Throughout the DC Universe, there are a number of cosmic beings with immense power, but perhaps none more so crazed and egotistical than Darkseid. Hailing from the planet Apokolips, Prince Uxas was second in line to the Apokoliptian throne, but took power for himself by killing his older brother and bonding with the powerful Omega Force, becoming the villainous Darkseid. Created by prolific comic book writer and artist Jack Kirby, Darkseid made his debut in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #134 in 1970, before making his first full appearance in Forever People #1 in 1971. Darkseid’s main goal is to remove free will from the universe by seeking out the Anti-Life Equation, a mysterious mathematical equation, which gives the wielder total control over the thoughts and minds of all living beings in the universe. Darkseid had a special interest in Earth as he believed that humans contained fragments of the Equation in their minds and sought to dominate the planet. To that end, Darkseid has been a recurring antagonist for Superman and the Justice League, fighting against his tyranny and parademon army. During the early part of 2016, The New 52 initiative was coming to an end and writer Geoff Johns was determined to go out with a bang, featuring a battle between the two most powerful beings in the universe, leaving the Justice League helplessly caught in the middle.
Reeling from his defeat at the hands of the Justice League, Darkseid returns to Earth seeking revenge. However, his daughter, Grail has plans for her father that will bring the two most powerful beings in the galaxy into conflict. The Justice League are about to face the ultimate battle.
When The New 52 brand was launched in 2011, it was designed to be a complete reboot from DC's quite often muddled continuity. The new continuity was meant to re-contextualise the heroes and villains of the DC Universe in an attempt to break from past traditions. All characters (save for Batman and Green Lantern) were given new origin stories and milestone events such as the formation of the Justice League were given prominence. However, the reset proved unpopular with fans, who were used to the ongoing relationships that had been established prior to the Flashpoint comic event. Long-standing couples were broken up like Barry Allen and Iris West and Superman's new characterisation was fairly arrogant and a far cry from the "Boy Scout" persona of the past. Realising this, DC slowly phased out The New 52 initiative, dropping the branding completely after Convergence and began to wrap up storylines in preparation for a new comic lineup. Darkseid War was one of the final comic arcs of The New 52 and it was one to remember. Authored by Geoff Johns, Darkseid War brought the Justice League full circle, in a rematch against the opponent that brought them together in the first place.
The story begins when a woman arrives back home and is confronted by two assassins. They dispatch her as she tries to escape, when one of the pair, Lyshina informs the other, Kanto that this woman wasn't the right one and they vanish into the night. On the planet, Apokolips, Scott Free a.k.a. Mr Miracle is searching for a means to defeat Darkseid as he has heard rumours that Darkseid has been converting people into parademons from the worlds he has conquered across the Multiverse. Mr Miracle relates his backstory as the adopted son of Darkseid, who was exchanged with Darkseid's biological son, Orion in an effort to stop the war between Apocalypse and New Genesis. While Orion was treated favourably, Mr Miracle was thrown into the pits of the fire planet, taking years for him to escape. As Mr Miracle finds a Mother Box, he is confronted by Darkseid, who tries to blast him with his Omega Beams, however, Mr Miracle is able to boom tube away with the help of the Mother Box.
On Earth, the Justice League, including new members Shazam, Power Ring and Lex Luthor investigate a string of murders of women with the name "Myrina Black", while Superman and Luthor make their way to Lex’s lab to check on the status of Neutron after the events of the Amazo Virus . During a heated argument, Superman challenges Lex to cure Neutron, when Lex attacks Superman, who in turn is shot by his sister, Lena, using a Mother Box to transport the two adversaries to Apokolips. Meanwhile, while the Flash is conversing with Power Ring, he suddenly stops as a woman boom tubes her way through the Flash’s mouth and begins attacking the League. Mr Miracle is transported to the hideout of Myrina Black, the woman Darkseid has put a hit on. She explains she knew Darkseid was planning to enslave the universe and prepared a countermeasure by having his daughter, Grail, who was raised to despise her father for his many atrocities. Back on Earth, the mysterious woman attacking the heroes is revealed to be Grail, who grabs Jessica Cruz’s ring, which is tied to the alternate Earth-3, using its evil power to summon the Anti-Monitor to the battlefield. Just as the League seems at its weakest, they are transported away by Metron, the God of Knowledge. Metron regards the heroes upon his Mobius Chair, stating that they cannot save Earth. Wonder Woman demands Mobius tells them who the Anti-Monitor is, but this is the one thing he doesn't know. Frustrated Wonder Woman pulls Metron off the Chair, which as it begins to disappear, Batman sits down in Metron’s place, finding himself plugged into the knowledge of the universe. Batman is now the new God of Knowledge, informing the others that he will scour the Multiverse in order to find the identity of the Anti-Monitor.
Back on Apokolips, Superman and Lex Luthor are attacked by the slaves of Apokolips, while Superman discovers his powers are fading, since the planet is not in proximity to a yellow sun. In a last-ditch effort, Lex throws his long-time nemesis into a solar pit, believing that its energy will recharge Superman. Unfortunately, the plan works too well, as Superman, now covered in black blasts his way out, becoming the God of Strength.
