The Story: "When A World Dies Screaming!" by Gerry Conway, Rich Buckler, and Romeo Tanghal. An untold tale from the JLA Casebook!
The story opens with Ray Palmer, discussing a dire discovery with a co-worker--that a collection of pseudo-neutrino energy called the "X-Element" is quickly evaporating! This X-Element does nothing less than affect all other elements on the Earth! Without it, all of the world's basic chemical reactions start to fail!
Ray takes off to "notify some people", leaving his friend David to do the same. David vows to be reunited with his fiancee, who just happens to be on the other side of the world at the moment.
David assumes Ray is going to find his wife Jean, but of course he's actually headed out to the JLA satellite, to warn them of what's about to happen!
As the JLA discusses what's happening, distress signals go off all around the world, on every continent, so the World's Greatest Superheroes spring into action! Meanwhile, a giant spaceship ominously orbits Earth, watching the events unfold.
Teams of Superman and Wonder Woman, Flash, and Elongated Man, and Green Lantern and The Atom try and stop natural disasters from becoming tragedies. The Atom does some more digging, and discovers that all these events are "X" related--its decaying at an alarming rate, and he can't figUre out why. The Earth might only have mere hours left!
In Southeast Asia, water used to grow crops is turning into gas, potentially causing mass starvation. Luckily the animal friends of both Aquaman and the Hawks team-up to lend a hand:
The JLA is successful, but they know they are just combating the symptoms, not the disease. Suddenly, the giant spaceship we saw earlier arrives in the skies of Manhattan!
Out of the ship come a group of magenta-skinned aliens who offer a deal with the world's governments--they will provide the elements needed to reverse the decay of the X-Element...for a price!
But its not money they want...it is samples from various surfaces around the world, like snow from the peak of Mt. Everest, salt from the Indian Ocean, and sands from the Sahara. The JLA is suspicious, of course, but they do what the U.S. government asks them to do, and use their powers to round up these items.
One item the JLA was not asked to get is...an old man named George Stuart?? What's going on here? To be continued!
Roll Call: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Atom, Hawkman, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Hawkgirl
Notable Moments: As a kid, I wondered why we were getting an "untold tale from the JLA Casebook".
It wasn't until I started doing research for my site TreasuryComics.com that I learned this story had originally been commissioned for an all-new, treasury-sized, JLA edition of All-New Collectors' Edition. DC ran blurbs for such in their Amazing World of DC Comics fanzine:
For whatever reason, around the time of the "DC Implosion", DC decided to shelve most of the material originally planned to run in ANCE. Some of it was immediately re-purposed for the regular-sized books (Action Comics #500), some of it jettisoned entirely (The Legend of King Arthur, also written by Gerry Conway).
This story sat in inventory for almost six years, and then someone at DC decided to drop it in here. Presumably it was called an "untold tale" to explain the absence of the team's two newest members, Zatanna and Firestorm.
That this was originally going to be a treasury-sized book breaks my heart. I'm such a devoted fan of the format, and an all-new treasury-sized JLA book would've made my then-seven-year-old head explode (in a good way).
When you realize the story was originally meant to run at 10 1/2 x 13", you can see how artist Rich Buckler prepared to deliver artwork that made the most of the bigger size. I particularly love the splash page:
*sigh* What could have been...