The DC Universe will have a big issue to deal with. And DC the comic book publisher might as well.
In April’s ‘Death of the Justice League’ in Justice League #75, eight or nine Justice Leaguers – including Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, Aquaman, Green Lantern (John Stewart), and the Flash (Barry Allen) – will die at the hands of Pariah’s Dark Army … or be “lost” and thought dead to the rest of the DCU.
Their “deaths” and the power vacuum they leave behind form the narrative centerpiece of DC’s big 2022 event Dark Crisis.
So if the Justice League dies, who is going to replace them in their monthly solo titles? We have some ideas, but first, the caveats – because exactly how this plays out no one but DC and its creators are exactly sure yet. And ‘Death of Justice League’ and Dark Crisis writer Joshua Williamson announced (opens in new tab) the storyline “takes place a bit in the future of the DCU,” throwing something of a surprise x-factor into the mix.
That could very well mean the death of the iconic Justice League members never have to be dealt with in the pages of the ongoing, in-continuity series starring these characters, and these events of these series will occur in its own little pocket of time and be dropped into continuity along the lines of how 2020-2021’s Dark Nights: Death Metal (opens in new tab) was.
We already took a close look at that continuity dynamic. But our take is not definitive. DC has made it plain these stories are in continuity (whatever DC continuity means these days) so as promised we’ve also given some thought to what happens if the ongoing solo books are affected by the events of the storyline.
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So if the remaining DCU superheroes have to figure out who steps up to fill the power vacuum of the Justice League’s absence, DC editors have to answer the same questions, albeit in a slightly different fashion. Because all of those ‘dead’ heroes occupy one or more ongoing titles, including some new titles that haven’t launched yet.
And if the deaths last for a while as Williamson promised (and again, if reflected line-wide), that means the publisher has to account for the characters being out of the DC picture for a while.
Of course, if necessary DC would have already figured all that out.
But they haven’t announced the full implications (or lack thereof) to readers yet, so again with the caveat of if this exercise is even relevant, we thought we’d take a shot at predicting how DC would deal with the vacuums left by the “death” of the Justice League in its theoretically affected titles.
We’ll start here because this is the easiest.
Wally West already took over as the star of the monthly Flash series in 2021 when Barry Allen joined Justice League Incarnate in a prelude to Dark Crisis. And judging by the Dark Crisis #1 preview artwork, it is Barry who is dead or believed dead along with the Justice League.
So status quo here.
We’re gonna begin in earnest with this one because of how interesting the timing of it is.
DC announced a new Aquamen title co-starring the longtime and iconic Aquaman Arthur Curry and the upstart Aquaman Jackon Hyde with much ballyhoo, but the new ongoing series doesn’t even launch until February 22 – meaning this series won’t be even three issues old before Arthur is fated to die/be lost, taking the bite out of the newly-plural title.
But in a concept we’re going to revisit several times in the next few moments, ‘Legacy’ is a big theme of Dark Crisis, and that early artwork from the first issue shows Garth (the one-time Aqualad-now-Tempest) together with Arthur in a flashback panel.
Garth was already scheduled to be a supporting cast member of the new series, so we’re predicting he steps up as Aquaman alongside Jackson for the duration of the ‘Death of the Justice League’ era.
Garth has previously filled Arthur’s shoes as King of Atlantis the last time Aquaman died (yes, the last time) and he’s been depicted as Aquaman in alternate DC Earths like Earth-15 and the Kingdom Come Earth.
So the time might have arrived for full Garth-Aquaman status.
Similarly, there is no shortage of Wonder Women to take over as the star of the ongoing series, and the upcoming ‘Trial of the Amazons‘ crossover may set this one up on a tee.
Nubia (current Queen of the Amazons), Yara Flor (the newly-introduced Wonder Girl), and Diana’s mother Hippolyta are all now officially Wonder Woman and all have strong cases to take over as the ongoing title’s star, with Wonder Girl the most likely candidate among them (and which could also explain the recent surprise cancellation of the Wonder Girl series).
But in the same spirit of Aquamen we’re going with Donna Troy, the first and original ‘legacy’ character of the Wonder Woman mythos, to finally step into the mantle officially.
Like Garth, the very first page of Dark Crisis art shows a moment between Diana and Donna in her pre-teen Wonder Girl days.
You can’t throw a rock without hitting a Green Lantern in the DCU these days, and the Green Lantern title has become something of an ensemble series anyway, but if we had to pick a lead with John Stewart in absentia the most likely candidate is Sojourner ‘Jo’ Mullein, the breakout star of 2020-2021’s Far Sector (opens in new tab) series who has been planting roots in the mainstream DCU of late.
