While every moment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe appears to be leading to a grand battle with Thanos in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, the goals for the DC Extended Universe seem more uncertain. Since the cinematic universe’s debut in 2013’s Man of Steel, DC’s films have received wildly different receptions from critics, fans and casual audiences. From the operatic darkness of Zack Snyder’s Superman films to Suicide Squad‘s neon frenzy and the mythological marvel of Wonder Woman, the DCEU’s movies have already covered a range of seemingly incongruent tones. With in-production films like Justice League and Aquaman set to be released in 2017 and 2018, respectively, the size, scope and tonal variety of DC’s cinematic universe will only grow over the next few years.
Even though the DCEU is still basking in the glow of Wonder Woman‘s success, every journey needs a destination. Now, CBR is counting down the 15 DC Comics stories that could be DC’s equivalent to Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War. For this list, we’ll be looking back through DC’s history for epic tales that could be the linchpin of DC’s cinematic universe. In addition to DC’s comics, we’ll also be examining some stories from other DC-related media and seeing how they could fit into the DCEU.
15. JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. SUICIDE SQUAD
One of the biggest successes of DC Rebirth could also be a perfect story for the big screen. In the final days of 2016, Justice League vs. Suicide Squad brought DC’s two biggest teams together in a crossover by Joshua Williamson, Jason Fabok, Tony Daniel and some of the hottest artists in comics. In the story, the Justice League and the Squad battled before discovering the secret history of Amanda Waller’s first Suicide Squad.
As it stands, the DCEU already revolves around the Suicide Squad and the members of the Justice League. The tense relationship between Batman and Waller that’s pivotal to this crossover was already established onscreen in Suicide Squad‘s closing scene. While an action-packed battle between these two teams could be an awesome spectacle, the presence of the original Squad could offer a way to introduce some fan-favorite characters like the intergalactic bounty hunter Lobo.
14. AMAZONS ATTACK!
The Amazons of Themyscira were one of Wonder Woman‘s many highlights. Even though they’ve been around in comics since 1941, the Amazons haven’t taken center stage in too many major crossovers. Will Pfeiffer and Pete Woods’ Amazons Attack! was one of the Amazons’ few starring roles. In that 2007 crossover, the evil sorceress Circe tricked Hippolyta, the Amazon Queen, into launching a full-scale attack on the United States.
While this crossover was poorly received, an adaption of it could cement Wonder Woman and the Amazons as central figures within the DCEU. With a torn Wonder Woman at its core, this story could also follow up on some of the ideas about the nature of war that were introduced in Wonder Woman. To fight the threat of Themyscira’s forces, there could even be a fairly natural place for a government-sponsored team like the Suicide Squad.
13. JUSTICE LEAGUE: ROCK OF AGES
With Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor and Jared Leto’s Joker, the DCEU already has two of the biggest villains in comics. While those two have worked together on several occasions, one of their more notable team-ups was part of 1997’s “Rock of Ages.” In that JLA story by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter, the Justice League battled the Joker and Luthor’s Injustice Gang in the present day and faced off against the all-powerful space god Darkseid in the future.
Since a Darkseid-controlled future was heavily teased in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Darkseid is set to become a major player in the DCEU. With the combined threats of Darkseid and a Joker/Luthor alliance, a “Rock of Ages” adaption could give DC’s heroes a bigger challenge than anything Marvel’s Avengers have had to deal with.
12. COSMIC ODYSSEY
Despite the work of Infinity Gauntlet architect Jim Starlin and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, the crossover Cosmic Odyssey hasn’t really left a lasting legacy in the DC Universe. In this 1988 tale, the Justice League and their alien allies, the New Gods, teamed up with their shared nemesis Darkseid to take down a sentient Anti-Life monster.
With a number of shared qualities, the DCEU’s Darkseid will almost certainly invite comparisons to Marvel’s mad space god Thanos. While Darkseid’s quest for the mind-controlling Anti-Life Equation defines the character, an early team-up between him and DC’s heroes could give the DCEU an unexpected twist. This could also provide an opportunity to introduce the New Gods in a major way before spinning them off into their own franchise. Additionally, the unlikely pairings this story originally used could help turn some new and supporting characters into new fan-favorites.
