When I was much younger, my favorite bumper sticker read “Cthulhu for President! Why settle for the lesser of two evils?” In Justice League #41, Geoff Johns shows us a world riven between evils, and it is not an amusing sight. Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor have chosen Earth 0 as their battleground, and the Justice League is squarely between the two juggernauts. That, of course, was only to be expected given the lead up to this story, which is after all titled The Darkseid War. What was not to be expected was the care and detail and complexity with which Johns has described his fictional world and its denizens. This is probably Johns’ most promising work since the reboot of 2011.
It has to be said this is very much Johns’ universe. The setting he creates, for all its depth and sophistication, is jarringly out of sync with many other elements of the main DC continuity. There is no sign of the major plot developments that have recently rattled the Batman and Superman lines. The discontinuity with the events of Earth 2: World’s End is especially striking, as nothing revealed in this issue about the character of Scott Free, his history and recent activity fits at all with that weekly. I would take refuge in saying that is another universe, except that Scott Free is a New God, and the New Gods are singularities. Johns would seem to be a singularity in his own right, at least so far as the DCU (or I suppose we should say the DC You) is concerned.
Well, he is not quite unique. This is, in fairness, also Jason Fabok’s world, and Brad Anderson’s. Their art is dynamic and sharp, with clear lines and brilliant colors that help the eye travel through the constant, complex action. The layout consists largely of pages crammed with multiple panels indicating hectic, nearly overwhelming activity combined with strategic splash pages to indicate breathless, stunned pauses. Facial expression and body posture are all appropriate to events, once again helping the reader keep up with the story’s fevered pacing.
Much of that pacing is due to a social and psychological universe rapidly falling apart under the stresses of the invading evils. Johns skillfully suggests the existence of hidden fault lines along which the fictional realm is shattering. That the Luthor family occupies the intersection of several such lines is not surprising, but the precise nature of some of them certainly is. Others of these cracks were shown to us already in last month’s preview pages and in Justice League #40.
Johns does famously have his weaknesses, and they are on display here. He packs the page with dialogue and exposition, often at tiresome length. Worse, he does not play fair in his fight scenes, a problem also evident in Forever Evil. In one crucial sequence, the Justice League inexplicably allows an enemy to engage them one at a time. In another, Superman seemingly forgets he possesses super speed. It’s enough to make you break a tooth from grimacing in frustration.
Still, this potentially most consequential of stories is well begun. CONVERGENCE has come and, mercifully, gone. THE MULTIVERSITY was all very well, but had the distinct feel of a famous creator's oddball personal project. Here at last we may have a story that is worthy to carry the legacy of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS.