DC Comics dropped the surprising news that they will be killing off the current Justice League roster to conclude the latest volume of the series. This was news that did not seem to be rumored before it was announced to be taking place in April’s Justice League #75. Given the gravity of this news I’m honestly impressed that DC Comics was able to shock us with us with this announcement. They had to keep it extremely close to the vest as to not allow it to leak out ahead of the announcement. With such a big news story taking place let’s dive into what the death of the Justice League is about, what it means for the DC Universe, and my thoughts on the announcement?
DETAILS FOR THE DEATH OF THE JUSTICE LEAGUE
DC Comics announced the death of the Justice League story as part of an article released on Entertainment Weekly. As part of the announcement of this story we learned that Joshua Williamson and Rafa Sandoval will be creative team for April’s Justice League #75 that will tell the story of the death of most of the current members of the Justice League. This is coming off Brian Bendis concluding his run in March’s Justice League #74 and on the 30th anniversary of the Death of Superman storyline.
In talking about the events that will take place in Justice League #75 Williamson spoke on how this is part of the latest chapter of a narrative that kicked off in the post-Dark Nights: Death Metal DC Universe in Infinite Frontier #0. In the EW story Williamson said:
“Ever since Infinite Frontier #0, we’ve been building to this story. Last year was a lot of fun and games, but when this story starts, it’s the beginning of the third act. We’re going to see things get darkest before the dawn. The Justice League gets called in to fight this Dark Army that’s been building on the edge of the multiverse. They go up against this Dark Army and they lose.”
In further details teasing the story for Justice League #75 we learned that the Justice League roster of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl, Aquaman (Arthur Curry), Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Zatanna will be facing off against an enemy known as the Dark Army. The Dark Army are said to be composed of the greatest villains across the DC Universe that exist at the edge of the multiverse. In this battle there the Justice League will not only lose but only one member of the roster will end up surviving the battle. The unknown survivor will then be left with the responsibility of telling the story to the rest of the heroes about what happened against the Dark Army.
SPECULATING WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE DC UNIVERSE?
That is a lot of information to process from what DC Comics announced when it came to the tease for the story in Justice League #75. With the variant cover by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund that was included in the story it looks as though Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Green Lantern John Stewart are highly likely to be part of the Justice League members who will die in the fight against the Dark Army. That leaves us with Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Zatanna as the ones we don’t know which will be the sole survivor.
Though given the nature of this tease it would not be surprising if the variant cover was provided for the most dramatic effect. I say this because of the Justice League roster that is set to fight the Dark Army the symbols of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Green Lantern are the most iconic. They are the logo that casual and non-comic book reading will instantly recognize because of those characters reach beyond coming books.
I have two guess for who the survivor of the Justice League will be. They are Wonder Woman and Black Canary. With Wonder Woman, Diana’s character is someone who DC and WB has invested in heavily to expand her franchise. And with the Trial of the Amazons event going on at the same time DC could use Diana’s Wonder Woman being the sole survivor to further elevate her as a leader for the entire DC Universe.
When it comes to Black Canary, the reason I could see her surviving is because Williamson has been writing her character in his various work, including the current Deathstroke Inc. series. So she could end up surviving for bigger plans that Williamson does seem to be setting her up to have with those connections to his other work for DC. She also has a connection to several DC families that could help further explore her place in the new DCU status quo.
Guesses of the Justice League survivor aside, this decision will shake up the current state of DC Comics publishing line. If Batman does indeed die in this event his franchise in the main DC Universe could be carried by the rest of the Batman Family. In this respect DC is at least stable since they have been working on setting Nightwing, Oracle, Batwoman, Red Robin, the Batgirls, Huntress, Signal and others up to successfully carry things in Gotham City for the last year. There’s also Jace Fox’s Batman who recently moved to New York City who can get the main Batman series to continue to tell his NYC adventures as he establishes himself as the Dark Knight. Meanwhile you have Red Hood and Damian Wayne’s Robin along with others BatFamily members in other parts of the DCU. That’s all on top of DC Comics having a large catalog of both announced and unannounced Elseworld titles that Bruce Wayne’s Batman will continue to star in.
When it comes to all the other franchises impacted by this event we do have Jon Kent and Jackson Hyde who took on the mantles of Superman and Aquaman, respectively. Jo Mullein was fully brought into the Green Lantern Corps starting last year to give them another leader along with Hal Jordan, Kyle Raynor, Guy Gardner, Jessica Cruz, and Simon Baz. There is also the recent introduction of Yara Flor, who is about to complete her journey to becoming Wonder Girl, opening the door for Donna Troy or Nubia to be elevated to the role of Wonder Woman. Plus it looks like this will be the first Crisis-level event where Barry Allen, Wally West, and the Flash Family will be safe as they aren’t taking part in the fight against the Dark Army. So DC Comics certainly has a wealth of characters that can carry the brand in the new DC Universe status quo.
