Justice League: The Darkseid War Essential Edition (2018)
Reprints Justice League #40-50, Justice League: The Darkseid War Special, and DC Sneak Peek: Justice League
Written by Geoff Johns
Directed by Jason Fabok and Francis Manapul
The New 52 came in with the Justice League and ended with it too. After fifty issues, Geoff Johns capped off his run as Rebirth became the banner on every comic. With this final arc, Johns could wrap up most of the threads laid out over the last four years, more or less. The Darkseid War brought back the titular menace from the first arc and expanded on DC lore. Now it did so in some highly confusing ways and clashed with other points, but this is sort of a thing for DC Comics ever since Crisis. The continuity just doesn’t quite fit. But you just get used to it and move on, I suppose.
As the epic story opens, Metron, one of Jack Kirby’s New Gods, shows how some are aware of the cycle of destruction and rebirth in the DC Universe. He runs into the Anti-Monitor, the villain from Crisis on Infinite Earths, who has been restored into existence due to Brainiac’s machinations manipulating reality. To save reality, Metron offers to help restore the Anti-Monitor to his full power if he agrees to a pact not to destroy reality. The Anti-Monitor laughs at this offer, knowing Metron has little power and that to kickstart the obliteration of reality, he must end Darkseid’s life. Metron’s all-powerful Mobius Chair is destroyed, Anti-Monitor leaves, and Grail, the estranged daughter of Darkseid, reveals herself and her plans to help kill her father.
The whole story kicks in when the League discovers that 44 women named Myrina Black have been killed in the last few months. It turns out Myrina Black was a rogue Amazon who had a child with Darkseid, the aforementioned Grail. Darkseid’s assassins, Kanto & the Female Furies, have been dispatched to try to end the child and mother’s lives. Grail shows up, steals the Ring of Volthoom from Power Ring, and uses it to call the Anti-Monitor to Earth-0, where the big battle occurs. The League watches Darkseid die and find themselves unmade and rebuilt. Superman is blasted with the fires of Apokalips and becomes a manifestation of rage; Lex Luthor dies and is reborn as a stone-skinned man akin to Darkseid, while Batman takes his seat in the rebuilt Mobius Chair and has all the knowledge of the Multiverse revealed to him.
The Darkseid War is not a story everyone will like, and there are parts I really dislike. Overall though? It’s a lot of fun, and it’s coming from a place where you don’t have to worry about the next arc, which means Johns is allowed to get wild. He radically transforms the League, knowing the next writer will restore the status quo and plays with big ideas that go back almost forty years in the DCU. Johns has always been the best writer in acknowledging and building on the canon and lore of the past. He’s not interested in telling small stories though he has some great intimate character moments in his JSA run. Justice League is the blockbuster movie of DC Comics, and so it should always be big explosive universe-shattering stories.
Johns explains the name of the Mobius Chair, invented by Kirby in the early 1970s, and ties it back into Crisis from 1985. I get irked in many Star Wars and Marvel movies when easter eggs overflow off the screen. It is just pandering to fans, but I loved it here, dammit. I think because I don’t build my personality off of the comic books I read, it can just be fun. When you see Star Wars adult fans reacting to trailers and movies watery-eyed, it’s honestly pathetic. You laugh and smile, but being overwhelmed with emotion due to an expensive marketing campaign for petroleum-based totems is sort of weird. On the other hand, it’s fun to see big dumb stories about heroes and villains fighting from time to time.
Jason Fabok handles much of the art here, and he’s one of those brilliant talents which is good no matter the story you put him on. He’d later illustrated Johns’ The Three Jokers mini-series, which spun out of The Darkseid War, and even on that awful tale, Fabok provided beautiful art. As a result, battles feel rightfully epic, characters look classic, and the new designs work alongside the old. I always love when I see Fabok’s name on the credits of an upcoming project because I know at least it will be a good-looking book.
The plate is packed in The Darkseid War, and because it’s the end of the run, some things get lost. For example, Captain Cold, whose joining the League with Luthor was a big deal in the last collection, Injustice League, doesn’t even appear here. Aquaman is also totally absent without much of an explanation as to why. I don’t think you’ll notice these characters’ absences here because so much is happening, but it does mean those are long-running plot elements that just don’t have a resolution.
If, by the end of this storyline, you feel overwhelmed and confused, so much happening and so many characters all over the place, well…okay. If comic books are always up their own ass trying to be “critically acclaimed” or tell “important stories,” the genre just dies. Comic books are big dumb power fantasies primarily enjoyed by children (or at least they should be). The Darkseid War is a lot of stupid fun with clever bits sprinkled here and there. It’s an excellent end to a decent Justice League, especially compared to the Bryan Hitch run that followed (geez, what a stinker!).