Running Down DC's 'Faces of Evil'

Green Lantern #37

While DC's "Faces of Evil" thematic "event" ended in January, if your comic shop is anything like most, those covers are still staring at you when you've been there the past couple of weeks - and you still have questions. Who are they? Why are they staring at me? Why am I staring at them?

If you find yourself in that awkward place, fear not - Newsarama's Best Shots team has broken down (*nearly all) of the "Faces of Evil" villains for a quick guide to asnwer who's who and what's what.

(* Newsarama Note - yes, we know that Secret Six, Nightwing and Green Arrow/Black Canary were missed. Total accident over here. But - if you're looking for JLA, Troy hit that a couple of weeks back.)

Green Lantern: R.I.P. Laira Omoto (Green Lantern #37):

Before the Green Lantern Corps came into existence, the Guardians of the Universe employed robotic sentries to patrol and keep peace throughout the universe. Seeing their emotional detachment as a boon, the Guardians felt they were doing the right thing, until "The massacre in Sector 666." Being one of only five survivors, Atrocitus swore revenge on the Guardians, and with his fellow survivors formed a group known as the Five Inversions who would go on to enact a blood ritual that prophesized "The blackest Night." After being captured by the Green Lanterns, Atrocitus and his cult members were imprisoned on the planet Ysmault and began to spread their message of The Blackest Night, with one Green Lantern in particular being interested in the prophecy.

Wanting to learn more about the prophecy, the Green Lantern of Space Sector 2814, Abin Sur, took Atrocitus to Earth in the hopes of learning the identity of the individual who would set The Blackest Night in motion. While traveling, Atrocitus was able to instill a touch of fear in Abin Sur whose ring was then tainted by the yellow impurity of Parallax, thus allowing Atrocitus to break free of his restraints and attempting to escape after murdering Abin Sur. Recaptured by Sinestro and the new Green Lantern of Sector 2814, Hal Jordan, Atrocitus continued to rage about the oncoming War of Lights.

After the events of the Sinestro Corps Wars, Atrocitus was freed once more and takes the oath of the Red Lantern in a pool of blood, becoming the first Lantern to be fueled by the hatred/anger/rage. Currently Atrocitus has his sights set on killing Sinestro before the Guardians can carry out his execution. During the ensuing melee former Green Lantern and short-lived Red Lantern Laira Omoto is brutally killed by Sinestro sending Hal Jordan into a blind rage and potentially giving Atrocitus his greatest weapon yet. Well, with the exception of the cat.

[Fun Fact: Even though Laira is featured on the cover as a "Face of Evil," she is in fact the only face to die as part of the story. Who is Laira, you ask? Well, when Hal Jordan was infected by Parallax, she was one of the first casualties of his madness. After being discovered with the other lost Lanterns, Laira would eventually lose her status as a Green Lantern when she gave in to her rage and murdered Anon Sur. Now no longer a Red Lantern, her role in "The Blackest Night" should prove interesting.]

-- Richard Renteria

Bad Influence: Black Adam (Justice Society of America #23)

Black Adam makes for the perfect opposite to Captain Marvel, because where Captain Marvel is a basically an ethically simple, straightforward character, Adam, as he has been utilized the last six years, is the complex and morally vague counterpart. He serves as a meditation on the viability of a supreme moral arbitrator. Both Captain Marvel and Black Adam utilize the magic word 'Shazam,' to access their extra-worldly power supply; for Marvel it summons the power of the familiar Euro-centric Greco-Roman pantheon, but for Adam the word summons the might of the Egyptian gods. In fact, before he was a villain, Black Adam, then Mighty-Adam, was the defender and hero of the middle-eastern nation of Kahndaq empire. Due to this, he operates with a different moral center than contemporary heroes. For him, justice boils down to "an eye for an eye." This unique perspective makes him the best kind of villain -- the one readers can't help but wonder if they should be rooting for.

Adam works in the context of the DCU as one of the most compelling, charismatic characters, either hero or villain, due to his ethical distinction in contrast to the many Superman archetypes crowding the skies. He grew to prominence during "Black Reign," wherein he liberated his homeland from a tyrannical dictator, and replaced that dictator with... himself. In the lead up to Infinite Crisis, Adam sided with the villains, hoping the backing would help protect his people. In 52, after the Crisis, Adam found happiness with the introduction of his own family, akin to the Marvel Family, taking the gentle but ideologically strong Isis as his bride, and transforming her brother into his own junior partner, Osiris. This was only the calm before the storm, though, and no sooner had he taken on a whole family did he lose them. Mad with rage, his fury led to the World War III storyline, where his slaughter of the entire neighboring country of Bialya didn't cease until he was faced down with the entire force of the DCU. Stripped of his magical word by Billy Batson, now assuming the role of the sage wizard Shazam, Adam was left powerless, alone, and utterly defeated. The Dark Age told the tale of his desperate reclamation of his power, and his feeble attempts to resurrect his deceased wife. Though he failed within that series, they was finally reunited in the latest issue of Justice Society of America. Even more, due to her cruel death, she now shares his hawkish worldview. Reunited and revitalized, Adam and his bride once again stand side by side as the world's most prominent power couple.

