The past decade has been a transformative one for DC’s Comic Universe. The publisher embarked on a full line continuity reboot in 2011 which resulted in the New 52. Out of that ultimately controversial reboot would eventually come the DC YOU initiative, as well as the 2016 DC Rebirth event that saw elements of past continuity restored, while also bringing characters from Watchmen into the mainstream DC Universe.
Changes in storytelling directions like these often rely on tried and true villains to help anchor our heroes’ struggles with an air of familiarity. But every so often, readers enjoy the creation of a new wave of fiends and rogues hell-bent on wreaking havoc. Whether legacy villains, re-imagined ones, or entirely new creatures, their place in canon can never be erased.
The latest big bad of the DC Universe originally began as a splinter faction of the League of Assassins. Acting under the leadership of Talia al Ghul, the group sought to dismantle society and impose a new world order. If that wasn’t bad enough, Leviathan became something else entirely when former Manhunter Mark Shaw managed to wrestle control of the organization from Talia and began a campaign against the world’s espionage organizations
Vowing to restore the balance of power by revealing all of their secrets, Mark (as Leviathan) managed to wipe out the D.E.O, A.R.G.U.S., Checkmate, and even infiltrated Cadmus Labs before Lois Lane and Superman sent the would-be despot back into the shadows, prematurely revealing his identity and scuttling his plans for world domination. At least, that was how it seemed. But the story of Event Leviathan still isn’t over.
Reverse Flash (Daniel West)
The classic tale of troubled youth from a broken home, Daniel is the brother of longtime Flash paramour Iris West. After accidentally crippling their father, Daniel embarked on a life of crime that leads him to prison, shattering his relationship with his sisters. After a run-in with the Rogues, Daniel was exposed to a Speed Force battery that gave him the ability to reverse time — so long as he had access to enough Speed Force energy to do so
Determined to repair his relationship with Iris, Daniel set about killing everyone with a speed force connection in order to gain the power necessary to travel back in time and kill, rather than cripple their father. Thankfully The Flash was able to avert this disaster and convinced Daniel to give up his powers in order to spare his family any further trauma. In the end, Daniel was revealed to be Wallace West’s biological father, before dying a hero’s death with the Suicide Squad.
Gotham & Gotham Girl
Henry & Claire Clover simultaneously represent Batman’s greatest hope and biggest fears: Gotham youths who dreamed of being heroes, and eventually attained Superman-level powers (at the expense of years of their lifespan) . Young and inexperienced but hoping to use their powers to save their city, the pair of would-be heroes found themselves under Batman’s tutelage. Until it was revealed that both were being manipulated by Hugo Strange and Psycho Pirate, as the opening salvo of Bane’s plan to destroy Batman.
Hank ultimately traded in his remaining lifespan to amass enough power to single-handedly defeat the Justice League, and tragically died as a result. The trauma of losing her brother shattered Claire’s already fragile psyche, leading her to turn against Batman and join forces with Bane. Thankfully mercy and compassion won out, and Batman gave Gotham Girl the powers of Superman without any fatal side effects, ensuring her place in the DC Universe for years to come (hopefully).
Originally a scientist from Earth 15 specializing in researching the Emotional Spectrum and its energies, Volthoom was pulled from his home dimension and into the Earth-Prime realm as a result of forbidden experiments performed by Krona. Initially, Volthoom was a benevolent being who relayed his understanding of the Emotional Spectrum to the Guardians, and helped them purge their emotions in order to achieve a greater understanding of the universe.
As a result of this ritual, Volthoom was granted a power ring and became the First Lantern, and acted as a law enforcer for the Guardians. Imbued with the powers of the entire emotional spectrum, Volthoom eventually turned against the cold Guardians. Robbed of his powers and sealed away, the Guardians all but forgot about Volthoom until, after a universal war, they sought to replace the Green Lantern Corps with a third army comprised of soldiers cloned from his DNA. Siphoning more and more power for their Third Army allowed Volthoom to break free, and resume his rampage against the guardians. Facing the combined might of all the Lantern Corps, Volthoom had his connection to the emotional spectrum severed by Hal Jordan before meeting his end at the hands of Nekron, the embodiment of death. Volthoom would return years later in search of the all-powerful Phantom Ring, in yet another attempt to exact vengeance against the Green Lanterns and the Guardians.
What do you get when you cross an Amazonian assassin and Darkseid? Spoiler: you get a psychotic monster with the strengths of the Amazons, her father’s unflappable obsession with the Anti-Life equation, and an absolute lack of anything resembling morality. Grail is easily DC’s closest thing to an Anti-Wonder Woman, having gone toe to toe with Diana and not only lived to tell the tale, but even emerged victorious on occasion. In a bid to claim the power of the Anti-Life equation and bend the universe to her will, Grail aligned with the Anti-Monitor and declared open war on not only her father, but the combined might of the Justice League and the Green Lantern Corps.
After seemingly destroying Darkseid, Grail took her daddy issues to the extreme when she captured the newborn child of the villainous Superwoman of Earth 3’s Crime Syndicate… And used the infant as a vessel through which her Father could be reborn. Not long after starting off a universal War all so she could have a twisted Hallmark moment, Grail eventually lead an all-out assault on the children of Zeus, killing and draining them of energy in order to return Darkseid to his full strength. These acts would ultimately lead into the expulsion of the Gods from Mount Olympus, wreaking havoc on Wonder Woman’s life once again.
