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Title: Trial by Fire, Part Three
Release Date: Early November 2003
Writer: Joe Kelly
Penciller: Doug Mahnke
Inker: Tom Nguyen
JLA Members: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Major Disaster, Faith, the Atom, and Manitou Raven.
Guest Stars: Vandal Savage, Dawn, Kelex, Scorch, and Ganthet.
Bad Guys: Fernus the Burning.
Special Features: Death of the White Martians.

So what happens?
We start out in one of the back corridors of the Watchtower, where Major Disaster is threatening to kill Vandal Savage, who's still bound up in restraints. Apparently, Disaster used to work for Savage, and Savage recently tried to kill Disaster. But before either of them get to do much more than scowl at each other a bit, the Dakath, in the JLA's meeting room, starts attacking Justice Leaguers. The Dakath is some sort of monster from Mars, and as a result, it has all the powers that a Martian has--telepathy, invisibility, superstrength, super-speed, shapeshifting, and laser eyes, plus a few powers that no one knows about. Right now, it's invisible, which allows it to drop an awful lot of smackdown on the JLA. And it's enjoying reading everyone's minds and taunting them, which lets it lay a lot of emotional smackdown, too.

Wonder Woman is gonna try to kill it, but Batman points out that the only reason the team is still alive is because the Dakath wants them all alive. It's already stuck Superman halfway through the team's meeting table and knocks the Flash and Manitou Raven out pretty quickly. Batman also theorizes that the reason Firestorm was eliminated so early was because his fire powers could've been a threat to the fire-fearing Martian monster, and he starts trying to wake Superman up so he can start shooting it with his heat vision.

Meanwhile, the Dakath tries to kill Faith by throwing her against a wall, but Green Lantern manages to save her. This pisses the Dakath off so much, it actually calls GL "Oan scum", which seems like an odd epithet. After the Atom reveals that teleporter logs say that the Dakath teleported into the Watchtower with Superman, the Dakath takes the form of GL's baby sister (she died in a car accident years ago when a teenaged John Stewart stole a car), and with Green Lantern caught off guard, it then manages to just about tear him wide open.

Finally, Faith puts up a telekinetic shield for the JLA members, and Batman tosses a couple of napalm canisters into the Dakath's face. Bad news: it's not afraid of fire. Manitou Raven casts a spell allowing Superman to see what the invisible Dakath looks like. It's ugly as sin, big surprise. It's also kicking everyone's ass, and figuring it's got everyone beat, it finally identifies itself: its name is Fernus the Burning. Luckily, Major Disaster is still up and about--he hits the Watchtower with a rogue comet, and the Justice League teleports to Superman's Fortress of Solitude while Fernus is distracted.

After a brief interlude where Vandal Savage describes the first time he faced a Dakath 20,000 years ago, the Justice League tries to make sure everyone is healed back up to full strength. Green Lantern has gone missing somewhere in mid-teleport, and Kelex, a jive-talkin' Kryptonian robot that looks after the Fortress, doesn't know where he is. Manitou Raven and Dawn are arguing with each other in ancient pre-Apache so no one will know they're having a spat. Everyone is confused about why the Dakath would go about screwing with the minds of criminals and world leaders and targeting the Justice League, but Superman has the answer: the Dakath is their teammate, the Martian Manhunter! After Scorch cured him of his fear of fire, J'onn's moral compass somehow came unhinged, and he knocked Supes out before they teleported up. This is serious stuff--the Martian Manhunter has, essentially, all of Superman's powers, plus telepathy. Without his fear of fire, he may be completely unstoppable. Realizing that they need more facts about any of Fernus' weaknesses, the JLA stop off at Superman's armory to pick up some heavy weaponry--they're going to have to go question the genocidal White Martians imprisoned in the Phantom Zone.

Two quick interludes. First, on Oa, home of the Guardians of the Galaxy, the founders of the Green Lantern Corps, Ganthet has plucked Green Lantern from the teleportation stream back at the Watchtower and transported him thousands of light years away so he can operate on John Stewart and save his life. Ganthet also says that the Dakath is somehow the fault of the Guardians. Second, over in Pisboe, Virginia, at the house J'onn and Scorch share, Scorch is getting ready for a night out on the town with J'onn, apparently unaware of her boyfriend's recent evil activities. J'onn telepathically calls her up and asks ominously if she'd like to have children...

Meanwhile, back in the Fortress of Solitude, everyone's gotten loaded down with fancy high-tech weapons. They open the portal to the Phantom Zone, prepared for a possible flood of angry White Martians. What they discover waiting for them is much worse: Fernus has just gotten finished slaughtering all of the White Martians, and he's ready for a rematch with the JLA.

Cool Moments!
The final image of Fernus emerging from the Phantom Zone, flames blazing from him, surrounded by the hacked-up corpses of the White Martians, is pretty scary.

Final Grade: A

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