Spoilers for this week's Justice League #16.
Justice League #16 just added a slew of new concepts and continuity to the history of the DC Universe, including Martian Manhunter’s surprising connection to Earth from his childhood.
Written by James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder, the issue is the latest chapter in an ongoing saga that started with the appearance of a mysterious Singularity when the series launched last year.
Now it turns out the history of the DCU includes the following:
- A previous universe that was predatory in nature was created by an entity called Perpetua, who is now returning via the Singularity. Her symbol is the one on Lex’s doorknob.
- In this previous universe, Perpetua had an army of creatures that were half-human/half-Martian. (They were the strange creatures the Justice League fought near the Totality in previous issues of Justice League.)
- When the universe was changed, Martians and humans were split into two different species.
- Martian Manhunter was abducted from Mars by a group of Earth scientists when he was a child. They used baby J’onn’s DNA to recreate these half-human/half-Martian creatures (a secret from his history that he didn’t know until now).
- The Katar that existed on Thanagar wasn’t real and is now gone.
- The last time Hawkgirl died, she was split into two lives by the Singularity, which explains the existence of both Shayera and Kendra. (However, Starman has “fixed” their existence.)
- Starman says he’s going to rebuild the Source Wall.
Curious how all this information was shared with readers in Justice League #16? Let’s take a look at spoilers to find out:
Last Time in Justice League
In the last issue, it was revealed that the Martian Keep (who is the “keeper of memories”) is being forced by Thanagar’s Empress Shayera to use memories of what Thanagar Prime was like in the past to reshape its current reality.
Basically, Thanagar is fake right now.
The Keep is using a contraption called the “Absorbascon” to do this reality reshaping. She’s locked away in a vault that J’onn J’onzz was able to break into last issue with the help of John Stewart and Hawkgirl.
The issue begins with the Martian Keep talking to Martian Manhunter about the secret history of Perpetua, “an all-powerful cosmic mother” who created the universe before the current one.
J’onn learns that the previous universe was shaped into a “predatory state” by Perpetua as she wielded the “seven energies of creation.”
She had a “great army” made up of a “dangerous, predatory race that dominated her universe.”
The existence of this previous universe ruled by Perpetua has been kept secret for generations. The knowledge and evidence about this previous universe was gathered by the people of Maltus, including one of their scientists, Krona.
This secret was hidden by Krona and the Maltusians (who later evolved into the Green Lanterns' Guardians) on Thanagar Prime.
According to the Keep, if the meaning behind Perpetua’s symbol would ever be unlocked, she would rise again.
And her army might rise again.
And that would be bad.
The Symbol’s Story
Perpetua’s symbol, it is revealed, is the same as the symbol on Lex Luthor’s doorknob.
The Keep tells J’onn that “now we’re seeing the symbol’s story come to life” so “Perpetua is nearly formed.”
So here’s the meaning behind the symbol on Lex Luthor’s doorknob, the one he equates to “doom”:
- The line across the center of the symbol represents the Source Wall.
- The seven lines beneath it represent the dark energies of creation that were sealed away with Perpetua.
- The seven lines above it represent the “more positive aspects [of the energies], unbound and vibrant in the universe we know.”
The Keep explains that, for all of history, the balance has remained positive, on the side of justice. But the old energies have been reawakened, she says.
In fact, the “Absorbascon” (that was revealed in the last issue and is attached to the Keep’s head) would not have the power to rewrite reality itself unless these negative energies were being freed.
Earth and Mars
OK, so if the info dump about Perpetua and her symbol’s meaning isn’t big enough for you, there’s more.
The Keep tells J’onn that there’s a “scar traced in the cosmos backward and forward in time,” and it points at the solar system that Perpetua will return to.
It’s Earth’s solar system.
It turns out that Perpetua’s nasty army was made up of a race of warriors built from the DNA of humankind and Martiankind, blended together.
And when the universe was put right and Perpetua was locked away, the two species were split apart. Humans got the bulk of the fire/passion, and Martians got the power of body and mind.
But at some time in the past, a “small band of Earthmen” unraveled the truth. “These scientists understood that they were less than they were meant to be,” the Keep explains.
So this group time traveled back to grab some Martian DNA, hoping to recreate Perpetua’s army. They abducted a baby Martian and created what the Keep calls “abominations” (which look like the creatures the League fought near the Totality).
What baby Martian did they abduct?
The Keep says she didn’t tell J’onn the truth because she was afraid it would drive him away from being a hero and instead turn him toward doom.
It All Falls Apart
As the Keep is talking to J’onn within the vault, Hawkgirl and John Stewart are dealing with attackers. There’s a version of Katar who is fighting Kendra (but is fake, reshaped by Shayera’s twisted reality). And members of the Green Lantern Corps are fighting John Stewart, because they’re working for the Guardians to protect the secrets on Thanagar.
Eventually, John Stewart convinces the Green Lantern Corps to help him stop Shayera.
The Martian Keep tells J’onn that she’s dying, so the Absorbascon she wears will no longer work. Thanagar Prime’s true nature will be revealed and, according to the Keep, “chaos will unleash itself across the universe.”
And (speaking of info dump) the Keep says she’s going to pass all her knowledge to J’onn.
“The symbol has two meanings, J’onn: Justice and Doom,” the Martian Keep says. “You must tell the Multiverse which shape to take.”
And … she dies. And J’onn apparently gains all her knowledge as he yells, “Aaaaahhhh! It’s too much!”
Thanagar’s reality starts to fall apart, including the disappearance of Katar. And readers learn that Thanagar was decimated by Despero’s attack, with billions dying.
The fall of Thanagar triggers the vault to lock. J’onn, Kendra, John Stewart, Shayera, and the handful of GLC are trapped. Shayera apologizes for her hubris.
Suddenly, the door is broken down by Starman, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. They explain that Starman, who woke up last issue, has the power of the Totality inside him and could hear what was happening on Thanagar.
Now we get an explanation why Kendra and Shayera exist at the same time.
Starman tells them the Totality “broke the chain of resurrection” and split them between two lives. “Perpetua didn’t want you whole,” Starman says. “She was afraid of what might happen if you were there to face her at the end.”
He uses his power to restore the part of Kendra that was missing before, taking it from Shayera. They both exist still exist, but according to Starman, they needed “fixing.”
“It’s like a piece that’s been missing in me since I died as Shiera Hall is back inside of me,” Kendra said.
Shayera asks if he took out her soul? “Of course not, Shayera,” Starman replies. “Your soul is your own; your story is your own; and I’ve given that back to you.”
Despite Shayera doing some pretty messed up things (like, to the Martian Keep), she’s given the chance to make things right by ruling the remaining Thanagarians wisely.
Shayera then tells Kendra that she was right - “I could read the map in your wings. It’s charting the way to a higher plane of existence. The very highest. A godlike dimension. Don’t follow it lightly.”
About Time, Starman
As the issue ends, Starman says to Kendra that things are lining up and she’s finally ready to fulfill her cosmic destiny.
“It’s time to fix the Source Wall,” he says.
The tagline at the end of the issue says “Next: A Race to Save the Multiverse.”
The story continues February 13 with Justice League #17.