Dark Crisis #1 review

This issue, a Titan DIES!

Or, if it’s Tuesday, it must be Crisis. Let’s pretend the previous 17 or however many Crisis events we’ve enjoyed or endured since the Crisis on Infinite Earths happened were fluffy affairs, because this is the Dark Crisis! Which means that the villains stand in the shadows. Well, so far… by the end of this first of seven parts a horde of bad guys have used a Teen Titans Academy student to blow up Titans Tower, which hadn’t been smashed to smithereens for at least a week.

Who’s the unfortunate student? Well, following the rules of popular fiction, it’s the one who most recently realised they had a bright future ahead of them, in the final issue of Teen Titans Academy.

A classic Titan also dies, but that isn’t going to stick because a) they’re currently not where the gun thinks they are, courtesy of the aforementioned Academy comic; and b) they’re a classic Titan.

Before the big finish – well, cliffhanger – we follow fill-in Superman Jon Kent as he flies around the globe trying to recruit members for a new Justice League, a legacy team to take up the slack. Since the most recent version of the League supposedly died, all heck is breaking out.

The big foot belongs to Green Lantern Hal Jordan, an original JLA Leaguer who wasn’t with the latest team when they were killed. He sounds a rare note of sanity when it comes to Black Adam, the only member of the League to have survived the conflict.

As a space cop, Hal is well equipped to answer the question of ‘what’s next?’

And so Jon sets off to find members for a new Justice League.

So who finally steps – or flies – forward?

Well, that’s random. A few veterans, some of whom have been Leaguers. The odd new hero. And Harley Quinn, a villainess with serious mental problems who redefines the term ‘wild card’.

Still, she is big in movies.

I trust writer Josh Williamson to have chosen this team for their story possibilities. There’s certainly some fun characters, such as Frankenstein and Blue & Gold. And I’m delighted to see Frost – no longer a Killer – get another chance after her heroic turn in Steve Orlando’s hugely underrated Justice League of America run. And while she’s wearing a hideous costume, and is a last minute substitution, Mary Marvel having been taken off the board by DC Editorial, Supergirl is a very welcome addition.

There is a super-elephant in the room – why is Jon needing to organise a Justice League? The last few years have seen the League based at the Hall of Justice, where dozens of heroes allied to the League hang out… were they just there for the free coffee? I’d love to see the remains of the Satellite era League step forward, the likes of Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Hawkman, the Atom, Firestorm (what’s his reluctance about, surely not that Doomsday Clock nonsense?). Perhaps they could be allied with the alumni of other Leagues, such as Vixen, Gypsy, Captain Atom, Congorilla and Silver Sorceress… it really doesn’t matter who, the point is, there’s no reason to interpret the ‘deaths’ of one iteration as a moment to pass the torch to a new generation. If there’s such a big threat coming, experience should be to the fore.

I prefer the legacy aspect of the DCU to slip into stories organically, as does happen here, in that scene with Jon, Hal and Wally; Hal takes charge, Wally gives Jon advice, Jon runs with it – it’s three generations of heroes working together.

I did enjoy this issue, and look forward to watching the ups and downs of the heroes over the next several months – I’ve read enough Josh Williamson books to have faith in his storytelling ability. Little snippets of fun are scattered throughout, such as Wally calling Green Lantern ‘Uncle Hal’, which makes sense – they’ve known each other since the current Flash was a pre-teen.

This bit of dialogue from Nightwing, at a memorial for the lost heroes, stands out for a different reason.

I know we fans tend to make the differentiation when it comes to Lanterns, but surely to the man in the street John Stewart is simply Green Lantern?

There are plenty of questions to be answered after this opening instalment: why are the nutty cults coming out of hiding? Why are the big hitter villains keeping their powder dry? Who has various heroes in their sights… I really hope its Deadshot, back from his recent death in the last-but-one Suicide Squad series – he’s too good to be absent from the DCU for long.

The only ‘what the….?’ moment came when Williamson addressed the relationship between the Titans and the League.

Nah! One of the core ‘rules’ of the Titans, Teen or otherwise, is that they do not defer to the Justice League; if they’ve ever had an assist, it’s because both teams are in an event.

Still, we do get that rather brilliant spread of DC B-list and lower bad guys attacking Titans Tower. Any day I see the likes of Typhoon, Crazy Quilt and the Bug-Eyed Bandit is a good day. Daniel Sampere does a tremendous job throughout the issue, drawing a Perez-load of heroes and villains interacting. Sampere’s storytelling skills serve the story brilliantly, with the action clear at all times. Characterisation such as Jon trying his dad’s patented hands-on-hips pose when he bids to recruit the new Wonder Girl is just perfect. The only niggle I have is with this panel.

From the dialogue, it seems that Black Adam is judging Dr Light to be slightly mature for a superheroine, but she looks no older than anyone else (she’s actually about 5000 years younger than the Egyptian relic).

