Forever Evil #6 is here. It's the penultimate issue, and that means a lot has to happen in order for everything to wrap up by the end of next month's issue. We're here to help with a brief recap, and then get to the good stuff. This is a Spoiler column, so after the recap, spoilers are on.
Story So Far
As of the end of last issue, Batman and Catwoman had teamed up with Lex Luthor and his team of villains who think they’re going to save the world: Deathstroke, Black Manta, Captain Cold, Bizarro, Sinestro, and Black Adam. Their plan? To infiltrate the fallen Watchtower, free Nightwing, and try to find some way to stop the Crime Syndicate.
The good news is, the CS is down one, as Power Ring has been killed. The bad news is, this group still knows basically nothing about where the trio of Justice Leagues are. Nightwing, having had his identity exposed, seems to have no way out - though Owlman cryptically seems to be trying to protect him. The Hooded Prisoner is still around, and the Crime Syndicate is still scared of something that apparently destroyed their universe. And so…
SPOILERS ON for FOREVER EVIL #6!
Looming Threats There are multiple threats, and multiple fronts for both the heroes and villains to fight. Aside from the Crime Syndicate itself, the - gosh, what do we call them, the “heroes”? - don’t seem to even be acknowledging that there is a threat from beyond their universe that seems to be coming.
What that universe-destroying threat is, no one seems too keen to say. It is interesting to see Deathstorm call the crack in the universe a “dimensional incision.” That seems to imply this is a surgical entrance into another universe, not just some random attack or release of power. They also mention that the thing that’s coming is an “it” - Atomica says “It’s coming, Johnny.” Perhaps rather than just a single threat, this is a group?
And there’s more to support that - Ultraman says that whatever’s coming can track Power Ring’s ring. Could it be that instead of the Guardians of the Universe, Earth-3 has the Destroyers of the Universe? Could we simply be talking about an Anti-Monitor, as some have speculated?
Early in the book, we also see that Nightwing has been strapped into a device called “The Murder Machine” (and the on-the-nose award goes to Grid for that name!) and one of two things is going to happen in five minutes: Nightwing has to die, or a bomb will go off that will destroy the nuclear power source of the Watchtower (which somehow didn’t explode when it came crashing out of orbit, but hey).
After Batman struggles to disarm the bomb and the device Dick Grayson is strapped into, to no avail comes the realization that the bomb only disarms if his heart stops. And so, Lex Luthor does what Batman can’t - he blasts Batman in the back to take him out of the equation, and places his hand over Dick’s mouth and nose to smother him to death. For what it’s worth, he does at least say, “I’m sorry, Mr. Grayson.”
Batman takes out Bizarro with the Kryptonite ring (and seeing as Kryptonite is what powers Ultraman, it could wind up being really bad news that he has that with him), and attacks Luthor when there are only 3 seconds left on the clock, and Grayson has already flatlined, disarming the bomb. As Batman pummels Luthor, he pleads with him, “Batman, wait — I have this…under control…Grayson… IT’S NOT TOO LATE, YOU IDIOT.”
It seems that Luthor’s plan from the start was to stop Grayson’s heart, then yank him from the Murder Machine (that is seriously what they call it) and jolt him back to life. Really, it’s a plan Batman might use on himself, but his emotions get in the way of using on anyone else. Still, it sure seems like there’s a way for Dick Grayson to make it out of this alive, provided nothing else goes wrong and Batman gets ahold of himself.
If all goes well, it all becomes, then, the ultimate “have your cake and eat it too” moment - DC gets to kill Nightwing, but still keep Dick Grayson alive.
Hooded Prisoner Revealed
While Batman and friends are dealing with Nightwing's predicament, Black Manta and Captain Cold discover the Outsider and the hooded prisoner. After Manta beats Earth 3 Alfred into a bloody pulp (one Crime Syndicate member down), the two decide to free the prisoner and take the tape off his mouth.
