DC’s Dark Crysis Villain Is Much Bigger Than Fans Think

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Warning: spoilers for Dark Crisis #2 are ahead

The Dark Crisis event is shaking up the status quo in DC Comics, promising lasting change as the omniverse’s best heroes team up to fight The Great Darkness. As the event’s name might suggest, Dark Crisis is the latest in DC’s famed “Crisis” events that all began with 1985’s epic crossover, Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez. It is no surprise then that Dark Crisis is an event thematically concerned with legacy, and while its themes are a beautiful tribute to the history of DC Comics, the events of the limited series thus far have inadvertently supported the objective of its main villain.

Dark Crisis is occurring at a dire time in DC Comics, as the Justice League, including Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman, were all killed. In the mean time, legacy heroes and former sidekicks such as Nightwing, Jon Kent’s Superman, and now Kyle Rayner’s Green Lantern have had to step up to fight a myriad of villains taking advantage of the chaos in a Justice League-less world. Having above them all is the impeding threat posed by an entity known as the Great Darkness, an omniversal threat that seeks an end to all creation.

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On another level, The Great Darkness is a more complicated villain than fans might think, because if it were to truly “win,” it would necessitate the end of DC publishing comics, at least with this current cast of characters. As longtime comic fans know, no one truly dies in superhero comics, unless they’re Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben, and this is partly achieved by the fact that characters are kept alive by discourse created by fans and creators. A character can only truly “die” if no one talks about them anymore. As such, The Great Darkness hinges upon the death of conversation and the death of expansion, which makes Dark Crisis’ focus on legacy so thorny.

Thus far, Dark Crisis has been clear about the importance that legacy plays in its story, positioning it in opposition to The Great Darkness. This reflects the uniqueness of superhero comics, which is itself a legacy form, telling stories across decades with the help of thousands of writers, artists, and other creators. And while this is certainly a beautiful idea, made even more bittersweet with the recent passing of iconic creators like Neal Adams and George Pérez, Dark Crisis overcommits itself to its legacy theme, retreading territory fans already remember experiencing the first time around. This was especially apparent in Dark Crisis #2 from Joshua Williamson and Daniel Sampere, which featured a brawl between Nightwing and Deathstroke in front of Titans Tower, while Jon Kent’s Superman fought Cyborg Superman. Because of this, it seems that the Great Darkness has already arrived on DC’s Earth Prime, as Dark Crisis doesn’t feel like a new creation, so much as a summation of events that have already taken place in DC Comics.

Dark Crisis Lacks The Stakes Of Its Predecessors.

It has been clear since the announcement that the Justice League would die in Joshua Williamson and Rafa Sandoval’s Justice League #75 that Dark Crisis was shaping up to be a meta-commentary on death in the DC Universe, but its revisitations of classic moments in DC history lack a sense of bite. The Justice League dying in their 75th issue is a reference to Superman’s death in Superman #75 by Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding, an event that shook the world of comics 30 years ago. This is later echoed in Dark Crisis #2 with Jon Kent fighting Cyborg Superman, who fans remember from the Reign of the Supermen crossover that took place in the wake of Clark’s death.

Related: DC Announces New Superman Tribute in Wake of the Justice League’s Death

But while Cyborg Superman’s 1993 fight with Conner Kent’s Superboy in Karl Kesel, Tom Grummett, and Doug Hazlewood’s The Adventures of Superman #503 remains stomach-churning to read, decades after the event ended, its 2022 parallel feels toothless because of its own self-awareness. As Jon and Hank Henshaw’s cyborg trade punches, the action is framed around the spectacle of them appearing in the same panel, rather than building a fight sequence that holds readers in suspense. Cyborg Superman quickly reminds Jon Kent that he isn’t his father, a fact already abundantly clear. While Dark Crisis shouldn’t be beholden to using the same storytelling techniques of its predecessors, simply reminding readers that Superman is once again dead (as a brawl between Cyborg Superman and a former Superboy can confirm) doesn’t give its new Superman any fresh material to work with.

Dark Crisis Retreads Familiar Territory.

Similarly, Nightwing’s fight against Deathstroke feels empty. Dick Grayson once again faces down the Teen Titans’ nemesis, the fight briskly resolving in four pages. Featuring such a high profile feud in Dark Crisis is bewildering, because it’s not one fans are needing a reminder of. Deathstroke has repeatedly fought the Titans and Nightwing for decades, and anchoring this new fight on this basic spectacle doesn’t advance fans’ understandings of those previous fights to begin with.

Related: Deathstroke Proves His Real Teen Titans Nemesis Was Never Nightwing

This is why Dark Crisis has struggled to have a sense of urgency to it as an event. Fans have already read fights involving Cyborg Superman and Deathstroke in the past, why do they need to see much smaller versions of those fights when there’s a larger cosmic problem hanging over them? While the issue makes it clear that Deathstroke is involved with Pariah, the figure working in tandem with the Great Darkness, why must readers be reminded of facts and events that were much more engaging the first time they were experienced?

Ultimately, Dark Crisis is still in its nascent stages as an event, with the remaining five issues leaving plenty of room for development on its themes and conceit. Fans will have to wait for the rest of the limited series to come out before a verdict can be made about its story. With numerous spinoffs set to release in the coming months, Dark Crisis has plenty of chances to deliver on its transformative promise.

That said,  Dark Crisis has gotten off to a troubling start because of its over-reliance on viewing superhero comics as a legacy project. While that is certainly accurate, it lacks a crucial ingredient to what makes superhero comics possible in the first place: creativity. What has driven comics’ oldest characters into the twenty-first century is a sense of expansion and imagination, with new teams of creators building off of what came before, often introducing radical changes. DC Comics‘ Dark Crisis fails to see that legacy only works if it leaves change in its wake, and in this way, it plays into the exact objectives of its primary villain, the Great Darkness.