Otherwise, the art is first rate, with excellent cityscapes, a luscious jungle, convincing tech… and it’s all made better by Alejandro Sanchez, who makes Earth 0 a wonderful world of colour. Sanchez is especially great at showing us the time of day with his lighting choices.

And letter man Tom Napolitano, apart from the sharp dialogue, gives us some cracking sound effects, and I like the way locations are writ large in establishing shots – it’s very cinematic.

The wraparound cover by Sampere and Sanchez is a smasher, definitely worthy of a Crisis.

This series if off to a splendid start, I reckon – I’d love to know your thoughts.

31 thoughts on “Dark Crisis #1 review

  1. Teen League with a few old fogies. Ted and Kimiyo should be the oldest, right? I hope Kara stays in the League after all is said and down. This is a pass from me however.

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  2. Black Adam broke the cardinal rule: never ask a woman’s age in reality or fiction. My only niggle (had to steal it!) is that Damian doesn’t believe Batman is dead. Nightwing doesn’t believe Batman is dead. However, Jon, who knows what his father has survived, literally death and more, seems certain that Poppa Kal is gone forever and has to fill them shoes. Such loyalty. 😉

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  3. I liked it. I agree, Gar is fine, probably for the reason you said (that he isn’t actually where he appears to be, which might be the one thing from Sheridan’s run of Teen Titans that pays off in an interesting way).

    I figure eventually Yara and Jace will join Jon, unless Williamson is planning to go against everyone’s expectations. Surely he read Future State too and knows exactly what people expect.

    So many great Perez-style spreads of characters, and I wish I could recognize most of the villains.

    I wonder who is fighting with a sword in the panel with Dr. Light? Some site said it’s Katana, and this character is indeed wearing a gray mask, but don’t her clothes make her look more like Traci 13?

    Do we see universes getting destroyed in Multiverse-2? I thought Pariah was on Earth-Omega in this multiverse. Oh well. I never entirely understand these cosmic things.

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    1. I’d be very happy for Williamson to ignore the Future State Jl, I wasn’t a fan. And I took that to be Katana, but now that you point out that outfit, I see what you mean. As for Pariah, moving around at random is his thing, so if worlds are dying, that’s where he is!

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  4. I don’t know HOW they do it at all, let alone so fast, but there’s a very extensive character list already up at:

    https: // dc.fandom .com /wiki/Dark_Crisis_Vol_1_1

    I spotted many of the hero cameos at the candlelight memorial scene, but the list of villains here is amazing. Can you imagine the density of the script to list all of these characters? And then Sampere has to find the right reference for every single one of them. Some of these pages must take many days to draw.

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  5. Hard pass. You hit the nail on the head. Over the past several years the Hall of Justice has been treated as a big “open house” in the comics with members coming and going. Bendis in particular during his run had some fun with ex-Leaguers like Firestorm, Vixen and Blue Devil popping up for cameos. Heck – what happened to Justice League Dark members like Detective Chimp, Ragman and Constantine? Stories like this remind me of Grant Morrison’s run on Animal Man, when he – Morrison – met the main character and revealed how he, as the writer, was messing with Animal Man’s life. I can’t help but see Williamson pulling the strings to set up all the pieces so he can tell HIS story. Other writers, for example, might logically have Hal Jordan form a new League and do exactly what you suggested – go out and recruit some classic, experienced former members like Wally West, Kyle Raner, Atom, Firestorm, the Hawks. But Williamson, for plot reasons obviously, has Jon Kent inexplicably being the one to reform a League and approaching all sorts of odd characters (Peacemaker?) and settling on this tossed salad of characters. It’s like Williamson is telegraphing this group is destined to fail.

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    1. Justice League Salad. I think that has legs.

      Williamson might have come up with an excuse as to why most of the actual League-associated heroes weren’t available for a replacement team, that they were busy with all the cults around the world. It’s not the strongest idea, but heck, I’m not a professional writer!

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  6. Also, where is the Justice Society in all of this? After Doomsday Clock and Death Metal I thought the JSA’s continuity was restored and the modern day version from the 90s/2000s was still operating. I would think they would at least be see stepping up their activities in Dark Crisis #1 or get a mention. But is that not the case?

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    1. Oh, I despair of the state of the JSA. They’re forever being announced as coming back, then never make it beyond a cameo. I did read something recently saying they may well be turning up in Flashpoint Beyond. I must get that read…

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  7. Yes, very contrived. There’s also a line in there that the “big heavies are keeping quiet” (referring to villains) and that seems weird to Jon. I wonder if there will be an explanation, or if that’s just Jon saying what the reader is thinking. What do they call that – hanging a lampshade on it?

    If every DC villain got busy, well that would be 80 years of comic book stories we’d have to read.

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  8. The finale of the recent Titans Academy series was a tough slog but there were a few bright spots; they rebuilt, Chupacabra had a nice scene where he came out and they made it a memorial for George Perez (because as I learned here of the shared last name). So it was slightly vexing when the first issue of this turns around and does that. I hope at least the Titans have better evacuation procedures in place for their students for this somehow totally unforeseen attack
    It will be amusing if there is a pay off to the godawful Cybeast thing though.

