Originally published at InfiniteComix.com
Since the conclusion to the first Justice League arc of the New 52, “Origin”, fans have been curious about the when DC’s famed New God of Apokolips would return. Since that first arc concluded, writer Geoff Johns has used the stories in Justice League, including the “Trinity War” crossover and “Forever Evil” event, to build up Darkseid’s eventual return with varying degrees of success. The reveal of the Anti-Monitor at the conclusion of “Forever Evil” was the first concrete shred of evidence that something large was looming on the horizon. And so, following the prelude chapter in Justice League #40, “The Darkseid War” begins in perhaps the most unexpected way possible – with a rather intimate scope.
Based on previews, including the 8-page stories included in last month’s Convergence titles, one might expect Geoff Johns’ latest arc to begin with bombastic scenery stretching across the multiverse. Instead, Johns and artist Jason Fabok open the story with two of Darkseid’s minions, Kanto and Lashina, discussing the worth of the Earth’s products as they murder a woman in her apartment. It’s a pleasant subversion of reader expectations, and is diametrically opposed in structure to the series’ previous Darkseid arc, “Origin.” Whereas that arc took advantage of Jim Lee’s action-oriented style to produce a summer blockbuster on the page, Johns uses this opening chapter to introduce readers to the story’s numerous characters with a renewed focus on team dynamics.
The readers’ first introduction to the Justice League is not in the middle of battle or as they hang out in their home base, but instead as they investigate the aforementioned murders. It enables Johns to showcase the voice he has developed for each character and the chemistry they share with one another. Wonder Woman, the character whose portrayal under Johns’ pen has come under much scrutiny, is the voice that guides readers through the investigation. It appears that Johns finally does have a grasp of her voice, as there is both confidence and compassion in her words. The exposition is slightly overdone at times, but for the most part is nicely balanced. It should inspire confidence for the remainder of the arc, which looks to be heavily focused on Diana.
The team chemistry mentioned above is one of the issue’s standout elements. Cyborg (Victor Stone) and Shazam (Billy Batson) have developed a strong bond throughout the series, which continues here. Batman and Flash work in tandem performing a forensic investigation of the crime scene. As Diana tells it, their chemistry is due to Bruce’s ego balancing out with Barry’s lack of one. Even Superman and Lex Luthor are able to use their animosity to push one another for the greater good.
The real star of Justice League #41 is not the series’ recurring cast, but the classic Jack Kirby creation Mister Miracle. Though he made appearances in Earth 2, Earth 2: World’s End, and The New 52 Futures End, this in earnest feels like Scott Free’s first true appearance in the modern DC Universe. Johns lays out the character’s history and, through interaction, his terse relationship with Darkseid. He is also rendered stunningly by Fabok and colorist Brad Anderson, though the palate is a tad bit muted for hardcore Kirby fans. However, Johns’ modern interpretation of the character retains his honor and heroic nature despite an upbringing on Apokolips.
That is not to say that this issue is without action. The back half of this over-sized issue sees an extended fight sequence involving either the Justice League and a new villain. It is here where Fabok and Anderson truly shine. Despite their strong character work, the action is absolutely stunning to look at. Readers should take their time to fully take in the various details that are squeezed into each panel.
“The Darkseid War” begins in rather tame fashion, but by the issue’s end Johns and Fabok have put the pieces in place for this to arc to be among the best – and most grand in scope – since the universe was relaunched in 2011. There is one minor folly involving Lex during one of the issue’s big surprises which, in retrospect makes very little sense. However, that is the only chink in the armor of an otherwise fantastic issue. In the year that sees the 30th anniversary of the legendary Crisis on Infinite Earths, this has the makings of a true celebration.