With the major players like Batman and Superman off the board due to Final Crisis and "New Krypton," respectively, and given that this storyline will be writer Geoff Johns' final chapter of his storied run on JSA, we may finally see what today's world would look like remade in the image of Adam.

-- Brendan McGuirk

Brother Blood: The Ageless Wonder (Teen Titans #67)

The character known as Brother Blood first appeared in issue #21 of Marv Wolfman and George Perez's classic run on New Teen Titans. While this appearance may have been his first in the DC Universe, Brother Blood actually inherited the title upon murdering his father, the previous Brother Blood as it was a mantle going back eight generations. Brother Blood organized a cult following, the Church of Blood, with the purpose of world domination under the guise of faith-based empowerment. Through multiple encounters with the Titans, Brother Blood's power grew to a point where he had driven Nightwing to the brink of insanity and attempted to steal Ravens powers, which proved to be his downfall. Thwarted by Nightwing, Raven and the remainder of the Titans, Brother Blood's mind was damaged and he was deemed no longer a threat. The Titans arranged to retire Blood to spend his remaining years quietly in a remote monastery.

Twenty years later, Brother Blood would make a triumphant return in the pages of Outsiders (v3) #4, whereupon the reader learns that Brother Blood in fact duping the Titans as he was meticulously re-establishing the Church of Blood via sleeper cells around the globe with his ultimate plan being the kidnapping of one million babies across the globe to restart his church with a clean slate. Defeated by the Outsiders, Brother Blood escaped and while speaking to his followers was stabbed through the chest by his fourteen year-old son, Sebastian Blood, who becomes the 8th person to claim the Brother Blood mantle.

Seeking to fulfill a prophecy of Armageddon from the Book of Blood, it is revealed that the Church of Blood has ties to Trigon, Raven's father. Attempting to marry Raven to bring about this Armageddon, Brother Blood abducts Raven and binds her by stealing her soul gem. After the timely intervention of the Teen Titans, Blood is stopped once again and sent to Hell by a very angry Raven. Unfortunately for the Teen Titans, Blood immediately recruits a group of demons and starts the Church of Blood in Hell. As Brother Bloods powers grew, he was able to capture Kid Eternity who was forced to open a doorway from hell to Earth. Once again stopped by the Titans, Brother Blood was returned to Hell.

Recently after getting the jump on Kid Eternity and siphoning his power while in Hell, and thanks in part to events taking place in Reign in Hell, Brother Blood has once again managed to break out of Hell, albeit in a much older form (which is fortunate because Mother Mayhem needs to get knocked up). Coming into immediate conflict with the Teen Titans, Blood bites Red Devil to steal his power and immediately tastes traces of the demon Neron. Uncertain of what just happened, Brother Blood quickly disappears intent on rebuilding the Church of Blood and finding a new wife.

[Fun fact: The original Brother Blood siphoned power from his followers belief in him; the current iteration is more vampiric and absorbs the power of those he bites and seems to exert an almost hypnotic control over his followers to enhance his powers.]

-- Richard Renteria

Birds of Prey #126

Genuis + Evil + Resources = The Calculator (Birds of Prey #126)

The Calculator that currently plagues the heroes of the DC Universe is vastly different from the one created by Bob Rozakis and Mike Grell in 1976 in Detective Comics #463. Where Noah Kuttler once used a device that analyzed the abilities and strategies of the heroes who bested him, ensuring that he would never be defeated by the same hero twice, the Calculator is now an expert in compiling information as well as controlling computers and the information superhighway. If there is a piece of information on the internet, he knows it. If he needs a computing device to meet his needs, he will subvert it to his purposes. The Calculator is the master of information retrieval and exchange among the villains of the DC Universe.

His transformation was established in Identity Crisis where he acted as an information broker and contract middleman for supervillains. After orchestrating the murder of Tim Drake's father by Captain Boomerang, Noah became a key figure in the Secret Society of Super-Villains. Following the death of Alexander Luthor in Infinite Crisis, the Calculator took over the leadership of the Society until it was wrested from him by Libra during Final Crisis. At the conclusion of Final Crisis, Noah's role in the Society, as well as the leadership of the Society, is in question.

