|JLA: The Nail|
Cover for JLA: The Nail #1, by Alan Davis.
|Publication date||August – November 1998|
|Number of issues||3|
Flash (Barry Allen)
Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
|JLA: The Nail||ISBN 1-56389-480-7|
In this fictional universe, Jonathan and Martha Kent's pickup truck has a flat tire caused by a nail. This prevents them from discovering the spaceship outside Smallville with the baby Kal-El, negating Superman.
The story's theme is set in the first paragraph:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
for want of a shoe the horse was lost,
for want of a horse the knight was lost,
for want of a knight the battle was lost.
So it was a kingdom was lost – all for want of a nail.
Twenty-four years earlier, farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent's truck has a flat tire and they miss the arrival of a Kryptonian spacecraft; they cannot raise the infant Kal-El as their adopted son. Without Superman, the Justice League of America consists of Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash (Barry Allen), Hawkwoman (Shayera Thal), the Atom (Ray Palmer), Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan). The League is not a team without the Man of Steel as its moral compass.
Xenophobia against metahumans is fueled by Perry White's propaganda, backed by Metropolis mayor Lex Luthor and the bitterness of former hero Oliver Queen (Green Arrow), a paraplegic after a battle with Amazo resulting in the death of Hawkman (Katar Hol). Queen claims that the JLA are aliens conspiring against humanity. Flash, Wonder Woman and Atom are the only League members "confirmed" as human; Green Lantern pledges allegiance to an interstellar power, and Batman's nature is mysterious. Metahumans are eliminated or captured one by one: first the supervillains, then superteams such as the Doom Patrol and the Outsiders.
The Joker liberates Arkham Asylum. With energy-generating gauntlets, he traps Batman and kills Robin (Dick Grayson) and Batgirl (Barbara Gordon). Catwoman frees Batman by attacking the Joker. Batman damages the Joker's gauntlets, before snapping his neck on the roof of Arkham; he retreats to the Batcave with Catwoman as Arkham explodes, and collapses from post-traumatic stress. The killing tarnishes the superheroes' reputation, and Batman is deeply depressed.
The League discovers a plot when the White House is destroyed by a bomb after Wonder Woman leaves, making it look like she planted it. Metamorpho is brainwashed and kills Perry White and the Thinker, dying when he tries to tell J'onn what happened to him. Green Lantern discovers a strengthening force field around Earth, preventing anything from leaving the planet. Although Adam Strange died when the Zeta Beam was blocked by the force field, Green Lantern could still travel to Oa. Seeking a mastermind behind the attacks, the Flash saves Ra's al Ghul and the League of Assassins from an attack by Amazo.
Riots erupt, and Lex Luthor establishes a totalitarian state. Platoons of strong, flying masked robots (the Liberators) enforce the law. The Justice League are captured by the Liberators until only Batman, the Flash, the Atom and Catwoman remain.
Lois Lane, an investigative reporter covering the anti-metahuman campaign, suspects a coverup. At a secret metahuman prison Lois meets Dr. Lana Lang, who sends her to Smallville (where the Kents shelter escaped metahumans). Lois confronts Lex Luthor about her discoveries, and is captured by an insane, genetically-altered Jimmy Olsen. After short-lived attempts at heroism (caused by altering his DNA), Jimmy became Luthor's aide after becoming disillusioned with the superheroes. Finding Kal-El's empty spaceship and using DNA samples to create Bizarro clones, Luthor grafted Kryptonian DNA on Jimmy (the only successful graft; the other subjects died or mutated). The graft transformed Jimmy into a Kryptonian, determined to replace human life with Kryptonian life. Metahumans were imprisoned for their DNA, to convert Earthlings into a Kryptonian society ruled by Olsen.
Batman, Batwoman (formerly Catwoman), the Atom and the Flash free the Justice League captives; Batman and Batwoman, with Joker's Kryptonian gauntlets, destroy the Liberators. Inexperienced with Kryptonian powers, the League is defeated by Olsen. The fight spreads to an Amish community; as Olsen is about to kill Batman, he is stopped by one of the farmers. The farmer tries to reason with him, but Olsen tries to incinerate him with heat vision.
However, the young man is immune; he is Kal-El, found as an infant by an Amish couple and raised to ignore the world and walk in righteousness. Olsen tries to persuade Kal-El to join him; he refuses, unable to ignore what he has detected with his super-senses. Angry, Jimmy kills Kal-El's adoptive parents with heat vision in front of him and Kal engages Jimmy in an apocalyptic battle. Evenly matched, with Jimmy's experience countered by Kal's power, the stress of the fight causes Olsen's body to disintegrate as the flawed graft fails. With Olsen and the Liberators defeated, the Justice League (without Batman, who resigns from the League after his acquittal for the Joker's murder) regains public confidence with the help of its newest member: Superman.
The story was followed by a sequel, JLA: Another Nail, which wraps up several loose ends of the original narrative (such as the aftermath of the war between New Genesis, Apokolips and the Green Lantern Corps and Oliver Queen's public betrayal of the Justice League).
In 1999, JLA: The Nail was nominated for an Eisner Award for Best Limited Series.