Analysis #6: Reviewing the last third of Justice #3 .
WARNING: Not only does this article contain spoilers for the Justice issues reviewed, it attempts to deduce the plots and mysteries of future issues as well. If you wish to be completely surprised, you may not want to proceed.
Back to Issue #3 already in progress.
Brainiac finally decides to operate, but Aquaman seems to have one more trick up his sleeve. The moment the restraint on his head is removed, which I’m guessing prevented his telepathy, he sends out one last request of his oceanic friends. Then Brainiac makes his move and Aquaman goes still. It should be noted that among Brainiac’s last words are, “You have no idea who it is who just killed you.”
Red Tornado becomes alarmed as if his tracking of J’Onn was suddenly lost. How he was tracking him this far is unclear. Red Tornado calls out to him so it must have been some kind of verbal communication system though no such communication was seen earlier or seems likely to have occurred seeing as how J’Onn was underwater. Then two things happen that disrupt Red Tornado’s train of thought. Someone teleports onto the satellite and the computer indicates something odd happening in southern South America. Sea creatures are surfacing and swimming in long straight rows. Taking a high aerial view of the situation, Red Tornado realizes that the fish are forming cross-hairs pinpointing Aquaman’s location. He mentions finding Aquaman to whomever teleported to the satellite when he suddenly, and against his control, rips off his own head. He calls to the visitor for help as he continues to tear himself to pieces but he receives no assistance.
Suddenly Grodd has knowledge of the superheroes’ identities from the satellite’s computers and quickly conveys this information to his colleagues:
Superman’s identity goes to both some smoking man I don’t recognize and Bizarro.
Green Lantern’s identity is told to Sinestro who was apparently waiting far outside the galaxy.
Scarecrow and a featureless person I don’t recognize learn where Green Arrow and Black Canary live.
A camouflaged gunman literally sets his/her sites on the Atom.
Captain Cold is told who Flash is.
Hawkgirl’s identity is told to what looks like the Toyman, only his face looks wooden, his eyes are glowing and there’s a marionette string on the top of his head.
Luthor, Riddler, Poison Ivy and Black Manta prepare to speak to the world as strange robotic spheres encircle them. And the issue ends.
Let me begin with a quick, irritated rant. What’s with these heroes anyway? Aquaman finds a giant city-sized sphere that miraculously appears over night. That seems far enough out of the ordinary to warrant alerting your teammates before investigating further. But does he tell anyone what’s happening? Nope. Later, the whole Justice League of America is searching for him, and Martian Manhunter finds traces of his blood and indications of a betrayal. Wouldn’t you think the likelihood that you’ll also be attacked is pretty high? Does he call for back-up? Does he even stop to tell a supposedly monitoring Red Tornado what he’s found? And when Red Tornado loses whatever type of contact he has with Martian Manhunter, does he summon anyone to help? Nope, he starts analyzing the fish situation. What kind of teamwork is this? Oh, well, maybe it’s just me.
Now let’s go straight to the exciting new mystery, namely who was it who teleported to the satellite? Judging from Red Tornado’s reaction and comments we know it was a League member and obviously one under the villain’s control. Because it hasn’t been mentioned with any definitiveness we can’t be completely sure of the Justice League’s current roster. So I’m going to make an assumption that it consists solely of the members depicted in issue #1′s central two-page spread which followed the dream sequence. In that case the JLA consists of the following members: Aquaman, the Atom, Batman, Black Canary, Captain Marvel, the Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Hawkman, Martian Manhunter, Plastic Man, Red Tornado, Superman and Wonder Woman. These are my suspects.
What was the first thing Grodd did once he learned the identities of the heroes? He sent his colleagues to kill them. Now it stands to reason that if Grodd had mental control of one of these superheroes, he would have no need to send his villainous cohorts after that same hero. So it’s safe, I think, to rule out from our controlled hero suspects everyone who had been immediately targeted by Grodd. Eliminating those names gives us this: Aquaman, the Atom, Batman, Black Canary, Captain Marvel, the Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Hawkman, Martian Manhunter, Plastic Man, Red Tornado, Superman and Wonder Woman.
Here are my thoughts on those remaining:
Wonder Woman is at a conference which is likely still occurring. Also, Cheetah has, apparently, already been dispatched to take her down.
Red Tornado can be eliminated as he was already on the satellite.
Plastic Man, Hawkman and Captain Marvel have not appeared in the story proper. It doesn’t feel right that something as important as being controlled by a villain would happen without some allusion to it “on panel.”
Martian Manhunter has/had Grodd in his mind. If Grodd “broke him” then he could conceivably manipulate him. Of course, seeing as Red Tornado was all worried about him just a few panels before, his reaction to seeing him teleport in would have been considerably different. Then again, Martian Manhunter’s a shape-shifter. He could make himself look like somebody else. For now, he stays on the list.
Aquaman has just been “killed” by Brainiac but could be reanimated or controlled by Brainiac in the same manner he’s controlling that spider monkey. But, as with Martian Manhunter, the Red Tornado’s reaction is way off even mentioning Aquaman to the unidentified hero.
And that just leaves Batman. Could Batman be controlled by the villains? Let’s look at what we know.
Riddler downloaded the files from the Batcave computer to a CD. There was a laptop computer in the van. Batman even mentions to Red Tornado that the heroes’ identities and the satellite schematic are included in that information. So the villains could have learned Batman’s identity from the disk. The problem with this is: they also could have learned everyone else’s identity at the same time. But it appears they didn’t learn them until they accessed the satellite later on. This suggests one of three possibilities: 1) they didn’t download everything from the computer (no evidence whether or not this is true), 2) they didn’t know they had this information (seems pretty lackadaisical for a plethora of evil geniuses not to scrutinize the information of one of their enemies’ databases), or 3) they did learn the information but chose not to disclose the information to the other villains. I like this last supposition better than the others. There are reasons to wait until the satellite is under your control before launching an all-out attack. Destroying Red Tornado for one. Eliminating access to the satellite and its equipment/arsenal for another. But back to Batman.
Riddler is apparently being controlled. Assuming Brainiac is the mastermind and Grodd his forced henchman, we have two obvious possibilities: control by technology and control by telepathy. Let’s look at the latter first.
Now I’m no expert on mentally controlling other people, but it seems to me that if Grodd could control Riddler mentally, he surely could control Batman as well. He could’ve eliminated the whole need to hack into the Batcave computer by stealing control of Batman and having him download it directly. Or revealing the location of the cave and inviting the villains in. Unless, of course, it’s not that easy. Maybe the control doesn’t include being able to access their memories. In that case, controlling Batman wouldn’t help you because you couldn’t find the Batcave without Batman’s knowledge. Or, maybe Grodd can’t control a person (i.e. the Riddler) without first wearing him down mentally, say, through recurring nightmares and sleep-deprived nights. But again, why not give the nightmares to the heroes and wear them down? And since Batman has not had the dreams, this method would not get him under control quickly.
There are two big problems with Grodd’s psychic abilities: range and precision. Let’s look at each in turn. RANGE: How far away can Grodd’s powers reach? Well, if he sent the identities of the heroes to the other villains telepathically, then the range is huge as Sinestro seemed to be far outside the Milky Way Galaxy when he got his assignment. But does his power weaken with distance? Maybe telepathy works at that distance, but would the ability to mentally control someone? PRECISION: On a planet of approximately 6 billion humans, how could Grodd single out the Riddler? Maybe he needs to see the person in order to control them (which would explain why there are cameras everywhere showing the villains on Grodd’s view screens). But if that’s the case, he could just take control of all the superheroes and every major politician on the planet without leaving his room. He could control the United States Congress just by watching C-SPAN.
The answer, I think, is that it can’t be that simple. There must be some restriction or necessary element that I’m missing. So let’s explore the other possibility I mentioned a few paragraphs earlier: control by technology.
If Brainiac is controlling Riddler through scientific means, there’s another problem. To control them you’d have to get your technology to/in them. I doubt Brainiac was wandering around, capturing and lobotomizing villains, so it would have to be more subtle than that. Maybe it’s a chemical that needs to be injected like the substances the Scarecrow was injecting into the paralyzed – it did make their eyes glow after all. Then Brainiac would only have had to capture and control an Arkham Asylum physician, and he could quickly gain access to at least the Riddler, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow and Dr. Sivana. He could have tracked the others down as well seeing how most villains’ identities are not exactly secret. With the telepathic help of Grodd, he could find/summon the villains even faster.
