, who offer them one final opportunity to surrender. Nothing doing, says Vera. The world has jumped the shark. Nothing but whining children who can't do anything for themselves. The Elite are going to take over and make everyone grow up. Nuts to that, say the Justice Leaguers. A teleporter springs to life, and the Elite find themselves transported to a vast plain, surrounded by the assembled armies of the world. National, ethnic, and religious differences have been cast aside as everyone unites to battle the threat, while, back home, millions of civilians watch and pray. And Gaea herself -- the spirit of the Earth -- rises up and says, "Stop."

Backtrack to yesterday. Major Disaster is still in a trance, speaking of a mother's anger at her unruly children, raging that a ruined species must be struck out. Vera confirms what she's learned from the Hat -- Gaea is angry about wars and pollution and injustice, and she intends to give the rats and the cockroaches their shot at being the planet's dominant species in about 36 hours. But a plan is hatched: give humanity a common enemy, one that wants to conquer and enslave, one that must be opposed by every human on Earth, working and fighting and praying together. Get them to unify and work toward a common cause. Perhaps that will persuade Gaea that humanity is worthy of survival. Superman doesn't like the idea, because he doesn't trust Vera. But she assures him that, though she loved her brother, she recognizes that he was a misguided killer... and the only way to save the Earth is for Superman to trust her anyway.

And back to the present day. As Gaea fades away and the crisis is averted, it's revealed that all the "dead" Leaguers were really alive, helping to make sure none of the soldiers in the battle actually got hurt by anything. Elsewhere, everyone on Earth celebrates the planetwide cooperation, as new treaties are signed, borders are opened, and old enemies become tentative friends. Things aren't quite as happy at the JLA Watchtower. Vera lobbies the rest of the League to let her run an undercover, black-ops team that would proactively take care of threats that are normally under the JLA's radar. Supes and most of the rest of the League are against it, but the Flash says Vera's earned the right to give it a shot. He, Major Disaster, and Manitou Raven leave, at least temporarily, to help the new Justice League Elite, which had a 12-issue miniseries which started directly after this issue.

Cool Moments!
Superman has a dream about Manchester Black at the beginning of the story, where Black destroys the Earth with a giant cricket bat; the Hat is way, way cool -- I wish he could've stuck around longer; the Elite surrounded by a sea of soldiers was a great image; Doug Mahnke just really outdoes himself on the art this issue -- lots of very cool images.

Cool Quotes!
Coldcast, after "killing" Manitou Raven: "Inukchuk you."

Vera Black, dismissive: "Wow, teleportation. Neat. Where to, the moon? Ice fortress?"
Superman: "The end. The Elite... versus the World."
Vera, no longer dismissive: "Oh. @&#$%."

Final Grade: A

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