Review: Justice League Vol. 8: The Darkseid War, Part 2 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Geoff Johns fashions a high-action conclusion to his New 52 Justice League series with Justice League Vol. 8: The Darkseid War, Part 2. As a summer blockbuster, Johns's story is bar none, and artist Jason Fabok shines while Francis Manapul contributes a classy interlude. Wonder Woman takes center stage here, at the time ahead of her cinematic debut, and Johns does well by the character, up to and including how seamlessly she slips again into the role of the Justice League's leader.

As the end of the New 52 Justice League title, Johns's finale doesn't deliver everything I wanted. Resolution of some of Justice League's character arcs is there, but it's light. Johns dovetails this story into some of the exterior events in the DC Universe, but not as many as I might have liked. And for a writer known for creating villains as compelling as his heroes, Darkseid War's biggest shortfall is its bad guys, who're often evil just for the sake of being evil.

[Review contains spoilers]

Johns posits an interesting structure for the second volume of Darkseid War. At the point in which this story already spans ten issues, it's a handy narrative device to split these further into two-part arcs. Admittedly the two-part "Gods of Justice" is sooner parts seven and eight of Darkseid War -- the diptych doesn't really have its own arc or resolution -- but the two-part "After Death" is a bracing interlude with art by Francis Manapul.

Darkseid War as a whole is the crowning achievement of Jason Fabok's career so far, as I've said before, but Manapul (and with Brian Buccellato on colors) impresses in some very Kirby-esque sequences of circles and dots. I do understand why DC wanted to collect both of Manapul's issues #45-46 together -- if among other things to keep the first book entirely Fabok's -- but it does annoy slightly that the Justice League: Darkseid War: Power of the Gods tie-in book does not fit neatly between the two Darkseid War volumes, and instead has to be read after the first of Manapul's two parts in order to make sense.

Arguably Johns gives Superman and Batman outsized roles in the book, turning them both into gods, but it clears the way for Wonder Woman to step into the role of team leader. Steve Trevor is an odd inclusion in the book, especially when Leaguer Aquaman is wholly absent, but he provides a sounding board for Diana and contributes to the sense of this as "a Wonder Woman story." I thought Johns was wise in presenting Diana as both confident, but also admittedly worried by the challenge; there's also a superlative sequence where Johns recasts Wonder Woman's lasso not as a weapon for "interrogation," but as a tool to "help" people recognize their own natures.

Hinting at a renewed romance between Diana and Steve actually helps smooth over some of the transition to Wonder Woman's Rebirth stories; some of what happens between the two in Greg Rucka's Rebirth Wonder Woman doesn't make sense in the context of Superman and Wonder Woman in Superman: The Final Days of Superman, but comes off a bit more natural transitioning from here. Darkseid War further sets up Rebirth with questions about Diana's past, hints that Superman is ill, establishing Jessica Cruz as a Green Lantern, even giving the time-lost Wally West a line of dialogue.

Given all of that, and especially that Darkseid War closes with Batman considering the mystery of the three Jokers, I was surprised Johns didn't offer a tacit acknowledgment of Scott Snyder's Batman: Superheavy here, either that Bruce hasn't seen the Joker in a while (placing all of this before Batman: Endgame, hard as that would be to figure) or had just seen him (putting this after Batman: Bloom). Ditto I never got my scene of anyone welcoming Hal Jordan back to the League nor acknowledging his absence, and neither does Johns nod to all the contemporaneous months Hal spent running around in a trench coat.

I am disappointed we got nothing in the way of that Hal scene and that Aquaman is totally absent from this book beside a first-chapter, one-panel cameo; if Johns can negotiate the continuity hurdles to put Batman in the Mobius Chair the whole time, Aquaman should be easy lifting. Also Johns is weirdly agnostic about the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship that he himself started, having Diana call them basically "friends" when over in Superman/Wonder Woman Clark's about ready to propose (likely Darkseid War is meant to take place after Superman: Savage Dawn with simply no one talking about it). The book does end with Batman and Hal making the barest attempt at reconciliation, so at least Johns exits with a callback to how he entered, but again it's sparse all things considered.

Were this simply Johns's next Justice League epic to stand beside Justice League: Throne of Atlantis with more to come, I might have fewer quibbles -- though Atlantis's crazed, confused Ocean Master stands head and shoulders above villain Grail here, who seems to strive to do evil just because. Still, there's no question Geoff Johns delivers an action thrill-ride in Justice League Vol. 8: The Darkseid War, Part 2, with moments both shocking -- the death of Ultraman, an entropic shout-out to Crisis on Infinite Earths -- and rousing, like the arrival of the Green Lantern Corps's "thin green line." That shout-out to Infinite Crisis reminds me that Johns is at his best with stories more intimate, which Darkseid War was not; I'll be eager to see what Geoff Johns delivers with Doomsday Clock.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Justice League Vol. 8: The Darkseid War, Part 2
Author Rating
4 (out of 5)
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6 comments:

  1. Loved Part 1, felt a bit let down by Part 2, but enjoyed Power of the Gods enough to warrant purchasing it after a library read (rare for me; Parts 1 and 2 were straight up purchases). Thanks for the analysis and thoughts on all three, CE.

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  2. Great review have not read'ed this story arc yet but picking up Justice League The Darkseid War Omnibus once it comes out in October !!!

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  3. I was really let down by this second half of Darkseid War. It seemed that all the build-up from the first half just flamed out in the second, like Johns was sweeping everything aside to make room for Rebirth.

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    1. Glad you all enjoyed the reviews. Agreed this series didn't have everything I wanted, though certainly some bang-up moments. I'm surprised there's not more talk about this one given the very, very specific ties to Rebirth.

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  4. It was always my impression that Justice League existed at a slightly different continuity than the rest of the New 52. Clearly it was a springboard (hello, Superman/Wonder Woman), but like his Green Lantern, Johns wasn't horribly concerned about adhering to what everyone else was doing. He's a guy who has earned playing by his own rules, after all.

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    1. Yeah, I can appreciate that. But then again Johns sometimes gave a nod to continuity, brief mentions of the Court of Owls and such, and Darkseid war was such a sweeping story and did in the end point a finger at so much Rebirth material that came next, I'm surprised there wasn't an effort to fit it in more with the events of the day. But also, totally within the book, that no one ever said "Hey Hal, you're back! Sorry that fight with Wonder Woman made you have to leave" seemed to me an omission, and also the absence of Aquaman in the book's final story.

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