WARNING: The Following Article Contains SPOILERS For Justice League #8
The latest issue of Justice League reveals that Lex Luthor's continuing efforts to prevent the destruction of the multiverse led him to subvert the destiny of the superhero Starman, preventing him from emerging into the world of DC Rebirth.
While not as grand in scope as the efforts of whoever has been rewriting the history of DC Comics' multiverse in the pages of Doomsday Clock or the return of a dead Flash, Luthor's actions have seemingly given birth to an incredible paradox. Amusingly, this mirrors a major shift in the mythology of Starman, as perpetuated by writer James Tynion IV.
The opening of the issue recalls the secret origins of Will Payton (the fifth superhero at DC Comics to take up the name Starman), which were first revealed in Starman #1 in October 1988. Payton was hiking in the wilderness when he was struck by a beam of energy reflected off of a satellite. The energy transformed Payton, giving him enhanced strength, speed and durability, as well as the abilities to fly, shape-shift and project focused blasts of energy from his hands. Starman's original career as a superhero was brief, with Will Payton seemingly sacrificing himself during the The Darkness Within storyline in 1992.
The opening of Justice League #8 changes very little of this story, beyond the revelation that the energy which struck Will Payton was The Totality - a strange power unleashed by the destruction of The Source Wall at the end of the recent Dark Nights: Metal event. The search for The Totality has informed Lex Luthor's quest throughout the new Justice League series and leads Luthor to travel back in time to 1988 and ambush Will Payton just moments after he originally gained his powers.
Luthor apparently spent some time studying the new Starman, torturing him in an effort to learn everything that he could about The Totality. It is unclear how long Luthor did this, but a clearly older Starman somehow escaped from Luthor's clutches and finally made himself known to the Justice League. While it remains to be seen how badly Luthor may have damaged the timeline by abducting Starman in the past, the altered timeline raises similar questions for writer James Tynion IV. Specifically establishing Will Payton as having come into existence in the reality of Rebirth in the year 1988 seems oddly out of sync with the timeline of the current DC Comics Multiverse. A larger problem, however, is how this change in Will Payton's background also changes the story of the 1994 Starman series.
While DC Comics had several heroes named Starman over its long history, there was never a unifying mythology between them until writer James Robinson created one as part of the 1994 Starman series. This series revealed that Will Payton had not died, but that he had somehow been teleported to the planet known as Throneworld. More, it was revealed that the energy which transformed Payton was the empowered essence of Prince Gavyn, the fourth Starman and ruler of Throneworld, creating a gestalt entity with the memories of both men.
While this retcon will enable the reality of Rebirth to have a Starman independent of the original Starman from the JSA, many fans are sure to be saddened by destruction of one of DC Comics' most fondly remembered legacies. It also remains to be seen what effect Luthor's actions will have on the on-going story of Justice League. The only certainty seems to be that things will become a great deal worse in the DC Multiverse before they have any hope of getting better.
Justice League #8 is now available from DC Comics.