Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE: ROAD TO DARK CRISIS #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writers: Joshua Williamson, Jeremy Adams, Chuck Brown, Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Stephanie Phillips
Artists: Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Rosi Kampe, Fico Ossio, Leila Del Duca, Clayton Henry
Colours: Hi-Fi, Matt Herms, Sebastian Cheng, Jordie Bellaire, Marcelo Maiolo
Letters: Josh Reed
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Justice League: Road to Dark Crisis #1: The Justice League has tragically fallen in battle, and now we see the aftermath. How does the world react to the Justice League being gone? Which heroes rise up…and which villains try to take advantage? And what dark forces are lying in wait to attack? An all-star roster of DC talent showcases a world without a Justice League and sets the stage for next month’s Dark Crisis event!
In preparation for the imminent Dark Crisis event, DC brings us an anthology of stories leading into Dark Crisis #0. Despite the title, the Justice League does not actually appear in these stories, but their presence, or rather their absence, hangs over the book. This is because the stories are set shortly after the events of Justice League #75, in which the League apparently died. This sets the scene for this collection of stories that offer some teases about Dark Crisis.
The first story features a Nightwing and the newly minted Superman, Jon Kent. Jon seeks out Dick to ask him to eulogize the fallen Leaguers at a memorial, which leads into a conversation. Dick seems rather unfazed by the apparent deaths of the Leaguers. Dick tells Jon of the times when both Batman and the original Superman had previously died, but later returned.
This reflects what many readers will be thinking. Nearly all of the heroes who died in Justice League #75 have done so before. As the joke goes, “No one stays dead in comics except Barry Allen, Jason Todd, and Bucky”. So why should we care this time? Williamson has the span of this event to sell us on caring, but Jon manages to get through to Dick in this story. And Dick comes to realize that whether or not the League returns, it’s incumbent on the younger heroes to step up during their absence.
Dick mentions one thing that I find intriguing. He says, “I remember how much Barry’s death impacted Wally. But sometimes I think Barry coming back hurt him more…”. The hurt of losing Barry was a major part of Wally’s coming of age story arc. But how has his return hurt Wally? I wonder if this is something that Jeremy Adams will be picking up on in The Flash, which is slated to tie into Dark Crisis.
Speaking of which, Jeremy Adams writes the second story which features the Flash and Kid Flash. It begins with Iris West coming to her nephews, worried about Barry’s disappearance. Barry wasn’t with the fallen Leaguers, but readers of Infinite Frontier and Justice League Incarnate will know that Barry’s disappearance is connected to the overall Dark Crisis story. DC’s solicits indicate that the search for Barry will be taking place in the pages of The Flash.
Like Dick in the first story, Wally seems unfazed by the League’s apparent death or Barry’s disappearance. We see him keeping Wallace’s spirits up as they deal with a rash of villains taking advantage of the League’s absence. Wally reminds us, “That’s why I joke. I smile. I’ the ‘hope’ guy…”. However, when he’s alone, he takes a sombre moment to reflect in front of a statue of Barry. And he adds, “It doesn’t mean it hurts less. When one of us dies… disappears… It just means their sacrifice… my heroes’ sacrifice… is more than just a moment in time”.
This makes an important point about this story. We as readers know that the League will inevitably return. But while many of the DCU characters strongly suspect it, they can’t know it for sure. As far as they know, they will each face a final death from which there is no return. And they don’t know for sure that this isn’t the case this time.
The next story features Green Lantern Hal Jordan and former Aqualad, Jackson Hyde. Hal is returning from space and teams up with Jackson to confront an alien threat. It’s from Jackson that Hal learns about the fall of the Justice League. Hal doesn’t have much time to process the news while dealing with the alien, but he does state afterward, “I’m going to find out about what happened to the League”.
Hal is in a somewhat unique position in the overall story. With the League apparently dead and Barry missing, Hal is the only core member of the team remaining. I wonder if this will give him some survivor’s guilt for not being with them when they fell. I suspect that he will become something as a mentor figure to the younger heroes that step up to fill the void the League has left. We already see a hint of that when he tells Jackson, “Listen, you and other young heroes will need to step up. The world needs all of you right now”. I really like the idea of Hal in such a role and I think it could add some dimension to the character.
Next, we get a story relating to how Pariah got seduced by the Great Darkness. This does fill in a bit of backstory but doesn’t seem to give too much concrete information. However, I am struck by Pariah stating “this multiverse may be a false one”. I wonder what exactly he means by this. Is he implying that the current DCU Multiverse is not the original? Infinite Frontier and Justice League #75 did show us a dead Multiverse. Was that the original Multiverse? I expect we will be learning more as Dark Crisis progresses.
The final series focuses on the villainess Nocturna. Following her recent stint in the Suicide Squad, she attempts to return to a life of crime by robbing a museum. However, she is stopped by Batgirl Stephanie Brown. During their talk, it seems as if Nocturna’s heart isn’t really in the robbery, but she does seem to be seeking some sort of challenge or meaning.
After Stephanie departs, Firefly appears with an offer to join a new incarnation of the Secret Society of Super Villains. He tells her, “We have a plan, Nocturna… and it’s much bigger than Gotham”. Clearly the Society and their plan will feature large in Dark Crisis. But will Nocturna join them? I suspect we will be seeing the Society from Nocturna’s viewpoint, and that she will play a pivotal role in the story. But will it be as a hero or a villain?
These stories are written by some of DC’s hottest writers, but it also features some of DC’s hottest artists and some up-and-coming talents. We see a wide variety of artistic styles, which nicely reflects the similar variety in the wider DC line of titles. I especially liked Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund’s splash page featuring Jon and Dick leaping into action with the images of Superman and Batman pictured above them. And I really dig Fico Ossio’s rendition of Hal Jordan.
One could complain that we don’t learn much concrete information in this anthology. However, the purpose of this book is to tease the Dark Crisis event rather than to serve as the opening chapter. Its primary purpose is to lure us in with hints about Dark Crisis. But it also delivers some entertaining stories while doing so. So, it does have some value in its own right besides being a trailer for a bigger story.
I don’t know yet if reading Justice League: Road to Dark Crisis #1 is crucial to understanding the main event. But it’s evident that reading this special will give added depth to the overall story. If this special is any indication of what’s to come, Dark Crisis will prove to be a phenomenal story. I look forward to seeing how it all plays out.