COMIC REVIEW: Justice League: Darkseid War Special #1
By Buddy Beaudoin
Writer: Geoff Johns
After the epic and savage events of Justice League #48, DC fans were promised a one-off issue to continue the never-ending saga that has been The Darkseid War. What we’ve been given, is Justice League: The Darkseid War Special #1, a gripping look into the backstory of Darkseid’s daughter, Grail, who is quickly on the rise to become one of the most powerful beings in the current DC Universe.
This special issue bounces back and forth between Jessica Cruz’s ongoing struggle to break free of Power Ring, Grail’s origins, and Grail’s current story. What’s interesting is that each of these story pieces has a different art team. Power Ring’s storyline favors a brighter, more typically DC art vibe. Grail’s flashback scenes have a more washed feel. The colors are much darker, or muted, and the line work is a little rougher around the edges – giving it that gritty vibe that it needs to get the story across. Everything around those two art styles feels like an amalgamation of both, featuring the vibrancy of standard DC artwork with some of the more rigid lines and darker tones when called for. All-in-all, the art in this issue is exceptional, and is a good standout in a series that has featured some hit or miss issues.
Both storylines are engaging and push out some of the grittier tones that we’ve seen in this series. Perhaps the coolest thing to note is that this issue is nearly entirely female based. While that’s not a surprise, since much of what’s happening is in the hands of the Amazons, it’s presented in a way that feels like it comes from more of a place of empowerment than a typical DC story. The way Cruz has to gain her power back from Power Ring, and the way that Grail bends Steve Trevor to her will makes this come off as something akin to a Russ Meyer film – something in the vain of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
Giving the expanse of this series, having some insight into Grail is definitely helpful. Her backstory gives some much needed motive to her actions, and provides us with an overall sense of character that had been lacking. While she’s still essentially a one-note character, there are some scenes in her flashbacks that would seem to indicate that she has not always been such, and that’s pretty interesting. It gives way to the idea that we may see another side of her before this war is over, and in a sense, it gets you almost rooting for her. At the very least, these scenes humanize the villain, and that’s important – especially in a story where everyone is a god.
This issue itself is really well done. It’s thoughtful, well paced, well conceived, and looks great. However, for the series as a whole, this issue lends itself to The Darkseid War becoming even more inaccessible that it was before. In fact, the #1 on this cover is a little misleading. Even for a special issue, one would expect a number one issue to stand alone. You should be able to know what’s going on without having to read a bunch of issues that have happened around it. That is distinctly not the case here. For a reader to pick this up, and have an understanding of what’s happening in just this book itself, they would need to have read at least the very core issues of Justice League that contain The Darkseid War series. If they really want a handle on things, they would then have to go and read all of the other one-off issues that have taken place during this infinite battle. Given that this is a tie-in to Justice League #48, which was entirely bad-ass, it’s a bit of a drag to see this issue get stand-alone treatment as a number one.
While the ending doesn’t do a whole lot in furthering the narrative, it does give us some insight into what’s going to happen in the continuation of Justice League. Grail puts a lip lock on Steve Trevor that fills him with some pretty crazy looking power – and he’s none too happy about it. While it will be interesting to see this play out in #49, again, if readers have skipped over this issue and are only reading core issues of Justice League, then they may be completely missing out on some key elements in The Darkseid War series.
The “Best There Is:” Putting separate art teams on each of the storylines in this issue was brilliant. The dynamics in the art are a wonderful representation of the dynamics in Johns’ storytelling, and do a great job at getting his narrative across. It’s also excellent to get some of that Grail backstory that’s helping to develop a character that’s becoming such a powerhouse in the DCU.
The “Not Very Nice:” Because this issue has been treated as a #1, it may be skipped right over, making The Darkseid War feel that much more inaccessible and jumbled. Since it does add quite a bit to the narrative, treating it as a stand alone is a bummer.
FBI Score: 8.5 out of 10. This issue is absolutely welcome, as it gives some much needed backstory to Grail, and her intentions. While there’s not a lot of forward momentum to be seen here, what it does in terms of developing the already established narrative is nothing less than necessary.