11. SUPERMAN: LEGACY
While most of the stories on this list come from the world of comics, “Legacy” was the shocking finale of Superman: The Animated Series. In that 2000 story by Paul Dini and Rich Fogel, Darkseid brainwashed Superman and tricked him into leading an invasion of Earth. While that plan ultimately failed, it sent shockwaves through the rest of the DC Animated Universe for years.
Once again, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice teased several parts of this story. In Batman’s vision of a possible future, he encounters a ruthless, possibly mind-controlled Superman fighting alongside Darkseid’s forces. Although the original episode didn’t feature any super-teams like the Justice League or the Suicide Squad, it’s not hard to imagine those teams, the Amazons and Aquaman‘s Atlanteans joining together as Earth’s primary defense force.
10. CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS
Even though it’s one of the most famous DC Comics ever published, Crisis on Infinite Earths is an incredibly dense text with a cast of hundreds of characters that spans multiple universes. In Marv Wolfman and George Pérez’s landmark 1985 miniseries, all of DC’s alternate realities were destroyed and the DC Universe was rebooted after a battle that brought together almost every DC character ever.
Even though the DCEU is still relatively young, a Crisis movie could combine the worlds of DC TV shows like The Flash and Arrow together with their movies to form one coherent universe. It could even give former DC actors a chance to reprise their famous roles one more time. While a project of this magnitude would be the ultimate love letter to fans, Crisis could give major heroes a chance to make the ultimate sacrifice in some truly memorable moments.
9. JUSTICE LEAGUE: WORLD WAR III
In 2000, DC Comics gave super-powers to every person on Earth. In Grant Morrison and Howard Porter’s JLA story, “World War III,” the Justice League faced off against the ancient living weapon Mageddon the Tyrant Sun. In order to keep the creature’s pure hate from consuming the world, the League temporally recruited all of humanity to help take down the Primordial Annihilator.
That worldwide Justice League could be a quick way to distribute powers to a huge number of characters. On DC’s TV shows, similar plot devices like Smallville‘s meteor shower and The Flash‘s particle accelerator explosion have helped drive several seasons’ worth of stories. As Suicide Squad proved, the DCEU can introduce a lot of new characters at once, and this action-packed tale could be a perfect way to expand DC’s cinematic universe.
8. PANIC IN THE SKY
In the 1992 crossover “Panic in the Sky,” DC’s heroes came together to battle another planet-sized threat, posed by Superman’s longtime foe Brainiac. Running throughout that era’s Superman titles, the story pitted Superman and his allies against Brainiac and Warworld, a planet-sized battle station. The crossover was written by Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern, Jerry Ordway and Louise Simonson, who all orchestrated Superman’s death just a few months later.
Despite Superman’s considerable cinematic history, Brainiac still hasn’t appeared in a live-action film. With his vast intellect and significant alien resources, he could easily pose a threat that deserved the attention of DC’s Earth-based heroes. While Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 gave audiences a taste of planet-sized action, Brainiac’s Warworld could provide a civilian-free setting for the widespread destruction that’s become a DCEU hallmark.
7. BLACKEST NIGHT
One of the chief complaints about Man of Steel centered around the staggering loss of life implied by the film’s climactic battle that flattened most of Metropolis. While that scene gave the DCEU a grim beginning, an adaptation of the 2009 crossover Blackest Night could turn that liability into an asset.
In that Green Lantern-centric crossover, the villains Black Hand and Nekron unleashed the Black Lantern Corps, an army of the undead, on DC’s living heroes and villains. With a compelling, digestible concept that boils down to “superheroes vs. zombies,” this could be the perfect story to bring together the disparate elements of the DC Universe while having to face the human toll of their actions. Although there have been rumors that a Green Lantern may appear in the DCEU as soon as Justice League, this story could also provide a conceptually appropriate way to introduce some of Earth’s Green Lanterns.
6. JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE LIGHTNING SAGA
With its large intergalactic cast and isolated setting, the Legion of Super-Heroes could be DC’s answer to the Guardians of the Galaxy. The relatively cheery teenage heroes of the 31st century could help balance out the darkness that informs the DCEU’s present day movies. To emphasize that contrast, a team-up between the Legion and the Justice League could catapult the Legionnaires to cinematic superstardom.
