Well that happened. That definitely happened. List of things that happened: That. Yeah, I should definitely say there are some massive spoilers ahead.
I'll say this much, I still don't know what to expect from this series. For one thing, I expected this issue to be pretty heavy on action as the League tried to escape The Five's capital planet. Instead, we get like, one punch from Green Lantern to immediately knock out Locus (which, I think, is actually the first time we've seen Locus show any weakness at all), and then it's all tension and dialog.
As the group is reunited, Green Lantern is very confused as to why the League is taking orders from Ariel Masters. Superdork says that it's because Ariel is their mother, which only makes him more confused. He insists that if there's anything he needs to know, she needs to tell him, but she tells him (essentially) that they don't have time, and he'll be filled in later.
We cut to Kali and the Convert scrambling to try and find the escapees, when they happen upon Locus, still unconscious. Firestorm surprises them, appear behind them, and threatens to detonate in a nuclear blast, turning the entirety of the city into ash.
The Convert says that they know of Firestorm from the legends of the past, and that a Justice League member would never do such a thing, but since this is the new, unstable Firestorm, he tells the Convert to think again. Coeval appears before Firestorm's eyes, using the implants within his body, and tells the Convert that he's seen within Firestorm's mind and knows that this man would do so.
Firestorm finally flies off, leaving Four of the Five behind, since his stalling has given the Justice League enough time to escape in a space-helicopter-thing made by Green Lantern. As the three who are still conscious talk, a red display appears, representing the fifth member of the five, presumably their leader. The obscured figure says that it doesn't matter that the Justice League has escaped, and that now that Ariel Masters has come out of hiding, they've already won, and that now this mysterious fifth member can finally come out of hiding.
Back at Cadmus, the Terry and Teri have the same conversation about the Justice League for the umpteenth time, to the point where Terry actually lampshades it. "It's starting to seem like we're having the same conversation over and over…" He says he's getting sick of it, and that Teri needs to just believe in the League, and give them a second to get out of Commonwealth space. Before Teri can even finish asking what he means, she's hailed by Batman. The League have just escaped Commonwealth space, and landed on some sort of nature preserve world, complete with purple trees and orange water.
As the Wonder Twins try to trace Batman's signal to figure out just where the League are, Superman and Flash have a conversation which (surprise!) involves Superman being a jerk. This leads to Batman and Supes getting into a fight, which ends with Ariel scolding them both for fighting, as she talks with the twins for the first time in years.
She's understandably upset with them for going through with the Justice League project, saying it's made murderers out of all of them— the twins, Ariel, and the League (once again, to Green Lantern's confusion).
Teri tries to defend themselves, but only gets rebuked by Ariels, who reminds them, any way, that the whole league is compromised by their implants now. Firestorm says he can solve that, and in a very confusing panel bathes them in nuclear energy, in order to destroy their implants.
Wonder Woman breaks down, and, falling to her knees, says that they are all murderers, now. She doesn't know how to live with that knowledge. Watching on the monitor, Teri is shocked, and it's the first time we've actually seen Wonder Woman show compassion of any sort. It seems like the League are finally starting to develop, and come into their own.
"Well, we can't have that— can we?" Terry says. In front of the League eyes, Terry takes his sister affectionately by the shoulders…
AND SNAPS HER NECK.
Well, I definitely didn't see that coming.
Ariel immediately assumes that the Convert has compromised Terry, but he tells her to think again. As he does this, Barry's head violently explodes, killing him once again, and brutally, because apparently he's our Daniel Jackson for this series (or our Rory, if you'd rather).
Confused, Terry reveals who he truly is, who he has always been. Terry is the leader of the Five, the one who got them all together in the first place (note: Terry, if you want to stay hidden in the shadows, maybe tell your group of four others to call themselves "the Four" to prevent suspicion). He's been the leader of the Five from the start, hiding within Cadmus to play both sides, and presumably creating the new Justice League just to use them for his own bidding.
He's been releasing nano-mines into the air at Cadmus, and anyone who's even been there recently has been compromised. He can, with the push of a button, detonate the bombs in any of the other members of the League, essentially telling them that they can either do his bidding or die. This— This seems like a bad plan, Terry, not going to lie. Couldn't you just get the Convert to possess them, or use Coeval's mind control, or something? Blackmailing the Justice League with death seems like a really good way to lose a fight with the Justice League.
Any way, we get a few pages as the League mourns Barry, Firestorm reiterates that Green Lantern is slowly dying from supercancer, and Green Lantern and Supes get into a fight because Superman is an idiot. That might sound like I'm just trying to take another jab at Superman, but no, that's actually what they're fighting about, Green Lantern thinks this Superman is an idiot, because he is.
Ariel breaks the fight up saying the Five won, and there's nothing to do but submit. Terry smirks and says he'll send them a transport.
As their conversation ends, we come back to Terry's perspective as the other members of Cadmus look at Terry in fear. He says they're next, unless they do exactly as he says. Coeval suddenly shows up, and says that while he can understand Terry taking the pleasure of pulling the whole "obey my will" supervillain move, there's really no reason to keep anyone at Cadmus alive, and Terry agrees. Our final page shows hundred of detonations happening in Cadmus all at once.
Terry being the mastermind behind the Five's takeover of the galaxy was nothing if not unexpected. Maybe someone out there saw it coming, but it definitely wasn't me. His plans themselves seems a little bit sketchy right now, and I'm hoping next issue will solidify them a bit more. I liked Coeval's teardown of the "let them live" idea Terry was running with, and as our new main antagonist, Terry definitely comes across as ruthless enough.
It's also good to see that the League has started to humanize. This had already started by this episode, but seeing the "cloned" Wonder Woman break down because of the nature of her very life was a really effective way of showing that these characters aren't as one-note as they started.
Killing Barry off again seems really silly, and I get that it's because he's going to get psuedo-cloned again, likely before the next issue even starts, but it still felt cheap. On the other hand, the fact that the stakes have somehow become bigger than just death is pretty impressive. When the heroes were being brought back by the "good guys" it felt like it was cheapening things by just bringing them back as soon as they've died, but now knowing that not even death can help them escape Terry's rule is actually pretty effective.
As for the twist itself… I'm still processing, and I have to say, I legitimately don't know how I feel. I definitely want to see what's going to happen next. One thing I don't want to do is say that the twist is somehow invalidated because it's disrespecting the legacy of the characters, the New 52 is supposedly a reboot, and this sort of change, switching around who the good guys and bad guys even are, could potentially be a good thing.
My only fear is that this change will be done for the sake of being "gritty." This book has steered clear of being "gritty" so far, so I really hope they'll keep having fun with Terry as a character. Little bits like the part with Coeval and him at the end make me hopeful for the future of the book. I'm cautiously optimistic about where the series will go, and I can't wait to see more.