Wednesday, December 16, 2009
JLA Classified #21 (Late June 2006)
Superman held Soldat at bay, as the soldier's energy blades could slice through even his skin of steel. At Soldat's command, Ghost Lion redirected his attacks toward the Man of Tomorrow, siccing manifestations of Phantom Zone Criminals on him. Green Lantern John Stewart confronted Dybbuk, Wonder Woman focused on Marieke, and the rest continued their dances of death with the previous issue's partners.
The Manhunter from Mars knelt before the body of the soldier he had just shot dead for being infected with the Starro virus. "Forgive me. If there had been another way... I'm calling to you now. Peace is within me. Come to me. A flood of tiny Starros flew out of the corpse's mouth...
Recognizing their stalemates, the Wally West Flash helped Wonder Woman beat Marieke. The Amazing Amazon then took out Dybbuk, freeing Green Lantern to pursue Velocista with ring-generated missiles. Flash followed up by rescuing Batman from Jin Si, and though bloodied, the Dark Knight handled Soldat and aided Superman against Ghost Lion.
The battle won, Martian Manhunter returned all smiles, having pursued Batman's gambit to a successful outcome. "I used my mental powers to cause a soldier to believe I'd shot him. Being semi-intelligent brain parasites, the miniature Starros also were deceived. As hoped, they left the now seemingly useless host body, and entered the nearest living thing. Myself. Fortunately, China is one of the largest producers of the very thing we first used to defeat Starro; lime." John Stewart asked how J'Onn had avoided succumbing to the Conqueror Strain himself. "Just because they prey on the mind doesn't make them smart, Green Lantern. I simply kept moving my brain. I believe it was in my right calf when I immersed myself in the mineral powder."
Manhunter repeated this process to free the Hypothetical Army from the Strain, using his telepathy to learn from them the location of General Dvory Tuzik's headquarters. Soldat explained that his group had been freedom fighters, and wanted to help bring Tuzik to justice. That would not be a simple matter, as Tuzik had ingested his remaining potions, armored himself, and in so doing become a walking monstrosity. Swollen into a hulking figure, with elements of power clearly derived from Amazo, the Metal Men, Ocean Master, Prometheus and more, the General resisted. However, the various attributes of Tuzik's new powers were not compatible, leaving Tuzik struggling to move and to think. A Chinese loyalist tried to rescue the Hypothetical Woman during the melee, but Tuzik struck out at her from a distance. Without her, the Hypothetical Army would soon die, while Tuzik had doomed himself to a swift death through his power cocktail. Finally, Green Lantern had convinced Tuzik's son Azir to face his father, and assume command of his nation.
In her final moments, the Hypothetical Woman "forgave" General Tuzik, sending his mind to a simulation of the Hell, while taking the Army back with her into an astral Heaven."
Azir Tuzik assumed the presidency, and honored the JLA for their help. Batman, his right arm in a sling, promised Azir that he'd meet his father's fate if he didn't continue walking a different path.
"After the Fire!" was scripted by Gail Simone, penciled by José Luis García-López, and inked by Sean Phillips.