I think I’m actually finding these Forever Evil tie-ins that explore the back story of the Crime Syndicate a bit more than the main series. The last issue of Justice League made Ultraman the focus, but here, his rival, Owl-Man takes centre-stage, as we learn his origins and also just why he wants to keep Dick Grayson alive. And that’s not all, as this issue also gives us the New 52 debut of a legendary (to me at least) JLA member and classic superhero! Yes, Plastic Man is back, bitches!
The story begins on Earth-3, and shows how Owl-Man’s origin splinters from what we’re familiar with, from Batman’s. In this reality, Thomas Wayne is losing money because he keeps accidentally killing his patients and being sued (although it might not be accidental), although his wife is still spending all that’s left. Angry at this, Thomas Jr and Bruce plot to kill their parents and take the money for themselves. However, at the last minute, Bruce shows weakness and tries to stop Thomas. They fight, but then Alfred comes in and shoots them Bruce and their parents. Bruce is only wounded, but Thomas sees an Owl, which seems to be asking him who he is through it’s hoots, and Thomas shoots his brother dead. This was a great scene and a very cool subversion of the classic Batman origins, I know it’s a base pleasure, but I really am enjoying seeing just how dark Johns is going with these Earth-3 origins.
The story then moves to the present day, and to the ‘real’ world, as we are introduced to Eel O’Brien, a lowly mob-enforcer from Chicago who has accompanied his boss to a big meeting of all the families to try and work out just how non-powered organised crime can survive in a world controlled by super-villains. Eel is of course, soon to become Plastic Man, and in a typical Geoff Johns touch, he already has a habit of playing with elastic bands. This kind of literal thing used to really annoy, like how he made everyone in Central City ‘fast’, and to be honest, it still does, but I’ve pretty much been ground down into accepting it as a part of Johns’ shorthand style now, and I suppose for any readers who aren’t familiar with Plastic Man, it’s a cool piece of fore-shadowing. Before the Mob meeting can get started, Owl-Man busts in and basically destroys everyone, including of course, getting poor old Eel O’Brien covered in green toxic goop, which causes him to start melting, and will lead to him becoming Plastic Man. I’m glad that Plas is back in the New 52, he’s a really fun character, one that brings a different side to the DCU, and hopefully Johns will use him well, and not make him too dark or modernised.
Owl-Man’s reason for attacking is not to destroy the Mobs, but to take them over, and to choose his proxy for controlling them. In the end, he goes for Frank Bertinelli, and that surname should also ring a bell for fans. Owl-Man says that he now controls Bertinelli’s family, so could we be getting a return for the Helena Bertinelli version of the Huntress? Johns seems to be using Forever Evil to bring back, or at least tease bringing back a lot of fan-favourite characters, you’ve got Plastic Man, Ted Kord, and now Huntress. Very interesting indeed.
After this, Owl-Man returns to the CSA’s base and attempts to turn Dick Grayson to his side. We are once again treated to an Earth-3 version of a character’s origins, and in that reality, Dick’s parents were crooked circus performers who stole the circus by killing Anthony Zucco, and used it to launder money. They still died in a trapeze accident though. Interestingly, on Earth-3, Dick had a sister, who also died. Owl-Man tries to convince Nightwing to help him, by telling him that Owl-Man needs his help to save the world, that it would be better for him to be in charge than Ultraman, and you know, he’s not wrong. I’m really enjoying how the CSA really are fighting amongst themselves, and how that might be their downfall, and also by how well Johns has set up Owl-Man’s motivations and character. He is wracked with guilt over what happened to his Dick Grayson, and wants to make amends, in his own fucked up way, with the Earth-1 version. Of course, this issue ends with the revelation that Thomas Wayne was the one who killed the Flying Graysons, as he wanted control over Dick, so that’s another added edge to things. And plus, Superwoman saw Owl-Man start to plot against Ultraman, which should lead to some cool stuff in the future.
This was another very good, albeit very grim, issue, but that makes sense given the storyline, Doug Mahnke’s art was fantastic as usual, and it was a really pleasant surprise to see Plastic Man show up.