The Story: "Pyre" by Gerry Conway, Luke McDonnell, and Bill Wray. The JLA is stunned to see their old foe, Despero, in a new, more powerful form, as well as their teammates Batman and Vixen trussed up.
While most of the team don't know who this guy is, Martian Manhunter sure does, and he keeps repeating, solemnly, "Despero", as if he can't believe it.
Despero explains he is here for revenge, and uses his power to turn a nearby skyscraper into a giant stone dragon, based upon a beast from Despero's home planet.
Steel tries to subdue the creature, but it doesn't work. This is something they've never encountered before.
My favorite part of this whole story line is that, even through all this, Batman still manages to play mind games with Despero:
The combined powers of the JLA find a way to smash the dragon into bits, which seems to pain Despero greatly, causing him to lash out and cause the ground beneath the JLA's feet to shake and shatter.
Despero then moves Batman and Vixen inside his stone temple, where Batman--of course--starts to form a plan.
Despero then joins them, and tells them how all this came to be, and how he came to battle the Justice League:
Even during this whole soliloquy, Batman stays focused, and gets Despero to tell him about the Flame of Py'Tar, which Bats believes is the source of Despero's newfound power.
Despero says, in the Flame of Py'Tar, his entire being was atomized and he was reborn in this new body, one capable of amazing, god-like power.
As Despero renews himself in the Flame, Batman slips one hand out of his stone manacle, freeing himself, and then Vixen. He then tells her that the JLA needs to destroy the Flame, which should stop Despero.
Vixen tries to argue, but Batman is already off to distract Despero. Vixen heads outside, and runs into a problem:
To be continued!
Roll Call: Batman, Martian Manhunter, Elongated Man, Zatanna, Vixen, Steel, Vibe, Gypsy
Notable Moments: A lot of the letters in the JLA Mail Room ask for Aquaman to come back. And while I've said before that I wouldn't want to lose the Neal Pozner/Craig Hamilton 1986 mini-series for anything, you have to think DC made a mistake dropping him from the JLA so abruptly. Maybe it's because he's still pictured in the letters page header.
I love, love, love that, even amid all this unbelievable power, Batman is still not all that impressed by Despero, and how much that pisses Despero off. It must be really fun to write Batman sometimes.