Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison are probably the two most famous writers of DC’s modern age, barring only Scott Snyder. Yet, the two are very different in style, emphases, and interests. Morrison is famous for his philosophical musings about the nature of comics and narrative, about the nature of literary reality itself. Johns, on the other hand, is the foremost practitioner of the traditional superhero epic, the steady hand on the tiller that has guided the DCU through drama, controversy, and crises of all various descriptions. Thus, it is very strange but extremely gratifying to see Johns take a flying leap into Morrisonian clouds in Justice League 40, as he meditates on the nature of the literary events that have shaped and reshaped the DCU over the last thirty years.
The extremely self-aware theme of this issue is that the constant destruction and reforming of the universe, and the multiverse, has weakened the fabric of reality. One more such wave of destruction is coming, in the form of a conflict between Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor, and that wave might erase the multiverse forever. One is reminded of the expository portions of The Multiversity, Morrison’s current opus, or the implications of Convergence, the ongoing DC event to which Johns actually nods. It seems that now, in the thirtieth year since Crisis on Infinite Earths first unleashed the wave of multiversal restructuring, DC has become somewhat obsessed with the idea of comic book worlds and their reality, or lack thereof.
DC has also become obsessed with themes of family and, especially children. We have seen that in Wonder Woman, Animal Man, Batman and Robin, Nightwing/Grayson, and other titles. Here we have the story of the Pact between High Father and Darkseid, the deal which averted war for a time by arranging for the two rulers to exchange sons. This is reinforced by the Justice League portion of Divergence, DC’s Free Comic Book Day offering. These pages tell the story of Grail, Darkseid’s daughter, born to an Amazon assassin on the same day as Diana’s birth, and of her hatred for her father, a hatred that leads her to form an alliance with the Anti-Monitor.
DC’s final obsession is with identity, and that promises to be an especially complicated subject in this arc. It appears that before Metron, the New God of amoral knowledge, possessed his miraculous Mobius Chair it belonged to another, appropriately called Mobius. And it seems that when he gave up the chair he took a new identity, that of the Anti-Monitor. Mobius, of course, brings to mind a Mobius Loop, a geometric form with neither beginning nor end, twisted in the shape of an infinity symbol. The multiverse, Johns seems to say, is caught in an infinity loop of destruction and creation. And what of the Anti-Monitor? Is he caught as well in a life-path that has no beginning and no end? One suspects that this will be a key revelation during the coming Darkseid War.
Johns has set his stage with precision and art, and his players are assembled. The man who wrote INFINITE CRISIS and FLASHPOINT seems poised to give us the story that TRINITY WAR did not really aspire to, and that FOREVER EVIL failed to become. Johns has been called the main architect of the DC Universe, but with the coming of the New 52 it seemed as if his assured guidance had faltered. Now he has a chance to firmly reclaim that role, with a tale that proudly and unashamedly seizes on the deepest themes of the current DCU. The universe will be saved in the end, of that we are certain. But nothing else is sure, and that may well be the magic of the DARKSEID WAR.