Earth-22 is depicted roughly a generation after the current DC Universe, presumably reflecting New Earth in an alternate future timeline. Majority of the elderly superheroes are similar to those featured in the Golden Age Justice Society such as the Flash (Jay Garrick), Green Lantern (Alan Scott) & Red Robin (Dick Grayson) etc, though none of their names have been confirmed. Characters such as Barry Allen, Hal Jordan and Jason Todd were referenced as dead so it is generally concerned that Earth-22 is a mix of segregated characters from the Golden and Silver Ages, as well as other characters such as Captain Marvel, all co-existing in the same reality, thus showing that this could be the future of New Earth. The overall appearance of Earth-22 is mostly pulp-hero based, with references to other similar franchises such as Watchmen. Considering that Earth-22’s incumbent timeline is that of a disenchanted time for superheroes and the world at large, the mood is rather gritty to say the least.
The timeline of Earth-22 is usually set in the future where ten years prior, the Joker massacres the staff of the Daily Planet, killing (among others) Jimmy Olsen, Perry White and Lois Lane; while Superman could not arrive in time. Even after the guilt he faced, Superman turns the Joker over to the proper authorities. As he arrives for his trial, the Joker is killed by a new superhero Magog, who is then acquitted for his cold-blooded act. Not only that, but his action welcomed a new changed in the mindset of the populace that superheroes must go to extreme lengths to keep the innocent safe.
Appalled at the public embracing a killer as a hero, coupled with his guilt over the death of Lois, Superman retires from his career while disappearing from his Clark Kent persona entirely. During the events of Thy Kingdom Come, Superman has admitted that Clark Kent (metaphorically) died the day Lois was murdered. This could be used as an excuse for the disappearance of Kent, though no body was ever found. Superman retreated to his Fortress of Solitude for a decade, his absence causing the loss of constant inspiration to his other superhero colleagues. Along with Superman’s absence, the other veteran heroes were equally disturbed at the public's overwhelmingly positive reaction to Magog's actions; resulting in them also withdrawing from the world at large.
Meanwhile in Gotham City, Batman revealed his identity as Bruce Wayne; which resulted in an attack by Two-Face & Bane that destroyed Wayne Manor. No longer hiding behind a civilian guise, Batman consequently transformed Gotham City into a police state, using an army of large bat-like machines to patrol the streets, controlled by Batman from his sealed-off Batcave. With no superpowers, Batman is no longer the example of human perfection, thus requiring an exoskeleton to move and uses robots and a battle suit to continue his war on crime.
Alan Scott left earth and formed an “emerald city” like space station outside earth dubbed “New Oa”. At this station, Scott keeps a watchful eye for an invasion that he believes may come someday. The Flash's molecules have become unstable after he melded with the Speed Force, the result being that he must constantly remain in motion. Living in between the ticks of a second, the Flash is everywhere at once and patrols his home city & saving lives, though no one realizes that it was the Flash and simply acknowledge a presence that has turned Keystone City into a utopia. Hawkman has evolved into a literal 'hawk-man' and focused himself around the Pacific Northwest, turned into an “ecological terrorist” in the eyes of the public due to his actions against rampant deforestation & urban development. He chooses to call himself a guardian of nature. Wonder Woman Diana is replaced as Paradise Island’s Ambassador to the World by the former Wonder Girl Donna Troy after it became apparent to the Amazons that Diana failed in her mission to bring peace to the outside world. Michael Jon Carter currently owns a superhero themed restaurant called Planet Krypton, though it is unclear whether his career as Booster Gold is recognized. The universe of Earth-22 also features other planets such as Apokolips, currently ruled by Orion after the apparent fall of Darkseid.
A New Breed of Heroes?
The empty void of superheroes is filled by Magog and other new, younger metahumans calling themselves the Justice Battalion. Under the leadership of Magog, the Justice Battalion brings starts of new trend of violent vigilante justice, dishing out death to anyone who commits a crime. Such blatant disregard is due to the absence of Superman & his generation; eliminating the moral compass required for the new breed and little or no distinction between "heroes" and "villains". As a result of this, metahumans battle openly in the streets without true cause and with no concern for collateral damage or the innocent populace. Technically speaking, Earth-22 is divergent from New Earth, in that it is a possible scenario of what would happen if newer heroes were not taken under the wings of veterans.
Destruction of Kansas
The feared outcome of unchecked meta-humans finally comes to a head when the Justice Battalion attacks the Parasite with excessive and unnecessary force, even when he attempts to surrender or beg for mercy. In the confusion and panic, Parasite tears apart Captain Atom, releasing his nuclear energies and irradiating the entire state of Kansas along with parts of surrounding states. Millions of lives were lost and considering the vital importance of Kansas as America’s largest crop producer, the entire state was unable to support the huge demands of America’s food production. Magog later seeks forgiveness for the incident.
Out of Retirement
This disaster was enough for Wonder Woman to convince Superman of returning to an active role by attempting to rein in the new breed of metahumans. This has caused Wonder Woman to become severely inflexible over the inappropriate behavior of the metahuman community at large, thus adopting a more ardent militant stance. Superman returned to Metropolis and gathers former heroes such as Green Lantern, the Flash, Hawkman, and Dick Grayson (now Red Robin), among others to reform the Justice League. Superman also inducts new blood such as Avia (daughter of Mr. Miracle and Big Barda). However, Superman is unable to convince the elderly and now Batman to join, as he believes Superman's idealist notions are outdated and that his interference will only make matters even worse. Despite being one of the original members, Batman interprets Superman’ Justice League as an example of the strong exerting their will upon the weak, which is something he wants no part of.
