It's Power Girl vs cover boy Captain Atom after Max Lord's mental whammy makes the Kryptonian see her old teammate as a kill-crazy Superman. The bout arranged by writer Judd Winick is reminiscent of Wonder Woman's battle with Superman in Greg Rucka's Sacrifice storyline; then, Superman saw Diana as the murderous Doomsday, but it was Max Lord who wound up dead. Here, not so much.
But there is hope when Fire, Ice, Booster Gold, Rocket Red and Skeets arrive to help Atom out and, thanks to the smarts of one member and the passion of another, help Power Girl see the truth. Before that we have one of the most satisfying hero-on-hero slugfests I can remember, with Power Girl on full fighting form while Atom holds back for fear of blowing up Tokyo. We've all been there ...
The rest of the heroes also impress, despite admitting that Power Girl - who is seeing them as other, more threatening JLA members - may be too much for them. It's rare to see heroes acknowledge the massive differences in juice in any line-up, even though every league should have rankings.
Elsewhere, Max continues to torture Blue Beetle for the secrets of his alien technology, insistent that he's not the bad guy. Yeah, right, look at how creepy he is (click to enlarge).
He's also overconfident, telling Beetle just that bit too much about how his psychic powers drain him. That moment's going to come back and bite him in the bottom.
We're offered a flashback to Power Girl and Captain Atom's time together with Justice League International, likely a bid to add poignancy to their spat. Winick's opening line for this scene - 'Years ago. And many lifetimes away' - is oh-so-true, given the DC Universe's regular reboots, while Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan capture the vibe of classic JLI artists Kevin Maguire and Bart Sears.
The duo's art is gorgeous throughout, as they find poetry in violence, and show us the same scenes from 'Maxed' and 'non-Maxed' perspectives. They don't stint on the emotion, though, demonstrating with their lines the heroes' sadness at having to fight - Power Girl's being all the stronger because she thinks her cross-dimensional cousin is calling her a failure. The Hi-Fi colourist makes the pages positively pop, while John J Hill adds character to the lettering assignment.
There's also a new look for the recently up-powered Ice (ie it was probably introduced issues ago and I never noticed), a lighter spin on her classic costume that works very well indeed.
Just a few more issues of this limited series to go. I'm hoping for an announcement any day now that it will become ongoing. The heroes, and the creative team, deserves it.