While the revelations from Forever Evil #1 are getting a lot of attention — from the outing of Nightwing's secret identity to the figurative and literal darkening of the Earth — there was one major question that wasn't revealed:
Where are the Justice Leagues?
The end of Trinity War had all three teams facing the Crime Syndicate. But the beginning of Forever Evil showed them already gone. There was a significant missing event in between the two issues. The fact that the Crime Syndicate of America has Wonder Woman's lasso, Aquaman's trident and Superman's cape means something happened to the Leagues before the beginning of Forever Evil #1. But what?
The best clue may come from an image shown in Justice League #22, when Madame Xanadu sees the future — calling it the "aftermath" of the "war." In the image, Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman are looking over a devastated city. Although the characters are in silhouette, they are clearly not the Crime Syndicate, but are instead the heroes of the main DCU Earth.
Now that Trinity War has ended, there is no devastation on Earth — at least not any that Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman are surveying. So where does that scene take place?
Alternate Earth Theory
One of the best theories — and one that has been floating around the internet for the last couple weeks — is that the missing Justice League members are on what's left of Earth 3. The theory relies upon the use of Pandora's Box, which we now know is actually a portal to another universe. In Justice League #23, the Outsider (Earth 3 Alfred) said that only someone from Earth 3 can open the "box." And at the end of Trinity War, the box had been destroyed, but first it had created a portal.
It's possible that not only was the portal open long enough for the Crime Syndicate to come out of Earth 3, but to send the Justice League members to Earth 3.
An exile to Earth 3 would explain the Justice League's absence in Forever Evil #1. It would explain the scene that Madame Xanadu saw (because we've been told that Earth 3 is in ruins). And at the end of Trinity War, there was evidence that the portal was still open, as Superwoman pulled a "prisoner" through it in the last moments of the issue.
It also explains the cover and solicitation for December's Justice League of America #9, which shows Martian Manhunter and Stargirl emerging from a burst of fire. The promotional copy for the issue says they are "on a world being run by the deadliest Super-Villains." That copy could be referring to Earth 3, which in past incarnations was ruled by Super-Villains.
However, it doesn't explain how the Crime Syndicate got their personal effects — the lasso, the trident and the cape. Perhaps the Leagues went into the portal willingly. Or maybe the Crime Syndicate forced them after disarming the most powerful heroes.
Whatever happened, fans have been told that the Crime Syndicate takes over the main DCU Earth during the Justice Leagues' absence, and a group of villains and heroes will join together with Lex Luthor to fight back.
That's all well and good for the main Earth, but if the Justice League members really have been sent to an alternate Earth, what about them? Wherever they are, there are a few big problems they need to solve right away.
First off, Superman has a sliver of Kryptonite in his brain. Perhaps that explains why, in Madame Xanadu's vision of the future, his hopelessness is setting in, as he says, "There's nothing left to fight for." It's a pessimistic comment that doesn't sound like something Superman would say, but now that we're aware he's been poisoned by Kryptonite and is dying, it makes more sense. At the end of Trinity War, Wonder Woman was adamant about needing to quickly get that piece of Kryptonite out of Clark Kent's brain. So we can assume that she's still on that mission, as she replies to Superman in the image, "Yes, there is."
There's another big problem: Vic Stone is barely alive. The last we saw him, he had been separated from the technology that had been bonded with his body, and he was instead being held together by green energy from Simon Baz's Green Lantern ring. In the Madame Xanadu vision, Batman is saying, "We have to escape. We have to save him." There's no indication who the "him" is, but we're guessing now that he means Vic Stone. At the end of Trinity War, Batman was focused on saving Vic's life.
There's also indication that the teams, wherever they are, may have been separated. We know that somehow, John Constantine has been left behind, not transfered to another world or "dead." He is described in the coming months solicitations as gathering together a new replacement Justice League Dark team including Swamp Thing and the angel Zauriel. Whether he's aware of what's happened to his old teammates and the rest of the heroes - or cares enough to look for them, however, is yet to be seen.
Despite all these problems, we don't agree with Superman's pessimism. If the Justice League members have been transported to another Earth, it's far from hopeless. Trinity War hinted at the existence of other "boxes" like the one called Pandora's box. "This is only one of many," the Outsider said in Justice League #23. So there are more portals to be found. And if the Justice League members are on another Earth, those other portals could be the key to getting the heroes home.
Presumably, they would also have help from characters who survive on Earth 3. The presence of Superwoman's prisoner — and her wish that they had "left the bastard on our world" — indicates there are people alive on Earth 3, and some of them are dangerous (read: heroic) enough to take prisoner. From what we know about the pre-New 52 Earth 3 stories, villains on the main DCU Earth are actually heroes on Earth 3.
So if the Justice League members are stranded on Earth 3 – and we admit it's still a big "if" — then they could find help among the people there.
That's if they're all alive. Some DC characters might not have lived past that scene at the end of Trinity War. Others may die during the process of trying to get home. But there are going to be a few Justice League titles after Forever Evil (including Justice League Canada, so somebody survives. Jeff Lemire told fans at Fan Expo that the "Justice League of America team goes through a dramatic change [in Forever Evil] and some of the pieces that are left behind will evolve into [his] new Justice League Canada team."
Of course, there's always the possibility that the "Justice Leagues on Earth 3" theory isn't correct — that Madame Xanadu's vision was from another point in the future, or another place altogether. Perhaps there are other clues we're missing, and Earth 3 isn't really where they are.
But we know they're not dead, right? Solicitations reveal the survival of a few. Plus come on… would DC really kill them all? They'd need a lot of Lazarus Pits to reverse that.
So, what do you think DC fans? Any theories? Where are the Justice Leagues? How do you think they'll come back?