Review: Dark Crisis: Worlds Without the Justice League hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)


Blackest Night had seven collections in total; Dark Nights: Death Metal had five. So Dark Crisis is about average or maybe even less with four (five if you count the Flash book). But worryingly, I’ve read two of the tie-in volumes so far, Dark Crisis: Young Justice and now Dark Crisis: Worlds Without a Justice League, and neither has convinced me they were necessary for the crossover as a whole.

The Young Justice tie-in wasn’t particularly well written, and for me Worlds didn’t add anything to the main story. That’s a shame, because I liked Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths, but the tie-ins so far have been the kind of fluff that gives event comics a bad name.

[Review contains spoilers]

The “Worlds Without” stories are the tales of the supposedly dead Justice Leaguers while they were actually trapped within Pariah’s custom dimensions, siphoning off their energies to resurrect his lost multiverse. That is, every one of these is a one-off “imaginary” story, not unlike Future State, except in Future State there was at least occasional promise of the stories tying back to the mainstream DCU. Also the Future State writers often had multiple issues to add detail to their tales; the “Worlds Without” are uniformly a scant 20 pages for the main story and 10 pages for the backup.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

The book begins better than it ends. For me, the best story was the first, powerhouse team of Tom King and Chris Burnham’s Superman story. You can almost hear “Father and Son” playing in the background as young Jon Kent grows increasingly disturbed by the super-sounds of interstellar conflict and Superman tries to keep him at home to preserve the peace. It’s a metaphor if not specifically for the generational tensions in the 1950s and 1960s then at least for coming of age and setting out on your own, and it’s the only of the “Worlds” stories I felt I wanted to see more of (including to learn what’s bothering King’s Lois Lane). Jon’s Super-Robin suit is inspired.

Also in the Worlds Without a Justice League — Superman book was Brandon Thomas' Aquaman story, rather his last word on Aquaman after a foreshortened run (see Aquaman: The Becoming). As is the case with too many of these “Worlds” stories, there’s not much to this one — just 10 pages of situation comedy and minor conflict. But what seems like Arthur and Mera preparing for daughter Andy’s wedding to Multiversity: Teen Justice’s Flash turns out to actually be Arthur’s Atlantean mother and (actually deceased) human father renewing their wedding vows. Buffeted by the Superman story, there’s enough cute moments in this one to win it my vote too.

Often what helps “imaginary tales” of these kinds is work by regular or upcoming creative teams, such that one can intuit some preview or meta-commentary on the character’s regular title. Green Lantern is, I think, the only one to get that, with Phillip Kennedy Johnson writing John Stewart ahead of Green Lantern: War Journal, with art by Fernando Blanco. Here’s a John Stewart story, well illustrated and using the definitive peaceful warrior characterization of John, and with rural sci-fi/horror elements like an M. Night Shyamalan movie.

Points too to Dan Watters' Martian Manhunter story, the backup in Worlds Without a Justice League – Wonder Woman. Again as with many of these, using the fact that the characters are within a dreamscape as the “surprise reveal” of the story falls flat given that the audience already knows it even if the characters don’t. But before the last two pages, the Manhunter story is creepy fun, J’onn as a detective among a post-human species, and with noirish art by Brandon Peterson and a selective color palette from Michael Atiyeh. Simon Spurrier and Ryan Sook’s main story in Worlds Without a Justice League — Batman, a cyberpunk tale of Batman vs. Bruce Wayne, also had standalone Elseworlds potential.

That’s five, leaving five less-poised stories to round out the book. Worlds peters out with the Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Zatanna stories; “Green Arrow” starts as a take on medieval Robin Hood (which wouldn’t, I don’t think, be Oliver Queen’s ideal world) but becomes a perplexing time-traveling meet-cute with a modern Black Canary — and then the backup story essentially does the same thing over again. “Zatanna” spends its 10 pages on a surface-level view of the character, as we’re reminded once again how Zatanna misses her father before the other Leaguers show up.

Nothing wrong with Tini Howard’s Wonder Woman story necessarily, and President Etta Candy has a ring to it, though it’s another of these stories where the surprise of the false world is just not that surprising. The book’s Hawkgirl story gets confused in Kendra Saunders' post-Dark Nights: Metal origins and too only reiterates the character’s best-known storylines without adding anything new.

Dark Crisis proper does show the Leaguers in their “Worlds”-specific costumes (and surely all of this is rife for McFarlane toys to make figures from). But only the Batman, Green Lantern, and Superman worlds get significant play in Dark Crisis, and I think it’s iffy whether the Superman story quite lines up. The context that Dark Crisis: Worlds Without a Justice League adds to the Batman and Green Lantern scenes is worthwhile (dig John Stewart’s apprentice Lanterns), but not worth the cost of the entire hardcover. I don’t begrudge DC their tie-ins, but something more interconnected — a la the regular series contributions in Dark Nights: Metal: The Resistance and Justice League: Death Metal — might’ve been preferable. Let’s hope Tales From Dark Crisis redeems the whole lot.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Rating 2.0

Comments ( 3 )

  1. Agreed, this one didn't feel essential and wasn't terribly interesting, either. And between this and Knight Terrors, DC is starting down an interesting road of event tie-ins that are dream sequences - that is, tie-ins that don't actually "happen." (Then again, Alan Moore might say, aren't they all...?)

    I did like the Superman one best of all. "Super-Dad" is one of the best developments to the character since I've been alive.


  2. I believe PKJ's Green Lantern entry's actually important -- at least less to this event and more to his current run on the John Stewart spinoff from Jeremy Adams' GL run.

    IIRC, there's stuff he set up here that started coming back into play in PKJ's backup feature in the main GL book.

    1. I am so glad to hear that; I liked the tone of the Green Lantern story, and it would help to redeem Worlds Without a Justice League a bit for me.


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