On a more personal level, the Calculator's obsessive-compulsiveness has focused on his counterpart among the heroes of the DC Universe, Oracle (Barbara Gordon). For years, he has dedicated much of his time to uncovering the true identity of Oracle with no success. He obsesses over her identity and has nightmares about the icon Oracle leaves as an imprint across the internet. Recently Noah joined a high tech cartel operating out of Platinum Flats, eventually taking over leadership of the Silicon Syndicate and gaining some new abilities to physically manifest through the internet. If knowledge is power, the only person with a fatter savings account than Noah Kuttler is Barbara Gordon.

-- Mike Mullins

Batman #685

A Touch of Evil: Catwoman (Batman #685)

No stranger to the world of Catwoman, I've been following her escapades for years and she's easily one of my favorite comic characters. She's been a villain, a mother, an ally, a sometimes lover of Batman/Bruce Wayne. You name it, she's probably done it. Debuting in Batman #1, she was simply "The Cat", a whip-wielding thief with eccentric tastes, namely going after cat-themed treasures. Though the ‘90s saw her in her own series, playing the part of a more anti-hero than arch-villainess. She is no doubt a pop culture icon that has been featured in animation and live-action series, and, unfortunately, a Halle Berry movie. Her true origins are unknown and have been changed as many times as her costume.

During 2003's blockbuster arc "Hush" (Batman #608-#619), Selina Kyle/Catwoman and Batman/Bruce Wayne briefly work together and have a romantic relationship, during which he reveals his true identity to her. At the end, he breaks off their relationship when he suspects it has been manipulated by Hush or the Riddler. She appeared to be completely reformed, though learned that her behavior may have been contributed by a spell by everyone's favorite leggy magician, Zatanna. Of course in classic Catwoman style, she throws Ms. Zatara out a window her mouth duct-taped. Since then, the two have had a sort of quasi-friendship out of the love for Bruce. Zatanna confirms and admits her own feelings, adding that she has since chosen to forego them, but encourages Selina to open her heart to Bruce before Jezebel Jet is able to "seal the deal". Hush eavesdrops on the conversation, targeting both women as a way to hurt his enemy, Bruce Wayne.

In Detective Comics #848 (start of the "Heart of Hush" arc), Hush attacks Selina, surgically removing her heart and anonymously delivering to a Gotham hospital. Batman receives word of her situation, and while he goes in search of Hush, he leaves Selina in the care of Dr. Mid-Nite. Batman recovers her heart and Dr Mid-Nite restores it to her body. While Selina is still in recovery, she encounters Zatanna in a sort of 5th dimension, who apologizes for not warning her about Hush. She tells Selina that she was so happy about her relationship with Bruce that she ignored the other warnings in the cards. Zatanna gives her a little bottle supposedly containing aloe vera for her post-op scars. It is hinted that there is a little magic in there to help Selina with her recovery. In the meantime, Bruce enters the recovery room and, believing her unconscious, launches into a soliloquy, going as far as declaring that she was the only woman who has ever held his heart. He ends by telling Selina that he will always love her, only for her to open her eyes, revealing that she was awake all the time, hearing his confession. During her recovery, Selina exacts revenge truly worthy of the phrase "Hell hath no fury..." She freezes Elliot's assets leaving him a homeless, penniless vagabond.

Most recently, she was on the cover of Batman #685, where the story continues from the same month's Detective Comics #852. Selina has been hunting down Elliot who, due to plastic surgery, now looks exactly like Bruce Wayne. They get into a skirmish in Vietnam where by story's end Elliot is locked back up, thanks to an assist by Nightwing and Robin. Personally, I'd like to see her with her own series again; time will tell if that will ever happen.

-- Lan Pitts

Wonder Woman #28

Cheetah: "What's New, Pussycat?" (Wonder Woman #28)

While Wonder Woman isn't well known for her rogues gallery -- she has a surprisingly short list of longstanding arch-villains -- one feline fatale makes the grade as the most memorable: the Cheetah. Debuting back in 1943, the Cheetah is the rare Wonder-villain who has managed to stick around through the years and maintain her place as a major thorn in Diana's side. The modern day Cheetah is anthropologist Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva, an unhappy, power-thirsty woman who originally plagued Wonder Woman in an effort to get her hands on Di's golden lasso. With the help of her servant/priest Chuma, who was the caretaker of the ancient plant god named Urtzkartaga (the source of the Cheetah's power), Dr. Minerva was transformed into a deadly, vengeful, humanoid-like Cheetah-creature with razor-sharp claws, bullwhip tail, and the speed and fury of a jungle cat. Wonder Woman and Cheetah tangled many times throughout the modern era, with the Cheetah going from savage villain, to would-be savior, to feral, wild beast, to having the power of the plant god stolen and usurped by a business man.