In 2007, Geoff Johns, Brad Meltzer, Ed Benes, Dale Eaglesham and Shane Davis reintroduced the Legion of Super-Heroes in “The Lightning Saga.” In that Justice League of America and Justice Society of America crossover, the heroes of today tracked down several amnesiac, time-tossed members of the Legion. Despite the Legion’s lengthy history, the Legionnaires have never achieved the mainstream success that DC’s other teams have enjoyed. With a high-profile introduction alongside DC’s biggest heroes, the Legion could build their future on a strong foundation.
5. FOREVER EVIL
After playing relatively small roles in the early days after the New 52 reboot, DC’s villains took center stage in Forever Evil. With the Justice League incapacitated, Lex Luthor brought together several villains to save the world from the Crime Syndicate, an evil version of the Justice League from a parallel world. Although the crossover received mixed-to-positive reviews, Geoff Johns and David Finch’s series had long-lasting effects that are still echoing through the DC Universe.
While the MCU has been criticized for some less-than-exciting villains, DC has already had one successful villains-centric film with Suicide Squad. With no shortage of instantly recognizable villains from Batman’s rogues gallery alone, a Forever Evil adaptation could build on that success and create a world where the villains outnumber the heroes. For some of Squad‘s more sympathetic characters like Deadshot and Harley Quinn, another starring role could even complete their transformation into full-on antiheroes.
For decades, the Justice League never had to protect a world that hated and feared them. After decades as beloved icons and urban legends, DC’s heroes got a rude awakening in 1986’s Legends. In John Ostrander, Len Wein and John Byrne’s crossover, Darkseid sent his mind-controlling servant, Glorious Godfrey, to Earth to turn public opinion against Earth’s heroes and recruit volunteers for his army.
In 2016, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice already dealt with some ideas about anti-superhero sentiment in the public and the government. An adaption of Legends could make the explicit connection between those themes and Darkseid’s teased involvement. The original crossover also marked the debut of the Suicide Squad, and they could easily slip into their original role as a government-sponsored team of super-powered fighters.
3. WAR OF THE GODS
In Wonder Woman, classical Greek mythology plays a hefty role that’s comparable to the importance of Thor and the other Norse gods in the MCU. In one of their few major DC Comics roles, the Olympian gods went to war with the Norse and Egyptian gods, among others, in the aptly-titled War of the Gods. In that 1992 crossover spearheaded by George Pérez and Russell Braun, the sorceress Circe tricked the pantheons into war with each other and orchestrated a war between mankind and the Amazons’ Themyscira.
With sizeable roles for Wonder Woman, the Suicide Squad and the mystical villain Black Adam, who’s set to be played by Dwayne Johnson, War of the Gods seems eerily suited to the unexpected highlights of the DCEU. As one of DC’s few Wonder Woman-centric crossovers, an adaptation of War could firmly place her at the center of the DCEU.
2. INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US
NetherRealm Studios’ Injustice: Gods Among Us didn’t have to have a good story. While the 2013 fighting game could’ve been a success with solid gameplay, a deep story about a Superman driven mad by grief helped make it a blockbuster success. As detailed in the game’s long-running comic book adaptation by Tom Taylor, Brian Buccellato and others, tragedy turned Superman and the Justice League into world-ruling dictators. In order to take down his former friends, this world’s Batman called on a heroic Justice League from a parallel world.
Even though Batman and Superman have already faced off on the big screen, this is still one of the most widely-experienced DC stories in recent memory. In addition to reaching out to the game’s established fans, an Injustice movie could provide an opportunity to see familiar characters in unlikely pairings as partners and opponents.
1. FINAL CRISIS
Despite all of the similarities to the MCU’s Thanos, Darkseid seems destined to be the big bad of the DCEU. While he’s carved a path of villainy though DC’s history, Darkseid’s greatest victory came in 2008’s Final Crisis. In Grant Morrison, J.G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco, Marco Rudy and Doug Mahnke’s crossover, Darkseid successfully used the Anti-Life Equation to take over the world. Originally billed as “the day evil won,” this crossover gave DC’s heroes one of their all-time greatest challenges.
With a time-traveling Flash trying to prevent Darkseid from taking over the world, some of this story’s memorable scenes were already referenced in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The world-encompassing nature of this existential conflict could give every non-possessed hero and villain in the DCEU a reason to work together. A Final Crisis adaption could truly be an epic that would touch every corner of DC’s cinematic universe.
Keep it locked to CBR for all the latest on “Justice League,” “Aquaman” and the rest of the DCEU’s upcoming films! Let us know what stories YOU want to see adapted in the comments below!