Every major comic book event likes to claim it’ll shake the foundations of this entire fanciful world to its core. Very few can claim they deliver on a consistent basis. Geoff Johns is one of the few who can make this claim, at least in the context of DC Comics. For the past decade, he has been the architect for many of the important upheavals in the DC Universe. He seems to bring a new upheaval every other year and Darkseid Wars is no exception.
This event is already shaking and shattering the foundations of the post-Flashpoint era of DC Comics. Darkseid is dead. Batman now sits on the Mobius chair. Lex Luthor now wields power, courtesy of the pits of Apokalipse and his unparalleled capacity for deceit. Wonder Woman now knows that Steve Trevor wasn’t the first man to visit Themyscira. Johns is putting every character in a position to reassess the fundamental nature of who they are. Some handle it better than others and for once, it’s not just Lex Luthor who lets his ego get in the way.
Justice League #50 is the culmination of all these factors on top of being the capstone to the New 52 era. It’s a lot to assess, reassess, and reconfigure. Events that started back in the Forever Evil event come into play. On paper, it seems impossible, juggling so many plots and making every outcome feel meaningful. In addition, this all has to be done in conjunction with the world from an inter-dimensional entity that already has one dead universe to its credit and a dead Darkseid as a bonus.
It’s the kind of massive threat that brings out the best and worst of the Justice League. In this case, Johns manages to highlight the best, minimize the worst, and complete the Darkseid Wars saga in a meaningful way. He once again proves himself a skilled juggler of all things DC Comics, but with Darkseid Wars, he sets himself apart from any street performer or circus act.
Darkseid Wars is an omega-level DC Comics spectacle and Justice League #50 acts as the finalé when all the fireworks goes off, all the dazzling lights shine, and everybody’s ears are left ringing in the best possible way. The Justice League doesn’t just come together like the scrappy underdog in every sports movie ever made. They navigate a vast, intricate conflict that begins with Forever Evil and ends here.
Like the finalé of any great spectacle, it gets pretty chaotic at times. Between Grail using Superwoman’s baby to channel the power of the New Gods and the Anti-Life Equation taking a new form, it’s like trying to keeping up with the Flash after he’s drunk a dozen cups of coffee, at times. However, Johns keeps things concise, using Wonder Woman as a narrator and an anchor for the plot. She provides the context for the emotional and dramatic breadth of the story and its a role she’s uniquely adept at.
This context is built around Grail and her connection to Wonder Woman’s homeland of Themyscira. The entire catalyst for Darkseid Wars begins and ends with the secrets and lies surrounding Themyscira, which have nothing to do with an illegitimate offspring of Zeus, for once. Grail acts as the ultimate disruption to the order these secrets and lies protect, not at all caring that parts of this order kept forces like Darkseid in check.
This helps make Grail the biggest star of this story. For most Darkseid Wars, she carries herself like the antithesis of Wonder Woman. In Justice League #50, she finally demonstrates a level of depth that makes her worthy of being the star rookie of DC Comics’ team of premier villains. What she does, how she does it, and how the Justice League opposes her bring out the potential that is undeniably present, but takes longer than expected to realize.
Grail and Wonder Woman help guide the narrative of Darkseid Wars to its conclusion. However, as strong as these characters and the surrounding spectacle are, there are times when it feels rushed. Johns avoids stumbling as he juggles so many plots and themes, but the story still gets ahead of itself, especially at the very climax of the battle. Jason Fabok’s art skills seem wasted with how quickly the dust settles. There’s a distinct lack of grit that keeps it from having the kind of visceral impact that separates great stories from iconic stories.
This rushed pacing extends to the aftermath and epilogues, as well. There are significant implications from the events of Darkseid Wars, but these implications are mostly reduced to teasers. These teasers are tempting and appealing in their own right, but they raise far more questions than they answer and these questions are of the frustrating kind.
This is especially true with the teasers surrounding Batman and Wonder Woman. The revelations they uncover raise more than a few eyebrows, but the impact is muted. This impact can certainly be explored in other comics, but it does little to improve the impact of Justice League #50. There are other developments, like those surrounding Jessica Cruz, that offer a more meaningful and immediate impact. Like most teasers though, it’s over too quickly.
The pace and polish in Justice League #50 keep Darkseid Wars from broaching that iconic status. It’s still a story that hits all the right notes, evokes the right drama, and balances the right themes. It just doesn’t fit together in a cohesive, comprehensive manner in the end. It’s a flavorful desert of sorts, being the Justice League story that caps off the New 52 era. It’s not completely filling, but it’s still very satisfying and previews the menu for DC Comics’ next big feast with Rebirth.