Cover date: March 2001
Writer: Doug Moench
Penciller: Dave Ross
Inker: George Freeman
Book Three: "The Fires"
Reviewed by: Neal Bailey (firstname.lastname@example.org)
One scientist, Stevens, objects, but he is quickly criticized by his fellow scientists.
Metamorpho, Booster Gold, and Blue Beetle relax in their current, powerless form in Warriors, Guy Gardner's bar. Rex, Ted, and Michael, the heroes, are interrupted by a blast that takes the side off of the wall. The Cyborg, Joker, and other villains are there to cart them off to check for the meta-gene, a gene that may be able to give someone superpowers or take them away.
They go quietly.
Shazam, now a powerless child, interviews Guy Gardner regarding his tell all book on his radio show. Guy is rude, but Billy puts up with it.
In the Batcave, Batman admires the Phoenix group.
Linda Danvers, formerly Supergirl, is now Justice, a blindfolded, but not blind double mace-weilding acrobat.
Arthur, formerly Aquaman, is now The Hand (no jokes...). He has interchangeable hands and acrobat training.
Wally West, formerly Flash, is now Red Devil, with a trident staff and training in martial arts.
Martian Manhunter is now The Green Man, powers: shocking appearance, martial arts training, and all manner of skull grenades on his belt.
Oracle calls with news of Atom's death. Martian Manhunter recalls Ray calling him desperately. Zen-Gen is the force behind the death, Oracle notes, a group run by a dummy front, possibly Luthor.
Clark stops in a large church, where Diana prays feverishly at an altar. Clark pokes at her for saying that perhaps the loss of their powers was a good thing, because real heroes do what the super-heroes do all the time. Clark leaves and goes to get drunk.
Linda Danvers examines the crime scene where Ray Palmer died. She finds words scratched into the table indicating that Luthor is responsible for the atrocities dealt to Atom.
The Phoenix group musters to attack Zen-Gen, but Oracle informs them that the place is evacuated. Where they are now? No one knows.
Except us. STAR Labs is now a legally taken over hideout. The Mirror Master readies a quick escape for the villains, at Joker's approval and to Dr. Freeze's disdain.
Stevens examines the situation and begins to object more and more with each passing atrocity. Like the one before him: Metamorpho, Beetle, and Gold drugged and experimented upon. It seems that Metamorpho is the only one of the three with the meta-gene.
The retooled STAR labs are now under Luthor's control. He is creating super suits made with Steel's armor, Booster Gold's gauntlets, and Dr. Freeze's freeze gun.
Clark hits bottom in an alley, then goes to a mission for a hot meal. A priest offers Clark advice on how to turn his life around, and gives him money to go back to Diana.
Clark is about to refuse when a burning house crosses his path. He sees a fireman do what Superman used to, and Clark's decision is made.
Jen has left Kyle Rayner. Kyle punches a punching bag, bulking up for his rematch with Sonar. Now, he's decided, he will never give up.
Phoenix Group plans an attack on STAR Labs. Batman advises against it, but the group is insistent. They tell Batman to stay behind, in case they fail. Batman says that Nightwing should lead the team, if they insist on going.
At STAR, a scientist plans on killing Booster and Beetle because they don't have the gene. Stevens goes ballistic, but is yet silenced.
Rayner hits the punching bag, again and again. "I won't quit! I can't quit!"
The Green Man takes one of his skull bombs and blasts the group into STAR through a seemingly impossible barrier. The Hand uses an appendage on the locked gate nearby to get in.
Guards arrive, and The Green Man neutralizes them with smoke gas skull bombs. The Hand uses an appendage to stop the flow of drugs to Metamorpho, Gold, and Beetle.
Stevens arrives with another scientist, who pulls a gun. Justice disarms him, and Stevens conspires to help the Phoenix team.
An alarm wails. The team grabs the captives and moves to the main manufacturing area, where they find the various weapons.
Joker and crew arrive, and attack. Justice takes out the Joker with her double mace.
The Green Man drops a skull jammer on Cyborg, making him unable to change form. The Hand attacks, and the Cyborg flails, landing on the assembly line, where he is coated in steel and made unable to move.
Red Devil uses his Trident to take out Metallo.
