There is nothing new under the sun. Well, there isn’t anything new except for Darkseid. He was just born a few minutes ago, you see. Did you miss it? That’s understandable. There was so much confusion right after he died.
The Darkseid War has been a labor of love from Geoff Johns, surpassed recently only by this week’s DC Universe Rebirth #1 into which it directly feeds. Johns is certainly one of the most talented writers working at DC Entertainment, but his value to DC goes well beyond his creative skills. He probably understands the DC Universe, it’s history and ethos, on a deeper and more complete level than any creator now working. This isn’t always an advantage. His formidable comfort with and affection for the material sometimes allows him to indulge in baroque flourishes and intricate adornments that obscure the main thread of his story under multiple layers of impressive distraction.
His taste for complexity is given full rein as The Darkseid War comes to a close. In this issue Superwoman uses her newborn baby as a focus to rob the Justice League of the divine powers they obtained in the backwash of Darkseid’s death, only to be killed by Grail, Darkseid’s vengeful and none-too-sane daughter. The baby becomes the new host for Darkseid’s being, first as an adult then as an infant. Grail kills her mother, Myrina, and ends up fleeing with the infant dark god, but not before releasing Steve Trevor from the anti-life equation. It seems he was not the first man to set foot on Paradise Island, which is important to Grail for a reason that goes unexplained. Barda makes a pact with the cruise to come to the aid of Scott Free, at the cost of returning to Apokalips. Owlman and Grid seize the Mobius chair and flee. Luthor returns to Apokalips to lead a revolution. Jessica Cruz sacrifices herself, but manages only to kill Volthoom. She is then chosen as a Green Lantern as Volthoom’s cursed ring disintegrates.
Got all that? There will be a test.
Actually, it all comes down to something relatively simple, if very old. It is all about birth.
Darkseid is born again, as are the Justice League, although some undergo more obvious regeneration than others. The anti-life equation, the ultimate enemy of all birth, is defeated. Wonder Woman discovers she has a twin brother, Jason, the first man ever to set foot on the Amazons’ homeland. Apokalips experiences a political birth as Luthor puts on the symbol of hope (yes, THAT symbol) to lead a new movement. And even the mystery of the Joker’s constant returns is given some answer, as Batman reveals the Mobius chair told him there are three Jokers.
But the shadow of birth is death. Myrina, assassin of the Amazons, fulfills her poetic destiny by dying at the hand of a daughter she had shaped into an instrument of killing. Superwoman dies at the moment of her triumph. Superman learns he is dying. And Owlman and his ally Metron meet their doom from a mysterious being who seemingly disintegrates them effortlessly.
Why so much death in the wake of life? So that there might be life in the aftermath of death. So that there might be, yes, REBIRTH. Whether planned or not, THE DARKSEID WAR has become the prelude to Johns' next fugue. Or, more exactly, it is Johns launching of an fugue for others to take up. But the the themes of birth in a major key and death in a minor have been clearly sounded. The next chord begins the new symphony. And the first movement is DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH #1.