Forget Convergence….this is how you do an event comic. I hesitate to call “Darkseid War” an event though, because it’s actually self-contained to the pages of this one comic, so instead I’ll call it what it is: a good, old-fashioned epic story. It seems Geoff Johns is concluding all the storylines he started on the book when he launched it back in 2011, which makes me wonder if he’s leaving the title. (Fingers crossed that he’s not.) When Justice League was launched as the first book in the New 52 continuity, it showed the formation of the team, which occurred when they repelled an invasion by Darkseid, who it was said was looking for his long lost daughter. That loose plot thread is finally dealt with here in grand fashion, not to mention some of the plot threads introduced in Forever Evil and several more.
So with all the Convergence mumbo jumbo over with, we’re back in the prime New 52 Earth, even if the New 52 label is gone from the cover. The status quo of the Justice League is more or less what it was when we left the team prior to Convergence, with the original seven members plus a “reformed” Lex Luthor and Captain Cold, Shazam, and Power Ring, Jessica Cruz, who seems kind of redundant now that Green Lantern Hal Jordan is back on team after a long absence (although Aquaman is on the cover, he’s not in the actual issue). The events of the recent Convergence aren’t even mentioned at all, and in fact, this issue doesn’t really reflect the current state of the DCU for the most part. Superman is fully powered and has his Clark Kent secret ID still, and it’s Bruce Wayne as Batman and not Jim Gordon. I guess the assumption here is that this all takes place before those events in their solo books, and I’m glad DC allowed Johns to use the versions of the characters he wanted, and let the fans sort out the timeline of it all later.
The issue opens up with a nod to the original Terminator movie, where two denizens of Apokolips, the assassin Kanto, and Lashina of the Female Furies, are waiting in the apartment of a woman named Myrina Black waiting to kill her. (If you’re wondering who she is, I suggest you pick up the Free Comic Book Day DC offering, Divergent.) But it turns out it’s not the right Myrina Black, and they’re “going through the phonebook” so to speak to find the correct one and eliminate her, for reasons as yet unknown.
After an interlude that reintroduces Mister Miracle to the book, we see the League together on the trail of the Apokoliptians (the fact that they’re using Boom Tube technology to go from one Myrina to another across the globe alerts the League to their murder spree) and we actually get a cool scene of the team working a crime scene investigation. The crime scene moment turns out to be a great way to show how much in their element both Batman and Flash (who as Barry Allen, is a CSI) both are, and how out of his depth someone like Shazam is, who is still really a kid and has never even seen a dead body before.
It’s here where the action really starts to ramp up, and the team is finally, formally introduced to Grail, the half-Amazon daughter of Darkseid, who manages to make an entrance that is worthy of a disturbing Japanese horror movie. From there, she manages to lay the smackdown on the team in short order (minus Superman, Lex and Captain Cold, who are in the Watchtower, along with Lena Luthor, Lex’ sister, who have their own drama to deal with).
As badass as Grail is, she’s serving another master, and it’s not her father, Darkseid…it’s the TRUE big bad of the DC Universe, the Anti-Monitor. The Anti-Monitor is DC’s biggest villain ever really, having destroyed the original multiverse back in Crisis on Infinite Earths, but then has basically never been used since. I mean, this is the guy who destroyed universe after universe, and it’s shocking that DC waited thirty years to use him again properly. We know that he was the so-called “Destroyer” who decimated Earth-3, the home of the Crime Syndicate, and caused them to flee to the prime Earth in Forever Evil. This issue climaxes with not one, but three big cliffhangers, all of which will have you clamoring for the next issue.
There are few writers at DC who know how to write most of these characters better than Geoff Johns. In fact, he’s become the definitive writer in the modern era for Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, Superman and now Shazam too. The one League member Johns has never really gotten a handle on is Wonder Woman. In the pre-New 52, the few instances that he wrote her she came off as preachy and somewhat condescending for the most part (although he did give her an awesome moment in Blackest Night) and in the New 52, she was essentially generic warrior woman, always looking for a fight, and also somewhat goofily naive. It seems he’s making her the center of this storyline (much of the issue is narrated by her) and while I still would never say she’s in any way a definitive take on the character, she’s already coming across as more nuanced than she ever has before under Johns’ guidance.
Another character Johns initially dropped the ball on was Darkseid. In the opening story in his run of Justice League, his take on Darkseid was a big, lumbering oaf. With this issue, he’s back to being the calm, cool evil force of nature he was meant to be. There’s a scene between Darkseid and Mister Miracle that is classic, and shows Darkseid as he should be…more Darth Vader than Doomsday. If Darkseid is going to be central to the plot of this, then this is the Darkseid I want.
As much on his A-game as Johns is with this issue, I also can’t say enough about Jason Fabok’s art. Although a relative newcomer, having taken over the book last year from artist Ivan Reis, this storyline is really giving him a chance to shine. A lot of artists who pay as much attention to detail like Fabok are usually better known for making beautiful splash pages than they are at being good storytellers (it’s what I call the “Jim Lee effect”), but Fabok manages to do both. The action scenes are intense and easy to follow, and he never sacrifices detail to do so. Also, his costume redesign for Mister Miracle is pretty spiffy.
If you’re looking for the kind of epic story with all the main DC Universe players in a high-stakes epic, but were burned out by Convergence, then I’d say pick up Justice League #41. I can’t vouch for the rest of it, but the first chapter is off to a great start and I can’t wait to see what comes next.