The Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia:
In her dressing room, Zatanna Zatara was changing out of her fishnets and into something less conspicuous. She had just finished the second day of shows, and quite frankly she was exhausted. She had only recently dealt with the whole Adam/Godhead mess, which turned out to be a trap laid by her old foe, Tannarak. Fortunately, she discovered the deception, but that was a story for another day. And now she was unwinding by performing her old stage magician routine. It can be a lot of work, she thought to herself.
“Ain’t that the truth, luv.”
Smiling, Zatanna continued brushing her hair, seeing the form of John Constantine in her mirror, his blond hair a mess, wearing his ever-present trenchcoat with a cigarette dangling from his mouth.
“Hello, Johnny,” she said, thinking of the last time she had seen him. Her father, John Zatara, had died to save her life at the Georgetown mansion of Baron Winters in a scheme to save the world from the ultimate evil. (*) Constantine had been the one to gather everyone together, but she didn’t blame him for her father’s death. Still, he had avoided her ever since, probably because he felt guilt over his role in the tragedy. But hadn’t he always told her that bad things tend to happen to people around him?
[(*) Editor’s note: See John Constantine, Hellblazer: The War of Darkness and Light.]
“I wasn’t expecting to see you anytime soon,” she said. “What brings you here? The last I heard, you were still hanging out in the Louisiana bayou with our old friend.”
Constantine pulled up a chair and sat down beside Zatanna. “That’s true, Zee, but ever since my student disappeared during his escapade in Gotham, I’ve been at a loss as to what to do next. (*) So I thought I’d catch me a show, take a little holiday, as it were. Thinking of spending a few months in India, to be honest.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” Swamp Thing #53 (October 1986).]
Zatanna turned to face Constantine, tapping him slightly on the head with the brush. “John Constantine, as much as I’d love to believe this is a social call, I know you better than that. For God’s sake, you never even called me after my father died! Something is up, and I want to know what it is.”
Constantine smiled back at her sheepishly. “Nothing gets past you, does it, Zee? I’m sorry about your dad, luv. I thought you might blame me for his death, and I honestly thought you needed your space.”
“Well, thanks for always thinking about me, John,” Zatanna scolded in a sarcastic tone. “For your information, I don’t blame you for dad’s death, and I would have appreciated a call, or anything. But that’s water under the bridge. Tell me why you’re here.”
“All right, here it is,” said Constantine. “There’s some kind of new danger on the horizon, and you’re needed.”
Rolling her eyes, Zatanna put the brush down. “The last time I was needed, my father died, as you recall,” she said coldly. “What is it this time?”
“I’m not sure, but I do know one thing — the JLA is going to be front and center, and that’s where you’re needed.”
Zatanna stood up and grabbed her jacket, then bent down and kissed John on the cheek. “Thanks and goodbye, John. I’ve been debating on whether or not to return to the League. Tiorted, ereh I emoc!”
A flash of brimstone, and Zatanna vanished, leaving a disappointed John Constantine in her wake.
“Well, so much for that little reunion tonight.”
“My friends, I was concerned that I would never be able to say this again, but I hereby call this meeting of the Justice League of America to order.”
As J’onn J’onzz banged his gavel down on the table, he looked around the room at the many faces that he had grown to trust over the years: Black Canary, Green Arrow, Elongated Man, Kid Flash — no, just Flash now — Green Lantern, Hawkman and Hawkwoman, and Zatanna.
Hawkman spoke with a smile. “J’onn, I never pictured you as the sentimental type.”
“That’s funny, bird-brain, I’ve never pictured you as the smiling type,” Green Arrow said in a challenging tone. Dinah Lance, the Black Canary, looked at Ollie with disapproval and lightly jabbed him in the ribs.
“Oliver, I–” Hawkman looked at his wife Shayera, who was his partner Hawkwoman, for a moment, and then the smile returned to his face. “I’m glad to see you haven’t changed.”
