WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for “Justice League” #15, in stores now, and DC Comics’ overall Rebirth plot.
It’s become relatively common to discover unexpected clues to the Rebirth mystery in DC Comics titles, but Bryan Hitch’s “Justice League” has remained largely unaffected by the Watchmen-based plot that has been slowly insinuating itself into the DC Universe.
While Hitch’s series is firmly ensconced in current continuity, it often feels as though it’s not really part of the overarching story. Some of that is due to the delays that struck its pre-Rebirth storyline, resulting in “Justice League” juggling tales involving both the pre-Flashpoint Superman and his New 52 counterpart, long after the latter had died. However, now that Hitch’s stories have caught up to the current timeline, it appears readers may have one more series to watch over as Rebirth continues toward its inevitable climax.
In “Timeless,” the newest “Justice League” arc kicking off in last week’s Issue 15, Hitch and artists Fernando Pasarin and Matt Ryan tell a somewhat-disjointed story involving a race of beings known as the Timeless. As explained by new character Molly, aka The Keeper, the Timeless “are a sort of religious movement who believe the kind of powers [the Justice League has] should never have existed on Earth.” As such, they’ve begun to attack the League, resulting in the apparent deaths of characters like Lois Lane and Jonathan Kent, Superman’s wife and son.
The issue also reveals a few potential futures, which may offer glimpses into where some aspects of the Rebirth story is heading. In one future, we meet the Green Lantern-esque Earth Corps of the 26th century; their uniforms look much like those of the GLC, although the lantern symbols incorporate an image of our planet. In this era, the Green Lanterns have been banned from Earth (similar to what occurred in the 30th and 31st centuries in old DC continuity), leaving the time-displaced Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz in an unpleasant position, to say the least.
But the biggest tease here is the “security drone” that hones in on Baz and Cruz’s green light energy and confronts the pair: It looks suspiciously like Emerald Empress’ notorious Emerald Eye of Ekron, a device of massive power that has ties both to the Green Lantern mythos and the Legion of Super-Heroes. The Eye and its mistress are longtime enemies of the Legion, but at one time, the Eye was an actual eye, belonging to the cosmic being known as Ekron, who had powers not dissimilar to those of the Green Lantern Corps. It was stolen from Ekron by Lobo during the course of DC’s 2006 weekly event “52,” essentially giving the Eye a secret origin rooted in the 21st century rather than the 31st.
Although missing for much of the New 52 era, both the Eye and Empress came to the forefront of Rebirth in the “Justice League vs. Suicide Squad” event, which saw the pair in the current time period, having jetted to their past in a hunt for Legion co-founder Saturn Girl. The telepathic hero has been seen in the Rebirth era, as a confused character in the initial Rebirth special, and later as an inmate of Arkham Asylum.
Then there’s the issue’s other big reveal: Cyborg finds himself jettisoned to the 31st century, where he’s immediately confronted by Legion of Super-Heroes member Brainiac 5. While we have seen the Legion in action since the New 52 reboot, it’s been in a handful of places. First, we saw a team of Legionnaires attempt to escape the 21st century in the short-lived “Legion Lost.” That team returned for “Justice League United’s” “Infinitus Saga” arc, in which they finally return home; Brainiac 5 in charge of the future’s massive super-group.
It’s too soon to determine the position or level of importance Brainy will play in the “Justice League” story, as he features in not even a handful of panels in this issue. However, the appearance of the green-skinned hero in his familiar purple suit, strolling through the streets of 31st century Metropolis and mentioning the Science Police, certainly does give fans hope for a meaningful appearance rather than a quick cameo.
The question, then, is whether these are really Rebirth clues. Given the time-twistiness of the issue’s story, it’s possible these are merely alternate futures, which don’t represent what Rebirth has in store for the heroes of the DC Universe. But, as we head into the second year of the linewide storyline, one thing we do know is that the revelations are set to come faster and faster as the pieces involved in Geoff Johns’ endgame are placed into position for the finale in 2018.
It’s possible Brainiac 5 and the Eye’s appearances in “Justice League of America” #15 are simply an example of the creative team utilizing the DCU’s deep history as shorthand to add additional drama to big story beats. However, the protection we’ve seen of the 31st century since Rebirth began would indicate that these are more clues than they are Easter eggs. After all, with the upcoming “Batman”/”The Flash” crossover “The Button” poised to explore the role of the Watchmen in Rebirth, and “Batman” writer Tom King on record as saying Saturn Girl’s Arkham incarceration is a development of major importance in the grand Rebirth plan, it’s tough to write off any potential clues as random appearances.
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