Justice League #45 (Week of October 21st)
Warning: this review contains spoilers!
Act two of the Darkseid War begins following the aftermath of the Anti-Monitor’s battle against Darkseid. Last issue ended on what is destined to be referenced as an absolutely epic turning point in the DC universe; the death of Darkseid! Writer Geoff Johns continues to masterfully script this already legendary storyline. The entire focus in this issue centers on exploring the effects of Darkseid’s death. It turns out that the residual energies released by Darkseid’s corpse have played a role in some members of the Justice League attaining god-hood.
This plot point has been spoiled months ago but it nonetheless is pretty cool to see play out on the page as fill-in artist Francis Manupal (replacing fan-favorite Jason Fabok and) brings the mythological drama to life. It is unfortunate that DC could not meet their publishing schedule on this title and remain consistent with one artist throughout the storyline. One of the conceits that Johns stated in interviews prior to the Convergence event was that the two month break would give artist Jason Fabok plenty of time to get ahead of schedule to ensure that there be no break with the creative team. The artistic differences between Manupal and Fabok are obvious and it is surprising to me that of all the artists at their disposal that DC would choose the former as a temporary replacement for the latter. While serviceable, Manupal’s art is stylistically very different and lacking in the incredibly detailed backgrounds that readers have become accustomed to seeing under Fabok’s pencils. Having said this, the skilled and varied use of colors by Brian Buccellato ameliorates the jarring artistic change that (more often than I would prefer) reminds the reader that visually, something is amiss. I sincerely hope Fabok returns next issue. Frankly, I would rather have this series delayed a month then have more fill-in artists. (I prefer the Marvel approach a la Secret Wars; i.e. if the artist is not finished, delay publication until he is, because at the end of the day, it’s the trade paperback that will make you money in the long term and artistic congruency and integrity is more important than short-term consistency. Some may disagree with me, but… I digress).
The coolest aspects of this storyline are Johns exploring the ‘godhood’ of various members of the Justice League. Batman achieved godhood status by sitting on the Mobius Chair; Superman by simply flying into the pits of Apocolips; Flash by being forcibly thrown into the essence of the Black Racer by the Anti-Monitor; and in this issue, Shazam becomes “God of Gods” by the ‘essences’ of innumerable “gods” fighting for use of his body as a corporeal vessel to physically manifest their might. The only members of the Justice League that have thus far avoided godhood are Hal Jordan, Power Ring and Cyborg (with Wonder Woman already being a God of War by virtue of inheriting the mantle after killing Ares). I am not sure exactly what rules Johns is playing by as he plots this storyline where New Genesis/Apocolips mythology is concerned. Readers of Brian Azarello’s Wonder Woman run know that under Amazonian Greek mythology, if you kill a God, you become the God you kill (hence the reason that Wonder Woman assumed the mantle of God of War after slaying Ares, and why she has more in common with Darkseid’s daughter Grail than simply an Amazonian heritage).
Based on this information, it would be logical to assume that since the Anti-Monitor killed Darkseid, he now possesses Darkseid’s status and power set. But wait! Johns throws the reader a curve-ball that potentially disrupts this assumption. And that curve-ball goes by the name of Lex Luthor! Having been transformed by dark energies into the God of Strength, Superman banishes Lex to the barren lands of Apokolips where he is captured by Ardora, leader of the Forgotten People. She references a prophecy that describes an “orphan” and “humble son of a farmer” who seeks “truth”, embodies “justice” and who will bring “hope” to Apokolips. She asks Luthor if he is this person and naturally he says “Yes, I am”. If Ardora suspects any deception in her captive, it does not concern her because fate decrees that Apokolips’ ‘new’ hero will be bombarded by the Omega Effect, which was unleashed upon Darkseid’s death; and will ultimately return to encapsulate its purported messiah. Suffice to say, the Omega Effect bombards Luthor and he becomes a ‘god’ in his own right. Exactly what effect this has on Luthor’s actions and whether or not he chooses to become the ‘hero’ of the prophecy, (or the antithesis of it) remains to be seen. Since the prophecy clearly referenced Superman, how inclined will Luthor be to fulfill it? Luthor has always thought humanity to be over-reliant on Superman and has been jealous of his accomplishments. Now that he has ‘stolen’ the mantle of savior from his old nemesis, how will he rule the denizens of Apokolips? The Forgotten People long for a savior to give them ‘hope’. Will they actually find their hero in Lex Luthor?
On another front, Batman reveals to Hal Jordan that a further effect of Darkseid’s passing is the fleeing of his Parademons into the universe, desperately seeking a new power source. The wandering diaspora of Parademons are creeping toward Oa, the ‘Brightest light in the Universe’, like moths to a flame. The threat to the planetary headquarters of the Green Lantern Corp is obvious and the multi-universal stakes are raised even higher as a result.
Not to be outdone (or out run as the case may be), Barry Allen struggles desperately to prove that it’s possible to stay one step ahead of death. It is hard to imagine how the Flash will get out of this predicament. As Mister Miracle states, the Black Racer is an ‘aspect’ of death that was previously Darkseid’s greatest weapon. With Darkseid dead, the Black Racer can only be communicated with by anchoring him to a sentient host. Presumably, it was with this knowledge that the Anti-Monitor strategically ‘anchored’ the Black Racer to Flash (last issue) thereby severing Darkseid’s control. Ironically, it was only after severing Darkseid’s control over the harbinger of death that the Anti-Monitor was able to inflict death upon him. Unfortunately for the Flash, the cost of the Anti-Monitor’s victory is perpetual ‘flight’ away from the Black Racer aspect of his soul. Once a host is fused with the Black Racer, it is bound until death. If Mister Miracle could not escape the Racer, what chance does the Flash have?
The fanboy/girl moments just keep piling on in this series! The final page of this comic entices the reader to “Follow the Gods” into six one-shot comics over the next month; all of them under the primary heading “Darkseid War”. Individual issues will address this issues aftermath as it pertains to Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Superman, Shazam and Lex Luthor. This Big Event is simply too epic to be contained in the pages of Justice League.
I award this issue an 8/10.