NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #5
A superhero's work is never done, but when you're one of the elite crimefighters lucky enough to be called a member of DC's Justice League, the world being threatened is as certain as the sun rising in the east. The minds at DC cooked up a new kind of challenge for their top heroes in the form of the first event post-Rebirth, pitting their top heroes against the top villains in Justice League vs. Suicide Squad - a conflict that quickly became far more nuanced and complicated than either side expected. For starters, the villains in that equation aren't the actual villains of the story.
No, that honor goes to the always-evildoing Maxwell Lord, having dug up the nastiest villains from Amanda Waller's past to pursue a world-saving mission of his own (and with Maxwell Lord, you know that 'saving' the world is a relative idea). After assembling his squad of Doctor Polaris, Lobo, Johnny Sorrow, Emerald Empress, and Rustam with the help of his gift for mental manipulation, his plan was revealed in Issue #4. Needless to say, it's the kind of plot only a megalomaniac or deranged tyrant could come up with.
On the bright side? It's given fans a new version of the Justice League, assembled by Batman himself when the heroes of the DC Universe... become its greatest villains.
Maxwell Lord's Endgame: Eclipso Unleashed
In the end, Lord's team turned out to be little more than a distraction. As these villains waged war with the Justice League and Suicide Squad in the bowels of Belle Reve, Lord went in search of a secret even Amanda Waller didn't want to see the light of day. Yes, below her secret underground prison sat another secret underground prison. Only this one wasn't holding a person - it was holding a prize. Or, if you're a longtime reader of DC Comics, a weapon of mass, uncontrollable destruction known as the Black Diamond, the Hart of Darkness, or an even simpler name: Eclipso.
Eclipso has been around for decades, although he's served only a small villainous role in Dc's New 52 continuity. He's not a supervillain at heart, but the first embodiment of Wrath responsible for the Biblical Flood, and countless other horrifying plagues and disasters wrought upon mankind by unseen forces. Why Maxwell Lord actually thought he could be powerful enough to hold the Eclipso Diamond and not be infected and controlled by Eclipso like all others isn't clear. But even if his ego got the best of him, the malevolent force played it slow upon being awoken, allowing Max to take control of the Justice League and begin his takeover of America first, and the rest of the world soon after.
Time For The Squad To Take a Stand
There was just one tiny detail Max failed to take into account: Batman wasn't with the rest of the League when they were turned, being pursued along with Waller and Deadshot by a mind-controlled Lobo. That threat was stopped in its tracks when Batman injected one of Waller's patented brain bombs into Lobo's head, then detonating it clean off of his shoulders. Knowing Lobo can heal from any injury, and counting on him growing a brain free of Lord's control, his plan works perfectly (with Lobo out for revenge for being messed with psychically).
Once the quarter make their way to the now-emptied vault, they run into a battle between the Suicide Squad and Cyborg (the latter left behind to occupy them). Enough of Vic Stone remains free of Eclipso's grasp to keep the fight to a minimum, but the real anger in the room is coming from the Squad. They were just as present as the League when Lord first wielded the Diamond, but completely ignored as, in Lord's words, "a group of losers." You can threaten to blow up a supervillain's brain, but never, ever, imply they're less dangerous or useful for world domination than the Justice League.
Especially since, villains or not, they live in the world. And as they line up to convince Batman to let them join him in taking down the League, Lord, and undoing whatever evil they weren't deemed worthy of, the Dark Knight has no option but to state the obvious. If the heroes trusted to act as the DCU's greatest defender have turned into villains, then these villainous champions of Earth's freedom can go by only one name...
When the team succeed in teleporting to the Lord-occupied White House with one last assist from Cyborg, it's not exactly a solid strategy. In fact, it looks a lot more like a brawl than a heroic battle... but when you're taking the likes of Lobo, Killer Croc and Captain Boomerang, that's to be expected. The team gets little time to shine in this issue before the real villain of the story appears - Eclipse, now having taken his full form - but this chapter effectively sets up the next chapter in a few of these characters' lives.
The writers have teased big things coming with Lobo in the future (here's hoping he's joining the new Justice League of America for good), and we know that the new Killer Frost - looking to be the most heroic of the bunch - will be anchoring the new JLA. It's a well-deserved spot, since JL vs. SS recently showed her capable of taking down the entire Justice League singlehandedly. How Deadshoot, Boomerang, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, and the rest of the Squad will fair when this disaster subsides... well, your guess is as good as ours.
Are you hoping this event opens the door for more possible team-ups between the League and the Squad? Or do you prefer your super criminal alliances to be more evil than antihero?
Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #5 is available now.