The Flash turned to the Elongated Man, not quite sure what to make of it all. “I thought Hawkman and Green Arrow were friends.”
“They are, Wally, that’s just how they show they love each other,” replied Ralph Dibny, the world-famous Elongated Man.
J’onn stood up and continued, “First, I want to give you an update on our other members. Aquaman sends his regards, but he is still very busy cleaning up Atlantis after the Crisis. Regrettably, I have been unable to contact the Atom. I trust that he is well. Batman has asked to be on reserve status as he is currently busy cleaning up in Gotham after the mass prison break perpetrated by Ra’s al Ghul and Swamp Thing incident shortly thereafter. (*) In the light of the troubles plaguing the city, he’s also resumed working closely with the Outsiders after earlier leaving the team. (*) I have left several messages for Firestorm but have not received a reply. The Red Tornado is still MIA after the Crisis, as are Vibe, Vixen, and Gypsy. Superman is far too involved in the rebuilding of Metropolis to be able to return to the League at this point. And, of course, Barry and Diana are no longer with us.”
[(*) See “Resurrection Night,” Batman #400 (October 1986), “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” Swamp Thing #53 (October 1986), and “A New War’s Winning,” Batman and the Outsiders #32 (April, 1986).]
The entire group was silent, contemplating the enormity of the loss that the Crisis had brought to all of them.
“Our first task is to return the League to its former glory, starting with the rebuilding of our satellite headquarters. Steel is currently at Heywood Industries, securing the funding we will need. Hawkman and Hawkwoman have graciously supplied new blueprints to repair and upgrade the satellite following the destruction that happened in the Red Tornado incident. Green Lantern and the Corps will–”
J’onn was interrupted by Dale Gunn, who had just entered the room. “Sorry to interrupt, folks, but there’s something on the TV that you need to see.”
Dale grabbed the remote control and turned the monitor on. The screen came to life, showing Maxwell Lord standing at a podium, flanked by Guy Gardner and some man in a silver-and-blue bug suit.
“What the hell is Gardner doing?” Hal said as he spotted Guy.
“Hal, hush, I can’t hear,” Zatanna said, putting her finger to her lips.
“–and with the Justice League for all intents and purposes defunct, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to their successors — the heroes for a new decade — the seven founding members of the Conglomerate.”
Max looked to his right. “First off is our chairman, Earth’s one, true Green Lantern, Guy Gardner. To my left, making his debut as a super-hero, is Guy’s right-hand man, the Beetle.”
Guy, Max, and the Beetle stepped back from the podium as Max gestured off-stage. “Next, from the countries of Brazil and Norway, Green Flame and the Icemaiden.”
Beatriz daCosta and Tora Olafsdotter walked up on stage, wearing new costumes. Bea’s was completely green, consisting of pants and a halter top with a green jacket like Black Canary’s and green boots. Tora’s was royal blue, with white fur at the gloves and top of the boots, as well as a fur collar. Bea walked toward Max while Tora basically hid behind Guy.
“Actually Max, those names just won’t cut it for a group like the Conglomerate. We’re now going by the code names Fire and Ice.”
“Uh, yes, Fire, that’s wonderful. Next, we have an underappreciated American hero, Animal Man.”
Buddy Baker walked up on stage, clearly uncomfortable. Not underappreciated, Max, just never wanting to seek the spotlight, he thought to himself as he took his place next to the Beetle.
“And of course, no group is complete without its resident mystic, Sargon the Sorcerer.”
Rather than walk the stage, Sargon instantly appeared next to Max, as stoic as ever.
“Um… And now our final member, someone who links the present of the Conglomerate to the past of the JLA, ladies and gentlemen — Firestorm, the nuclear man!”
“Holy $#!^!” Green Arrow exclaimed as the other Leaguers sat there, unbelieving.
This is quite an unexpected development, J’onn thought as the nuclear man walked out on the stage. “Time to give Batman a call.”