Given that in Forever Evil #3 we discovered that the prison the Justice Leagues were trapped in was actually Firestorm, it’s a bit odd to read this issue and have the characters within it none the wiser, but this was still an enjoyable issue, that, whilst a bit repetitive of the last one, did a good job at exploring the characters of Stargirl and Martian Manhunter and making me care a bit more about them.
The issue begins with Martian Manhunter still making his way through the Prison, he starts off with Green Lantern, moves on to Madame Xanadu, then to Aquaman and then finally… himself. I liked seeing some more of the personal prisons each Justice Leaguer was trapped in, Madame Xanadu has been forced to turn to dark magic and become evil to fight evil, and in Aquaman’s, the surface world has killed all the fish and drained the ocean, which pisses him off. Martian Manhunter’s prison is a bit different, as it turns out that the mysterious figure he’s seen following him is him, is his guilt over failing to save the people of Mars, and his fear of not being able to save his new Earth-friends. J’Onn’s prison was to see all his friend’s prisons, to see them suffer, and not be able to help them, which is pretty clever of the CSA and Deathstorm, and a cool way of containing perhaps the most powerful Justice League member.
So, whilst Martian Manhunter is fighting himself, Stargirl is making her way through the prisons to try and rescue him. Throughout her trip through the scenes we say last time, Matt Kindt sprinkles some flashbacks to her origin story, which seems pretty much unchanged from before. She was an ordinary teenage girl who didn’t like her step-dad much, until she discovers he’s got a box with superhero stuff in it, including a costume and the Cosmic Staff from Starman, which she uses to become a superhero. Kindt keeps things pretty vague, we don’t see Stripesy or any of the various Starmen or Star-Spangled Kids, so continuity isn’t mangled too much, but it was effective. These flashbacks are mainly there to allow her to save J’Onn and explain why she isn’t in a prison that uses her fears and dark thoughts against her. It’s because she doesn’t have any fears or darkness, she’s just too optimistic for the CSA to trap her, and it’s that which allows her and Martian Manhunter to escape. I’m not sure how I feel about this plot-point, it’s cheesy for sure, but this is superhero comics, there’s ample room for cheese, and with a character like Stargirl, pure unbridled optimism makes sense and works. People’s big complaint about the New 52 is that everyone is a jerk, well here’s a character who most definitely isn’t.
Stargirl and J’Onn escape, but run right into the path of Deathstroke and a bunch of other villains, Copperhead, Giganta. Shadoe Thief etc. To make matters worse, J’Onn isn’t physically there, he’s only in Stargirl’s head. How the heck is she supposed to fight all these heavy-hitters alone? It’s going to be fun to find out.
This was a solid issue, and that extends to the art, where Tom Derenick fills in for Doug Mahnke. Derenick is a solid superhero artist who always delivers big, bold action, and that’s fine. His art doesn’t have the darker edge that Mahnke’s does, which added a real sense of unease to this setting last time, but since the focus is on the bright and cheerful Stargirl, that’s fine.