But … in an interesting twist on that ‘legacy’ theme, Hal Jordan, the quintessential and first Earth-0 Green Lantern who hasn’t been the focus on the main Green Lantern series for some years, is seen prominently in some key ‘Death of the Justice League’ and Dark Crisis images.
The Justice League’s original Green Lantern takes on something of an elder statesman role with the deaths of so many of his contemporaries, and while we expect the other franchise to zig in the direction of younger generations of heroes, we’re predicting (or is that suggesting?) Green Lantern to zag, with Hal taking his natural leadership role among the expanded cast of the Green Lantern series.
Superman and Action Comics
This is where it begins to get interesting.
Of course, Jon Kent is already the star of the main Superman series, now subtitled Son of Kal-El, but we don’t think DC is going to double-up with the new Superman yet in the pages of Action Comics, which currently still stars Kal-Clark.
Again calling back to the Dark Crisis art, we think Supergirl-Kara Zor-El is a natural choice to take over as the main Action Comics star. Remember the conceit of DC’s 2021’s Future State was a glimpse into the future of the DC, and in Future State Kara was Superwoman, protector of Metropolis, lending some credence to the notion.
Batman/Superman: World’s Finest
Like Aquaman, this is an odd one, given the new ongoing series by Mark Waid and Dan Mora, also announced with much fanfare, doesn’t launch until March.
We’re going to speculate Waid didn’t sign up to switch main stars after two issues, but that point is moot anyway.
As Mark Waid has told us, Batman/Superman: World’s Finest is set in the indeterminate past when Dick Grayson was about 17or 18 years old and still Robin.
So moving on…
Batman and Detective Comics
Interestingly, Batman has already moved out of Gotham City, and the ongoing Bat-titles are currently in story arcs that might set up their post-Batman immediate future.
While Bruce Wayne will return to Gotham for the tail end of the story arc, the current three-month ‘Shadows of the Bat’ storyline in Detective is all about the extended Bat-family stepping up in absence of Batman.
That series could just continue apace, with its focus turned on the expanded roster of Gotham heroes, perhaps with the Dick Grayson, the original Robin – now Nightwing and Barbara Gorden, the original Batgirl – now Batgirl and Oracle, cementing themselves as the leaders.
The Batman comic book series itself is a little more complicated. While the new Batman, Jace Fox has just left Gotham for New York City in his own series I Am Batman, we don’t see him doubling up as the Caped Crusader in the main monthly series or see his new series being rebranded Batman.
The core monthly Batman series is arguably DC’s most valuable, and we can’t help returning to the idea of Lex Luthor taking over as leader of a new iteration of Batman, Inc.
Lex Luthor has previously taken over as the star of Action Comics, has joined the Justice League in the past, and in early 2021 was a founding member of the superhero-villain hybrid team the Totality, which has sort of faded to the sidelines.
But the point is a hero-ish turn by the classic supervillain wouldn’t be unprecedented.
And while admittedly eschewing the “legacy” theme, that’d be the kind of attention-grabbing news to catch the eye of mainstream audiences, befitting one of DC’s biggest titles.
As we say, the potential storyline is already being set up in the pages of Batman in a story written by Dark Crisis master planner Joshua Williamson.
Finally, as we mentioned earlier, Williamson said the Justice League will be absent for a while, but some sort of team has to step up to fill their shoes.
We already ran down the various candidates but the main Dark Crisis #1 can’t be overlooked. It includes the line-up of 2021’s Future State: Justice League roster – Wonder Girl (Yara), Superman (Jon), Batman (Jace), Green Lantern (Jo), and Aquaman (Jackson), who takes the place of Andy Curry, still just a toddler in contemporary DC continuity.
Williamson wrote Future State: Justice League, and as we speculated at the time, the limited series ends with something of a promise of their return with an expanded roster.
While we somewhat expect the current Titans United that ends in March to likely lead to a new series, perhaps even an ongoing one, and for DC to finally deliver on the promise of a new Justice Society project of some kind, readers can almost certainly expect the Future State Justice League line-up to figure prominently in Dark Crisis one way or another.
All three generations of superheroes – the oldest, the original sidekicks, and the newest – stepping up for the absent Justice League seems exactly what Dark Crisis’s “legacy” theme is all about.
Hey, whichever way this all plays out, the question is whether Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, and the Justice League are even really dead at all? We answer in a way you might not expect.