It wasn't until the recently rebooted Wonder Woman series that Barbara Minerva dropped her "doctor" side and become a supervillain full-time. With the aid of Circe (the ageless sorceress), Minerva is now able to switch back and forth unaided from human to her Cheetah form; which is now less like her former ferocious cat-like appearance and is more like mixture of the two -- a human with cat features. It appears Minerva's once small, more personal goals and agenda have shifted to a worldlier, mastermind role as she was just revealed to be the architect behind Diana's recent troubles (see "Rise of the Olympians"). It's clear that the Cheetah is ready mark her territory as not only a Wonder Woman villain but as a mainstay DCU powerhouse. All heroes should beware the Cheetah!

-- Brian Andersen

Faces of Evil: Deathstroke

Keep it in the Family: Deathstroke (Faces of Evil: Deathstroke)

Deathstroke has been a longtime foe of the Teen Titans, and a featured player in virtually every major story arc involving that super-team. Introduced in just the second issue of the relaunched title in 1980, the one-eyed mercenary with serious family issues has swung from ally to antihero to assailant so many times in the DCU it can make one dizzy.

The basic facts are this: Slade Wilson was subjected to a "Captain America"-esque treatment at the hands of the U.S. military, endowing him with enhanced strength and stamina that he'd later top off with a Wolverine-like healing factor. But his penchant for using his own kids in nefarious ways cost him his right eye, his wife, and two sons (one of those being Jericho, seen elsewhere in this feature). A master tactician, only the Batman has been able to best him in hand-to-hand combat, and that was with some help. While Wilson can recover from just about any injury short of having his brain destroyed, it is unclear why all these years he hasn't regained his depth perception and regrown that eye.

Today, his own daughter —Rose “Ravager" Wilson — is out to stick a shiv in him, which is where Faces of Evil: Deathstroke picks up. Badly injured after getting impaled by Geo-Force (see Last Will and Testament), Slade cons Rose into visiting him in the prison hospital, and then uses her to bust out, dispensing his own distinctive brand of fatherly "advice" along the way. His goal? Well, Deathstroke is always looking for a "family," and as that's not worked out real well in the past (see: Titans East), expect lots of blood and mayhem in the future.

-- Jamie Trecker

Booster Gold #16

Terror from the Skies: Enemy Ace (Booster Gold #16)

World War I. The Great War. Manfred von Richthofen, the dreaded German Red Baron, terrorized the skies in his legendary red Fokker triplane. The greatest known pilot, Richtofen shot down 80 enemy planes before meeting his own doom. However, there was a pilot of greater skill and legend. Baron Hans von Hammer, the Enemy Ace.

Born in 1896, von Hammer, the "Hammer of Hell", would officially take the lives of over 70 enemy men during aerial combat, with countless more attributed to him. Yet the public image of a cold, uncaring killing machine belied the true nature of the man. As exemplified in Booster Gold #16, von Hammer loathed human suffering. Staining his hands with blood away from the field of combat was intolerable to him. Yet the man was without a doubt a ruthless killing machine. During a dogfight with British pilots, von Hammer's beloved pet dog Schatzi fell out of his plane, to her death. Inconsolable with grief and anger, the Hammer of Hell ruthlessly decimated the remaining airmen.

Von Hammer would live to see the honor of the German people, his countrymen, wiped out by the Nazis. As seen in Garth Ennis's graphic novel Enemy Ace: War in Heaven, von Hammer was flying for the Germans, yet was becoming increasingly disillusioned by the horror and atrocities he was witness to. After being shot down and parachuting into the infamous Dachau concentration camp, The so-called Hammer of Hell had a change of heart. He leads a mutiny within his own airbase. Hans von Hammer, the German scourge of the skies, sets fire to the remaining aircraft and surrenders himself, his pilots and his airbase to Sgt. Rock and Easy Company. George Pratt's Enemy Ace: War Idyll, brings an end to the tale of Hans von Hammer, who dies peacefully in 1969.

-- Erich Reinstadler

Certainly NOT Anarky: The General (Robin #182)

Attending a military school, Ulysses Hadrian Armstrong displayed a keen understanding of military strategy and history. Bored with school, Ulysses showed a confidence and charisma that convinced some classmates to help him escape the school. From there, Ulysses moved to Gotham and built a gang that used his military strategies to take over other gangs. Ulysses gains the moniker "The General" as a result of his success at instituting military strategy into the gang wars. After defeats by both Batman and, later, Robin, Ulysses is repeatedly sent to a juvenile detention center. After one such defeat, the General disappears for a long period of time and has just recently resurfaced in Gotham.

