Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artists: Tom Grummett (p), Prentis Rollins, Al Vey & Wade Von Grawbadger (i)
The book opens by looking in on the JLA who are slowly breaking through the barriers that Dr. Polaris had set up, but we see it's going to be quite some time before they're going to arrive at the battle. However, thanks to a helpful bit of technology given to him by Striker Z's gadget man, Manhunter is able to pass through the fields. Meanwhile Witchfire is able to reestablish the communication channels between Wells & Schaum and the Power Company using her magic, which in turn gives them access to information about Dr. Polaris that Skyrocket is trying to use to reach the more reasonable side of Dr. Polaris unstable personality. We then look in on Power Company, as we learn Skyrocket managed to shield from them mind-wiping attack that Dr. Polaris unleashed their way at the end of the previous issue, and Firestorm is quick to step up to the plate, as he cuts loose at full power. As the duel of nuclear & electromagnetic forces plays out, we see a momentary distraction allows Dr. Polaris to take Firestorm out, and when Skyrocket's attempts to reason with the villain fall upon deaf ears it looks like Dr. Polaris is only moments from victory. However, Manhunter manages to come up with a rather clever method of defeating Dr. Polaris, but in the aftermath we see Firestorm is rather disturbed by how the Power Company secured its victory.
This issue is a pretty solid finish to the Power Company's first real test as a group, as not only is it the group's first real throw-down with a super-villain, but it's also our first real look at the group dynamic that exists during a battle. We see Skyrocket has naturally gravitated to the leadership role, but her years of working as a solo hero leave her automatically forgetting she has an entire team to draw upon when it comes to confronting the big, bad villain. I mean during this battle the only time she's really called upon another member of the team was when she needed Firestorm to provide the raw power she needed to carry off her plan to punch through the force-field. The rest of the time the members of Power Company have to hold back waiting for a moment where it looks like they would be able to contribute to the fight without interfering with Skyrocket's bid to solve the crisis all by her lonesome. Now this isn't to say that the rest of Power Company are sitting on their hands, as Firestorm gets to put on a fairly impressive display that quickly reminds readers that he's one of the most powerful characters in the entire DCU. There's also the simple fact that it is Manhunter who provides the solution to the crisis with a fairly clever & deceptively simple method.
I also love the little side details that Kurt Busiek adds to the story that make it clear he's put a great deal of thought into the material. I love the fact that this issue acknowledges that the fight is taking place in the DCU, and as such when major crisis does emerge, it's natural that the JLA would be making every effort to arrive on the scene. I also enjoy the cool, analytic way that Superman reacts to the idea that there are over three hundred more barriers that they'll have to punch their way through. There's also a great little moment in this issue where we see the rest of the villains that have allied themselves with Dr. Polaris have collectively decided that they don't really want to wipe the minds of the entire population of the world, and instead they come up with plan better suited to their needs. It's good to see not every villain involved in a plan that threatens the entire planet are willing to think on such a grandiose scale, as it simply doesn't make sense that they would all embrace a plan that only really benefits one member of the group. I mean these are villains, so the idea that their actions would be driven by self-interest, and the idea of "what's in it for them", nicely displays the idea that Kurt Busiek has put some thought into characters' motivations.
Tom Grummett continues to impress, and while the presence of three inkers on this issue would seem to indicate that this book was racing to meet the deadline, the inking styles aren't so dissimilar that one was thrown for a loop when they switched hands. The art is a nice detailed style that lends itself quite nicely to the action heavy story, as one has to love the sense of raw power that is conveyed when Firestorm presses his attack. In fact it's been quite some time since Firestorm has been allowed to look this powerful, as outside the pages of his previous series Firestorm has been used more a comedic relief, as he stumbles & bumbles his way across the battlefield. The issue also delivers some nice moments of tension, as we see Manhunter conveniently gets himself pinned so Christine, a woman who believes she has good reason to kill him is put in charge of deciding whether he lives or dies, and while simple story logic tells one which decision she'll make, the art does manage to nicely convey a momentary sense of doubt. The art also manages to convey a brief flash of hope as it looks like Skyrocket was able to reach the sane part of Dr. Polaris' mind, but this moment is gone ever so quickly, and his madness returns. This issue also has itself a very striking cover image.
A pretty enjoyable bit of action that benefits quite nicely from the idea that Kurt Busiek is a writer who takes to time to look at the bigger picture, and in turn the readers are rewarded with the answers to questions like where the JLA are during this fight to save the planet, and why are Dr. Polaris' allies going along with his rather insane master plan. Now I do find myself a bit concerned that there are members of the Power Company who are remain little more that background elements, as once again Skyrocket & Manhunter are front & center when it comes to providing the big victory, while characters like Bork, Sapphire & Striker Z continue to make only minor contributions. On the other hand though this issue does give Firestorm a moment in the spotlight, and I have to say that it is great to see a writer acknowledge the considerable power levels that Firestorm can unleash. The final solution that leads to Dr. Polaris defeat is also a rather clever move, that I must confess I didn't see coming.
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