Review: Justice League: The Darkseid War: Power of the Gods hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Geoff Johns's Justice League: The Darkseid War begins well, with plenty of action and revelations in its first part. Given what a widescreen romp the story seems to be, I was eager to dive in to the Darkseid War specials collected in Justice League: The Darkseid War: Power of the Gods, spotlighting the individual Leaguers. Not to mention that the book itself offers work from some of DC Comics's newest stable of heavy-hitters, including Peter Tomasi, Tom King, Steve Orlando, and Francis Manapul.

Unfortunately, having read the first half of Darkseid War and now this book, Power of the Gods emerges as rather unnecessary. There is Tom King's good Green Lantern story here with art by Doc Shaner, and Peter Tomasi gets to team up again with Detective Comics and Green Lantern Corps's collaborator Fernando Pasarin, but by and large the stories are ineffectual and reductive. It's admirable, perhaps, that DC makes these specials optional reading instead of stretching out Darkseid War over another dozen or so mandatory parts, but the pains to which the writers go not to overturn the main story's apple cart makes these stories rather simplistic. Honestly I wish I'd skipped these on my first read and only read them after I'd finished Darkseid War proper.

[Review contains spoilers]

A case in point here is Rob Williams and Jesus Merino's Flash special. The Flash begins the story having been merged with the Black Racer, spends a good part of the twenty-two pages fighting that merger, but then in the last two pages acquiesces. There's not a lot that happens or that we learn about the Flash here, and it's all for naught anyway because Williams has to line up by the end with exactly the point of Darkseid War that he launched from. It's hard to tell in the conclusion if Flash Barry Allen has to let go of the memory of his late mother or if he's admitting that his own life basically ended when his mother died; either way, we also know none of this momentousness will touch the Flash series itself, so we're left with the sense that none of this matters within the story nor without. That's not the best way to spend your $3.99.

Francis Manapul's Superman and Lex Luthor specials are equally troubled. In the former, we see a rougher Superman knock around Metropolis for a while before we get a bare hint of his old personality emerging, a mundane paint-by-numbers story that's hampered further by Manapul's writing Perry White out of character and artist Bong Dazo's off-model Jimmy Olsen. The Lex Luthor story jumps ahead of where Justice League Vol. 7: Darkseid War Part 1 ends, confusingly; Manapul's flashbacks to Luthor's early life are cliched -- we've seen "kid having to climb out of well" too many times now -- and also specifically contradict what we've seen of this Luthor and Superman in the New 52 Action Comics. Dazo ends the book with two splash pages and one double-page splash, which again brings to question the page-by-page value for the price here.

Slightly better off is Tomasi and Pasarin's teaming, which at least gets this classic partnership back in play. Like the others, Tomasi pretty much puts things back as they were over the course of the story, but it's clever how Tomasi puts a new spin on the classic Batman #47 Joe Chill story against the Darkseid War backdrop. And while the Shazam book is nicely drawn by Scott Kolins, Steve Orlando spends perhaps too many pages explaining Billy Batson's new pantheon in excruciating detail; this will all be very interesting if it actually becomes a lasting part of the Shazam mythos, but rather meaningless if it does not.

Best in the book is Tom King and Doc Shaner's Green Lantern story, one worthy of "best of" Hal Jordan compilations. Indeed the story has perhaps the book's biggest reset button, being no more consequential than any other special here, but King excels at establishing cosmic life or death stakes quickly, and balances action and theological insight throughout. A story need not be consequential, but it does need good storytelling. In a book about superheroes -- essentially the demi-gods of myth -- become gods themselves, King's special delivers the book's theme, that the power is in the mortal individual to act and not in the divine to observe. Shaner shines here with retro-style gritty art, somewhere between Darwyn Cooke and Omega Men's Barnaby Bagenda, perfect for pairing with King.

In the latter half of Darkseid War I am hoping for, among other things, Geoff Johns to add more personal interaction between the Leaguers, resolving some of their interpersonal issues as befits the end of the New 52 series. I had hoped Justice League: The Darkseid War: Power of the Gods might begin that process at least a little with its focus on the individual heroes, but it does not; I can't say this book offers much to bolster the Darkseid War story itself.

[Includes original covers, character sketches]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Justice League: The Darkseid War: Power of the Gods
Author Rating
2 (out of 5)
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2 comments:

  1. King's special was one of the things I used to confirm that I wasn't deluding myself about him, that he really was as awesome as Omega Men made him seem. He's got a big, big future, and we're still seeing only the tip of the iceberg...

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    Replies
    1. Seems like some pretty wild stuff happening in Batman. And if Mister Miracle lives up to its own hype, that sounds like the next Omega Men.

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