After all, if the prisoner is a captive of the Crime Syndicate, then he must also be their enemy, right? And, as the old saying goes, an enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Under the hood is a redheaded man (whom we later find out is Alexander Luthor of Earth 3). He's been a prisoner awhile, evidenced by his mess of long hair and beard, and he struggles to speak when Johnny Quick and Atomica show up to fight. As Atomica struggles to get through Manta's watertight exterior, Captain Cold demonstrates to Johnny just how effective his gun can be — and Johnny's leg is not only solidly frozen, but Cold has broken the limb clean off. Another Crime Syndicate member down (or rather, one leg down…).
Things should be feeling pretty good for Cold and Manta, but we get the sense that something is wrong when Atomica says about the freed prisoner, "you took the tape off [his mouth]?!!! Are you insane? Put it back on! Shut him up!!"
Why would Atomica be afraid of the prisoner's mouth?
We quickly find out. The redhead yells, "MAZAHS!!!" and fills the area with lightning, which knocks out Atomica.
Ultraman, who's outside the Watchtower, says, "The Dark Lightning!!" implying that the Earth 3 Alex Luthor is a backwards, dark version of Shazam. And he's not playing nice at all — he picks up the injured Johnny Quick and breaks his neck. Second Crime Syndicate member down.
What happens next is a new twist — Alexander Luthor holds out his hand and says to Johnny's dead body, "Your life is over, and your power is mine." As he holds out his hand, he seemingly takes the lightning/speed power out of Johnny, into himself. Perhaps, instead of the power of the gods, he holds the power of man - of any man he comes into contact with and kills, that is.
Captain Cold asks, "Who are you?" and Alex replies, "I am going to kill every single one of you and ALEXANDER LUTHOR shall be the most powerful hero your world has ever seen!"
The Outsider is clearly dead, since Black Manta bashed in his head as his body laid on the floor after stabbing him many times.
Johnny Quick is also dead, his neck broken.
Atomica is potentially dead, since she was small when the lightning struck — although she might just be knocked out.
And of course, Nightwing is, currently, dead — his heart having been stopped by Lex Luthor to disarm a bomb.
So what can we expect to happen next to the heroes and villains of Forever Evil?
The character or entity who destroyed Earth 3 — and caused the "dimensional incision" we saw in this issue — will probably show up in #7. But even if it doesn't, Lex Luthor's "Injustice League" has its hands full with "Mazahs" — this new, dark version of Shazam.
We can expect an all-out brawl — but will the villains and Batman join the Crime Syndicate in fighting against Alexander Luthor, or will it be a three-way brawl? And what about the "it" that's coming?
Readers should also find out the final final fate of Nightwing in the first few pages of issue #7. Lex Luthor's prediction that it's not too late means there's hope for Batman to save him — and Owlman's insistence that Dick Grayson stay alive means he might even help out.
There's also indication in this issue that Power Ring's power ring (sorry about the repetition) has found a new host on Earth. While Forever Evil #6 didn't reveal the person's identity, DC has revealed that it's a woman named Jessica Cruz, a character who was briefly teased in Geoff Johns' final Green Lantern issue last year, Green Lantern #20. She's a character that Johns says is "a pretty big player in the post-Forever Evil Justice League world."
And then there are a few questions we're still asking — and hoping to find out soon:
If Nightwing lives, what will he do about his outed, not-so-secret-anymore identity? The character would need a new hair color (blond, right?), and he's going to have to establish a new name. Any guesses on what DC might call him?
We still don't know who said "soon" to Alexander Luthor when he was under the hood. We assume we'll learn how that character's alliance plays out in the next issue. Our best guess is that it might involve Superwoman, since she seemed so intent on turning Owlman against Ultraman, lying about the identity of her baby's father. Could Alex Luthor be her real lover? Or did someone else say "soon" to Alex?
Batman is still in possession of the Kryptonite ring, and we know that Ultraman actually likes the stuff. We're thinking Batman's in for a rude awakening. How is Lex Luthor's Injustice League going to take down a powered-up Ultraman?
And lest we forget, all of this is only taking place because most of the Justice League members (of all the Justice League teams) are still being held captive. Obviously, they're going to be freed between now and April, when the Justice League members are appearing on comic book covers post-Forever Evil.
Who will free them? While Batman seems a likely candidate to figure out where they are, it's probably going to be the genius of Lex Luthor that rescues the Justice League. Maybe that's why Lex Luthor not only becomes part of the Justice League, but ousts Superman from the team in the process.