JLA: The Nail: written and pencilled by Alan Davis; inked by Mark Farmer (1998; collected 1999): In this Elseworlds miniseries (or ‘What If?’ were it from Marvel), the DC Universe suffers from the apparent non-existence of Superman because of a nail in Ma and Pa Kent’s truck tire on the day of baby Kal-El’s arrival from Krypton.
Alan Davis has always been a very clean, exciting superhero artist, firmly in the tradition of Neal Adams and John Byrne in the world of the hyper-real. He’s also turned out to be a solid writer. The Nail feels like a throwback to the early 1980’s or even earlier. It may be aimed at some sort of adult, but it nonetheless zips along in a breezy and entertaining fashion, without too much psychobabble despite some of the heavy-duty shenanigans that go on.
Without Superman, the present-day Justice League of America finds itself in a world where many normal citizens hate and fear super-heroes. Without Superman, DC-Earth has become Marvel-Earth. Or maybe just a foreshadowing of the New 52. In any case, someone or something is causing super-heroes and super-villains alike to vanish while simultaneously fanning the flames of xenophobia. This looks like a job for…oh, right.
A new edition collecting both The Nail and its excellent sequel, Another Nail, would be nice — they really form one narrative. The biggest laugh here comes from the identity of the supervillain behind the woes of the JLA. It’s at once weirdly funny and, given the thematic relevance of the whole ‘Nail’ concept — of greater and greater consequences resulting from one small changed moment — completely apt. Recommended.