There’s a Crisis coming.
Isn’t there always? ‘Dark Crisis’ sounds like we’re going deep into DC self-parody territory, but let’s withhold judgment until it kicks off. This one-off is the pre-match team talk, as participants gather, knowing there’s a challenge ahead but not knowing if they’ll win or lose.
The cover by artist Daniel Sampere and colourist Alejandro Sanchez is technically well done, but doesn’t leave a big impression, what with the biggest character being a void.
The anthology opens with a ‘Team-Up’ between new Superman Jon Kent and Nightwing Dick Grayson. Well, it’s more of a brunch really, with the meat of the tale being our heroes’ discussion around whether or not the supposedly dead Justice League are gone for good
Dick’s been around a long while. He’s seen his mentors die, he’s seen them come back. He’s not giving up hope.
Or he’s in denial. Decide for yourself by reading this smart short from writer Josh Williamson, penciller Dan Jurgens, inker Norm Rapmund, colourist Hi-Fi and letterer Josh Reed, whIch features a poster-worthy splash of Jon making his entrance.
Next up, Flash Wally West helps Kid Flash Wallace West see that when you’re a good guy and the world is scared, your job is to get out there and show people they still have heroes and hope.
Plus, catching every villain you can distracts you from worrying about problems closer to home, in this case the disappearance of senior Flash Barry Allen and Flash of China Avery Ho. Jeremy Adams continues the great job he’s doing in the regular Flash series; as well as the expected excellent characterisation he treats us to a visit with Iris West Allen and name-drops one of DC’s most obscure cities. Mind, he loses a point for assuming that where Wallace doesn’t know what the game of Whack-a-Mole is, the reader does. I was somewhat bamboozled by a full page of the speedsters beating up Giganta at numbered points. The art by Rosi Kämpe has lots of energy, that page a few lines back isn’t representative of the look of ‘Life of Purpose’ – try this.
Fun, wot? Colours by Matt Herms, mighty lettering by that man Reed again – he handles the whole book.
In ‘Survivors’, a space beastie being chased by Green Lantern Hal Jordan comes down in Atlantis. Aquaman being dead, trainee Aquaman Jackson Hyde helps out. And that’s as much as I can tell you, Chuck Brown’s story being pretty confusing in terms of what becomes of the extraterrestrial menace.
The creature at the start of the story is very different at the end, in appearance and nature, and it’s not at all clear why. And Hal Jordan is terribly brusque with young Jackson, whose head of worms belies his competence. I’ve no problems with the art of illustrator Fico Ossio and colourist Sebastian Cheng, which is enjoyably bombastic – the initial monster looks very scary.
Pariah is a character I’ve never enjoyed. It’s not his fault, he was created to witness the death of worlds, so all he ever gets to do is wail about suffering, making him less than fun company. In ‘The Pariah’ he suffers some more… but this is my favourite story in the issue.
Meet the family. Pariah is being haunted – hunted? – by the ghosts of his wife and kids, and Mrs P, Sondra, is terrifying, a ghoul who whispers one minute, screams the next. It’s fine writing from Action Comics mastermind Phillip Kennedy Johnson, while the art by Leila Del Duca, coloured by Jordie Bellaire, is delightfully expressive. Sondra’s face, with the permanent black trail of tears, is reminiscent of a chilling China doll; it’s unnerving. And Pariah has great hair (these things matter).
Finally, Batgirl Stephanie Brown has an encounter with Gotham ghoul Nocturna. What begins as a traditional hero vs villain confrontation turns into something more subtle, a heart to heart.
Writer Stephanie Phillips does a terrific job of reclaiming the Nocturna of the recent Suicide Squad series as the pre-Crisis character of the same name, the albino temptress in love with the night. Illustrator Clayton Henry completes the artistic alchemy with a lovely throwback page, complete with Benday dots effect from colourist Marcelo Maiolo.
Can we have this Batman back, please?
By the end of ‘Because the Night’, Nocturna is in prime position for Dark Crisis shenanigans, as are, indeed, the rest of this comic’s cast. There are some very good moments in this issue, but I wouldn’t say it’s indispensable, it’s more an appetiser for the very keen. If you have plonked down your £4.79 or local equivalent, I’d love to know what you thought to it.