Monday, November 23, 2015

Review: Justice League #45 ("The Darkseid War" Pt. 5)

Don't worry; that's just The Flash talking not...that one TV character who used to say that line a lot.

Previously, in "The Darkseid War"...

Justice League #41 ("The Darkseid War" Pt. 1)

Justice League #42 ("The Darkseid War" Pt. 2)

Justice League #43 ("The Darkseid War" Pt. 3)

Justice League #44 ("The Darkseid War" Pt. 4)

The first casualty of "The Darkseid War" is artist Jason Fabok, who drew his last chapter last month, the fourth issue of the story arc (and the one with the first major in-story casualty). He is replaced this month by the excellent Francis Manapul, working with his long-time collaborator Brian Buccellato (who co-colors Manapul's art).

As jarring as it can be when artists are switched out mid-story arc like this, DC does seem to have been somewhat methodical about this move, as this issue is the beginning of "Act Two" of "The Darkseid War," picking up after the death of Darkseid last issue.

Manapul coming on board gives Justice League something the title hasn't really had yet: Good art. So far, everyone whose drawn the title has been popular, and, in all honesty, some of them have had a great deal of talent, but none have been as all-around good at telling a story visually in the comics medium as Manapul is. Thus far, Justice League has been a showcase for DC's star artists, some of whom are also fairly good at drawing comic books (Ivan Reis springs most immediately to mind), but none of whom would really generate cartwheels from a harsh critic of the form.


Here's a pretty good example of Manapul's strength. There are once again some rather random-looking shapes on the cover, but, for the first time, it's quite clear that they aren't that random, but are meant to suggest the shapes of Jack Kirby's design work. This one, in fact, looks to be based on the Greek letter "omega," associated with Darkseid, with Kirby's god of evil blocking out part of the omega's arc.

The images, on the other hand, are pretty much random: There's Wonder Woman, wearing a different costume than she's worn throughout "Darkseid War," with a pair of axes; there's Mister Miracle, trapped in some sort of elaborate super-shackle restraints; there's Darkseid looming up behind him.

The colors are pretty nice; I like the way Wonder Woman's red top seems to glow, and how the blank white of the letter/shapes contrasts so strongly with everything around them, so that they seem to glow even brighter than Wondy's luminescent armor.


A very deliberate, very dramatic opening to this next phase of the fairly huge story arc. The first page features three horizontal panels. The first of these is solid black, with a little "PING" sound effect. The second black with what appears to be red blood splattered upon it. The third black with even more blood splatter, and and a tail-less dialogue balloon: "Something is very, very wrong."

The second page is a splash, the whole page solid black save for a big red omega symbol dripping blood. The title and credits appear beneath it, informing us that we have no entered "ACT TWO" of "The Darkseid War."

The third page has four horizontal panels, each a close-up of a different characters face. Batmetron steeples his fintertips and says "Darkseid" in New New God font. Photo Negative Superman, here looking like he's made of hollow ruby and lit within, saying "Is" in New New God font. A panel of Darkseid, his stone face smashed open and leaking pink energy and Kirby dots, as if he were a piece of pottery thrown to the ground, saying nothing (because he's dead). And then a close-up of Wonder Woman's face, looking down and saying "Dead." It's raining behind her, and she starts to narrate about gods and stuff, as she's done off and on throughout the story. It's not important; you could lose her narration and you wouldn't lose anything in terms of story-telling.


A double-page splash; clearly all these splashes were in the story so far because writer Geoff Johns was putting them there, not because previous artist Jason Fabok was asking for them.

Here we see the broken, lava-leaking body of Darkseid in the immediate foreground, with Mister Miracle kneeling just above him, his little flying discs now enlarged so that he can kneel upon them while still floating, rather than just standing on them to whiz around on.

The Leaguers who were at the site of the battle are still lined-up behind him. Power Ring (who clearly survived trying to push Darkseid and The Anti-Monitor apart after all), Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman (wearing her "Darkseid War" costume, rather than the costume on the cover; her right wrist-band, which was destroyed in a previous issue, is back), Cyborg and Captain Marvel Shazam.

Miracle's Mother Box confirms that Darkseid is indeed dead, while Shazam fills us in on the fact that The Anti-Monitor and his forces (Grail and a bunch of Shadow Demons) disappeared.

From off-panel, the white print on a black, red-encircled dialogue balloon that indicates a New New God is speaking asks, "Did I do that?" the inflection perfectly capturing that of a catch-phrase from an old TV show I wish I had never seen so I would not be thinking of it now while reading about the death of Darkseid.


The speaker is shown; it's The Flash, now in his new Black Racer hybrid form, floating high above the ground. As we saw last issue, The Flash did do that. After Darkseid summoned death itself, his ultimate weapon, The Anti-Monitor fused it with The Flash, and then shot The Flash through Darkseid, killing him.

Mister Miracle tries to parse things to make The Flash feel better, telling him that it wasn't The Flash who killed Darkseid, but The Black Racer.

Flash doesn't seem too terribly troubled. He summons a scythe made out of lightning, akin to the one he was holding las tissue, and announces that he doesn't want to "escape" death, but control it. There's an extreme close -up of his eyes, and text announces his new role in the series: "The Flash: God of Death."
You know, "The Flash" isn't a very good name for a god of death. Maybe he should still go by The Black Racer? Or at least The Black Flash?

