Sunday, October 4, 2015

Justice League #43 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Wow.  Johns and Fabok are off the charts here.  I gasped three times in this issue; it's a lot of gasping for just 22 pages.  They both build to these moments slowly but surely; when they come, it's like launching a slingshot that you've primed as much as you can.

We begin with Steppenwolf summoning Kalibak to go to Earth to take on Grail.  Johns makes it clear how unpredictable that battle with be, portraying Kalibak as basically one step above feral.  We then immediately move to Batman on the Chair, and Johns again shows us why we should be worried.  Bruce is even more arrogant than he normally is, since he's pretty much positive at this point that he has all the answers.  Cyborg, Diana, and Hal all take different tacks to try to get him off the chair, fearing for his mental stability, but he insists that he can handle it.  Meanwhile, Luthor and Superman are trapped on Apokolips and encounter the slaves that Darkseid has set on them.

It's here where we get Gasp #1:  after the slaves attack, Luthor and we are shocked to see Superman bleeding.  Fabok sells this moment beautifully:  we not only see the shock on Luthor's face, but we observe something close to fear in Superman's eyes when he realizes that he's weak in front of Luthor.  Meanwhile, Scot Free appears before the Justice League and apprises them of the situation:  they've got to convince the Anti-Monitor to leave Earth as soon as possible, before Darkseid arrives.  Batman decides to head into space to get more information on the Anti-Monitor in case he refuses to leave; Hal essentially forces him to take him with him.  The rest of the team (Cyborg, Diana, Flash, Power Ring, Shazam, and Steve) go with Scot to find Grail.  (She herself has been casting a spell to summon Darkseid.)  Meanwhile, Clark and Luthor are trying to flee the hordes, and Clark is forced to accept Luthor's hand to fly; they realize that his problem is that Apokolips has no sun.  (This epiphany results in the amazing exchange where Clark laments that he's becoming human, and Luthor responds:  "You'll be powerless.  You'll never be human."  Awesome.)

On Earth, everything goes from bad to worse.  Darkseid and Kalibak arrive, and we get Gasp #2 in the next scene.  It's possibly the best splash page that I've ever seen, with the Anti-Monitor, Grail, and their troops charging at Darkseid, Kalibak, and their troops.  Fabok gives us this image from a perspective behind Diana and Scot, as Diana relates the story of Odysseus trying to decide between Charybdis and Scylla.  I've rarely seen art and words combine to convey a message (how powerless Diana feels as a leader to chose between two bad options) as they do here.  It's an amazing sign of teamwork between Johns and Fabok.  In the end, Diana leads the Justice League into an uncertain battle as Luthor is forced to hurl Clark into a firepit in the hope that the solar energy will recharge him.  It does, but we get Gasp #3:  Clark emerges as a corrupted form of himself and threatens to kill Luthor (something that he says he should've done years earlier).

Throughout the issue, Diana narrates about her distrust of the gods.  With the issue ending with Anti-Monitor and Darkseid coming to blows just as a dark Superman emerges from (literally) the pits of Hell, you can see her point.

***** (five of five stars)

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