Dark Crisis #1 review

You know, it’s funny. I’ve spent so much time discussing Dark Crisis in my reviews leading up to it… that by the time the event has actually arrived, I feel like I have nothing more to say. I think the book’s content – or lack thereof – speaks for itself.

Dark Crisis #1 sets the stage for the latest (and greatest?) event in the DC Multiverse. The Justice League are “dead”, the Great Darkness is approaching, and everyone seems to believe the end is nigh. Smaller criminal organizations are getting bolder, while some of the larger villains in the world of DC have gone mysteriously quiet. Black Adam is the only survivor of the Justice League’s death, Deathstroke is up to something, and the world is without a leading team of superheroes. Who will step up when the multiverse needs it?

Apparently, not Hal Jordan. Or Wally West, or Dick Grayson, or Billy Batson. No, they seem relatively nonplussed by the lack of a Justice League – and it’s up to Jonathan Kent to make his own.

Ironically, this is the part that I like the most about Dark Crisis. In interviews, the creative team behind this book said this is all about legacy, and I really did get that impression going through the book. It’s nice to be reading a major event that isn’t focused on the usual suspects – Clark, Bruce, Diana and the rest are infinitely interesting, but they are not the only resource you need to pull from for your major DC events. Having legacy characters taking centre stage is good! Characters meant to replace their predecessors are actually given the chance to step up and replace them here – and while it feels like they skipped a generation by aging up Jon and suddenly making him Superman, the sentiment is still there.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the content of the book is able to be held up by the concept. This book has a lot of things happen in it, but many of them seem like they’re happening for the sake of necessity to the plot. Wally and Hall can’t help Jon with the Justice League, because they need to investigate the disappearance of the old team. Nightwing (and the rest of the titans like Cyborg, Starfire and Raven!) can’t help either, because they’re training the next generation of Titans. Wonder Girl can’t help because she’s busy with her own tribe, Jace’s Batman can’t help because he’s busy with New York…  the list goes on.

Look at this page, where Jon is selecting new recruits for the League: can you tell me their decisions are anything but entirely arbitrary? Does it really feel like these characters would all respond like that, or does it feel like they need to respond like that for the story?

Now, of course, characters can act however the writer tells them – that’s why writers are there, after all. But I think the illusion of a character being independent is important, and this doesn’t do that for me. I don’t understand why Naomi and Shazam don’t accept Jon’s offer, and I certainly don’t get why Harley and Peacemaker are even approached. This is the team Jon finally has by the end of the first issue, which you’ve probably seen making the rounds online:

I’m going to give it a little slack – the point of the team is that it’s ragtag and clearly far from ideal. But a Justice League where Harley Quinn is on the team is not a very good Justice League, no matter how you slice it – and I say that as a big fan of the character. Let her stay in her lane! She herself doesn’t understand why she’s on the team! I am not going to judge this team further until I see them in action, so I’ll just say I hope Williamson is giving some thought as to how each of their skills can benefit the team in unique and interesting ways.

Another thing that bothers me is the dialogue. I’m going to assume that, because this is partially a recap issue, we should expect a little more expository content than usual – but good god, none of the characters in this book can shut up for a second. Everyone feels an explicit need to say exactly what’s happening, all the time, as if they know a confused 11-year-old might be lost as to what’s happening. This is irritating but acceptable when it comes to important context and information, but it’s even the case in tiny moments like this.

Why do we need Jon to say that? We know, visually, that it’s happening – why not trust your artist to convey that information? This oversaturation of dialogue not only makes it all feel like a culmulative word soup, but it makes me feel like none of the characters are particularly distinct. They’re all written the same way: “I have this role in the story, and I need to explain it to you”.

It’s a shame there aren’t more pages where Daniel Sampere’s work can speak for itself, because it’s really impressive stuff! People are likely going to praise how busy his work is, and I mean that in the best possible way: it takes serious skill to illustrate crowded scenes of battle with characters looking distinct throughout, and even more skill to make fifty wacky superhero costumes blend in naturally together as they stand at a memorial. However, my favourite page has gotta be this one. It’s the only page in the issue without any dialogue, and it’s fantastic at portraying Jon’s character arc: rising up to meet the expectations of legends that loom larger than life. Alejandro Sánchez’s colours give the statues a beautiful glow, and make it really feel like we’re watching a new generation rise from the golden age of heroes.

Now, to discuss the ending:

I think what angers me more about Beast Boy’s “death” (who can tell nowadays) is that it’s been done with a complete lack of ceremony. Mind you, this isn’t exclusive to Dark Crisis – Martian Manhunter met a similar end in a story I quite like, Not-So-Final Crisis. But in both instances, I think the decision is cheap: it’s made not as a way of eliciting emotion, but shock value. Who here in the readerbase is going to be truly sad at Beast Boy’s tragic death? Isn’t it more likely that audiences will be frustrated he was not given a more noble exit, or that his death wasn’t delivered with the drama that it deserves? Beast Boy “died” alone, surrounded by villains and none of his friends. That’s an incredibly bleak ending for a beloved character! Lean into that, if you must! Don’t just have stuff happen and have the characters say it’s important, convey it! That is, of course, unless Beast Boy is alive – in which case, it’s a bait and switch I don’t exactly appreciate.

Also? Deathstroke’s outfit looks terrible.

Recommended If:

  • You still have that little spark of joy people get when reading a big, bombastic comic. Where did mine go? It’s not fair! >:(
  • Legacy characters taking centre stage is something up your alley.
  • You’re not sick and tired of Crisis events. I envy you.


Did you know that Dark Crisis was actually the rejected name for Dark Nights: Metal? Funny that I’m not very invested in an event book so unoriginal that it can’t even think of its own name. I’m excited at the idea of putting the new generation front and centre, and for that and the art I’m going to give the book a generous score – but if the next issue retains all of my problems with this one, expect lower scores going forward.

Score: 4/10

P.S. Bonus points for the person who counts how many times I put “death” and associated words in sarcastic quotation marks!


Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.

Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch