SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for "Justice League vs. Suicide Squad" #4, on sale now.
The "Justice League vs. Suicide Squad" miniseries has been dishing out pieces of information about both heroes and villains alike with each chapter released, and Issue #4 is no exception to that rule. With a mixture of revelations, intriguing hints, and the arrival of another major DC villain, there's a lot packed into this issue, with Green Lantern, Harley Quinn and one particularly dark foe at center-stage.
THE MEAN GREEN (TIME) MACHINE
Throughout this miniseries, we've been learning more and more about the Emerald Empress. We've had confirmed that this is the same Emerald Empress from 1000 years in the future, the age of the Legion of Super-Heroes, where she was one of the team's major foes. We've also seen that she's here primarily to find Saturn Girl, one of the founders of the Legion of Super-Heroes. (As seen first in "DC Universe: Rebirth" #1 and then "Batman," Saturn Girl appears to be in the 21st century as a prisoner in Arkham Asylum.) And based on "Suicide Squad" #9, that quest was important enough to join the Suicide Squad in order to find that answer.
Here, though, we've had two non-Saturn Girl revelations involving not only the Emerald Empress, but the source of her power: the Emerald Eye of Ekron. First is an overall reminder that whatever is happening to the DC Universe these days, Superman is at the heart of its mysteries. When the Empress attacks Superman, she taunts him that, "If you only knew what the future holds, Superman... You'd let Max get what he wants!" With a follow-up of, "You're better off dead than ever knowing the truth!" it's a hint that Superman's path forward will have some major twists and turns, and not for the better. If Superman's fate is big enough to be remembered a millennium ahead (and this is the same future where there are no records on where Saturn Girl is hiding in our present day, so clearly only the greatest events are common knowledge), this promises to be a doozy.
Perhaps more important, though, is the conflict between the Emerald Empress and the Justice League's pair of Green Lanterns. The Empress quickly dispatches Simon Baz, blasting him a huge distance away in the blink of an eye, even as he's distracted by his ring's warning that the Eye is some form of, "unknown Lantern technology." It's when Jessica Cruz attacks the Empress and the Eye that things start to get strange. After Jessica and the Empress trade an initial set of blasts, the Eye ceases its attack entirely, specifically staring at Jessica. It's made clear that this isn't the Empress's decision, as she's as surprised as Jessica. Jessica's ring notes the presence of temporal energy, and a moment later, Simon's new attack on the Eye begins to splinter the orb's surface. The Eye's fragility to Green Lantern energies can't be discounted. With the warning that Lantern technology was discovered, could the Eye be some sort of final form of either the great Power Battery, or a specific ring?
Then there's its refusal to attack Jessica (after having already walloped Simon), and Jessica's ring calling out temporal energy. The Eye refusing to attack Jessica after the first attack could be a hint that there's some sort of crossing of time streams at this point. Can the past of the Emerald Eye of Ekron be directly connected to Jessica Cruz's Green Lantern ring?
DON'T CRY FOR ME, HARLEY QUINN
One of the most dangerous members of the "Squad Zero" team is Johnny Sorrow, who can not only summon up monstrous creatures from the world of the demonic King of Tears, but who destroys those who look at his unmasked face. It's a threat that up until now has been mostly under wraps, with Sorrow content to summon up the monsters to do his dirty work. That all changes, though, when Sorrow decides to pull off his mask to eliminate Wonder Woman.
Harley Quinn's mild obsession with Wonder Woman comes to a head here, with the erratic villain not only pushing Wonder Woman behind her, but daring to look directly into Johnny Sorrow's face. Instead of death, though, we get Harley merely squinting her eyes before sarcastically commenting, "Cute face." We also discover here that Sorrow himself cannot bear to look at his own face; doing so (courtesy Wonder Woman's gauntlets) blasts Sorrow into the dimension of the King of Tears. In the scuffle, Sorrow refers to his visage as, "the true face of madness," which is then given as Harley's justification for surviving. As she puts it, "Once you've looked into one abyss you've seen 'em all." Clearly, Sorrow's face is no match for dating the Joker.
SAVING THE DARKEST FOR LAST
It's not until the end of the issue, though, that Maxwell Lord's ultimate target is revealed. With the assistance of a mind-controlled Killer Frost, Max is able to break into Amanda Waller's deepest, darkest vault. It's an apt location for one of the darkest artifacts in the DC Universe, literally: the Heart of Darkness, the black diamond that imprisons the dreaded demi-god Eclipso.
First introduced in the '60s, solar energy genius Bruce Gordon was cursed by a sorcerer using a black diamond so that whenever Gordon was near an eclipse, he would transform into the dreaded Eclipso. As soon as he was struck by sunlight, though, he would revert to normal. Eclipso was a bit of a nuisance more than anything else, although it was quite impressive that the DC Universe seemed to have eclipses on an almost daily basis in order for new Eclipso stories to appear.
Famously revamped in the '90s, Eclipso was revealed as a malevolent being who could manifest in anyone who touched one of a thousand perfectly carved black diamonds, all of which were originally part of the massive Heart of Darkness. A storyline from "The Spectre" revealed Eclipso to be a precursor to the Spectre (and the being who brought the biblical plagues to Egypt), and over the years he proved to be nigh-unstoppable. Even after all of the diamonds being reunited into the Heart of Darkness (and re-imprisoning Eclipso), the foe would periodically surface to bring out people's darkest sides, with sunlight being Eclipso's only weakness.
The New 52 world has seen Eclipso and the Heart of Darkness a few times, but never quite in such a central role. An early "Catwoman" storyline had Selina Kyle briefly attempt to steal the Heart of Darkness from the A.R.G.U.S. vaults, although the dark corrupting nature of the Heart of Darkness ultimately brought that attempt to a close before it could be completed. We next saw Eclipso in the alternate dimension of Gemworld, where the short-lived "Sword of Sorcery" series had Eclipso and the House of Amethyst revealed to be long-time enemies. Princess Amaya herself was able to imprison Eclipso inside the Heart of Darkness using her Amethyst abilities, but the gem immediately vanished, with Amaya theorizing that it had teleported itself to Earth. If that was the case, it seems to have since found itself into the hands of Amanda Waller.
While the Heart of Darkness is still intact, Eclipso's corrupting influence is already in full effect. In a matter of seconds, Max Lord is not only possessed by Eclipso, he's then able to do the same to the entire Justice League. Next up? Eclipso vs. the Suicide Squad. But can a group of super-villains do anything against the quintessence of one's inner demon? Or will Eclipso's presence make the Suicide Squad even more powerful than they already are? Dark days are, indeed, ahead.