Fans knew from the beginning that “Justice League vs. Suicide Squad” would serve as the impetus for Batman’s new Justice League, yet were surprised to discover that Maxwell Lord’s team of villains is actually the original Task Force X. However, the miniseries wasn’t finished with its revelations — or with laying the groundwork for new super-teams.
This week’s “Justice League vs. Suicide Squad” #6, by Josh Williamson, Howard Porter and Alex Sinclair, brings the story to its conclusion, with Lord defeated, Lobo recruited by the Dark Knight, and the calculating Amanda Waller hinting at her plans for another task force: Task Force XI.
The bombshell that the “X” isn’t a reference to the unknown or a mystery, as we’ve long presumed, but the Roman numeral, raises any number of questions, not the least of which is why Waller thinks an imprisoned Lord is “perfect” for Task Force XI (we can probably guess what happened to most of the previous incarnations, though).
It’s also reminiscent of the revelation in Grant Morrison’s “New X-Men” in 2002 that the “X” in Weapon X — originally simply a code name for Wolverine — was actually “10,” and that the clandestine Weapon X Project was the 10th in a series of such experiments, dating back to World War II and the creation of Captain America. It was a major development (or retcon, if you prefer) in Marvel Comics continuity that introduced the Weapon Plus Program, not only linking Wolverine to the Sentinel of Liberty, but also to Fantomex, the Stepford Cuckoos and others.
The Task Force X/XI development has the potential to have similar ramifications within the DC Universe, with teams of villains and antiheroes serving as covert government operatives for the government dating back to, say, World War II (given the Suicide Squad’s Silver Age origins, that’s certainly not a stretch). Or perhaps in her mention of Task Force XI, Waller is suggesting their are multiple teams operating simultaneously, all beneath the radar of the public, and DC’s heroes; that’s a chilling thought.
But Waller’s conversation with a captive Maxwell Lord reaches well beyond the Suicide Squad, back into the DC Universe’s past and into its far-flung future. Chastising Waller for her “dangerous” and “reckless” strategy, Lord leaves his jailer, and the readers, with a rundown of the “loose ends” — what remains of his team.
We’re first shown the Emerald Empress, the 31st-century criminal, still determined to track down Saturn Girl, whose appearance last year in “DC Universe: Rebirth” #1 offered the first clue that the Legion of Super-Heroes would some day be introduced into the current continuity. With the Emerald Eye of Ekron deteriorating, the Empress laments that her time may be running out, quite literally, as the object is the only thing keeping her anchored to the 21st century (which may mean the Eye has added some form of time travel to its already-impressive repertoire). “If I can’t find Saturn Girl alone,” she says, “perhaps I can do so with five.”
It’s an odd statement, to be sure, but one that points to the arrival of the Fatal Five, the team of super-villains originally assembled by the Legion in 1967’s “Adventure Comics” #352 to help them destroy a Sun-Eater that threatened Earth. Naturally, the Fatal Five — originally the Emerald Empress, Tharok, Mano, The Persuader and Validus — didn’t disband once its mission was accomplished; it returned on several occasions, with different lineups, to menace the Legion.
With the Emerald Empress poised to return in April’s “Supergirl” #8, it’s possible her confrontation with Supergirl and Superman will leave her with few other options but to assemble the Fatal Five. How she might do that while remaining in the 21st century remains to be seen.
However, the final pages of “Justice League vs. Suicide Squad” #6 may tease a development far greater than a group of Legion villains. When Lord moves on to Johnny Sorrow, or rather his mask, which is all that remains following his defeat by Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn in Issue 4. We’re told it whispers “something about a lost society,” which can only be the Justice Society of America — the team of DC’s World War II-era heroes and those inspired by them — given that Sorrow is one of the team’s enemies.
Long at the mercy of DC’s continuity machinations, from the Silver Age to “Crisis on Infinite Earths” to the New 52, in 2011 the Justice Society was relegated once again to Earth 2, where its members picked up the pieces following an invasion by Darkseid and the forces of Apokolips. The World Army now depicted in “Earth 2: Society” is considerably different from previous incarnations of the team.
From the reference to the “lost society” alone, it’s virtually impossible to say which version of the Justice Society to which Sorrow’s mask refers — a more classic lineup, with a mix of Golden Age adventurers like Jay Garrick, Sandman and Wildcat with more modern heroes like Stargirl, Cylone and Citizen Steel, or something akin to the World Army. But if we look elsewhere in the Rebirth titles, there’s clear indication that old favorites, including the original Flash, is returning.
Whatever the case, it’s likely safe to say some version of the JSA will be introduced on Earth Prime within this new Rebirth continuity. When, where and how remain the big questions.
“Justice League vs. Suicide Squad” #6, by Josh Williamson, Howard Porter and Alex Sinclair, is on sale now.
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