The General has changed during his absence. Now closer to Tim Drake's age, he has matured physically, possibly through the use of steroids, and has expanded his repertoire to include psychological warfare and hand-to-hand combat. His return to Gotham shows that Ulysses has a vendetta against Robin and seeks to establish himself as Robin's arch nemesis (see "Search for a Hero" in Robin). Using long term planning and deception merged with his military strategies, the General attacks Robin on multiple fronts. While manipulating the gangs into fighting a war among them, Ulysses uses the Red Robin persona to act on behalf of Robin only to set up his betrayal later.

After Red Robin has been revealed to be the General, Ulysses switches to the Anarky costume of Lonnie Machin, his captive. In this guise, Ulysses seems to seek out the chaos and destruction to satisfy his psychosis rather than to affect the social change that Lonnie sought. This departure from the real Anarky's machinations provides Tim Drake with the clue he needs to determine that Ulysses has taken on yet another deception. Robin's plan to use Anarky's parents to help bring him into custody backfires when his ally, Officer Harper, brings the entire family into the war zone that Ulysses has created. Defeated, Ulysses decides to trigger the last bomb he had hidden in the street. The bomb explodes under the car holding Ulysses' brother and sister. The General blames Robin for their deaths and swears vengeance. The reappearance of Ulysses Hadrian Armstrong has provided Robin with a foil that has shown the ability to grow and evolve. Though not there yet, the General shows the promise of being a deadly enemy in the near future.

-- Mike Mullins

Detective #852

Hush: It's Like Looking in the Mirror (Detective Comics #852)

Back in 2003, Batman was having difficulties with a mystery villain who seemed to know not only his moves in costume, but also his life outside of the cowl. The mystery villain was revealed to be Hush who relentlessly attacks Bruce from all sides utilizing methods that included teaming up with the Riddler to play Batman against his rogues gallery, and making him believe that long murdered ex-Robin, Jason Todd, was alive. After nearly defeating Batman, Hush reveals that he is in fact Bruce's childhood friend Thomas Elliot. Fortunately for Bruce, Harvey Dent had regained his sanity during the storyline and was saved from Hush's coup with some well placed bullets that caused Hush to disappear over the Gotham Bridge. Hush's next appearances saw him seeking revenge on his former colleague the Riddler, trying to frame Alfred as a murderer, and begging for Batman's help when the Joker captured him and installed an explosive pacemaker. Hush's greatest act though was the one that sealed his fate as one of Batman's top villains, the literal stealing of Catwoman's heart.

As Hush attempts to steal Bruce Wayne's identity he attempts to keeps Batman occupied with locating Catwoman's missing heart. After successfully securing the heart, Batman has a final battle with Hush who removes his trademark bandages to reveal that he has undergone plastic surgery, taking on the appearance of his greatest enemy. Determined to kill Wayne and replace him, Elliot does not count on the tenacity of Alfred and Nightwing who help thwart his plans. While making his escape in the Bat-copter, some of Hush's bandages get caught in the rotor, and much like on The Simpsons, the copter goes boom with no corpse being found. Batman assumes he is dead -- I mean, who could survive a helicopter explosion without superpowers, right?

At this point you may be asking yourself, "Self, why does this guy hate Bruce so much?" Well, you see, when Dr. Tommy Elliot was growing up, his mother constantly compared him to Bruce Wayne and he didn't like that so much. Over time, he began to despise his mother who lived solely for the love of money and his father who was an alcoholic. One assumed that at one point Tommy experienced comparable loss to Bruce, as his father was killed in a car crash due to faulty brakes. Turns out Tommy was responsible for that, not to mention the suffocation of his insufferable mother many years later, an invalid after unwittingly surviving Tommy's initial murder attempt. Bruce and Tommy's parents were clearly different, and that reflected in their sons' development into men.

Hush does eventually resurface and after learning of Batman's disappearance (see "Batman R.I.P.," Final Crisis), utilizes his newly acquired appearance as Bruce Wayne to rebuild his empire which had all but crumbled after Catwoman recovered from her "heart attack" and acquired his assets. But ending up the prey, Catwoman eventually catches up with him and an alliance is formed in an attempt to free some captured wild animals. Of course its all a ruse as Hush is captured by Batm.. err Nightwing and Robin and placed in a highly secure cell at the top of Wayne Tower accessible by very few people. There lay Thomas Elliot, with Bruce Wayne's face, planning for the day when a mistake is made and he can escape and rebuild his empire once again.