THOUGHTS ON THE DEATH OF THE JUSTICE LEAGUE
All of this said it is tough not to be pessimistic about how long DC Comics will be dedicated to this new direction. This isn’t a brand new direction that DC Comics has not tried in the modern day. We have had similar events where the iconic Justice League members were taken off the board in various ways. Just off the top of my memory we’ve had Infinite Crisis, 52, One Year Later, Brightest Day, Final Crisis, Flashpoint, New 52, DC Rebirth, and Dark Nights that have led to similar company wide changing directions in the last two decades alone.
Purely from the announcement it sounds of what Justice League #75 is about and what it is leading to a lot of the information Joshua Williamson and Rafa Sandoval talked about it all sounds like DC Comics took the long road to Dan Didio’s previously planned 5G direction. From what we know about the 5G direction Didio was planning before being fired from his position at DC Comics the intention was to phase out the iconic DCU heroes and replace them with new characters in the same superhero identities. All of that sounds like what the plan will be for the post-Justice League #75 DC Universe status quo.
Though to be fare to DC Comics this is just speculation that we will see the new DCU status quo become what 5G was planned to be. A lot of those ideas were used for the Future State 3-month direction DC Comics had at the beginning of 2021. So we may not see all of the characters that took on new roles in Future State elevated to those positions unless there is a time jump planned as part of the post-Justice League #75 direction. But I don’t doubt we won’t see some elements from Future State bleed into the new DC Universe. We do after all currently have Jon Kent as Superman, Jackson Hyde as Aquaman, and Jo Mullein as the lead Green Lantern already in place.
But in all honesty I’m just not a fan of stories where companies only creative direction for elevating characters is to kill off the iconic character in those roles. I’ve seen this narrative before many times and it also has loud portion of DC Comics fanbase to constantly talk about how this is temporary with Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, Diana Prince, Jon Stewart, etc. all eventually returning and taking their roles back. We have seen this countless times, including the Death of Superman storyline that this Death of the Justice League story is honoring. This all leaves it so when those characters do return, as they always have in the past, downgrade who ever is given the opportunity to step up as soon as the status quo is returned to normal.
I hate that I have to view it this way because I want to be completely hype for this new direction. One reason is that I do actually think it is important that the legacy of DC’s iconic superheroes are explored by their respective network of heroes they influenced over the decades. Its part of why Batman has been able to succeed as he has a Batman Family that DC Comics has invested in through creative, money, and time to be as established as the leader of the franchise. It’s led to Batman’s legacy being explored through all the characters that are related to his Batsymbol logo. This new direction could be an opportunity to force all the creators working for DC Comics to think of ways to elevate characters from the Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and other franchises so the publishing line isn’t 95% dependent on the Batman brand.
I also want to believe in the grand epic that Joshua Williamson has been telling since Infinite Frontier #0. From work on Flash, Batman, Robin, and Infinite Frontier Williamson has a history of delivering excellent work with his time on various DC Comics titles. Its just that this will take full editorial and creative effort to make it work. And with so many hands that need to be involved in order for this direction to work it is tough not to be worried. Williamson will have to take on a Jonathan Hickman X-Men shepard-like role for DC just to make sure there is a cohesive overall vision being told.
Ideally, what I would like to see is Williamson lead a direction similar to the Justice League Unlimited and Young Justice animated cartoons. Have veteran heroes such as Cyborg, Nightwing, Oracle, and Mr. Terrific to band the rest of the DCU’s superheroes to work as a network to deal with larger threats together. That way if you do have a Justice League it can be something different from the typical team of seven. And this could also help both ongoings and mini-series to have a directions of their own that are still tied to a greater narrative. It could also help to have a simpler explanation that the heroes have JLU-style network when talking about the new status quo.
Overall there is a lot to process with this announcement of DC Comics killing off the majority of the Justice League roster. There are a lot of questions with what this will do for all the franchises under the DC Comics brand. I want to believe in this creative direction but given DC Comics long-history with reboots and relaunches its hard not to be hesitant. I will give them a chance to prove that they believe in the plans they have in place. But complete trust is something that DC Comics, their editors, and creative teams will have to earn. The ball is in their court to prove they can commit to a long-term plan and make it successful
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