Joker tries to escape through the mirror maze. Red Devil runs through the mirrors and knocks Joker out.
The rest of the villains are easily mopped up.
In the cleanup, Luthor tries to leave in a construction worker disguise. He is captured, and sent to jail.
Two weeks later, J'onn visits a bearded, cleaned up Clark in the woods. J'onn welcomes him to join the Phoenix group.
Kyle, prepared, leaves to catch Sonar in the process of robbing a bank.
Diana, missing Clark, takes a shard of broken mirror and prepares to slit her own wrist. Clark arrives, and she changes her mind.
Sonar and Green Lantern fight hard. Sonar gains the upper hand and throws Kyle into a rock shard. It goes right through him. Despite his injury, Kyle fights on, knocking Sonar out. With the battle over, he collapses and dies.
At the Daily Planet, Clark and Lois forgive each other. Clark goes to cover the Luthor trial.
Guy Gardner picks up on a girl in Warriors.
At the Watchtower, the Phoenix Group toasts Atom, Green Lantern, and Steel, preparing for the future.
Two years later, Diana and Clark's child exhibits super-powers, telekinesis and flight.
Story - 1: Sorry folks. I've been pretty harsh in my reviews lately, and I told myself to try and see all of the positive that I can in the stories that I am reading. But this story... it's just so not what the heroes in question would do in regard to the the situation at hand. Superman would not become a drunk. Wonder Woman would not become religious. Atom would not willingly give himself over to shady experimentation. Cyborb would not be so easily dispatched. Cyborg is a scientist, not a duking moron. That's what makes his threat so real. Diana is an Amazon. Doesn't she believe in the Greek polytheism instead of the Christian God?
Also, of all the heroes, the two most likely to form a Phoenix Team, Superman and Wonder Woman, turned into suicidal drunks.
And again, I reiterate that Lois would be totally pleased if Clark lost his powers rather than leaving him, as she does in this series. They would finally have a moment alone. Before she knew Clark's secret identity, she was in love with him. Not after.
The Pheonix Team had promise, but the names were cheesy, as were the powers. I'm sure Batman would have come up with something better than a hand, some bombs, and two awkward weapons, the trident and the double mace. Also, why couldn't Batman join them in the attack? Wouldn't his services be invaluable, or has he been kicked out of this Justice League, too? And where was Robin? Batgirl? Guardian?
There were several things that I was really looking forward to seeing, things that I thought could redeem this storyline. The Steel suits, with some evil goons inside them. Luthor doing something devious, not just watching his plan fall apart and then running away. Luthor always has a back up plan. Always. And it's not as simple as trying to run away in a construction outfit. Also, the person or deity responsible for the "Act of God." It just turned out to be God. Cheesy and off-putting. At least for me.
I don't know. There was just so much more that this series could have been. So much more. It actually hurt to see it done like it was, with put-up-your-duke matches and very little strategy on either group, good or evil's part, save find the opposing ying or yang and attack. I want to rewrite this and make it fun. It has such promise.
Art - 4: The art through the series has been rather nice, despite the story. The characters do not vary based on the artist's preference, as we sometimes see, and the level of detail is appropriate. Lex Luthor looks especially nice, as does Batman. Joker is well drawn as well. Minus one for the unnecessary gratuitous cleavage on Wonder Woman. Ignore that. I love cleavage. But still, if she's converted to Christianity, she'd probably dress more... tee hee... conservatively... right? Even at night. And especially before committing the unpardonable, straight to hell sin of killing herself. Hmmmm...
Cover Art - 4: This cover at least carried the spirit of what the issue was about, unlike the other two. The first depicted heroes in agony. The black light event caused no pain, there was no adversary save the heroes themselves. The second was just silly, it had a bunch of hero clothes. The third, however, is nicely drawn, and basically shows the Phoenix Group flipping the black light event the bird, which they essentially do in this issue. Minus one, however, for the illusion of characters that never appear in the issue, or the series (Catwoman, Robin (mostly (hmmm, parenthesis in parenthesis (in parenthesis))), Stars, and a bunch of others I can't even name). I was going to say minus one for the light being behind the heroes when in fact the light is what they're facing, when I realized that the whole issue is about putting the light behind them. Nice symbolism, even if it was probably unintentional.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2001.