After some delays, and some shuffling of release order, we finally get the Justice League: Darkseid War special. As much as I want to be upset by the delays, I find myself incapable of getting too angry because each issue ends up being so damn satisfying. This issue, is no exception.
Based on the cover and solicitation, I expected this special to pull us out of the current conflict, and focus on Diana, Grail, and Myrina, as well as the role they played leading into the Darkseid War. While my assumption was partially right, I was surprised to find that this issue spends most of its time in the present day… And that Jessica Cruz is actually more of a focus than Wonder Woman. By the end of the issue, I couldn’t really figure out why this was considered a “special” rather than just being released as another issue of Justice League. This isn’t a complaint by any means, just an observation.
The main focus in this book is Grail. Up to this point, we didn’t know too much about her, but I think we could’ve safely said that Johns created a winning character! There’s a certain x-factor to her that’s intriguing and exhilarating. Her motivations are also intriguing, and that specifically is one of the driving forces of this installment.
We know that Grail is the daughter of Darkseid and the Amazon Myrina. We also know that she has daddy issues, and sided with Anti-Monitor to start the Darkseid War. What we don’t know, is what drove her to this point. That’s where this issue plays a critical role.
Myrina’s pregnancy and exile from the Amazons is explained in further detail. The same day that Wonder Woman was born, Grail was born. It appears as though Newton’s law of physics is in full effect: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. You now have Wonder Woman, a powerful, strong figure for good, and Grail, a powerful, strong figure for evil. But that initial summation may not be as accurate as expected.
At the beginning of the issue, Myrina helps establish this by stating, “As an Amazon, I believe there is good in everyone. Everyone except for Darkseid. God of Apokolips. Devil among the stars. His soul was black and toxic, if it was ever there at all. In the past, my daughter has been infeted by it. The darkness has shown itself. It has influenced her to do horrific things. But I’ve helped her wrest control of the evil within her. She is more my daughter than his.”
It’s a simple statement, but it speaks volumes and sets up what’s to come. Yes, this issue serves as Grail’s “origin,” but more than that, it serves as a character study for her. It would be easy to say Grail is evil… Here, Johns proves that’s a matter of perspective. I don’t want to go as far to say she’s a hero, but she definitely lives in gray, and making a generic statement about her or her intentions would be a mistake.
As you read the issue and learn more about Grail, how she was raised, the internal struggles she faced, and the bravery and love Myrina kept through it all. It’s something that Grail is fully aware of, and you can even see her understanding of her nature on the credits page pictured above where she claims, “Mother named me Grail… And she has trained me to do good, even if I’m not.”
The more I read, and the more I learn, I can’t help but feel sorry for Grail. The definition of “grail” is: a thing that is being earnestly pursued or sought after. She is a creature of evil, but she is desperately pursuing a life of good. It’s with this realization that I suddenly look at this entire arc, specifically her role and intentions, differently. I can’t view her as an evil person pursuing chaos… Instead of torn on what her intentions really are as parts of her plan are revealed, and more questions are created. It’s impossible to determine which of her actions are misunderstood as she embarks on a noble mission to rid the universe of a crippling evil, or if Darkseid’s nature is shining through… and it’s fascinating.
This same theme is what shows up in Jessica Cruz’s portion of this book: an internal struggle of good and evil. In a previous issue, Vothoom, the entity that is Power Ring, took over Jessica’s body. Here we get to see her fight against Volthoom. The entire experience is pretty creepy, but needed to help ground Jessica. I have no foundation to make this statement, but I can’t help but feel that her story is why this issue was delayed.
Jessica’s narrative feels out of place, despite similar themes, but is probably required for Justice League to successfully transition into Rebirth where she plays a more prominent role. As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t a negative, it simply surprised me. I do, however, think her narrative fails in comparison to Grail’s.
And if you remember, I stated most of this issue takes place in the present day… that includes Grail. We get to see more of Grail’s plan unfold, and that plan includes Steve Trevor… I don’t want to give anything away for those of you that haven’t read it, just know that John’s continues to kill this run!
The Art: There are a number of artists on this issue, and typically I’m not a fan when that happens. Typically, different art styles pull me from the story and feel distracting because characters and locations look different from page to page. This issue is a different situation as each artist sticks to their own “arc” (Grail, Jessica, Myrina’s flashback, etc), so it feels and flows smoothly.
And while I’m sad that Fabok isn’t on this book, Ivan Reiss makes a return to the title, so that is exciting in itself. Every artist delivers solid work, and it’s all melded together nicely by Alex Sinclair’s colors.
Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.
The Good: Grail. I was already intrigued by Grail, but this issue went above and beyond in developing her. If you initially thought she was just another evil foil for Wonder Woman, you may not be wrong. She is a piece of Darkseid, and because of that, she is partially made of pure evil. It’s shown in her throughout different portions of her childhood. As an infant, she slaughters a horde of men simply because she was displeased with the way they reacted to her and her mother.
But to simply describe her as “evil” doesn’t serve her justice, and inaccurately depicts who she is. The best moment of her struggle is when she loses control at an early age, and attacks her mother.
It’s heartbreaking to see how much she hates the evil inside of her, and how desperately she wants to be anything but evil. And it’s warming to see Myrina go to the lengths that she does to continue to shape and guide Grail, despite the fact that she puts her own life in danger every day by doing so. It also creates a similar hatred for Darkseid between the two, and their hate of evil serves as the catalyst for Grails mission to destroy him. It’s an incredible read!
Now that she’s older, it appears as though she’s come to terms with the evil that is within her, and that allows her to do things for the “greater good” that we may not understand… The problem is, it also makes it impossible to determine if she’s continuing to act on her mission to continue destroying evil (the Anti-Monitor), her if her own internal evil is taking over for her to enact a new plan… Whatever it is, I can’t wait to see how Johns wraps up this arc, and I HOPE Grail continues on into Rebirth because she’s too fascinating to come and go so quickly.
Steve Trevor. Speaking of Grail’s plans… what in the hell did she just do to Steve Trevor!?! And what in the hell will the consequences be? She’s clearly executing some plan, but she may be misguided in her knowledge of prophecy… This is the biggest question that develops from this issue, and holy cow do I want the next chapter so I can know what’s happened!
Jessica versus Volthoom. I loved seeing Jessica struggle inside Volthoom, and on top of that, I loved seeing all of the other Power Ring victims that Volthoom and corrupted and emotionally defeated. Seeing Jessica’s courageousness to fight against Volthoom was a great moment for this character, and she needed it to ground herself within the Justice League… unfortunately, it didn’t end like I felt it should have…
The Bad: Jessica is saved… again. The entire time Jessica is entrapped in Volthoom, there’s a voice or spirit guiding her. I desperately wanted this to be her own will pulling her through this so that when she did break free, it would give her the confidence she needs, and establish her as a human worthy of becoming a Green Lantern as DC heads into Rebirth. Instead, she’s “saved” again… this time by Cyborg. Fail.
- You’re curious to learn Grail’s history.
- You want more insight into why Grail sided with Anti-Monitor to destroy Darkseid.
- Darkseid War has been awesome, and you should be reading it.
Overall: Johns’ Darkseid War is the closest thing to perfection that’s graced DC in years! This story is a MUST READ! I don’t say that often, so please understand how good this story arc is for me to make that type of declaration. The story builds and builds with each issue, and you’re constantly getting worthwhile payoffs throughout the run. Darkseid War is magic!
SCORE: 9.0/ 10