After a month off thanks to Crime Syndicate shenanigans, Justice League returns with said Crime Syndicate taking over the issue. This issue focuses on Ultraman, everyone’s favorite Kryptonite snorting, evil version of the Man of Steel. While serving more as a bridge between issues of Forever Evil, it also shows how different Earth Prime and Earth 3 truly are. It’s those differences that make this issue very interesting.
Starting on Krypton, we see immediately that in this universe, Krypton’s population is selfish and cruel, opposite of how it is in the main reality. Jor-Il and his wife Lara obliterate the crowd and place their son in an escape craft. Of course, in this universe, love is not there. Instead, Jor-Il looks at Kal-Il and remarks in disgust how weak Kal-Il is. He tells his son to become the strongest, and sends him off while telling Lara to “shut up and die.” There, in a twisted version of the spaceflight sequence of Superman the Movie, Kal-Il is instructed, and insulted, as he makes his way to Earth. Some of these explanations confirm what we’ve seen in Forever Evil: Ultraman’s powers are fueled by Kryptonite and he is weak under a yellow sun. The ship crashes into the home of Jonathan and Martha Kent. Here, an abusive unemployed miner and a drug addict respectively. The emerging Kal-Il burns off Jonathan’s hand and orders them to become his parents. At age seven, they try to escape resulting in Kal-Il killing his surrogate parents. He leaves and flashbacks show him interacting with various members of the CSA, the arrival of the thing that destroyed Earth 3 (implied to be Darkseid), and their arrival on Earth Prime. While Owlman tries to convince The Outsider to let him talk to Dick Grayson, Ultraman has Grid (the former armor of Cyborg for those of you out of the loop) look for Kryptonite. Grid gets Ultraman and the reader up to speed on the location of other heroes and expresses his longing to feel something. However, Grid then notices that Ultraman, supposedly on his way to Kahndaq to investigate something, is off course. Instead of Kahndaq, Ultraman heads for the Daily Planet, which is in a bit of panic. Ultraman proceeds to taunt everyone there; especially Jimmy, who on Earth 3 was apparently ruthless. Ultraman goes to attack Jimmy when he activates his famous signal watch and Lois hits Ultraman with a chair. Ultraman taunts Lois for not being like Superwoman (Earth 3’s Lois) and says he’ll do whatever he wants with her. That’s when Grid tells him that the thing in Kahndaq is heading straight for Ultraman. In comes Black Adam to save the day…and leave us with a cliffhanger.
While light in plot, it is the small details and the reveals that make up the thrust of the story. We find out what drives Ultraman and what life was like in Earth 3’s universe…it is NOT a pretty place. Ultraman’s comparison of Earth Prime and Earth 3, where the law of the jungle exists in both but human compassion thrives on Earth Prime, lets us into his thinking process and his opinion that brute strength and power is what gives someone the right to rule. The spacecraft sequence (which is a wonderful nod to Johns’ mentor and former boss, Richard Donner) shows what helped warp Ultraman’s mind. One could argue that Ultraman abuses himself more than anyone else in his pursuit to be the strongest. A particular favorite touch is seeing the “zee zee zee” sound effect come from Jimmy’s watch, it’s been a while since we’ve seen that in action. And Johns makes Ultraman very threatening in the Daily Planet, especially with poor Jimmy and Lois. The entire Daily Planet conversation where it’s revealed that Jimmy of Earth 3 is a vicious blackmailer and implied pornographer and Lois of Earth 3 is Superwoman (who Ultraman only wants to keep around to bear his child) is dark and twisted. And it ends with broken hands and who knows what else for Jimmy. It’s these small, terrifying details that fill up this book instead of a major plot.
Ivan Reis’ art helps fit the twisted and dark mood of this piece. He captures Kal-Il’s innocence in eating his first piece of kryptonite on Earth, followed immediately by the horrific maiming of the Jonathan Kent of Earth 3. Ultraman is a machine of muscle and hate and the dark atmospheres in which he thrives fit him. Especially poignant is the look on Jimmy’s face, in incredible pain as he tries to signal Superman for help, and the look of utter despair when he realizes help is not coming. Complementing this is the ink work by Joe Prado, Oclair Albert and Eber Ferreria, and terrific colors by Rod Reis (who did an excellent job of Black Adam in all his lightning blasting glory).
While not the deepest story, it is a riveting one. And it is filled with sumptuous art and tiny details that will excite fans. It is a perfect companion book to the Forever Evil event and makes you wonder what else is in store as the Crime Syndicate of America’s conquest and the battle between Ultraman and Black Adam continue in Forever Evil #3.
9 out of 10