    It’s an eclectic JLA line up to be sure, but guess that most of them will fall away for the legacy version of the big seven that they’ve been pushing for. Of all the current crop of Green Lanterns the one that most interests me is Sojourner, but that’s mostly because the setting for Far Sector is so well done. We’ll see how she’s handled back on Earth.

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    1. Did you see this week’s Pride Special (available already at DC Infinite)? There’s a nice Jo story in there.

      I hope Chupacabra has survives. Maybe he now has magical powers as well as wings? Chupacabra Kadabra?

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      1. Maybe Bolt steps up? She must get on Jon’s radar somehow as I think the JLA speedster slot is down to her or Kid Quick.

        Also a quick niggle, the remembrance role call for the League was all very nice, but what about the Justice League Incarnate members? Avery aside they at least deserve an ‘and the other heroes who gave their lives’.

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  9. I picked this up on Comixology, after some hemming and hawing about the unsatisfactory Kindle reading experience for double page spreads. (I’m astonished they haven’t fixed that yet.) But that quibble aside, I liked this a lot. Sampere and Sanchez are the stars of the show here — this is some magnificent work.

    I like that people aren’t trusting Black Adam — even though he’s being absolutely trustworthy here, he’s also wrong about the fate of the JLA.

    I was confused about Firestorm’s reluctance, too — my thought was it might have gone back to when he died in Identity Crisis? Who knows. As for Kimyo, I’m hope that Adam’s tactless age comment will be at least accompanied by showing her as a veteran.

    As for the “death” of the classic Titan, I did a little fist-pump, feeling like I called that one.

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean by asking “who has the heroes in their sights?” Isn’t it clear that it’s Deathstroke? Or am I missing something?

    As for the idea that it’s time to pass the torch with the main leaguers gone, you make a good point — there are plenty of veteran leaguers who could be stepping up. And we see that Hal and Wally are, and there are probably others in their own way. But as for forming a League, I don’t see either Ralph or Reddy as the sort to build a team (though Ralph would certainly urge such a thing). But the younger generation is ALWAYS looking for a moment to step up. That’s what younger generations do. And we’re seeing this from Jon’s perspective. Black Adam voices the older generation here: that this new league is half-assed, and not an adequate response.

    I think we’ll see that he’s right. But I don’t fault Jon for trying.

    And I also don’t fault Kara for wearing that costume. It’s not my favorite, but god knows she’s worn a lot worse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aaargh, I feel terrible that I never remembered your comments on my Titans Academy #15 review, you were indeed ahead of the game. Nice one, Rob.

      As regards the gunsights, I just thought Deathstroke above such things now he’s a Kim’s of something!

      Now I need to know – what’s your least favourite Supergirl outfit? Mine would have been the THING in Adventure Comics #409, until the New 52 horror arrived.

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      1. Ha, no worries about forgetting! You get tons of comments, on tons of reviews!

        As for Supergirl costumes, you’re right in that Adventure 409’s costume is a travesty. And would probably be my least favorite if I were a contemporary reader. But it was a back issue for me, and those get to be weird. (There was also a period where Mike Sekowsky seemed to be drawing her with something that looked like barbed wire around the hem of her shorts? I couldn’t figure out what was up with that — even though in other hands, the 70s shorts/little S/puffy sleeves costume is my favorite; it’s what I grew up with.)

        My least favorite is probably the Michael Turner/Ian Churchill look from when Supergirl was brought back in Batman/Superman — although a lot of it was their art style. The belly shirt, the too-short skirt, the gold trim… it just looked awful to me.

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      2. Bob Oksner did the best pixie shoes costume. It looked awesome and he had a way of skirting the cheesecake line.

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      3. Oh, and the costume, down to the hair, I will always hate the most on Kara is the one she died in.

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  10. I really don’t care for this type of story and the title “Dark Crisis” is almost a parody of the last 20 years of DC.

    Still, glad to read your reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Not long ago when Bendis was writing the League, Naomi’s membership was a BIG deal. So you’d think she’d def be a part of the new one. But since Bendis isn’t writing this event, and with Naomi’s tv series cancelled, it’s pretty evident the powers-that-be at DC don’t see the need to focus on her as much. But that just shows how this event doesn’t follow any in-universe logic, but is more about whatever Williams as writer wants/needs to move his plot points forward. Otherwise Naomi would be a big part of this new League – maybe even take Jon Kent’s place as its founder.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The brand management of DC characters has generally been pretty terrible. They really don’t seem to know who their Top 40 protagonists are, nor what their audience looks like.

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      1. It’s actually been quite freeing to realize there will never in the foreseeable future be a stable staus quo at DC. That means no longer having to read the last issue of an Event even as homework. I think I’ve read one Event since Countdown (I stopped reading 52 partly way through) and it’s maybe a quarter of them I read the last issue. I don’t even bother with parts of crossovers that don’t appear in books I already read.

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