The Story: "Bitter Ashes" by Gerry Conway, Alan Kupperberg, and Pablo Marcos. The invasion of Earth has indeed begun, when an orbiting space shuttle and its crew get blasted by a huge Martian warship!
Down on Earth, we see Firestorm and Martian Manhunter heading into space to investigate, and that Firestorm doesn't quite trust the Manhunter, no matter what the other JLAers say.
Some of the other JLA is down on Earth, waiting to see what happens. Green Arrow is impatient, and Aquaman quietly seethes, wishing he could be with his people in Atlantis.
Manhunter and Firestorm try and intercept the broken off front section of the shuttle as it hurtles towards Earth, but its too heavy and fast for him, and it slips by him.
That convinces Firestorm Manhunter isn't really on their side, and uses his powers to restructure the ship so it can land safely:
Firestorm tells the rest of the JLA of Manhunter's "treachery", and its Zatanna's turn to read him the riot act. When he sees the Thanagarian Hawkman and Hawkgirl pledge to stay and defend Earth to the end, Firestorm recognizes his creeping case of xenaphobia...for now.
Meanwhile, on the JLA satellite, Aquaman is talking to...President Ronald Reagan!:
(...are we sure that's not Clayface?)
Anyway, Reagan asks Aquaman where Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, etc., are, but Aquaman doesn't know, since they're not responding to the JLA distress signals. After the call ends, Aquaman's thoughts turn even darker:
The U.N. has an emergency session, where they tell the Martian leader that, evem though it might mean the end of all life on Earth, they will not surrender to the invaders' demands.
As the JLA prepares for all-out war, Hawkman and Hawkgirl are aboard their spaceship, scanning for the Martian fleet. It arrives by basically teleporting right outside their window--hundreds upon hundreds of war ships!
As some of the ships head for Earth, others break off and start firing on the JLA satellite! Their blasts crack a huge hole in its side, and the invasion is led by an armored Martian in battle gear. Aquaman and the rest of the JLA get the drop on him and knock him out. Firestorm, wondering where Manhunter is, takes off.
Back on the main Martian ship, we learn that this whole movement was inadvertently started by the woman Bel Juz, who (in a story that took place in World's Finest #212) became the Marshal's lover and inspired him to try and take over the government. She had no idea it would lead to all of this...
Firestorm does find Manhunter, and has his worst fears confirmed:
To be continued!
Roll Call: Aquaman, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Hawkgirl, Zatanna, Firestorm
Notable Moments: Guest artist Alan Kupperberg did a fine job here, his penciling with Pablo Marcos' smooth inking make a nice, eye-pleasing combo.
There really is a sense of scale in this story that works well; although I wonder if Mars and Earth were about to go to war, where the heck the Teen Titans, the Doom Patrol, Batman and the Outsiders, etc. are.
This is the last issue to feature the "World's Greatest Super-Heroes" moniker on the front cover. In a few months, that title simply wouldn't fit anymore.