Let’s go on the assumption that the villains’ control of Batman was chemical in nature. When did Batman get a dose of this chemical? Well, he was cut by some of the Riddler’s henchmen’s question mark-shaped weapons. Riddler coughed on him. The chemicals in the eye/ear embalming fluid could have been tainted. But there’s another possibility that appeared at the end of Batman’s portion of Issue #2′s tale. Alfred brought him dinner calling it “a surprise.” If the disk revealed Batman’s identity to the villains, they could have secretly captured and taken control of Alfred and used him to get the chemical into Batman. Of course they could have sent the villains in too, but perhaps that was considered too risky.
Let’s add this bit of information to our main question #1:
LEGION OF DOOM AGENDA
1. Unite several supervillains through dream manipulation – The Mastermind
2. Use the villains’ powers/technologies to help the needy and sway public opinion – Captain Cold; Poison Ivy, the Scarecrow, the Toyman, (maybe others)
3. Download the files from the Batcave computer – The Riddler
4. Use those files to learn Batman’s secret identity and devise a means to control him – Unknown
5. Use Batman to access the JLA Satellite and learn all the other heroes’ identities – Gorilla Grodd (assumption)
6. Kidnap Aquaman so Brainiac can operate – Black Manta, Brainiac
7. Make an announcement to the world – Lex Luthor, Black Manta, Poison Ivy, and the Riddler
I’m going on the assumption that the Riddler’s primary job was to find out who Batman was (by stealing the Batcave computer’s file) so the villains could get control of him. Then they could send Batman to the satellite and disable it.
But what of Red Tornado? How did Batman arrange that? Did he merely serve as a conduit for Grodd? Grodd seemed to leap into action the moment Red Tornado was dispatched. Maybe whatever chemical substance Batman ingested in the last issue was somehow transferred into Red Tornado? If so, it must be amazingly fast acting. But somehow I doubt it.
It is possible that whatever mechanism is used to take control of Red Tornado (who describes it himself as, “Someone’s controlling my motor functions,”) is also the same one that took control of the sharks and the giant sea horse back in Issue #1. Left with no other viable alternatives, I’m going to conclude (at least for now) that both were performed somehow by Grodd using someone he controlled (Black Manta and Batman) as some type of conduit.
Let’s go back to Brainiac for a moment. If the fishy crosshairs are accurate, then Brainiac’s laboratory is on land somewhere on the southern tip of South America. This proves that he is not in the underwater orb city. In the last issue, I discussed a conversation occurring between Brainiac and Grodd catalyzed by the Martian Manhunter’s approach of the underwater city. We now know that Brainiac was definitely not there. This serves to reinforce my belief that Grodd had reported to Brainiac the situation. Brainiac is 1) not in close proximity to the orb and 2) preoccupied with Aquaman. It seems unlikely that Brainiac would have been independently alerted of an “intruder.”
And just a quick note regarding the pending supervillain announcement. Of the four villains involved, two are typically depicted wearing masks: Black Manta and the Riddler. However, it appears this announcement is going to be made not as supervillains but as ordinary humans.
#2: Who is(are) the mastermind(s)?
The supposition from last issue was that Brainiac was in charge, and Grodd was being forced into an assistant role. While nothing has happened in the last few pages of Issue #3 to change my opinion on this, there are two things worth noting.
First, it is Grodd who alerts all the other villains as to the heroes’ secret identities. This is only natural seeing as he has telepathy. But, in a sense, it appears that Grodd is giving the villains their marching orders and is being obeyed.
Second, Lex Luthor seems to be the one to speak to the world. This is consistent with his role as the “public face” of the Legion. Understandable considering that Brainiac is an alien-looking android and Grodd is a gorilla. If the villains are out to sway public opinion, they need a normal-looking charismatic human.
#3: What do the Riddler’s clues mean?
None of the clues seem to have any light shed on them during the fraction of the issue I’m reviewing, but I fully expect that to change once we hear what the villains have to say to the world. I hope you’ll be there to hear it with me.