The Justice League is dead. There is no Justice League.
This is a bold statement from DC and Justice League writer Joshua Williamson (opens in new tab), but it should probably be taken with a grain of salt.
Following Justice League #75, in which one of America’s oldest superhero teams is destroyed, Dark Crisis will follow the DC Universe as it attempts to move on without legacy heroes Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Zatanna, Hawkgirl, Black Canary, Green Arrow, and Martian Manhunter, as well as the Justice League Incarnate – President Superman, Captain Carrot, Avery Ho, Thunderer, and Doctor Multiverse. Only Black Adam survives the battle, and in Dark Crisis, he insists a new Justice League can’t simply be created from scratch.
Dark Crisis will be a hard, long, definitely dark road, but Williamson says the payoff will be worth it – and in interviews about the upcoming event, he’s been very focused on the concept of legacy and what that means for DC moving forward. Meanwhile, he’s been hinting at what’s to come, particularly in scripts for issues leading up to the actual event.
(opens in new tab)
In the one-shot special Justice League: Road to Dark Crisis #1, a child asks The Flash, “Do you think there’ll ever be a Justice League again?” The Flash gives a short speech about his history with the team, and reflects on how it’s always growing and changing. Then he says, “It’s not really a question of if we will have a new Justice League… or when… The real question is who?”
As we’ve argued numerous times in the past, DC is a very deliberate storyteller as well as a marketer. So it’s pretty safe to conclude that Wally’s comment wouldn’t be on the last page of a Dark Crisis special without consequence.
DC doesn’t throw away a line like that.
It was more likely a prologue, and a promise.
So then “who” will be the new or next Justice League?
In Newsarama’s estimation, there are only two choices.
And we’ll get to that in a moment…
Why there will be a Justice League
The Justice League isn’t permanently gone. If you don’t believe us, believe The Flash.
Most of its members have died before, and if they haven’t, they were bound to eventually. Major deaths of legacy characters in comics rarely stick.
In official statements, DC has towed the line about the Justice League being gone for good. Williamson says (opens in new tab) Dark Crisis is “not about reboots, retcons, or rewriting time and space. At its core it’s about the characters and the relationships that we’ve seen built over DC’s great history.” But DC also admits that death is rarely permanent in the DCU, especially for big-name heroes.
(opens in new tab)
However, the course to getting the Justice League back will obviously be a rough one. Williamson tells ComicBook.com (opens in new tab) that when Jon Kent attempts to create a new team in Dark Crisis #1, it goes wrong, fast: “I wanted to show you Jon is a very optimistic person, super optimistic. … You can’t just make a Justice League just because you say you want to make one. That’s what he goes to do. He’s just like, ‘I’m going to make a Justice League. I’m going to do it myself. That’s the answer.’ And it’s not that easy.”
And let’s face it, whatever your feelings are on Jon and his youthful teammates in the Future State Justice League, right now his and their ascension to the contemporary DCU Justice League would not be an earned one.
Nor would the somewhat ragtag team Jon seems to assemble on a variant cover for Dark Crisis #3.
So back to the question posed by The Flash in Road to Dark Crisis: who will be in the Justice League?
Who will carry on the Justice League name?
If the actual Justice League is dead and another team has to step up and take its place, there are a ton of options – at least at first glance. Jon Kent attempts to form a new Justice League in Dark Crisis #1, though Black Adam verbally eviscerates him for it.
Black Adam and other former members of the Justice League could come together, or form new teams, though, at the moment, that doesn’t seem likely. And handing the safety of Earth-Prime to a group of just teenagers could end poorly, no matter how hard they work alongside their adult counterparts to eliminate bad guys and keep civilians safe.
By process of elimination, there is only one other team that could possibly uphold the legacy of the Justice League, while also honoring its own history within the DC Universe:
Why the Titans?
We can assume the Titans will play a key role in Dark Crisis. In an interview with The Beat (opens in new tab), Williamson says, “I really wanted to do a story about the sidekicks, like the new generation. Not just the newer characters like Yara [Flor] and Jace [Fox] and Jon, but like the Tim Drakes, the Kyle Rayners, and then again, going back to Nightwing and the Titans. What I really wanted to do is tell a story about all of the, I guess you call them next-generation characters, right? Like, all of the not-Justice League characters.”
(opens in new tab)
While this is hardly a smoking gun in determining what’s to come in Dark Crisis, it’s worth noting that Williamson has talked about Nightwing and the Titans often in press interviews about the event. And here’s the thing – the Titans have been the “next” generation – the JV team – for decades, even with premier heroes like Wally West and Dick Grayson doing stints on the team. The Titans seem stuck somewhere in between the Justice League and younger teams like Young Justice that came after them, too old to be the next new thing, but always blocked from being the big thing.
In other words, these days they’re as mature, experienced, and prepared to be the leaders as their mentors were when they first formed the Justice League. Actually, they’re probably even more prepared, since Superman, Batman, etc. didn’t have mentors like themselves.
And this puts the Titans in a position of being ready and capable of being the A-team but never being given the opportunity.
In the Dark Crisis or post-Dark Crisis DCU, it would make sense for Nightwing, Donna Troy, Tempest, Roy Harper, and then their New Teen Titans teammates Starfire, Cyborg (a Superman figure in the Flashpoint reality and Justice League founder in the New 52), Raven, and Beast Boy to graduate and take up residence in the Hall of Justice with full-on Justice League status. If there’s a true vacuum where the Justice League pantheon used to be, the Titans are far and away the most equipped to fill that void.
Theirs would be a promotion earned. A lifetime of preparation and training paying off. Finally graduating to being the main DC team would be a legacy (there’s that word again), fulfilled.
But if DC still isn’t ready to hand over the reins, then there’s only one other choice…
The one and only Justice League
As Williamson has also said several times, it’s not easy to replace the Justice League. In fact, it might just be impossible.
If the Titans team doesn’t get a promotion – or, to be frank, even if it does – the overarching theme of Dark Crisis may be that there is no replacing the Justice League.
(opens in new tab)
The core line-up of Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, the Flash, a senior Green Lantern, etc., is a unique entity that can’t be replicated or replaced at all.
That might be the “legacy” at the core of Dark Crisis.
“One thing that I keep pushing on people is: there is no Justice League. There’s not going to be a Justice League for a while. And even when you read [Dark Crisis], you’re going to see how much there is no Justice League. It’s a major plot point of the whole series, that you can’t just make a Justice League. You can’t just be like ‘We’re the Justice League now. This is what we’re going to do.’ It doesn’t work that way,” Williamson says (opens in new tab).
“That is very spelled out to them by certain characters throughout the story. There are going to be different groups of people who are going to try to make Justice Leagues, and you’ll see how that goes, and how it’s not easy to just make one.”
And while again, Williamson insists Dark Crisis won’t be about retcons or resurrection, DC teases (opens in new tab) that the remaining heroes will have to band together to “save the lost Justice League,” and not all of them will be interested in the fight. This, of course, implies that the Justice League can be found.
When, where, and how the Justice League returns to the DC Universe will be likely revealed during the seven months of Dark Crisis, and unless we miss our guess, it will be followed by the launch of a new Justice League title.
If and when that happens, the lesson of Dark Crisis will probably be that the Justice League’s shoes are big ones to fill. If the original next generation of heroes – the Titans – isn’t ready to finally take the baton from their mentors, it’ll be the mentors themselves declaring to DC readers that there is and will only be one Justice League.
Dark Crisis could go down as one of the best Justice League stories ever.