Ever since ‘Forever Evil’ began, with the Crime Syndicate arriving on Earth 1, the burning question on everybody’s lips has been, where is the Justice League? The villains claimed to have killed them all and as proof, produced such trophies as Aquman’s trident (snatched up by Black Manta), Wonder Woman’s Golden Lasso (taken by The Cheetah) and Superman’s tattered cape (fought over by The Parasite and Metallo).
But readers knew that couldn’t be true.
The synopsis may be considered to be SPOILER-y so you may want to skip ahead, but certain things have to be stated for this to make sense.
Martian Manhunter and Stargirl awaken in a lush green meadow and encounter a disoriented Jason Rusch, who tells them they are in a prison. J’Onn goes with Jason but remains in telepathic contact with Stargirl who remains behind. Jason reveals a trap door that leads down.
J’Onn enters another artificial environment, where he witness a battle raging between an army of Amazons and human (presumably American) soldiers. In the thick of battle, however, he finds a dazed Wonder Woman, so paralyzed by fear, she can’t take action. She runs off and J’Onn starts putting things together– that the prison is specifically designed to strike at the heroes’ individual weak points.
The next cell is designed to look like an ordinary city, but J’Onn is nearly struck when a car flies over his head. He discovers Shazam smashing all kinds of property, because in this reality everything, even people, regenerate after being destroyed, giving Shazam (secretly a teenage boy) the freedom to revel in his god-like power with no consequence.
Hero by hero, J’Onn discovers them physically and– even more so– mentally in these special holding cells, without any real clue as to how to break them free. Meanwhile, Stargirl gets bored and discovers a way out of the prison entirely, but what she finds shocks her.
In the classic 60s ‘Justice League of America’ story which introduced the Crime Syndicate, in the end, the heroes specially crafted a small round globe to contain the villains and made it impervious to their power sets. They then placed the holding cell in limbo, seemingly for eternity. can you imagine being stuck in a tiny bubble with four other people forever?! But it was the 60s, so I’m sure it seemed perfectly rational at the time.
(In a follow up story in the 80s, the villains switched places with the Justice Society, most of whom couldn’t escape either because Green Lantern, Power Girl and The Huntress had the same power and skill sets as Syndicate members Power Ring, Ultraman and Owlman respectively.)
This is a greatly modified and modernized take on that classic “bubble prison” with the various heroes trapped in virtual worlds where their weakest points were targeted and exploited to hold them prisoner, more so in their own minds, than in literal cages.
These were all pretty clever, actually, with one exception, Simon Baz, the new Green Lantern, whose trap was extremely heavy-handed.
This tale was written by Matt Kindt, who does a great job and shows an understanding of these characters. I maybe would have liked to have seen a little more focus on the heroes that actually make up this team of JLAers, but I suppose you want to touch bases with all the big names first.
Doug Mahnke always does a stellar job illustrating super heroes by the dozen, so it’s no surprise he really delivers here, perfectly rendering not only their prison environments, but the looks of defeat and desperation on their faces and in their body language. Top notch, as usual!
After several months of mystery, things are starting to roll here. This is the turning point for this storyline and the creators don’t disappoint. If you’re reading ‘Forever Evil’ you need this issue!
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #8
Written by Matt Kindt
Pencils by Doug Mahnke
Cover by Ken Lashley with Gabe Eltaeb