At the end of Forever Evil #5, the mysterious entity that destroyed Earth 3 showed up on the main DCU Earth.
That means we'll soon find out the identity of the hooded prisoner — the character that has remained hidden from readers for months now (since before Forever Evil even began).
Although there was no reference to the hooded prisoner in this week's issue, the Syndicate's nemesis from Earth 3 has shown up — and Ultraman said he was only keeping the prisoner around so he could be "thrown" at that "thing."
Is it time for him to be "thrown?" And if so, who is he, exactly?
There are still very few clues about the prisoner's identity, even though he was brought through the portal from Earth-3 all the way back in the final issue of Trinity War last August.
At this point, the key things we've been told about the prisoner are:
- "Soon": Someone is apparently working with the prisoner — someone with access to him — because an off-camera voice recently said to him simply, "soon."
- Smile: After he heard the comment, "soon," there was an obvious smile on his face, under his hood. (Does that mean the prisoner could escape if he wanted, but is biding his time for some reason?)
- Male: The person is referred to as "he."
- Drugged: The Crime Syndicate has indicated that he's being drugged to the point that he's unable to hurt them from under the hood (although the smile puts that belief into question).
- Powerful: He's blamed for almost tearing the Syndicate apart at some point in the past, although it's not clarified how that was done. And he's strong enough that Ultraman considers him a weapon of some kind because...
- Ultraman Protected: The other Syndicate members act as if they want to kill the prisoner, but Ultraman wants him alive. He claims it's because the prisoner could be useful if their nemesis returns (the still-unknown entity that destroyed Earth 3). Ultraman specifically says that the prisoner can be "thrown at that thing that came to our Earth."
- Grayson Analogy: For some reason, Owlman says that if Ultraman isn't going to allow the prisoner to be killed, then Owlman isn't going to allow Dick Grayson Nightwing to be killed.
With these clues in mind, we're updating our guesses about who could be under the hood…
Earth 3 Dick Grayson OR Earth 3 Joker
These two characters are both popular guesses among the internet comics community, but we're addressing them together because they both were supposed to have died in September's Secret Society one-shot by Forever Evil writer Geoff Johns and Forever Evil: A.R.G.U.S. writer Sterling Gates.
But there's a very good chance that one of them did survive. After all, there have been hundreds of "you-thought-I-died-but-I-didn't" resurrections in comics over the years — including the very recent turn of events in DC's Green Arrow and Earth 2.
So if the Joker or Dick Grayson survived, each character would support a different theory — the Joker because he's a good guy on Earth 3, and Grayson because he's evil.
If it's Grayson, maybe the "soon" came from the Outsider, who is Earth 3's version of Alfred Pennyworth. When the Outsider said he was saving his master from death on Earth 3, perhaps he wasn't talking about Owlman after all, but was indicating Earth 3 Nightwing. The Outsider is the one who appears to be responsible for drugging the prisoner, and he could be holding back the drugs.
Or, the "soon" might have come from Superwoman, who might end up being Dick Grayson's lover on Earth 3 (explaining the true identity of her baby daddy).
If it's the Joker, neither character would make sense for Ultraman to want alive — and Dick Grayson was evil on Earth 3, so he wouldn't have torn the CSA apart. So although we might have supported either of these characters being the hooded prisoner a month ago, we just don't think they're viable options anymore.
Of course, neither character fits well in the overall scenario because — besides being allegedly dead — neither is particularly powerful on their own. Could either of them come close to tearing apart the Syndicate? Perhaps. But that part might be a stretch.
While this theory didn't seem plausible a few months ago, it's looking more and more inevitable that Booster Gold will return to the DCU this spring — and there's a growing number of fans who think he's under the hood.
As Newsarama detailed recently, there are a lot of clues indicating that Booster Gold will return sometime between now and May's beginning of The New 52: Futures End weekly series.
That opens the door for Booster Gold to be the hooded prisoner. Could he have shown up on Earth 3 and almost destroyed the Crime Syndicate? Heck yeah — as Booster's fans know, he's a lot more powerful than anyone realizes. Could he be drugged? Sure, he's a human under that suit. Is he powerful? Well, sure, if he's got his futuristic technology and his sidekick Skeets.
Speaking of Skeets…. is it possible the "soon" was him? It's a huge longshot (if for no other reason, because the font wasn't mechanical looking). But man… it's fun to imagine the little robotic guy is running around the DCU somewhere. Probably more likely…. the "soon" came from Rip Hunter, who could have time-traveled into the Syndicate headquarters.
While Booster Gold isn't our favorite theory for who's under the hood, we have to admit there's one clue in his favor — what other hero is known for his smile?
A New God
With all the New Gods hopping around DC comics lately, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to think one of them showed up on Earth 3 to make trouble. We already know (from September's Darkseid one-shot) that Darkseid has been Earth-hopping through the DC multiverse, hunting down alternate Earth Supermen to prepare for his rematch with Kal-El.
So if Darkseid is the entity that destroyed Earth 3, then there's a good chance there were other New Gods on that earth. And the hooded prisoner could be one of them, and would potentially have the powers to almost destroy the Syndicate, as well as be "thrown" at Darkseid.
It's a long shot, because who would say "soon" to a New God? Is Superwoman working with him? But there's story potential if it's a character that ties into the looming "return of Darkseid" story that DC has been teasing.
Earth 2 Batman
Yes, the Trinity of Earth 2 was pronounced dead in the first issue of Earth 2, but that doesn't prove anything. After all, Earth 2 Superman is still alive (although evil), and Bruce Wayne's father on Earth 2 (who was long-thought dead) is actually alive and wearing the bat suit now.
