In “Justice League” #50, Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok wrap up their epic with page after page of fist pumping action sequences, intense character moments and some jaw-dropping revelations that satisfy the promise of this showdown. This oversized finale to “The Darkseid War” reads like a series of dominoes toppling over while a hurricane fights an earthquake all around them.
Johns sticks the landing so hard with this issue. His knack for long term storytelling is stellar, and fans with some patience will find that it pays off here. The Crime Syndicate — the other threat that’s come closest to eradicating the League and changing life on Earth — gets their final chapter written here, and I felt for them, as they were the only survivors of a dead world operating on fear. They were also total dirt bags, of course, but seeing Superwoman hold her baby aloft only to get incinerated panels later was tragic. If you’re a fan of these characters, you may be sad to see them get their final comeuppance here, but — since “Forever Evil” — a smackdown like this has been on the way.
Grail finally gets taken down by the Power of Love, though it’s a little cheesy that the mother-daughter sacrifice moment is what neutralizes Darkseid (but it’s not like there aren’t faces meeting fists and torsos spitting laser beams a few panels over). The character’s hatred burned so brightly that she was willing to throw away the universe for revenge on her father, all stemming from how she was raised. Choosing to build instead of destroy is a big theme in this arc, and the issue follows suit by rewarding Grail with a second chance at a life with her father, who is now an infant.
As for the League, Johns and Fabok give them so many revelations and big hero moments that it’s hard to pick a favorite. Fabok — who has already operated at superhuman levels throughout the entire series — goes as big as possible, with action so huge it almost doesn’t fit on the page. Honestly, this is an issue that would have been fully justified using one of those eight-page gatefold spreads just to showcase how much happened on the battlefield. It was hard not to cheer out loud when Hal Jordan sprinted across the battlefield to give Batman his ring, so that Bruce could fight his way off the Mobeius chair; or when the Flash and Black Racer burned through the streets, the latter hungry for a deadly tribute; or when Superman stopped Luthor from using lethal force, reminding him how the League does things. Through it all, Fabok’s attention to character detail and acting is on an elite level: the look in Barry’s eyes when he thinks he’s going to die; the unbridled power of Steve Trevor, struggling not to fight Diana; the final moments of Superwoman; the smug look on Owlman’s face as he snatches the Mobius chair. It’s just so damn impressive that the creators crafted these smaller character moments in the middle of a war story; not one character feels shorted. It may be a little rushed, but wars do end in the blink of an eye, after all.
Johns truly understands the motivations and personality traits of the characters in the DC Universe. The love he has for the franchises bleeds through every word he types. With some writers, you can feel which characters are their pet projects, but Johns gives time and attention to all his children; he puts them in such dark places because he believes they can succeed. It seems like he writes stories that he would be just as excited and shocked to read, and there’s no shortage of shocks here either. Delays are always a bummer, but we as fans were fortunate for them in this case; it’s a good thing this issue hit the same day as “Rebirth,” because the wait from the cliffhanger ending of this issue would have been torture.
“Justice League” #50 has its cake, eats it, threatens to use it to rule the universe, then winds up saving it, only to show us another cake that may be even better so we’re even hungrier than before. It’s an epic conclusion to Johns’ tenure with the series and the best it’s been since Grant Morrison and Howard Porter’s “JLA” 20 years ago. If the rumors are true that Johns is stepping away from writing comics because of his current job responsibilities, it’s a bummer but a hell of punctuation mark for this stage of his career. Between this issue and “Rebirth,” he didn’t just drop the mic — he lit the stage on fire, tore down the PA systems and dared the rest of the DC writers to top that. It’s going to be a challenge to do so.