The Story: "Beasts" by Gerry Conway, Chuck Patton, and Pablo Marcos. This issue opens on a seemingly-normal limousine as it drives up to a huge, opulent-looking building.
Under a giant gold "A" shape, the limo is met by a valet, but he is wearing a domino mask, for some reason. Also, he has a creepy, evil-looking grin as he meets the limo's cargo.
We see its a man and a woman, also wearing masks, and as they make their way inside, we see everyone in this building is similarly anonymous. They talk in breathless tones about what they are about to see.
They make their way to stadium seats, surrounding what looks like the grounds of the Roman Coliseum. Suddenly, a woman watches what is transpiring below, and she looks positively orgasmic, her teeth gritted into a malevolent smile.
We don't see what's happening, but we get a sense of it from the splash page:
...this is going to be one different JLA story.
Cut to: Metropolis Harbor, where Superman and Wonder Woman are trying to stop some armored crooks who just robbed S.T.A.R. Labs (do they have any sort of security over there?).
They sink the robbers' speed boat, but while Superman is underwater, he is attacked by a massive creature, a sort of whale-man. He then attacks Wonder Woman, knocking her out, too.
At the same time, the Flash, while stopping similarly-dressed crooks in Central City, is the victim of a sneak attack by a rhino-man, who goes so far as to stab The Flash right in his stomach with his horn! He and the armored men take off, leaving the Flash for dead.
In San Francisco, the Elongated Man is on a case, but when he sneaks his way into a Chinese laundromat, he is attacked by birds--birds with human eyes! They knock him into a laundry press, in a sequence I still find quease-inducing:
...wow, did Mario Bava write this issue?
Firestorm also comes across a creature like this, a cat-girl, who attacks Firestorm thinking he is there to "bring her back to Rex." Firestorm gets her to calm down, asking what the heck she's talking about. She surrenders, claiming she'll explain everything if he promises to protect her.
At the JLA Satellite, members of the team are monitoring what has happened to The Flash and Elongated Man. Firestorm brings this cat-girl--named Reena--with him. Hawkgirl is worried, because she cannot contact her husband with her signal device.
That's because Carter Hall doesn't have it on, as he is on an archaeological dig in Egypt. Suddenly, those same armored crooks show up, looking for loot. And to help them, they have a group of hideous scorpion-men with them!
Carter, as Hawkman, tries to stop them, but the scorpion-men have turned this quite patch of desert into a chamber of horrors:
Hawkman gets stung by one of them, right in the back.
We cut to a small, nerdy man, with a report. He mentions that the intruder who was attempting to steal some of their gene records was in fact Reena.
This enrages who he is talking to--a huge, hulking, lion-man named Maximus Rex. And she swears vengeance on Reena! To be continued!
Roll Call: Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Hawkman, Elongated Man, Hawkgirl, Zatanna, Firestorm
Notable Moments: I was absolutely floored when I read this issue the first time. These villains were way more nasty and bloodthirsty than your typical baddies, and the level of gore in this storyline was simply shocking.
Sure, I had seen a lot of horror movies by this time, but giant spatters of blood and the JLA never mixed. It felt like this story kicked things up a notch--in some ways good, some ways bad.
After saying goodbye to the JLA in #216, Gerry Conway is back for this three-parter. Oddly, no explanation for this is anywhere in the book.
With this issue, DC comics went from 60 cents to 75, the biggest jump to date. I remember buying this at my local comic shop, and doing a double-take when I saw the price.