Assessor Evil, Part 6: For a Change of Pace, Someone Loses a Leg
DC Comics' event series pitting its bad guys again some even worse guys from another universe reaches its penultimate installment this week, as the home team of villains finally takes the fight to the evil invaders from Earth-3, the evil universe! Which of course means our super-close reading of this superhero epic also reaches its penultimate installments.
If you haven't been reading Forever Evil so far -- and really, the sixth issue of a seven-issue miniseries is an awfully weird place to start -- then here's what you've missed: The Crime Syndicate, the evil opposites of the Justice League hailing from a parallel Earth, have seemingly killed off almost everyone in the myriad Justice Leagues with the exception of Batman, because he's Batman. They've captured and outted Nightwing's secret identity, killed and/our beat-up hero teams like the Doom Patrol and the Teen Titans, and, most egregiously, rubbed Lex Luthor the wrong way, which is why he's gathered some similarly displeased villains to strike back and rescue their Earth.
Issue #6 includes the answer to one of the mysteries of the series -- no, not what's up with that big red whatchamacallit in the sky that appeared in tehe cliffhanger ending of last issue, or the identity of whatever entity is said to have ravaged Earth-3 -- but t who that person in the hood is. It is probably the person you've assumed it was all along, but with a twist.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Forever Evil #6
Written by Geoff Johns
Penciled by David Finch
Inked by Richard Friend
Colored by Sonia Oback
Edited by Brian Cunningham and Kate Durré
This is Earth-New 52's last hope, Batman and a group of bad guys who are more villain-ish than villainous: Lex Luthor, Catwoman, Black Manta, Captain Cold, Black Adam, "B-Zero" (because apparently "Bizarro" is just too silly a name) and Deathstroke, the Terminator (which is really much sillier a name than Bizarro). Oh, and Sinestro has joined the team-up as well, but David Finch forgot to draw him in the establishing panel.
They've all come to Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, and are surveying the crashed Justice League satellite which the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 are currently using as their headquarters and the staging ground of their complete conquest of Earth New-52 (Hey, do you think on Earth-3, this city is called Unhappy Harbor? Or Despair Harbor?).
As for the Syndicate, they're busy elsewhere, having gone to investigate a strange red light in the skies off the coast of Maine. This is said to be a "dimensional incision," and the Syndicators worry it means that whatever it is that destroyed their world -- referred to alternately as "the thing," "he" and "it" -- will be coming to destroy this Earth next.
Back at Happy Harbor, Batman and Luthor's crew split up to search the satellite. Luthor, Batman, Catwoman and B-Zero look for Nightwing. Captain Cold and Black Manta look for the hooded prisoner that the Crime Syndicate brought with them from their world. Sinestro, Deathstroke and Black Adam go looking for Firestorm. Shaggy and Scooby investigate the spooky old graveyard.
Batman's team finds Nighwing right away, but he's not going to be as easy to rescue as he looks on the cover, where David Finch has drawn him wrapped up in... telephone cords? Dreadlocks? Giant African millipedes stolen from the Happy Harbor Zoo? Hard to tell.
No, inside the book, Grid, the evil robot made up of cybernetic parts that used to be attached to Cyborg, has scoured his files of Apokoliptian technology and watched Machete Kills on Netflix and thus had the inspired idea to put Nightwing in "an inescapable device...THE MURDER MACHINE." It's a bomb with a five-minute countdown, wired directly into Nightwing's heart. The only way to disarm it is to stop Nightwing's heart from beating.
Grayson heroically tells Batman to run, but his former mentor insists on trying to figure out a way around the machine. If only he weren't so busy fighting crime every night, maybe he could have seen Machete Kills too!
The Outsider, the evil Alfred Pennyworth of Earth-3, goes to check on the Syndicate's other prisoner, the one that the Syndicators are so worried about but for some reason didn't think to stick him in a Murder Machine. As soon as Outsider enters the room, Black Manta grabs him in a headlock and stabs him to death. Ever wondered what the sound of a butler from an alternate dimension being stabbed to death is? DC's got your back; it's "CHKF CHKF CHKF CHKF CHKF CHKF."
Before we can get to the un-hooding of the prisoner, the scene shifts to Sinestro and company, who are suddenly attacked by the Crime Syndicate, returning home to defend their base.
Back at the Murder Machine, Batman is unable to figure out how to free Nightwing, so Luthor shoots the Dark Knight in the back and then removes a green gauntlet to place his bare hand over Grayson's nose and mouth.
What's he doing?
"I'm making an executive decision, Catwoman," Luthor explains. "I'm saving our lives... by ending his." Batman, World's Greatest Detective, apparently doesn't realize Luthor was just trying to stop Nightwing's heart long enough to disarm the bomb. Come on, if Luthor really wanted to kill Dick, he could have just laser-beamed him in the face or had B-Zero pull his head off. But Batman promptly freaks out and starts beating up Luthor while Nightwing's heart monitor makes that "the patient is totally dead" noise you always hear in movies: EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.
Back in the other cell, Cold removes the prisoner's hood and we see it is... some guy.
He has a head full of longish, shaggy red hair, a red beard , blue eyes, and duct tape over his mouth. Why, it must be...Dr. Niles Caulder of the Doom Patrol! Or maybe Mammoth of the Fearsome Five. Or Cave Carson; could it be Cave Carson? Oh God, it's not Terry Long, is it? Please don't be Terry Long!
Just as the mystery man pulls the tape off of his mouth, probably taking a good chunk of mustache and beard along with it, Johnny Quick and Atomic -- the evil Flash and evil Atom -- arrive to beat up Captain Cold and Black Manta. It goes very poorly for Quick, as Captain Cold freezes his leg at the knee and then kicks it off.
See, Geoff Johns is about more than just cutting and tearing people's arms off. Sometimes he does legs, too.
The bearded guy, finally able to speak, shouts "Mazahs!"
Is he... is he ordering soup? I guess he hasn't had anything to drink or eat in at least two days, but -- No, wait! A huge black bolt of lighting shoulders its way through the sky and strikes the bearded guy! He grabs Johnny Quick and snaps his neck (with Power Ring last issue, that's two Syndicators down!) and somehow absorbs Quick's power.
He says, "Your life is over...and your power is mine... like so many of the Syndicate members before you."
The change of clothes the lightning bolt brought him make it clear that, at the very least, he must have taken the powers of the Syndicate's version of
Captain Marvel Shazam.
Surprise! It's Alexander Luthor, traditionally the only surviving good guy from the world of the Crime Syndicate, and thus the most obvious candidate for who the Syndicate had under that hood all along. But with a twist! You almost certainly guessed it was Earth-3's Luthor under there, but you probably didn't expect the beard, did you? Oh, or the fact that he had the power of
Shazam Mazahs, huh?
Alexander tells Captain Cold that he plans to kill "every single one" of them, so he may be at least as big a threat to Earth-New 52 and the Syndicate was.
What will happen next? Are you dying to find out? I know I am. Why, I'm almost as curious about that as I am how Johns is going to wrap everything else up -- the return of the missing Justice Leaguers, the defeat of the Syndicate, the fate of Nightwing (and how he and the Bat-Family proceed now that their secret identities have been revealed), how Alexander Luthor will be dealt with and whatever's going on with that red incision in the universe...vall in just one more issue!
We'll find out in the next installment, when Forever Evil concludes, meaning that by "forever" they really just meant "seven months or so."