The Darkseid War, continued in this September’s Justice League #44, is a beautiful contradiction. On the one hand, it is a seamless continuation of the series to date. Helmed by auteur Geoff Johns in collaboration with some of the industry’s top artistic talent, it has proven to be one of the most consistent series with regards to its quality of writing and art since the debut of the New 52 four years ago, behind only Snyder and Capullo’s Batman in such respects. Furthermore, it is clear that this was the direction which the story has always been heading in; plot points introduced in the very first arc of the series and built upon through such events as Trinity War and Forever Evil are finally seeing their payoff.
On the other hand, The Darkseid War represents a seismic tonal shift for the series. Unlike Snyder’s Batman or Johns’ own Green Lantern, Justice League began with a total reset to continuity and a fairly minimalist approach to story. The first arc, Origin, saw the first appearance of Darkseid in comics since Morrison’s seminal treatment of the character back in Final Crisis. What had once been the definitive villain in DC’s stable was reduced to a Power Rangers monster of the week. It set a precedent that the series continued to follow for years: as good as it was when considered in isolation, when compared to the rich mythology which had been built up over many long years prior to Flashpoint, Justice League had always borne the excruciating itch of an amputated limb.
Justice League post-Convergence is a return to form. It recaptures one of the heydays of DC’s publishing history, that period from 2005 to 2011 when reverence for the publisher’s history was channeled into modern classics. Events such as Infinite Crisis, 52, and Final Crisis built upon a generation’s worth of nostalgia for the works of Kirby and Perez. The thesis behind Morrison’s Batman was that every story since the character’s debut (and not merely those officially canonized in the post-crisis continuity) had actually happened. Johns’ modus operandi during his tenure on Green Lantern was to reintroduce and revitalize concepts from the character’s camp-filled Silver Age stories.
Now, after four long years, Johns is re-employing those storytelling techniques which first gained him acclaim. This began with the prologue to The Darkseid War, which for the first time placed the events of the New 52 in the wider context of the DC multiverse in all its permutations and iterations. The feeling one gets in reading these last few issues is that DC editorial has finally remembered who the target demographic of the title is. With the DC You initiative allowing more peripheral titles to cast wider nets over the blue ocean that is new and casual fans, titles such as Justice League are free to target the core audience that built up DC’s business for the past several decades.
Issue #44 is a particularly strong entry in the strongest arc of the series to date. One memorable highlight is a set of biting remarks between frequent foils Bruce Wayne and Hal Jordan, one of their most antagonistic dialogues since Frank Miller had Bats paint himself yellow and drink lemonade. Another is Barry Allen’s alarming apotheosis, which revisits a relationship between him and a certain entity last touched upon in Johns’ Flash: Rebirth.
The artwork is gorgeous per usual for this series. No one draws hair quite like Fabok, and his accuracy of anatomy and depiction of muscles is equaled by few others. After effects such as motion blur are employed frequently throughout, but rarely over used, and Fabok demonstrates a mastery of traditional techniques as well, such as in Darkseid’s Omega Beams or the Anti-Monitor’s antimatter blasts. Just as importantly, he knows precisely when to utilize computer enhancements and when to stick to plain old pencils. It is a shame that the move away from the New 52 labeling and tone isn’t matched by a jettisoning of the armor costume redesigns in favor of the classic spandex and underwear, but the new digs each league member is receiving upon deification are visually striking at the least.