Batman v Superman already asked what would happen if DC's greatest heroes did their worst, but in a brand new comic book those iconic stars can only watch as their fellow Justice Leaguers are infected with evil--slowly turning into the darkest versions of themselves.
The League is still recovering from the horrifying event Dark Nights: Metal, when a small army invaded the main DC Universe. Not your typical army, but one made up of corrupted Batmen from parallels worlds where Bruce Wayne crossed all lines and descended into evil, murder, and even madness. The army was led by the version of Batman who became the next Joker, otherwise known as The Batman Who Laughs. Now, that villain's master plan has finally been revealed. It isn't to take over the world, or even shatter it, but to infect DC's greatest heroes with a growing darkness. The question of WHICH heroes he's selected is the mystery at the heart of the newly announced Batman/Superman series from DC Comics.
The new series will be written by Josh Williamson (The Flash), but the story begins in a newly added seventh and final issue of The Batman Who Laughs, Scott Snyder's top selling series focusing on the twisted Batman's efforts to torment our Bruce Wayne. As Williamson has now revealed, the masked supervillain has planted "sleeper agents" throughout the DC Universe. Even now, these "infected" characters are slowly turning into the worst versions of themselves, even if their darker halves are managing to keep it a secret for the time being as superpowered Jekylls and Hydes.
The ‘Secret Six’ Targets Must Be Found (Fast)
It's still unclear how well The Batman Who Laughs will be dealt with by the proper, heroic Bruce Wayne in the book's six or seven chapters (the final issue may just as well be a tease of the villain's "infection" taking root as an explicit conclusion to his story). But as Williamson teases while speaking with Heat Vision, Batman/Superman will hinge on the duo's investigation into their closest friends and allies. The worst part? The Man of Steel and Dark Knight aren't just suspects themselves. There are a total of SIX characters slowly descending into darkness. And if they fail to find even one of them before it's too late… well, Dark Nights: Metal showed how much damage a single fallen hero can inflict:
This is happening to six people — we’ve been calling them the new Secret Six — who have been turned. But who could be turned? Who are they? [Batman and Superman] have to go out and figure it out. But that means spying on other heroes, friends, allies. We talked about the end of The Thing, where it’s the two of them and they’re like, ‘It could be you, it could be me, but now we have to work together.’
The Thing is a pitch-perfect reference for the tone and suspicion Williamson and artist David Marquez sound like they're aiming for in Batman/Superman. But Battlestar Galactica may be another one, since it doesn't sound like the infected heroes may be showing symptoms just yet. Even more interesting, Williamson suggests that some of the infected may know something is wrong… but will conceal that secret above all costs. The best part of the new universe-wide mystery? The readers will have an edge that Batman or Superman can't ever match.
Fans May Solve The Mystery Before Batman/Superman
Having collaborated with Scott Snyder and James Tynion on a few universe-wide developments in the past year or two, it should come as no surprise that while Batman/Superman will focus on the pair's investigation, the evidence and top suspects may be pulled from other DC books as often as the new series, if not more so. Which means amateur detectives will not only have to view each comic's star hero with a layer of suspicion, should they act even slightly out of the ordinary, or face unexplained actions they've apparently been taking--they'll want to look backwards, as well, since it's a safe bet Williamson and Snyder have dropped a few hints already.
With comic book events notoriously hard to keep intact when it comes to the timeline of an entire universe (look no further than Doomsday Clock), Williamson's claim that this story, these infections, and the solutions will impact the next year of storylines is promising. Not to mention offering fans a chance to spin new theories to explain recent character changes they may find controversial - like [SPOILER] killing everyone in Heroes in Crisis, or Dick Grayson quitting Nightwing - by suspecting the heroes in question are among the Secret Six. Sound like fuel for the best kind of comic paranoia? That is probably part of the plan:
It becomes this mystery across not just this book but really the [entire line of DC Comics]. It's a thing where it's not just going to be focused on this one book; it starts here, but you're going to get a situation where, if you are reading the line, you might start piecing some stuff together before bigger reveals happen. You might be like, 'Oh this weird thing's happening over here, I wonder if that's connected to the story here.’ And that's because, yeah. It is.
It definitely changes the DCU in a lot of ways, it impacts the characters and the dynamic between some of them, moving forward in the next year.
Batman/Superman Will Be Dark (Like, Really Dark)
As grim as this new mystery and half-dozen infections of evil might sound, it's not your usual standalone ‘what if?’ horror anthology. Books like Injustice and the new DCeased zombie apocalypse scratch those itches for longtime fans. But with Batman/Superman, the story is a far larger part of the DC continuity. According to artist David Marquez, fans should prepare for these surprises and grim revelations to stick for longer than they may be used to:
This isn't throwaway, like ‘everything is perfect and back to normal,’ illusion of change stuff.’ With characters that you love, ‘I had a great day’ is not a story, you know? ‘I had a great day, until…’ is a much more interesting story. You want to see these characters tested, and this is maybe a mean way to do it, but it’s going to be a fun ride. It’s definitely fun to draw. There are dark stories that torture the reader and there are dark stories that are entertaining for the reader. This is the latter.
With Williamson spinning the top-selling Batman Who Laughs out of Scott Snyder and Jock's miniseries and into the spotlight of Batman/Superman's investigation, an entertaining story should be guaranteed. For Marquez's part, the artist represents another case of DC signing a popular Marvel mainstay. Marquez recently completed his work on Civil War II, Avengers and more, and had planned on shifting to creator-owned work aside from the big two comic publishers. If anything, his admission that DC and Williamson “had to sell me on the idea of doing the series” and confirm that it would be “a meaningful big project” for the larger DCU is the project's best endorsement.
Williamson may promise that Batman/Superman will be diving into horror more than standard superhero adventure, but with Marquez on board, it will still be just as gorgeous. Now the only question is which heroes should instantly become top suspects for inclusion among the Secret Six? And could Batman and Superman find out that they, themselves, could be among those to consider?
Batman/Superman will begin in August, 2019.