Superman’s reformation of the Justice League brings out Lex Luthor, who is revealed to be alive and well. Luthor begins to assemble other villains of the Justice League, namely Catwoman, Riddler, Vandal Savage, Royal Flush Gang’s leader King, as well as third generation villains such as Ibn al Xu'ffasch, the successor of Ra's al Ghul's and also the son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul. Together, they form the “Mankind Liberation Front”; intent to wrestle control of the world away from the heroes. Batman also begins to organize a group of heroes called the Outsiders, made up largely of non-powered heroes such as Green Arrow and the Blue Beetle, as well as second and third generation heroes like Jade, daughter of the first Green Lantern, and Zatara, son of Zatanna and grandson of the first generation hero whose name he shares.
In a mass action against the rogue metahumans, Superman's Justice League decides to capture & imprison them in a prison nicknamed " The Gulag". Designed by Mr. Miracle to be virtually inescapable, it is filled to capacity almost as soon as it is built. Captain Comet is designated as the warden and works to persuade the inmates that their methods are wrong-headed and dangerous. His entreaties fall upon deaf ears however, with hostile hero-villains such as 666, Kabuki Kommando, and Von Bach locked up together, turning the Gulag into a pressure cooker filled to burst.
Initially it appears that the Outsiders would be allied with the MLF to organize a united front against the Justice League. However it is simply a ploy by Batman to discover Luthor's plan: to exacerbate the conflict between the League and the inmates by pitting Captain Marvel against the League, the Gulag and Superman. As per the plan, the ensuing chaos would provide Luthor an opportunity to seize power. Batman, with the aid of the Martian Manhunter, discovers that an adult Billy Batson is under Luthor's control.
Eventually a riot ensues within the Gulag, resulting in the murder of Captain Comet. Wonder Woman uses this incident to persuade the Justice League to use deadly force against the inmates; to which Superman still objects. Elsewhere, Batman reveals his true intentions and tries to stop Luthor, but is is unable to restrain the brain-washed Captain Marvel; who flies off to the Gulag and unleashes chaos. The Justice League clash with the bloodthirsty inmates, while Superman finds Batman and forces him to recognize that they may very well be facing the end of the world. Batman is still of the view that the world would be better off if all the meta-humans destroyed each other. Superman rejects this notion, pointing out that if all human life is sacred, then by logic, that includes super-human life.
At the Gulag, Captain Marvel battles while the Outsiders also arrive to aid the Justice League in quelling the riot. Batman, wearing an armored battle suit with the power of flight, comes into direct conflict with Wonder Woman, who had killed Von Bach in retaliation for his murder of Captain Comet. The worsening conditions compels the United Nations Secretary General to deploy three tactical nuclear warheads which would target specific metahuman powers; thus destroying all metahumans (either hero or villain). Despite Batman and Wonder Woman's efforts to stop two of the three stealth bombers, the third slips past and drops its payload. Captain Marvel gains the upper hand over Superman thanks to his magic-based powers, however is convinced by Superman to stop the remaining bomb. Despite Captain Marvel's self sacrifice, the bomb still detonates, killing Marvel and most of the meta-humans in the Gulag. Some survive beneath a force field generated by Green Lantern and his daughter Jade, while others are teleported away at the last second by Fate. Superman, though outside the force field, is virtually untouched but believes that everyone else was killed.
Giving in to his rage at the tremendous loss of life, he flies to the U.N. Building and threatens to bring it down atop the delegates as punishment for the massacre but stops when the surviving meta-humans arrive. Superman realizes his behavior is exactly why normal humans fear the super-powered. Chastised and ashamed, Superman immediately ceases his rampage and decides to provide guidance to the world, though it would be more political and global in nature rather than the classic crime-busting vigilantism of the past.
In the aftermath of the metahuman civil war, the heroes actively strive to become fully integrated members of the communities they had previously tried to distance themselves from. In Gotham City, Batman abandons his crusade and opens his as a hospital to care for those wounded by the destruction of Kansas and the ensuing violence, symbolically adopting his father Thomas Wayne's profession. He also reconciles with both Dick Grayson and his son Ibn al Xu'ffasch. Similarly, Superman adopts his father Jonathan Kent's role as a farmer and begins the arduous task of restoring the Midwestern farmlands which were devastated by the Justice Battalion. Wonder Woman's exile from Paradise Island ends and she becomes an ambassador for super-humanity. One step to ensure this is allowing the surviving Gulag inmates to rehabilitate on Paradise Island.
Future of Earth-22
One year after the Gulag battle, Superman builds a memorial to the fallen heroes, and also finds love with Wonder Woman. Ten years later, Clark & Diana have a family of super children, with Bruce as their godparent. Bruce eventually dies 20 years after the Gulag incident in a funeral attended by all. 80 years after the death of their godparent, the children of Superman & Wonder Woman spear head mankind's journey to the stars as they leave Earth-22 for other worlds. A century afterwards, the sea level rises over New York City around the world, however majority of the population has already departed for other planets. Three centuries later, civilization rebuilds itself on Earth-22, as interplanetary alliances between other worlds grows thanks to the descendants of Superman & Wonder Woman. Five centuries later, Earth-22 has become the home to the the United Planets and protected by the Legion of Super Heroes. All through this time, Superman has been watching, now grown old & decrepit, seeming content.