If Earth 2 Superman survived, what's to say Earth 2 Batman didn't as well? Didn't David Finch once say that Batman's like a cockroach — nothing can kill him? It's also notable that the character has been showing up a lot in Batman/Superman (although in the past), making him a character that DC might have plans to use.
The hero's survival could be explained by simply pointing at the two characters starring in Worlds' Finest — Power Girl and Huntress — both of whom were mysteriously ported to another Earth during the Earth 2 battle with Darkseid. Could Earth 2 Batman have been similarly ported to Earth 3? It would explain why the hooded prisoner can be drugged (Batman's human). Plus, there's no doubt the experienced Batman of Earth 2 could be effective in tearing apart the Syndicate, if he somehow landed there.
And a smile under the hood? Biding his time? Sure seems like a Batman move...
There's really very little evidence to support this theory, but there's also nothing among the clues to negate the possibility that there's a fast, awesome Wally West under that hood.
Fans have been told that Wally West will appear on the main DCU Earth soon — although DC implied that the first appearance would be April's Flash Annual, written by new Flash scribes Van Jensen and Robert Venditti. And we're at a loss on how he fits with the story of the New 52 Earth 3 and the fact that it's "opposite" and "evil." How would a good Wally West have gotten on Earth 3? Was he time displaced? Maybe his origin could be more like Bart? And how would a speedster tear apart the Syndicate, who has its own speedster?
Connor Kent of Earth 3
If a version of Lex Luthor existed on Earth 3 — and since the "opposite" would be good — then it's plausible that he created a clone of Ultraman to fight against the Syndicate — a "Superboy" of sorts (or rather, an "Ultraboy").
The main evidence for this theory is the way Ultraman acted about the thought of killing the hooded prisoner. It was as if it was personal. And a young, Ultraboy version of himself would be tough for anyone to kill.
It would also explain why Owlman made the analogy, "if you won't kill the hooded prisoner, then I won't kill Nightwing." They are both young "copies." It also fits with Ultraman's description of "throwing" the prisoner at their nemesis if he returns — Ultraboy would, theoretically, be ultra powerful.
However, who would say "soon" to an Earth 3 Ultraboy? Could he be working with Superwoman? Could she have turned to a younger, smarter version of her boyfriend?
This character hasn't shown his face in the New 52, and he's one of Geoff Johns' favorites. And we're hard-pressed to come up with a reason why it couldn't be him.
When Darkseid was hopping to different worlds to collect Supermen, could he have gone to "Prime" earth and unleashed the power of this character on other worlds?
Let's see…. is Superboy Prime powerful enough to tear apart the Syndicate? Check. Male? Yep. Capable of being evil enough to work with someone from the Syndicate who might be the voice behind the "soon?" Yes. Someone that Ultraman might hesitate to kill? Could be. Able to be "thrown" at a powerful, red-sky-inducing nemesis? Darn right.
And someone who would smile? Yep, it could be him!
Martian Manhunter of Earth 3
When Ultraman said the hooded prisoner almost "tore the team apart," he could have been speaking not only about a physical fight, but also a mental one. Martian Manhunter is plenty powerful as a fighter (evidenced by the battle between the main Earth Manhunter and the Justice League). But he's also pretty powerful when he plays deadly mind games. He can read minds, phase and overhear conversations. He can pretend to be other people with his shapeshifting powers.
In past versions of Earth 3, Martian Manhunter of that alternate world was a white Martian (which have traditionally been the bad guys). So if Earth 3 has a version of Martian Manhunter, he could have been the character who almost tore apart the Crime Syndicate.
Then again, you'd think even a drugged, hooded Manhunter would still be a threat right now — and there would be little reason for Ultraman to want him alive. But we like the idea of him biding his time under that hood.
There's a theory floating around the internet that the destruction of Earth 3 didn't happen at the hands of Darkseid after all — that it was the Anti-Monitor. It would fit with the red skies that preceded Earth 3's destruction (depicted in September's Secret Society one-shot, and reminiscent of Crisis on Infinite Earths).
If that's the case, then Forever Evil might be a lead-in to some type of "Crisis" in the New 52, and what better character to foreshadow a crisis than the Monitor? The fact that DC is embracing its multiverse hints at the possibility the New 52 might have at least one Monitor again. And while drugging the Monitor would seem to be a stretch, it would explain Ultraman's comment about "throwing" the prisoner into a battle against the character that destroyed Earth 3, resulting in a fight between the Monitor and Anti-Monitor.
Alexander Luthor of Earth 3
With the nods in Forever Evil toward former Crime Syndicate of America stories, it would be fitting to also pay homage to another pre-New 52 character from Earth 3 — their version of Lex Luthor, "Alexander" Luthor.
In past continuity, Alexander Luthor was a hero who successfully fought against the evil CSA on their Earth. It's also worth noting that in pre-New 52 continuity, Alexander Luthor had a son, Alexander Luthor Jr., who played an important role in Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis. In those former stories, Alex Jr. was the sole survivor of Earth 3, so it would again pay homage to past DC stories if he was pulled from Earth 3 after its destruction.
The clues we've been given also fit with Alex being the prisoner — it's possible that he's "drugged" (Alex was not a meta-human), and the hero is smart enough to almost tear apart the Syndicate.
Plus, the "smile" would fit a Luthor, and we could see him being brilliant enough to be working with someone on the outside who said "soon." On an alternate Earth, we could see Superwoman being in love with Alex Luthor — meaning the "soon" might be coming from her. And if that's the case... who is Superwoman's baby? Alexander Luthor Jr., of course.
With all the clues put together, we still think Alex Luthor is the best bet for the hooded prisoner's identity. But some of these other guesses are probably just as likely.