Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns are contemporaries, both industry veterans with decades of experience between them. And due to his accessibility, almost assuredly Johns is the more prolific and profitable of the two (though both number among the small handful of creators to actual reap fortune from writing comics). Furthermore, Geoff Johns has irrefutably proven himself a visionary in his own right, essentially rebuilding the Green Lantern franchise from the ground up and delivering the best run the Justice League has yet seen.
Nevertheless, it often seems as if Johns is pulling plot points directly from Morrison’s previously published works. The current Darkseid War arc alone is replete with evidence. The presence of the Anti-Monitor and the existential threat to the multiverse renders such another Crisis in all but name, the last of which was Morrison’s Final Crisis. Both The Darkseid War and Final Crisis feature not only the New Gods of Apokolips, but Darkseid’s demise specifically at the hands of the Black Racer via the Flash. A companion series to Final Crisis entitled Superman Beyond, also by Morrison, chronicled the team-up requisite to rescue reality, comprised first and foremost of Superman and Ultraman, among other allies. Likewise, this issue’s end promises to put together Superman and Ultraman in a coalition containing the Justice League and Crime Syndicate.
More direct and damning, however, is the similarities to Morrison’s seminal All-Star Superman. In both All-Star and Darkseid War, Lex Luther overexposes Superman to fatal levels of solar energies, the former via the Sun itself and the later in the solar pits of Apokolips. This in turn leads directly to cellular breakdown. The only distinction is who informs the Man of Tomorrow that he has none. Morrison has Dr. Leo Quintum explain, “Apoptosis has begun. Cell death. There can be only one outcome, even for you.” Alternatively, Johns has Batman growl (for when is Batman not growling), “That energy is breaking down your cellular structure. You’re dying, Superman.”
Did Johns think that no one would notice? Perhaps he regards it as homage, or endemic to the derivative and cyclical nature of the medium, or even extreme coincidence resulting from working from similar inspirations and on the same set of well-defined characters. Or most likely of all, it’s an extension of his modus operandi, which had been to reintroduce and revitalize characters and concepts from the camp-filled Silver Age, seen most clearly in his work on Green Lantern and Aquaman. Perhaps such revamping now includes populist treatments and translations of previously high concept comics. After all, I doubt John’s version of the team-up between Superman and Ultraman will see their immaterial essences fused together in a new type of fusion, their mutual annihilation producing an energy capable of being received on a higher (metafictional) plane of reality.
None of which is to say that The Darkseid War as a whole or issue #47 in particular in in any way lacking. Regardless of the extent to which Johns borrowed from Morrison or both borrowed from a common source, the arc and the issue when read now in isolation stand among DC’s best offerings. In fact, considering the relative weakness of the Superheavy arc in Snyder’s Batman at the moment, Johns’ Justice League is arguably their best title on the shelves these last few months. You wouldn’t even catch me complaining if Johns started outright stealing from Morrison unabashedly. Let’s bring on for the next arc the League’s newest member, Flex Mentallo, Man of Muscle Mystery!
Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson continue to produce the most beautiful interiors of any comic since Sandman Overture came to a close. Issue #47 lacks the grand set pieces and splash pages of previous instalments wherein the Anti-Monitor clashed with Darkseid or the latter’s death, but nevertheless the art aggrandizes the comparatively small moments through its epic visuals. Green Lantern’s confrontation with Batman is all the more humorous accompanied by the former’s mockery of the Mobius chair, a hard light construct of a Lazy-Boy recliner, replete with potato chips and a beer can.
Likewise, the fight between Superman and Wonder Woman, brief though it may be, benefits greatly from the verisimilitude with which Fabok renders both characters. Somewhere out in some Platonic realm or collective unconscious exists the ideal image of Superman, how he’s always appeared since before such even entered the imaginations of Siegel and Shuster; it is a face which all men have always known, yet no artist (aside, of course, from Alex Ross) has quite so closely captured as has Fabok. I’ve never commissioned an artist for a work before, but Fabok finds himself at the top of my list (those shopping for my birthday present, take note).
Justice League as a whole, from the first issue to its most recent, can be viewed as a four-year long event that’s only been gaining steam in the lead up to issue #50. The Darkseid War is Johns best work since Blackest Night, and issue #47 stand among the better issues in the arc. That alone should speak volumes to the quality work, regardless of its originality. Combined with Fabok’s flawless art, and Justice League is easily DC’s best ongoing series of late, and one of the best books from any publisher overall.