Title: American Nightmare
Release Date: September 2003
Writer: Joe Kelly
Penciller: Chris Cross
Inker: Tom Nguyen
JLA Members: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Firestorm, Faith, Major Disaster, and the Atom.
Guest Stars: Lois Lane.
Bad Guys: Lex Luthor? Professor Ivo? Qurac?

So what happens?
It's one of those stories.

We start out with a terrifying terrorist attack on London as a swarm of artificial fire-based life forms called Napalmettos destroy four blocks of the city. The Justice League is able to save most people, and they discover evidence that the Napalmettos may have been created by mad scientist and genius robot engineer Professor Ivo.

President Lex Luthor, however, cites circumstantial evidence that the rogue nation of Qurac was behind the scheme. There are no known connections between Ivo and Qurac, the Leaguers point out. Perhaps, says Luthor, but Barat, Qurac's leader, helped fund international crimes when he was working with the Joker, and he's slaughtered and tortured his own citizens. Perhaps he's using Ivo's designs to prepare for disastrous terror attacks on America. But a preemptive strike without solid proof, counter the JLA, would be illegal under international law. All I care about, says Luthor, is saving American lives. If the Justice League won't assist our military, maybe you should take the "of America" bit out of your team's name...

This is all sounding oddly familiar.

The League sets out to find proof, one way or another. They capture Professor Ivo and shut down his Napalmettos, but when they ask him if Qurac is financing his operation, he clams up and demands his lawyer. Suspicious, but not solid evidence. Meanwhile, the government is still issuing warnings about what to do in case of a Napalmetto attack, and as a result, people panic, run to the stores, and buy up all the olive oil, vegetable oil, and baby powder they can ('cause napalm won't stick, say the feds).

After that, things get a bit odd. Right after she makes a powerful point to Luthor that America, as the top dog on the international stage, has a responsibility to play by the rules in order to set an example for the world, Wonder Woman mysteriously vanishes. And right after Batman reveals that riot police shutting down a peace rally are actually Special Forces troops sent to suppress dissent, he also disappears mysteriously.

All this time, Superman has been wracked by indecision--he wants to know the truth, and he wants to do the right thing, but he also has a long-standing belief in the office of the president, even if he doesn't much like the guy sitting in the Oval Office. So he's been giving Luthor the benefit of the doubt, waiting for him to finally present his proof, if he has it. But Luthor takes the nation to war, despite widespread protest and with no solid proof offered. When Superman finally decides that he has to act, Luthor shows up and pops him with a big chunk of Kryptonite, reducing the Man of Steel to crumbling, decaying flesh almost immediately...

And then Superman wakes up. Turns out he was using a Martian device in the Watchtower that uses dreams as a form of high-speed therapy. Don't worry, it's all a dream--nothing like this could happen in the real world...

Cool Moments!
Joe Kelly's stories have been strongly influenced by current events for the past six months, and I thought the way the political arguments were rehashed for a superhero universe was well-done, perceptive, and fun; also, I've been a big fan of Chris Cross' artwork since he was working on Milestone's old "Blood Syndicate" comic, so it's great to see him working on something as high-profile as "JLA", even if it is just a fill-in issue. That, and he draws a really hot Wonder Woman, so whoo-hooo!

Uncool Moments!
"It was all a dream!" Gag me with Bobby Ewing!

Cool Quotes!
Batman: "International law and the UN charter forbid unprovoked unilateral action against a sovereign nation."
Luthor: "It forbids assassinations, too. And yet, how much bloodshed would be averted--both internationally and within Qurac--if someone put a bullet in Barat's skull... or a Batarang? Or a beam of heat vision? How many lives would that save?"

Wonder Woman: "America sets an example for the international community. If we attack without verifiable evidence, it sends a message to the world--that diplomacy is a farce and peace has failed."

Superman: "I just want to be sure we're doing the right thing. There's nothing wrong with that. Where is Batman? Diana?"
Luthor: "I don't know. I just know that they were confusing you with unpatriotic talk. It's unbecoming to question your president during times of international unrest."

Superman: "Armed conflict may be an option, and I will support it... if the truth is clear, and the cause is just. But I will know the truth, and I will not feel ashamed or be called un-American for demanding it."

Final Grade: B

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