Friday, July 8, 2022

Review: Dark Crisis #2

Dark Crisis #2 came out this week and was a very action-heavy issue, amping up the feeling of dread that the heroes on Earth-0 are probably feeling. The Justice League is gone. The villains are going on the offensive. And people are getting hurt.

All of this leans heavily into Crisis on Infinite Earths with Pariah being the straw that stirs the proverbial drink here. Pariah is pulling the strings from afar, sowing the seeds of chaos in hopes of igniting another Crisis. He is in the mind of Deathstroke who is acting as a sort of field general for the villains on Earth. But who or what is controlling Pariah?

It shows how impatient I have become as a comic reader these days that here we are 2 issues into this series and I am already tapping my foot wanting to know why it all is happening and what the Great Darkness is hoping to get out of all this. A younger Anj read the first three issues of COIE back in the mid-80s without really knowing what the hell was going on, just feeling the increasing dread of those Earths. I didn't know the villain or his plan then either. But I rolled with it. 

Perhaps it is because this is the sort of umpteenth Crisis I have read? Perhaps it is because I have seen so many company crossovers peter out without a satisfying conclusion? 

But I shouldn't let my impatience take away from this issue. We get plot progression. Writer Joshua Williamson is cracking open all the Who's Who and bringing back characters that haven't been seen in a while and making me miss them or like them again. We get to see a heroic Hal Jordan and a solid looking GLC. If you like the wide DCU like I do, you will like this issue.

Add to that Daniel Sampere's great art. The action sequences and fights are brutal and palpable. The page layouts and panel progression are cinematic. The art jumps off the page. 

On to the particulars.

We open with Pariah in his lab, flanked by the silhouettes of the avatars of the Great Darkness, stating his plan again to reignite a crisis to bring back the infinite earths.  Once a crisis is happening, his innate power to go to worlds about to be destroyed will kick in and he'll be on Earth-0.

As I said before, this Crisis seems to be directly linked to Crisis on Infinite Earths, right down to Sampere giving us homages to some of Pariah's more famous scenes from that book. I do like that Sampere gives the 'after Perez' footnote. 

I have never really liked Pariah as a character so I am wondering if I will like him as a villain, even if he is possessed.

Last issue closed with an all-out supervillain assault on the Titans Tower. And it looks like the bad guys are winning with many of the Titan students down for the count and only Nightwing and a handful still standing.

I love this panel by Williamson and Sampere who give us a veritable smorgasbord of bad guys from the depths of DC lore. Can I just tell you that seeing the Body Doubles, from the dear departed Resurrection Man book, really warmed by heart! I love that duo! But Crazy Quilt too! And Multiplex!

It is also interesting to see that Deathstroke has targets on other heroes around the DCU, many in the newly formed JL. But that begs the questions ... why aren't the JL there?? What could be more pressing than this? Especially if most of their faces in the crosshairs look rather relaxed?

Beast Boy got shot in the face last issue but Deathstroke wonders if Gar hid his brain somewhere else. 

Now I don't think that is how Gar's power works. But I have seen that defense work once before.

I saw this 'hide your brain defense' work to great effect in the 5YL Legion when Chameleon Boy survived a direct shot to the skull by Roxxas.
Despite what is clearly an upper hand, Deathstroke decides to make things personal. He wants the heroes to know they are humiliated and demands a one-on-one fight against Nightwing while everyone else pauses. 

Seems a bit silly. And it is strange that everyone, both the heroes and the other Titans, seem to comply. But what it gives us is several pages of gorgeous art by Sampere as Dick and Slade throw down with Nightwing emerging the victor.

Maybe Deathstroke wasn't expecting that because he then changes the rules, saying he'll let everyone go if Nightwing dies, forcing Dick to offer himself up. 

The fight and this nobility really stand out in this issue. Everyone should see those fight pages.

Jon comes in to save the day thankfully. (You think he'd have the rest of the JL with him.)

It leads to this great little panel sequence.

Inside you see Jon rallying the troops. Outside you see a red cape swirling in the rainstorm. You see a telltale spit curl.

You think it is going to be Superman! But it isn't!!

It is the Cyborg Superman, held back by Deathstroke should Superman/Jon arrive.

I like Jon's rebuke when the Cyborg calls him 'son'. And I love ... and I mean LOVE ... that this is Hank Henshaw and not a corrupted Zor-El (as we saw in Rebirth Supergirl). 

Ultimately Jon takes him down.

Just when it look this could become a villainous bloodbath, we learn that Pariah is pulling Deathstroke's strings. He needs the heroes alive to bring about this next Crisis. He demands that Deathstroke retreat and the villains all comply.

This also seems a bit off. I am surprised an army of villains with a slew of heroes on death's door listen to Slade's orders. But they do.

Immediately after the villains retreat, Black Adam is there to float in judgment. 

He chastises Jon again, saying this Superman isn't ready to lead a League. And he chastises berates Nightwing, blaming Dick for the assault.

At least Jon has the backbone to ask Adam where he was through all the carnage. That's what I want to know. Convenient for him to show up afterwards. 

But then again ... where were Kara and Yara? And just about anyone else?

Still. I hope Adam's late arrival isn't just blown over. If he wants to talk the talk, he needs to walk the walk. I thought maybe this scene needed a little more time to breathe. Adam shouldn't be able to show up and fly off within a page. Jon should really be giving it to him.

Ah, but what an ending.

We see Kyle Rayner being broken out of some jail (I don't know where he is) by the GL Corps.

Hal is playing his role as veteran leader and interstellar cop to the letter, even bringing together a tremendous squad of Lanterns including Far Sector's Jo, Guy, Killowog, Simon, Arisia (!!!), and all the usual others.

Not a bad cliffhanger. And poster-worthy art by Sampere.

Overall, I suppose this issue shows just how tenuous things are on this League-less Earth. If Pariah is looking for a place soaked in danger and ready to explode, he has it. I like the Black Adam subplot and the Lanterns being a force for good. Heck, I even like Hal here.

But I am hoping that the overall underlying plot is spelled out a bit more and soon. 

Overall grade: B


Anonymous said...

Deathstroke is a Jobber.
There I said it, I feel better. All his best schemes involve collaborating with some other more powerful meta or else he is the stooge for some other Big Bad. He is male version of Harley Quinn...ergo “Overexposed”.
Otherwise I read these “Crises” minis and set the bar extremely low, “they haven’t killed, humiliated or jobbed out Supergirl yet” is my only real reaction. Otherwise I have almost stopped caring what is really going on, mostly because these minis inevitably end up ruining DCU continuity, thus necessitating a “homeopathic editorial response”, i.e. another crisis to fix the mess the last one created, and round and round we go again.


Martin Gray said...

I’m with JF, I get so sick of Slade.

And I’m with you, Anj. I loved seeing Hal treated like the hero he always was, I get so tired of modern fans and writers dumping on him. And if we get Kyle back in his classic costume, so much the better.

Hal also gets marks for being suspicious of Black Adam, and rightly so.

Thanks for spelling out the business with Pariah needed events on Earth to hit Crisis levels so he can visit, I must have missed that. Makes sense.