Barry Allen’s life wasn’t the only one turned upside down on that fateful night when lightning struck. His friend, Central City Police Officer August Heart, was also affected by a bolt from the blue. Like Barry, August was attempting to solve the murder of a loved one when the lightning strike that changed Barry Allen into the Fastest Man Alive destroyed all of August’s evidence — filling him with a deep need for vengeance. Years later, lightning would strike again and offer August the chance to get revenge for his brother’s murder. During a Speed Force storm August was gifted the ability to run at superspeed and joined the Flash’s crusade along with several other newly activated metahumans. Not everything was as it appeared, however, as August not only operated as the Flash’s newest partner… but also as a terrifying new villain wreaking havoc on the streets of Central City; Godspeed.
As Godspeed, August hunted down suspects and other speedster, draining them of their energies, oftentimes resulting in a grizzly death for his prey. With his powers growing exponentially, August tracked down the prime suspect in his brother’s unsolved murder and took his life. Barry soon deduced his newest enemy’s true identity and sought to face his fallen friend at Iron Heights, where August vowed to do the one thing that the Flash never could: extinguish his villains once and for all. Thanks to the timely arrival of Wallace West, the newest Kid Flash, August’s plans were thwarted, and he was locked inside Iron Heights with the rest of The Flash’s rogues gallery.
The Triumvirate Of Sea Gods
If Greek mythology has taught us anything, it’s that the Gods are jealous and easily spurned. This goes double for Poseidon, who famously plagued Odysseus for years as punishment for not paying homage to him. Poseidon’s fickle nature came to light once more in the Justice League and Aquaman event: Drowned Earth. Eons ago, Atlantis’ great hero Arion had worked with the sea God to fashion a mystical conch shell that, when blown, would call the gods of oceans across the cosmos. Coming to Earth, Arion hoped the assembled gods would usher in an era of peace and prosperity for the sea-going races. Naturally, this raised Poseidon’s ire, and instead of welcoming these new Gods, sealed them away outside reality where they slowly sank beneath the waves and into the forgotten depths of memory
Awakened once again by Aquaman’s use of the tenth metal during the Dark Multiverse crisis, these Old Gods returned to seek vengeance upon those who wronged them. Twisted by centuries of anger and by the manipulations of Black Manta, the Old Gods flooded the Earth and were content to watch humanity drown. While the Justice League scrambled to respond, Aquaman ventured into the graveyard of the Gods and sacrificed his powers and his life in order to wrest control of the oceans from the Old Gods and save the world from its watery grave.
The Ninth Circle
Secret Societies are nothing new to the realm of superhero comics, but what makes the Ninth Circle so frightening is just how plausible they really are. Introduced in Benjamin Percy’s Rebirth era Green Arrow run, the Ninth Circle is a cadre of affluent ne’er-do-wells who secretly finance super crime, and seek to use their power and influence to subvert the freedoms of ordinary citizens and twist them to the organization’s collective will. Oh, and they do this with the proceeds from human trafficking, among other insidious deeds.
To see such a horrendous true-life issue explored in a way that brings light to acts of horror in our waking world sends shivers down one’s spine, and oftentimes forces the audience to take stock of their station and surroundings. Not to mention asking themselves, like the characters in the comics, just how easily everything may be snatched away.
The Court Of Owls
Returning again to the realm of secret societies, the Court of Owls are a den of miscreants with ties to the earliest tribes of Mankind. Upon becoming a fixture in Gotham City during Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s New 52 run on Batman, the Court of Owls sought to dismantle the Dark Knight’s life piece by piece. With their army of virtually immortal assassins, The Talons, they killed wantonly, striking at not only Bruce Wayne but his friends and family, too. Even more haunting is the revelation that Bruce’s closest ally, Dick Grayson, was meant to join the Court as its chosen Talon. With their legacies inexorably linked, the Batman and Owls continue to wage a secret war upon one another in the darkest shadows of Gotham City.
The Court of Owls tested Batman in a way that few others can match. They weren’t the first to break his body, but they may be first to truly break his mind, leaving him a paranoid wreck after imprisoning him in their hidden labyrinth beneath the streets of Gotham. Despite beating them back on multiple occasions, the Court returns time and time again to punish Batman and those who stand with him, in their pursuit of using the Dark Knight to trigger an apocalypse that will release their dark god, Barbatos, upon an unsuspecting world.
The Batman Who Laughs
Superman once called Batman “the most dangerous man in the world” and he was right to do so, as Batman as proven himself to be an indomitable force on a tireless crusade against evil. But what happens when that good man falls? When the code that kept the Batman from straying into the darkness is gone… and replaced with the corrupt mentality of the Joker?
The Batman Who Laughs hails from a world on the cusp of the Dark Multiverse, a shadow of the DC Universe readers know and love. Twisted into a monster after finally succumbing to his hatred and killing his world’s Joker, Bruce was exposed to a variant of Joker toxin that warped his mind and made him into something far worse than the Joker ever hoped to be. Make no mistake, this is not the Joker in a Batman suit. It is truly Bruce Wayne, with all of his wits about him. The Batman Who Laughs is the living definition of Superman’s statement, single-handedly executing the Bat-Family, the Justice League and eradicating his entire world before joining forces with Barbatos and recruiting other twisted versions of the Dark Knight during the Dark Nights: Metal epic.
After surviving the Multiversal cataclysm, The Batman Who Laughs has allowed himself to be captured by the Justice League, solely to taunt his opposite and act as a sort of Hannibal Lecter figure for Batman and others while working in secret to corrupt the minds of heroes in an attempt to spread his evil across Earth as he did on his own world.
Originally Posted On Screen Rant