[Fun Fact: Thomas Elliot's face is sure to be a plot point of the upcoming "Battle for the Cowl." Think about it: Batman & Robin, only with Thomas Elliot & Damian Wayne-al Ghul]

-- Richard Renteria

Titans #9

The Flip Flopper: Jericho (Titans #9)

Joseph William Wilson, Jericho, is not only the son of one of the deadliest DC Universe villains (Deathstroke the Terminator, natch), but also one of the more complicated members of the Teen Titans. Appearing over 20 years ago in 1984, Jericho first appeared as a gentle, good-hearted soul (with super curly hair) who used sign language to communicate as he had lost the ability to speak from a childhood incident (caused in part by his father). Jericho posses the ability to body-jump himself into another person, effectively controlling and possessing them.

Now hold tight, as this is where it gets a bit "Days of our Superhero Lives". Since his early heroic days, Jericho has gone from tried and true Titan -- who proved his courage and team loyalty battling his father on various occasions -- to being a possessed despot corrupted by fellow Titan Raven's lost souls of Azarath (her homeworld), to getting killed by his father, to hiding his bodiless essence in his father, to returning twisted and confused by possessing his father (sheesh, what hasn't his father done to this poor kid?) and going after the newest generation of Teen Titans by trying to "help" the teen heroes by assaulting them in an effort to prove the danger that awaits sidekick heroes when they suit up, to being stuck in a computer desk, to returning to a new body as a hero again, to suddenly reemerging after a prolonged period possessing the Bizarro-ish clone of Superboy (called Match), to becoming a villain yet again! Whew! Where he goes from here is anybody's guess, but one hopes he finally picks a side (good or evil) and sticks to it!

-- Brian Andersen

Faces of Evil: Kobra

The Cult of Personality: Kobra (Faces of Evil: Kobra)

Kobra is both a person and an organization; originally created by Martin Pasko and Jack Kirby, Kobra (the organization) is the DCU's answer to Marvel’s HYDRA, that nefarious terrorist organization that bedevils S.H.I.E.L.D. Kobra (the person, Jeffery Burr) is one of a pair of identical twins, and is also the leader of Kobra (the organization). Confused? Yeah, well, that's kind of what made Kobra a third-rate outfit. That and the goofy snake outfits and the chants to Kali Yuga. Y'know, like the Serpent Society, which come to think of it, might be Marvel's rebuttal to Kobra.

Anyway, DC is now trying to make the organization a bit more menacing, revamping the concept and reintroducing the long-dead twin brother of the original Kobra. So, in Faces of Evil: Kobra, we meet Jason, apparently reborn through the use of one of Ra's Al Ghul's Lazarus Pits. The cult overtones are still around, but Jason has his own designs on what Kobra can and will be. Overlooking the fact that his brother offed him, the new Kobra vows revenge on the hero community, and seizes control of the cult through a brutal culling that includes a clutch of babies crossbred with snakes that Checkmate and Superman had been watching over. The new Kobra is leaner, meaner and closer in spirit to today's Al-Qaeda than the sprawling, SMERSH-esque outfit of the 1970s. And, so far, no more goofy snake outfits.

-- Jamie Trecker

Cover to 'Action Comics #873'
Cover to 'Action Comics #873'
Action Comics #873

Bald is Beautiful: Lex Luthor (Action Comics #873)

If I really have to give you an education on Superman's #1 enemy, you're gonna have to leave your geek credentials with security as you are escorted out. First appearing in Action Comics #23, Lex Luthor has been as relevant in pop culture as Hannibal Lecter, Darth Vader, J.R. Ewing and his own DC Universe peer, the Joker. Portrayed in motion pictures by Academy Award-winning actors like Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey, to his exceptional time in animation (these days usually voiced by Clancy Brown), to network television (virtually reinvented for a new generation by Smallville's Michael Rosenbaum), so long as there's a Superman there will be Lex Luthor.

What I will do is get you up to speed on the constantly-in-use character, as he's frequently in the picture in some way with major goings on in the DCU. Recently a player in Final Crisis, Luthor was a very reluctant recruit of Libra, as the mystery villain built an all-new, all-inclusive Secret Society of Super-Villains. Never fully siding with Libra, Luthor found an ally in Dr. Sivana and they dispatched Darkseid's #2 man toward series end. At the conclusion of Final Crisis, Luthor, often recognizing that working with the superheroes is occasionally necessary to preserve the home planet for whom he wants to be recognized as ultimate savior, assists Superman & Co. in the rescue of the Multiverse. His final fate stemming from this story is not fully explained, nor how it connects to...

