Every installment of "The Darkseid War" lands at the top of my "to read" pile. The entire build of this story arc has been one epic, jaw-dropping scene after another, and "Justice League" #48 keeps the trend going. Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok kick the pace up over 9000 by filling the issue with iconic moments for so many characters in the cast.
Last issue, the Crime Syndicate talked their way out of prison thanks to the timely appearance of Owlman. Johns doesn't let us forget that Owlman is the Batman of an evil Earth; the opening scene shows off his badassery as he negotiates for Kryptonite and freedom. All they want in exchange is a chance to murder the being that destroyed their world, after all.
Diana serves as point for the Justice Gods, as she has the most experience with this heightened state of being. Her League stands by sullenly as Flash ponders a character's impending Death -- and, if you placed your bets during this panel, you get the payoff by the end of the issue. This chapter has good structure, with a quiet, tense character scene that establishes everyone in the story before shifting into a boatload of huge action, as the writer throws toys at each other and watches the chaos unfold.
Johns had me thinking this was going to be the big turnaround. Hal Jordan brings in the entire Green Lantern Corps to go at Mobius, who is trying to knock Batman off his flying computer chair. (In fairness, he's not wrong wanting it back; it's called the Mobius Chair, not the Batman Chair.) Fabok gives the Corps a huge entrance in one of his awesome double-page spreads -- just look at the fury and determination he brings to their faces. Fabok makes it look as though their arrival is going to move the needle back the other way, until Mobius starts killing them.
Johns and Fabok don't even show who died. Instead, they send rings flying away and identifying their previous bearers by sector and not name. Regardless, the creative team brings a Doomsday-level catastrophe; all hands needed on deck.
The issue packs a lot of punching on top of rubble, but it looks so good. Fabok's layouts are really powerful, with big movements and aggressive posturing. However, there's a great level of detail in the faces of the characters. For instance, take Ultraman's first scene in the issue. Despite the fact we only see him from the nose up, Fabok gives him a look of fear and cowardice. Then look at the tears of joy that stream down his face as he gets his Kryptonite rock snack, and his rage when he finally gets his hands on Mobius -- before the fear returns as he realizes what comes next.
Grail and Mobius are on fire right now. Their plan is coming to fruition, and even the wild cards of the Crime Syndicate can't stop them. Mobius handles Superwoman and Wonder Woman with ease. He swats Batman like a gnat. The legion of darkness at his command sweeps the planet. Everything in this issue is just Big (and worthy of the capital B). Johns has heightened the story almost as far as it can go. From the moment the battle starts, the pace doesn't slow. Mobius makes a huge move in the fight and -- before anyone can even process what happened -- a new challenger appears: Lex Luthor, ruler of Apokalips, his legion of parademons in tow.
Johns has developed Luthor into a complex character, adding nuances and depth that remind me of Chris Claremont's work with Magneto. He's the most compelling character in the DC Universe right now. Johns' characterization of him makes me want to find out if this is a true redemption story or the tale of a man who was given enough rope to hang himself.
"Darkseid War" is as sweeping and huge as any crossover story, with big events happening fast and chaotically. It's almost too frenetic, like the creative team has so many ideas. After how big the story is, how do you end an issue like this?
Maybe throw a baby in the mix.
Tell Shazam to go boil some water. Superwoman and Owlman's progeny is ready for its close-up.
We have a blockbuster epic on our hands in "The Darkseid War." In dealing with themes of godhood, though, you need to go big or go home. Fortunately, Johns and Fabok take "Justice League" #48 and go super-size.