Returning to the battlefield, the rest of the heroes are powerless to stop the Anti-Monitor, which is made even worse when Darkseid boom tubes in, leading to a faceoff between the two most powerful beings in the universe (and unwittingly, playing into Grail’s plan). Travelling the Multiverse, Batman, accompanied by Green Lantern make their way to Qward, the Anti-Monitor’s homeworld and discover a shocking secret. The Anti-Monitor was once a man named Mobius, the inventor of the Mobius chair, who sought out the knowledge of the creation of the universe, but was cursed with the Anti-Life Equation and banished to the anti-matter universe. Returning to Earth, the Anti-Monitor taunts Darkseid, telling him that he has the one thing that Darkseid has spent his entire life searching for: the Antilife Equation is bonded to him. Summoning the Black Racer and fusing him with the Flash, the Anti-Monitor uses his own power and that of the Flash to kill Darkseid, ending the tyrant’s rein.
As Darkseid lies dead, the team ponder if a God can truly die. The Flash, now bonded to the Black Racer, asks if he killed Darkseid, but Mr Miracle (who arrived to help the League) explains that it was the work of the Black Racer, the Anti-Monitor's ultimate weapon, but it required a host to access its true power. Consumed by the power, the Flash becomes the God of Death and speeds off. Returning to Apokolips, Superman, imbued with his new strength, states that he should have taken out Lex a long time ago and rips apart his battle suit. Superman rockets off into the sky, leaving Lex stranded on the fire planet. As Lex wanders the ashen wasteland, he is captured by the Free People, who believe him to be part of a prophecy that foretells the end of Darkseid by an individual hailing from Metropolis. Lex tells them that he is this person and is given the power of the Omega Effect that has returned to Apokolips following Darkseid's death. Lex Luthor emerges as the new God of Apokolips.
What remains of the Justice League, now has to content with Darkseid's children, who have come for revenge for their fallen father. As the battle rages on, Wonder Woman decides they need to find the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 since they may know what the Anti-Monitor is planning as he destroyed their home, following the events of Forever Evil . However, the Crime Syndicate are in maximum security and not even the Justice League can see them. A huge explosion occurs and the Anti-Life Equation leaves the Anti-Monitor. Grail reaches out for the ball of energy, becoming the Goddess of Anti-Life.
Meanwhile, Cyborg, Jessica Cruz and Mr Miracle travel to Belle Reve Penitentiary to rescue the remaining members of the Crime Syndicate, the evil Justice League from Earth-3. Finding Ultraman, they ask what the Anti-Monitor is planning and responds saying the Anti-Monitor is coming to destroy them all. While finding a way to open Superwoman's cell, Jessica is possessed by Power Ring and breaks a pregnant Superwoman from her confinement. Cyborg tries to hack the Ring, however, a feedback loop also traps Cyborg within the Ring. Superman arrives back on Earth and clashes with Wonder Woman, who desperately tries to get him to remember who he is. Superman’s presence also brings Batman and Green Lantern back as well, with Batman stating that the energy overload is breaking down Superman's cells. Now that Grail has taken possession of the Anti-Life Equation, the Anti-Monitor reverts back to his previous form, Mobius and launches an all-out assault on the Justice League. The Crime Syndicate arrives and Superman and Ultraman use their combined powers to attack Mobius, who doesn't even stagger. Superman unleashes his full energy against Mobius, allowing Superman to return to normal, but this doesn't even stop the mad scientist. At that moment, Lex Luthor, the new God of Apokolips returns and dukes it out with Mobius, while Mobius disintegrates Ultraman. During the chaos, Superwoman (who is slain soon after) gives birth and uses her baby to drain the Omega Effect from Lex and the rest of the god powers from the League, resurrecting Darkseid, now under Grail's control. The Flash is separated from the Black Racer, who demands a soul be taken and races after Barry Allen. Suddenly, Power Ring (in possession of Jessica Cruz), sacrifices itself to save the Flash, while the Black Racer, now satiated departs. Batman informs Wonder Woman that the only way to defeat Darkseid is to separate him from the Anti-Life Equation, while Wonder Woman and Grail’s mother, Myrina Black, subdues Grail. Batman, seeking the answers to deeper questions, comes under attack from the Mobius Chair, as the human mind can only process so much information. Green Lantern lends Batman his own power ring and with the added willpower, Batman frees himself from the Chair, while Owlman, Batman's Earth-3 counterpart, takes the Chair and leaves. Myrina tells her daughter to channel her rage through her and Grail uses her Omega beams to cut through Myrina into Darkseid, separating him from the Anti-Life Equation. The battle over, the League stand over a fallen Jessica Cruz, when a Green Lantern power ring arrives and resurrects her as a new member of the Green Lantern Corps. Grail escapes with a baby Darkseid and Superman deals with the news that he is slowly dying.
Epic is perhaps a word that is overused, but in this case, it is fair to say that Darkseid War is epic. Geoff Johns cements his legendary status as a comic writer by providing a fantastic showdown between Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor in a fans’ dream match. Despite the title, Darkseid is a relatively minor player in the story as Johns' focus is more on the Anti-Monitor, fleshing out his backstory as a driven scientist, trying to discover the secrets of the creation of the universe. Furthermore, Johns places a greater emphasis on Darkseid’s legacy, developing the character of Grail, Darkseid daughter and Darkseid’s reincarnation as an infant at the end of the narrative. Johns also examines what happens when mortals gain the power of gods and the total destruction that follows. For all intents and purposes, Lex Luthor temporarily becomes the new Darkseid, while Batman becomes the God of Knowledge (powers that fit their personalities) Darkseid War was one of the final story arcs of The New 52 and set into motion a number of events leading into DC Rebirth, such as Superman’s approaching death, culminating with The Final Days of Superman . That event would be the final New 52 story, which saw the return of the Pre-52 Superman. Darkseid War is a must read for any comic book fan as Johns succinctly brings The New 52 full circle as Darkseid’s emergence, the event that brought this version of the Justice League together, concludes with a final battle against the Dark Lord of Apokolips.