Monday, July 18, 2022

Review: Dark Crisis World Without A Justice League Superman

Dark Crisis World Without A Justice League Superman #1 came out last week and might very well have the longest title of any comic I own. 

I was really on the fence if I was going to buy this one. We are two months into Dark Crisis itself. That book has been a little bit of a cipher with plenty of moments but an unclear plot. Was I ready to put down $4.99 for a crossover issue? 

Moreover, it is written by Tom King who I think wrote a character assassination piece about Supergirl in the recent past. Who according to others has done a good job on dismantling Guy and Ice from the JLI. Who also has radically changed Adam Strange, Mister Miracle, and the Vision, all in brutally depressing ways? What would he do to Jon?

I have to admit I sort of like what King did here. Of course, this is Tom King so there is trauma and cursing. A B-list character is mistreated, going against their history. But Kong does show us one timeline (or one story) where Jon was not aged up quickly. We get to peek at Jon's adolescence. We see him grow, and rebel, and become his own person. And as a parent of young adults myself, seeing how proud Superman is in the end rang true. I also like that King gives us a Jon who doesn't think Superman is doing enough (like in the current book) but turns that a little on its head. 

The art is by Chris Burnham, whose work I have always enjoyed. The work nudges up against that sort of beautiful/grotesque style that works well, especially in the more gruesome battle scenes. I feel like Burnham is a wonderful mix of Shawn McManus and Frank Quitely. 

On to the book.

The story starts with Jon at age 13 and proceeds with scenes through age 18. 

What Tom King story would be complete without childhood trauma? Here, Jon's supersenses are coming to bear, forcing him to bear witness to all the evils of intergalactic war out in the universe.

Here he is lying in bed seeing a parademon eat the flesh of some fallen foe.

I know. I know. King is all about PTSD, about witnessing war and how it impacts you. 

But this is a 13 year old kid.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

And then the biggest surprise! A major plot point for Dark Crisis is revealed here. The essence of a fallen JL member has been placed on 'custom made worlds' by Pariah, each one created by the hope of the League. 

Would have been nice to have first learned this in that series and not in a crossover. But perhaps timing and editorial didn't synch up?

I assume that means this world is built on Superman's hope. Which means this is a pretty bleak hope. If this is Superman's dream world, it ain't great. But maybe that is what Pariah is going for?

Anyways, the main difference is Jon is here on Earth, growing at the normal pace.

And he is a Robin-like sidekick to his father. (Perhaps a reverse nod to Dick Grayson renaming himself Nightwing because of his love of Superman?)

King's Lois is fun, a sort of exasperated mom/working woman trying to keep it all together.

As time goes on, it is clear that Jon thinks that limiting himself to Earth and the dull tasks there (like math homework) isn't enough. He wants to go out into the universe, protect everyone.

And when his father says that isn't what they do ... when Clark says, their job is to keep Earth safe, Jon lashes out.

I mean, what Tom King story wouldn't be complete without someone unnecessarily cussing! Let's add in the angry red eyes cliche for emphasis.

But this an interesting sort of rethinking of Jon's current mission in his own book. There Jon thinks Clark didn't do enough on Earth. Jon wants to represent the disenfranchised. He wants to save everyone on the planet.

Here, Jon is looking outward. He wants to join the fight against Darkseid in a galactic war to try to save the people on other worlds. 

Whether a Social Justice Warrior or a Military Warrior, on either world Jon thinks Superman hasn't thought big enough.

Despite telling Jon to stay on Earth, Jon rebels heading off world. 

Jon is losing in a fight against Orion until Superman comes and ends the fight. 

I do like Jon standing up for his convictions. How can he sit on Earth while these people suffer? 

But Superman says Jon's presence here has violated a truce Clark has made with Darkseid. It seems to buy Earth's safety from Darkseid, Supes has promised not to intervene in Darkseid's conquest. 

Superman following a doctrine of appeasement? Not exactly the stand up Superman I love or even one we saw King give us in 'Up, Up, and Away'.

And why is King making Orion a bad guy? Another character tarnished?

Despite being chastised, Jon still goes his own way. 

At age 17, he again heads into space to fight Orion. (This time Orion is said to be murdering children and laughing as he does it. Why must King destroy?)

Beaten to a pulp, Jon says he beat Orion. 

Lois says Jon isn't Clark. Jon is Jon.

I love the look of fear and pride on Clark's face here. I know that look. But this is where Jon goes from being super-boy to a super-man.

Nice bedside shot here. I love how the single lamp is almost a halo. It also gives this a sort of candlelight vigil feel.

That's it.

At 18, Jon gets to decide who he wants to be. Now wearing a Superman outfit, perhaps showing now he has grown up, Jon tells Clark he is leaving Earth to fight Darkseid. He will be making trouble out there for sure.

Jon is like every other kid. At some point he has to leave home and make his own way.

Being a guerilla warrior in interstellar combat doesn't sound like Superman. But hey, this is a Jon who got to group up on his own time, hear the lessons of his parents, and form his own beliefs.

And then what feels like the crucial theme of this book, at least in regards to Dark Crisis, Superman was there ... this time ... to see Jon grow up. He didn't miss it. And he won't give up that life for anything.

I'll have to see how this 'custom made world' bit plays out in Dark Crisis. This feels very much like a Black Mercy 'be careful what you wish for' potential story. I mean, would Superman really hope that Jon flies off into war? I suppose just seeing Jon grow up and make his own decisions and become the person he wants to be would be enough to make Superman happy. 

But for me the interesting thing is seeing how this is similar to in theme (Superman not doing enough) but different in character outcome for Jon.

Not a bad story. 

Overall grade: B


Martin Gray said...

Tom King really does have a problem with just letting heroes be heroes, doesn’t he? I didn’t mind Orion being terrible as he’s always struggled against his dark side.

I still hope some crisis will wipe away the years Jon spent on Earth 3…how did that even work, the time passing on Earths 0 and 3 should be the same, in relative terms.

Anonymous said...

This one off is Tom King’s idea of “Respect for the Character” ain’t much, but it does give you a sense of where he draws the line, the main burden of being toxically rewritten or corrupted falling on the legacies or the B/C list.
Oh well no Ruthye, so I am scoring this one a win.
Poor Orion though, a legit Jack Kirby creation, “Thor sans Pretension”, reduced to being s murderous jobber for Daddykins, a pity.


Anonymous said...

"Adam Strange, Mister Miracle, and the Vision," Supergirl, Orion - and let's not forget what Tom King did to Wally West, and finally to Selina Kyle, whose portrayal in Batman/Catwoman was horrible. Truly awful mother, and in the end turned out to be lying to Bruce for decades, till the end of his life, leaving him feeling intense guilt over something that turned out to never have even happened. No one knows what the heck Batman/Catwoman was trying to say.

Oh yeah - in Human Target, King has turned Guy Gardner into an abusive creep, and Martian Manhunter into a sexual masochist. So far. The book is only half over. (Greg Smallwood's art is magnificent, though, which makes the book far better than it would otherwise be.)


Anj said...

Thanks for comments!
How could I forget Wally!!!!

Steve said...

Martin, there was time travel in the cosmic accident that befell Jon and the more murderous grandfather.

Martin Gray said...

Thanks Steve, my memory is shot!