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Title: The Tenth Circle, Part II: The Enemy Within
Release Date: Late May 2004
Writers: John Byrne and Chris Claremont
Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Jerry Ordway
JLA Members: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (John Stewart), the Flash, the Martian Manhunter, the Atom, and Faith.
Guest Stars: People who haven't been identified yet.
Bad Guys: Crucifer, Nudge, Vortex, a Gotham City police detective, and yucky green monsters.

So what happens?
Well, first we backtrack a bit to see what happened when slightly foofy vampire Crucifer tried to put the bite on Superman. Turns out he wasn't able to turn Supes into the Vampire of Steel because his Kryptonian blood tasted really awful! But Crucifer was still able to make Superman his slave, and he sends him out to capture Faith. It's also revealed that the vampire's young metahuman followers--Nudge, the mind-controller, and Vortex, a force-blaster--are more like innocent dupes than evil cultists. Okay, looks like we're now caught up with stuff that was supposed to happen last issue, so let's continue on.

In Baltimore, Green Lantern runs into another bunch of cultists on a recruiting run. He's able to stand up to Nudge's and Vortex's powers individually, but when they're working together, they're able to knock him down long enough to get away. Then, while GL is still reeling from the cultists' attacks, he's accosted by two of the four unidentified and secretive superpeople who were shadowing the JLA last issue. One of them is a woman who can grow to giant size, and the other is a man wearing a metal exoskeleton who is able to send out a glowing black energy skeleton that can fly at incredible speeds. They tell Green Lantern not to interfere with them. They're able to attach a tracker to the cultists' truck, but it still manages to mysteriously vanish. By the way, I know who the mysterious group of strangers are, but I'm not telling yet. It'll make a nice surprise, I think, when their identies are revealed.

Back on the Watchtower, Batman has Green Lantern run a scan of his uniform to see if the strangers left any skin cells that Bats could use to identify them. Wonder Woman shows up with some old historical scrolls from Paradise Island. They reveal that, thousands of years ago, a band of vampires started a cult in Greece. They used the same "X-in-a-circle" symbol that was found chalked up at the crime scenes. They were all slaughtered when they fought the Amazons, but no one knows how the victory was won. Wondy plans to study the scrolls more to get additional clues.

In the Watchtower's lab, the Martian Manhunter can't figure out why the Atom disappeared when he shrank down to explore Manitou Raven's fortune-telling stones. And elsewhere, the Atom is falling through some seemingly endless void. He can't tell where he is, and he's not able to shrink or grow anymore. When he finally hits bottom (and is luckily not crushed into a paste), he finds himself in a strange crystalline world and is attacked by a pack of scaly green monsters. Without his powers, he's no match for them and they're able to beat him down and subdue him.

Meanwhile, back at Castle Crucifer, Superman returns with the kidnapped Faith and is sent on another assignment. He returns to the JLA Watchtower, distracts Wonder Woman, and when no one's looking, sets the Amazonian scrolls on fire with his heat vision!

And in Gotham City, Batman continues his investigation, running into a police detective who was inspecting one of the disappearance crime scenes last issue. This time, however, the detective is erasing the cult symbol that was found on a wall. When he is confronted, a couple of cultists show up, and the cop shoots Batman in the chest. Well, that's just rude!

Uncool Moments!
Claremont's dialogue is really dated and awkward at times. And where the heck are Plastic Man, Firestorm, and Major Disaster hiding?!

Final Grade: B

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