"New Krypton." Lex's involvement in the Superman books over the last couple of years has been essentially behind the scenes as he's been on work release by Gen. Sam Lane -- that being unknown to the public as everyone assumes Lois Lane's military father has been dead for years. Lane has recruited Luthor to use his expertise against Kryptonians to launch a multi-layered attack on the 100,000 Kandorians who came to Earth following the "Brainiac" saga found in several 2008 issues of Action Comics. Having a vast expertise in the various colors of kryptonite, Luthor assisted in refitting Metallo (master of Green K) and old Supergirl enemy Reactron (now powered by gold kryptonite, with the power to temporarily sap Kryptonians of their super-abilities) to serve as attack dogs on the unsuspecting Kandorians in their new location situated by the Fortress of Solitude. Lex was also assigned the responsibility of refurbishing the recently incarcerated and depowered (somewhat) Brainiac. The fruits of that labor have yet to be revealed, but Brainiac's 12th-level intellect in the hands of Luthor cannot be a good thing. As of now Luthor is still in Lane's custody creating new ways to eradicate all Kryptonians. Did I mention that he's got the corpse of Doomsday to play around with too?

-- The Rev. O.J. Flow

Superman #684

Purple People Eater: Parasite (Superman #684)

One of Superman's more formidable foes, the Parasite has experienced various incarnations since his debut in Action Comics #340. On a personal note, I've always had a place in my heart for the villain based off his epic 1970s clash with the Man of Steel in Superman #322. Long gone now, it was one of the first comic books I ever owned.

Two primary versions of the Parasite exist in Superman lore: pre- and post-Crisis. Pre-Crisis, the Parasite was known as Raymond Maxwell Jensen, a do-nothing employee who mistakenly assumed that his research facility's biohazard drums were being used to transport payroll cash. Exposure to extreme materials actually acquired by Superman from outer space should've proved deadly, but instead it irradiated Jensen and made him a purple energy siphon. Parasite proved to be more than a match for Superman for the next couple of decades up until the Man of Steel's history was rewritten after Crisis on Infinite Earths. Post-Crisis, and now known by the name Rudy Jones, Parasite was reimagined several times over, none of them ever quite sticking like the original. The first incarnation during this time actually saw the creators abandon Parasite's purple hue in favor of green. This always struck me as a bad idea since it inaccurately suggested that he was somehow powered by kryptonite or something. In recent years, Jones powers as the Parasite even went to extremes where he looked less human (if that was even possible) and more lamprey-like behemoth. Jones seemingly died in a storyline where he masqueraded as Lois Lane for an extended period of time, but Lex Luthor retrieved his remains and revived him some time later. This was made clear when he was shown as a member of the Superman Revenge Squad under the command of Luthor (see Superman: Last Son).

In the last year or two, Parasite has been popping up, mostly under the instruction of Luthor. Most recently he's been prominent in the "New Krypton" story, first because he was one of several enemies of Superman who were unwittingly taken out of their situations (in Parasite's case, prison) and shipped to the Phantom Zone by overzealous New Kryptonians. While attempting to take Jones into their custody, several Metropolis police officers are killed by the New Kryptonians. Later, when Superman retrieves the Earth villains who were thrown in the Zone in an organized, police-assisted release, Parasite tries to drag the Daxamite Mon-El out with him in order to sap his immense power for an escape. The attempt fails, and Jones is put back in prison, but not for long, as he has enough juice in him to break out. Only a fleeting amount of power from which to get very far, the Parasite is last seen wandering the streets of Metropolis with an insatiable craving for Daxamite power. Watch your back, Mon-El.

-- The Rev. O.J. Flow

Faces of Evil: Prometheus

Not Who We Thought? Prometheus (Faces of Evil: Prometheus)

Oddly enough, Prometheus made his DC debut in another "Evil" event: The "New Year's Evil" crossover of 1998. Created by Grant Morrison -- though closely (thematically) related to an earlier Batman villain named "the Wrath"-- Prometheus is something of a Bruce Wayne parody, with all the abilities and wealth but none of the morals. Like Batman, Prometheus' main powers are mental, but with the twist that using an optical drive, he can download various information and abilities right into his brain. He used this ability to beat Batman, who later turned the tables by tricking Prometheus into downloading the "abilities" of Professor Stephen Hawking during hand-to-hand combat. That didn't work out so well for Prometheus.

In Faces of Evil: Prometheus, we discover that the Prometheus running about lo these many months was actually Chad Graham, a boy that Prometheus "rescued" and tried to turn into his evil sidekick. Or something like that. The real Prometheus was locked up tight in Blackgate, courtesy of the Martian Manhunter's mental control, and one broom-handle away from a Camp X-Ray style beatdown. But when J'onn J'onnz was killed by Libra in Final Crisis, those shackles fell off, and the real deal was free to plot his revenge.

