Spoiler Warning! Spoilers for Forever Evil #1
DC has declared that the Justice League is dead. But future covers of Forever Evil feature Batman. So what gives?
Artist David Finch told Newsarama he was getting to draw Batman in Forever Evil, which didn't seem to match reports that the Justice League was absent from the story.
So writer Geoff Johns clarified that maybe that's not Bruce Wayne in the cowl during Forever Evil.
Now that we know the ending of Trinity War and the beginning of Forever Evil, one of the prevailing questions among fans is — who's in the Batsuit?
As Forever Evil continues, the mysterious person in the Batsuit will join a team of villains and anti-heroes to fight against the Crime Syndicate of America, the evil group taking over the main DC Earth. Batman will apparently fight alongside characters like Catwoman, Black Adam, Lex Luthor and Sinestro to eradicate the Earth 3 villains and take back control of the world.
So who's in the Batman suit? Newsarama takes a few guesses about who's wearing the cowl in Forever Evil:
Alfred: With the Earth 3 version of Alfred revealed as The Outsider, it would be fitting to see the main Earth Alfred working against him. Alfred has the ability to access the Bat-cowl and all the Bat-toys, and he's been established as someone who can fight and think on his feet. Besides, imagine that you were living in Wayne Manor, Batman was out of commission, and you had the keys to the kingdom. Wouldn't you put on the cowl?
Nightwing: If there's anything Forever Evil #1 established with certainty, it's that Nightwing is alive (for now) and most certainly ticked off at the Crime Syndicate of America. He has every reason to go up against the CSA and the villains working with them. And while it might make sense for him to enact his revenge in a Nightwing costume, perhaps he wants to put a little fear into the villains by donning the Bat-cowl. Maybe this job calls for Batman. And what better "reveal" than for "Batman" to take off the cowl at the end of the battle, reveal that he's actually Dick Grayson standing over Ultraman's defeated body, saying: "You shouldn't have underestimated me."
Talon: Calvin Rose has the fighting ability, the stamina, and the intelligence to play the Bat. And he's been fighting on the same side as Batman in Gotham City in recent issues, opening the door for him to step into the role when the hero disappears. And with villains going after heroes, Calvin wouldn't have been targeted because, well, not many people even know he exists. While Calvin has a tendency to run (as Bane just pointed out to him in recent issues), a fight to save the world might be the type of cause that puts him on the attack.
Azrael: Jean Paul Valley hasn't shown up in the New 52 (aside from a mention in Batman Inc., and that probably doesn't count), so it would be surprising if he just suddenly showed up and wore a Batsuit in Forever Evil. But hey, everything old is new again in the New 52, and in past continuity, he was able to play the role of Batman well. So there's a chance Forever Evil will be his opportunity to enter the fray.
Thomas Wayne Jr.: Wouldn't it be an interesting turn of events if the man who claims to be Thomas Wayne Jr. played Batman to fight Thomas Wayne from Earth 3? While Scott Snyder has indicated that his Thomas Jr. character would be out-of-sight for awhile (after his identity was revealed in Batman's "Court of Owls"), it's been a year since we saw him, and what better place for a return than a high-profile DC event? It even makes sense with his allegiance to the Court of Owls: They're not going to enjoy the lack of control the CSA represents, so they would likely reject the Earth 3 invaders. Thomas Wayne Jr. as Batman could be their secret weapon. The Court has infiltrated the Batcave before, and we could see Alfred being cooperative with a man who claims to be a Wayne. Plus, many fans have taken to calling Junior by the name "Owlman" (a name, admittedly, DC has not used for the character), so it would be fun to see Junior "Owlman" vs. Daddy Owlman.
Red Robin: Scott Lobdell told Newsarama the Teen Titans battle with the Crime Syndicate would leave them "indisposed." In the battle's aftermath, they end up time traveling and, if solicitations are accurate, they get separated. So there's a chance (albeit a thin one) that Red Robin is somehow still in the present, completely separated from his team. And if he's left behind without his team, he would have access to the Batcave, endorsement from Alfred, and would make a capable Batman.
Jason Todd: We already saw Jason playing the mysterious hero as Wingman in Batman Inc.. And in current continuity, Jason has lost his memories, and he's leading the League of Assassins. So maybe he won't be donning a Batsuit anytime soon. But then again, being involved with a villain group could make him more likely to be part of this thing, given the circumstances of Forever Evil. After all, the Crime Syndicate is only going after heroes, and right now, Jason Todd is firmly entrenched among the villains. And as the League of Assassins leader, might he be able to infiltrate the CSA organization, but also play double agent? Could the appearance of an Earth 3 Owlman inspire him to become Batman?
Joker: OK, it's a long shot. But issue #1 pointed out that Joker is not among the Bat-villains joining the Crime Syndicate. And in a potential bit of foreshadowing, it was pointed out that he was probably wearing another face. If any Bat-villain could orchestrate a crazy scheme that made him look exactly like the Bat, it would be the Joker — he's used realistic looking Batsuits before (even recently fooling Bruce's own son, although the boy was a bit drugged). We're not sure he could pull off the martial arts required, but he's always said he loves Batman, right? And the Crime Syndicate would be in trouble if he really set his insane mind into motion against them.
Batgirl: Barbara Gordon was purposely shown several times in Forever Evil #1, and having her in the cowl would be a new twist. We admit it doesn't really look like a woman in the art we've seen, but when Brian Michael Bendis introduced the mysterious New Avengers character Ronin a few years ago, it looked like a man too (and ended up being Maya Lopez, the female character also known as Echo). So hey, it's comics and anything is possible with a costume. Plus, now that Barbara is out of the wheelchair, she's got the physical ability to play Batman, and as her fans know, she's got the smarts too.
Bruce Wayne: What? You don't think Batman could have gotten away somehow after the end of Trinity War? He's BATMAN! We didn't see what happened to the heroes, did we? Plus, when the Crime Syndicate was trying to convince the villains in Forever Evil #1 that the Justice League was dead, they delivered Aquaman's trident, Wonder Woman's lasso and Superman's cape as proof. But they didn't have anything from Batman — not even a can of Shark Repellent Bat Spray. When we talked to artist David Finch about Forever Evil, he said, "I think Batman's like a cockroach. You can't kill him. So no matter what happened to the heroes, Batman's going to still be around." Granted, he didn't say "Bruce Wayne," but if any superhero is able to outwit the villains and survive this sort of attack, it's Batman Bruce Wayne. He may have been down-and-out enough for Nightwing to get captured, and Arkham to be attacked, but maybe — just maybe — we can hold out hope that Alfred is patching him up right now so he can come back and save the day.