The Darkseid War Part 1 keeps Justice League at the forefront of “big hero” comic book storytelling. The collected edition is now available.

In The Darkseid War, the Justice League finds itself in the crossfire of a brewing conflict between two insanely powerful villains. In one camp is arch-villain Darkseid and his legions of assassins, parademons and various brutal minions. In the other is the Anti-Monitor, a being of incredible destructive power (revealed as the entity that laid waste to Earth 3 in Forever Evil) determined to kill Darkseid.

Central to the conflict is Grail, the deadly daughter of Darkseid. Raised by her mother (a renegade Amazon) for the purpose of killing her father, Grail is crucial in leading the Anti-Monitor to Earth for an epic showdown with Darkseid. Also drawn into the conflict are other New Gods, including Mister Miracle, the son of Highfather who was raised on Apokolips under Darkseid’s thumb, who brings crucial information to the Justice League, and the mysterious, untrustworthy Metron, the “god of knowledge” whose destiny seems inextricably linked to the conflict between the immensely powerful titans. The first part of the saga wraps on a cliffhanger, with one of the chief combatants apparently slain.

Geoff Johns had finally hit his Justice League stride with previous arc The Amazon Virus. With The Darkseid War Part 1, he amps up all the good things from that run and comes up with the best story that this volume of the franchise has produced. The stakes are cosmic and the action is big-screen in the best way. The League gets into the thick of the battle between the villains and Johns shows them really struggling. It’s great to see the writer give his team a true challenge, but it’s also gratifying how Johns uses the plot to explore various facets of the characters.

Wonder Woman takes a spotlight in The Darkseid War, serving as narrator. Johns zeroes in on the central conflict of the Amazon princess, between peace and war, without being mawkish or clichéd. Johns uses some cannily-selected character pairings, such as Superman/Lex Luthor and Batman/Green Lantern, to illuminate interesting corners of well-known personalities. He’s also unafraid to put the cast through the wringer. By the cliffhanger, Batman, Superman and Flash have all endured startling transformations. Johns does a nice job with Mister Miracle, finding a fresh angle on the well-worn character and integrating him into the cast smoothly. Grail and her mother also make for fascinating antagonists. Johns doesn’t skimp on other nice character moments, even for cast members not in the spotlight (a couple of strong panels devoted to Shazam and Captain Cold, respectively, pack a lot of punch). He also works in some nice beats of suspense, as the heroes begin to piece together the varied elements driving the conflict. This is the kind of epic, classic super-team action fans want from Justice League.

Jason Fabok had impressed with his inaugural Justice League arc, but he takes a big leap forward in The Darkseid War. His character and design work are absolutely stunning. He updates familiar characters in interesting ways and infuses a lot of dynamism, energy and style into his pages. His layouts are unfussy, focusing on the best configuration to sell the drama of the action-intensive story. He crafts several beautiful, memorable images. Especially impressive is a two-page spread of the heroes enduring the fallout of a furious clash between Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor; it crackles with energy and practically leaps off the page. Colorist Brad Anderson (with an assist from Alex Sinclair) does some amazing work that really enhances the power and drama of Fabok’s art. Anderson employs a varied palette that fits each phase of the story ideally, really putting a high class gloss on the book’s visual presentation. Lettering often gets overlooked, but the work Rob Leigh does in this arc is quite impressive, providing crucial support that helps maintain the high graphic standards. This team makes Justice League one of the best looking books on the shelves right now.

The Darkseid War Part 1 provides the kind of high octane, big concept team action you want from a book like this. It’s really great work and worth seeking out.

Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on March 24, 2016.

Author (Grievous Angels) and pop culture gadabout #amwriting

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