The basic format of this last panel will repeat a few times in the following pages, as four more Justice Leaguers will officially be promoted to New Godhood, although we've already seen two of them ascend in previous chapters.


Back on Apokolis, Photo Negative Superman continues to be a Super-dick to Lex Luthor. He informs his arch-enemy that Darkseid is dead, sorta, and while Luthor tries to tell him that the energy from the Fire Pits threaten to destroy his cells, Superman's all like "Whatevs." He tears off Luthor's power armor, threatens him that if he ever returns to Earth he will end up like his armor and then flies off, leaving beat-up Luthor to his fate.

At the bottom of page eight, there' sa close up of Photo Negative Superman's eyes, with the words "SUPERMAN: God of Strength."

I find this idea of the Justice Leaguers ascending to godhood in order to form a new pantheon a good one, but by tying the concept to the New Gods, and making them New New Gods raises some questions. In particular, it seems curious that they are being given particular roles–god of this, god of that–when the New Gods themselves never really had such roles assigned to them.

PAGES 10-11

There's no caption to announce it, but we're back on Qward, where Bat-Mobius and Green Lantern Hal Jordan were investigating the origin of The Anti-Monitor, and discovered that he was a dude named Mobius who fused with The Anti-Life Equation itself (which he announced while killing Darkseid).

Manapul and his co-colorist Brian Buccellato are doing a hell of a job on this issue. I like how the white of Hal's boots and gloves glow in the establishing shot; remember, Hal's costume is simply a hard-light construct. Treating it as such in a live-action movie may look hella-dumb, but it can look kinda cool when the right artists render it as such in a comic book.
Batman announces the death of Darkseid, and that they can give up their investigation, while a panel announce him as "The God of Knowledge." Hal disagrees, but upon touching the chair gets a scary vision of a bunch of New 52 Parademons. Batman tells GL the premise of his upcoming tie-in one-shot: "Without Darkseid, The Parademons are without their leader...and like the insects they are, they're drawn to...the brightest light in the universe."

Batman then Boom Tubes away, leaving GL to tend to the events on Oa (see Justice League: The Darkseid War: Green Lantern #1 for how that all pans out).

PAGES 12-15

Back on Apokolips, some Mad Max looking people throw a bunch of Lobo hooks around Luthor. One takes off her hood and scarf to reveal a lady with short red hair who introduces herself as "Ardora...Leader of The Forgotten People.."
That name will likely sound familiar to long-time DC fans with very good memories. Like Geoff Johns, for example.

Introduced in a 1983 Superman comic by Edmond Hamilton, Cary Bates and Curt Swan, the original Ardora hailed from the planet Lexor, where Superman was regarded as an evil villain and Lex Luthor was regarded as the greatest hero. In fact, in pre-Crisis continuity, she would even marry Lex and have a child with him.

That was like a half-dozen continuity reboots ago, however, so this Ardora is, for all intents and purposes, a brand-new character, albeit a bit of an Easter Egg for the Geoff Johns-types in the reading audience.

New 52 Ardora says a few dialogue balloons about a great hero from a place called Metropolis that sounds an awful lot like she's talking about Superman, but when she asks Luthor "Are you this man?" Luthor naturally responds in the affirmative.


Power Ring tries to talk sense to The Black Racer/Flash, and he starts arguing with himself; he speaks in a New God dialogue bubble about how awesome death is, but then a normal black type on white bubble voice, that of Barry Allen, chimes in with "This isn't right." Barry's voice tells The Black Racer that he's going to try and outrun death. Can he do it?! See Justice League: The Darkseid War: The Flash #1 to find out!


But wait, there are still more New New Gods to come! Shazam is in the middle of a sentence when he starts leaking lightning, and variously colored and shaped tailless dialogue balloons appear around him, saying cryptic things, like "HE WILL BE MY VESSEL." and "He will burn, like all Martians."

A close up of his eyes is accompanied by the words "SHAZAM: God of Gods."

That...well, I'm pretty sure it's meant to mean that his sphere of influence is gods in the same way that, say, Ares' sphere of influence is war or Thor's is storms, but it sounds like he's the chief god, the god that other gods worship. Kind of like how Jesus is the king of kings, you know?

He bolts too, and Wonder Woman is in the middle of telling the few that are left that they need to split up and follow them both when a voice from off-panel announces the fact that Darkseid's posse is apparently still hanging out, and have just been, like, really quite for the last few pages.


It's Kalibak and Krew! "You have problems of your own," the blinded giant says, while Kanto, Lashina and Steppenwolf pose behind him on this splash page.

PAGES 19-22

Luthor is hooked up to some big Kirby machines by Ardora, who explains that when Darkseid died his Omega Effect was unleashed, and return to Apokolips, where they planned to contain it in Luthor. THere's a three panel break to show Griff, Myrina Black and Grail posing together and regarding a big energy Easter egg decorated by horned demons. "He's becoming Mobius," Black says of The Anti-Monitor. "And then I will get what I want," Grail answers cryptically.

And Luthor announces that "Darkseid is Dead," in New New God font, "Long live LEX LUTHOR."

On page 22, a splash page, Luthor is revealed to now have gray skin, black eyes with bright red pupils and a bit of cragginess around the eyes and lips. He looks like a Darkseid-ized Luthor, basically.
He's a New New God too, although his role is a bit more unexpected than that of the others: "Lex Luthor: God of Apokolips."

Oh snap! What happens next? A bunch of character-specific one-shots, that's what!

No comments: