Writer: Joe Kelly
Artists: Doug Mahnke (p), Tom Nguyen (i)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
As the JLA race to rescue their endangered loved ones, while also working to keep all the nuclear missiles that were fired off at the end of the last issue from reaching their targets, we see Batman's visit has acted to reawaken Plastic Man's powers/personality. As Plastic Man keeps the Burning occupied, we see Superman races to reach one last missile, but his efforts fail and an entire city looks to pay the price.
This latest arc is exactly the type of story that I wish Joe Kelly had done more of, as it's a big, grandiose spectacle, where the JLA are up against a threat that feels like it has the team on the ropes, and there's some big dramatic moments where I honestly can't tell how he'll manage to deliver the prerequisite happy ending. I mean based on the explosive final page of this issue I'm completely stumped as to how Joe Kelly is going to put J'Onn back to the way he was before, though I must confess that I'm a little concerned that he may try for the easy out, which would be to have J'Onn sacrifice himself to save the world from the evil he had become. As it stands though the simple truth of the matter is that the action is intense, the villain is properly evil/powerful enough that he can't be easily dismissed by the JLA, and most importantly there truly are moments when one is truly concerned that a member of the JLA has been dealt a blow from which they won't recover. Now simple logic tells us that this story has to have a happy ending, and that when the dust settles most of the toys that Joe Kelly has been messing about with will be back in their proper places, but that final page is certainly testing this notion. We also have Plastic Man acting as the big hero, and while it's an unusual role for the character, and Joe Kelly doesn't really convince me that Plastic Man would be able to hold his own in this fight, it is nice to see the character getting some time in the center ring.
As for the art, Doug Mahnke is really coming into his own on this title, as while there is still the occasional moment where the art isn't as clear as one could hope for, there's more moments when the art does a wonderful job delivering the big impact moments. From the double-page spread that opens the issue where we see the JLA dealing with a sky full of nuclear missiles, to the wonderfully intense final pages that follows Superman's race to get a hold of that final missile, the art is very solid when it comes to delivering the JLA level moment. The more humorous aspects that Plastic Man brings to the book was also quite amusing, as I loved that first panel where Batman is rescued, and the art also has some fun capturing the more surreal aspects of Plastic Man's power in the panel where he's involved in a shape-shifting duel with the Burning.
A pretty exciting issue in that it offers up a villain who is not only evil incarnate, but we also have the added bonus that this villain was once a trusted friend and ally, which means that even if they manage to set things right, one has to imagine that his teammates will no longer look at J'Onn in the same way ever again. The last page cliffhanger is also shocking enough that I can't imagine the "he wasn't in his right mind" excuse is going to wash, as conceivably the entire population of a city has been killed, while thousands more are now suffering from an incurable, incredibly painful death. Now I'm not sure I'd be overly supportive if the aftermath of this story had J'Onn locked away in a cell for the rest of his life, or sent into exile, but I can't deny when it comes to pure excitement, this arc has certainly delivered. I also have to give Joe Kelly credit for the work he does on Plastic Man in this issue, as while I don't really buy into the idea that Plastic Man would last all that long against J'Onn's formidable array of powers, it is nice to see this issue giving the character a larger role to play than simply comic relief.
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