-- Jamie Trecker

Solomon Grundy want FOE review too! (Faces of Evil: Solomon Grundy)

Solomon Grundy. At first glance this supernatural supervillain is at times mistaken for Marvel's Incredible Hulk to non-comic book readers, though Grundy's character is nothing like the Green Goliath. His real name is Cyrus Gold and his tale is a tragic one. He was a 19th wealthy gentleman who was murdered and his body was stashed in Slaughter Swamp. Many years later, his body resurfaces and he has been given new life as a monster. He wandered into a gypsy camp and he had lost his memory, but claimed he had been born on a Monday. So, in reference to the nursery rhyme "Solomon Grundy," he adopts the name as his own.

Grundy started out as an Alan Scott (Golden Age Green Lantern) villain, but he has squared off against Hawkgirl, Superman, Green Arrow and even Batman in "The Long Halloween". More recently, in the final issue of Infinite Crisis, he appears to have been disintegrated but Superboy-Prime, though he is resurrected and turns out to be the mastermind behind the theft Red Tornado's body in Brad Meltzer's Justice League of America arc "The Tornado's Path". Wait, Grundy with some brains? Yep, apparently he gained this intelligence when he was reborn after being burned by Prime. Though, later in the arc, Red Tornado shreds Grundy's body with F5 winds. However, he is resurrected again in Salvation Run.

Recently, in Faces of Evil: Solomon Grundy, Cyrus Gold returns to life in Slaughter Swamp, as he was prior to becoming his monstrous form. He returns to Gotham City, but is shot by police after attacking a charity worker. While in the morgue, he transforms into Solomon Grundy once again. Grundy is once more an unintelligent monster, repeating the opening line of the nursery rhyme. A week later, having retreated to the sewers, he has a fight with Killer Croc. At the end of the fight, exhausted, he reverts to Cyrus Gold again. He finds himself in front of his own grave, where the supernatural Phantom Stranger tells him he has seven days to undo his curse. The story will continue in the upcoming "Solomon Grundy" miniseries.

-- Lan Pitts

Supergirl #37

Superwoman: "Who's That Girl?" (Supergirl #37)

One of the more dubious additions to the "Faces of Evil" line is the mystery woman gracing the cover of Supergirl #37, Superwoman. Answers on her background are coming as we speak, as Supergirl's current storyline is addressing this right now. Initially introduced as a potential ally for Kara Zor-El in the recent "New Krypton" epic in the Superman books, Superwoman earned her status as a possible villain for two main reasons: 1) she assassinated Agent Liberty recently while he was attempting to infiltrate the headquarters of U.S. General Sam Lane as he's been pulling the strings behind the scenes on the Earthbound assault on the insurgence of 100,000 Kandorians on Earth. Revealing little to readers, it was shown that Gen. Lane knew of Superwoman's identity and has been holding that over her so that she would aid him. 2) Last we saw of her, Superwoman laid into Kara something fierce when she attempted to make a visit to Earth after she joined her mother Alura Zor-El on their New Krypton settlement orbiting our planet. The follow-up to that assault is coming up later this month in Part 2 of "Who is Superwoman?"

As a concept, Superwoman has a legacy dating back to the 1940s and '50s. Not going to go through all of them, but notably Superwoman has been an occasional identity adopted by Lois Lane, whether dreamed by her or actually getting Superman's abilities temporarily through scientific means or something. Most recently, the "Lois as Superwoman" idea was used to great effect in All Star Superman #3 when the Man of Steel bestows super-abilities on her for 24 hours.

While the identity of the current Superwoman is unknown to all but the Super-books' creators, there's little doubt that this version is more inspired by a creation of the pre-Crisis 1980s, Kristin Wells. Introduced in DC Comics Presents Annual #2, Wells was the descendant of Jimmy Olsen, a 29th century resident. The story had her visiting Superman in the 20th century, a school teacher researching the identity of one of the earlier century's last known superheroes. Wells was in fact that hero, using futuristic technology to simulate and recreate Kryptonian powers on Earth. The one relevant non-Kryptonian power was her ability to phase through walls. Essentially a one-off character prior to Superman's historical revamping in 1986, her only other appearance of note was in the last Superman story pre-Crisis, "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" The Kristin Wells character was recently reintroduced to the Modern Age in Superman as the only then-known survivor of Krypton other than Kal-El and Kara (see "The Third Kryptonian"). Surviving Krypton's destruction because she left the planet years prior, this Kristin Wells was in fact Kryptonian Karsta Wor-Ul. Karsta's been portrayed here as more middle-aged and clearly older than the original redheaded, freckly Wells.

Again, Superwoman is a mystery to all, but the big point about her current appearance is the fact that she unabashedly sports the El family crest in her masked (impervious to X-ray vision, by the way) costume. Could she actually be related to Superman and Supergirl?

-- The Rev. O.J. Flow

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