In Justice League #42, Geoff Johns develops the Darkseid War into a complex storyline with multiple interlocking plotlines and numerous interrelated characters. This goes well beyond the standards of a typical comic-book arc, even beyond what one would expect of one of Johns’ own famed epic narratives. In its dazzling spectacle and daring, even arrogant reach this story resembles a Jacobean masque, a sparkling, phantasmagoric entertainment encompassing the deeds of gods and designed for the amusement of kings. Johns’ audience aren’t kings (well, not many of us, anyway) but his tale certainly is about gods, specifically about the Old Gods and the New Gods. Or maybe even more accurately the Old Gods, the New Gods, and the Newer Gods to come.
This issue unfolds with three main loci of action. The first is the planet Apokalips, oddly enough the least active of all the venues in this particular instalment. Superman and Luthor have arrived there and are under the observation of Darkseid and his general, Steppenwolf. This is, presumably, the same Steppenwolf who was killed during Earth 2: World’s End, but Johns gives us no explanation. One mystery about the New Gods during the era of the New 52 is their exact nature. Are they singularities, with only one copy of each existing in all the multiverse? Or are the various New Gods one encounters avatars of ultimate realities beyond the normal planes of experience?
The same question might be asked of Scot Free, Mister Miracle, last seen in World’s End aboard a vessel escaping the doomed Earth 2. In Justice League, he has just managed to find Myrina Black, the target of Darkseid’s Furies. This encounter sets the stage for a stream of exposition, one of Johns’ traditional weaknesses as a writer. In this case, the backstory thus exposed is, it has to be admitted, extremely creative. We had already known that Myrina was once the assassin of the Amazons, and had given birth to Darkseid’s daughter, Grail, at the same time her queen was giving birth to Princess Diana, daughter of Zeus and the future Wonder Woman. In this issue, Myrina reveals the secret history of the Amazons. It turns out that the Old Gods created them to protect humanity, but they abandoned their duty, choosing to hide on Themyscira rather than protect the world. Myrina saw that the chief threat to the world was Darkseid, and calculated that the greatest threat to the Lord of Apokalips would be one of his own kin. Therefore she mated with him and bore his daughter. When the time was right, she sent Grail to find the creature who could destroy her father, the Anti-Monitor.
Meanwhile, the remainder of the Justice League and Grail face the Anti-Monitor himself. They are saved by the intervention of Metron, who we know from previous issues has a history with that being. Mobius transports them to safety in the Rock of Eternity. However, the New God of Knowledge has miscalculated, and finds himself bound by Diana’s Lasso of Truth and forced to confess that his power and knowledge arises from his chair. With no more ado, the treacherous Metron is dumped on the ground, and Batman ascends the chair. There is now a Newer God of Knowledge in the Multiverse.
Step by step, Johns is building toward the moment when the members of the Justice League must wrestle with godhood. Already, Batman has been graced, or cursed, with the knowledge of the Joker's true name, a piece of information he evidently found impossible to believe. As with all heroes, the Justice League will find that the greatest threat is not weakness, but power, and not necessarily the power of their enemies.