Jessica is trapped within her own power ring and faces her own fears while receiving assistance from a mysterious friend. Meanwhile, more of Grail’s origin is revealed as well as her plans for revenge. How does it fare?
Justice League Darkseid War Special #1 is a non-linear story that jumps back and forth between Jessica’s journey inside the power ring and Grail’s journey from birth until present day. Writer Geoff Johns does a good job of tying the two stories together and even offering a mirror between Grail and Jessica as they choose opposite paths.
One of the ways Johns ties the two together is through his transitions in dialogue. He seamlessly uses dialogue between Jessica and Grail to flow into Grail’s story and vice versa. If not for the coloring of the word bubbles, you might think the dialogue wasn’t even transitioning into another character’s story at all. That’s how good the writing transitions are.
Johns also debuts multiple styles of writing. In Jessica’s story, it is highly driven through dialogue and character interaction. While with Grail, he uses a journalistic style from Grail’s perspective. The style of writing also allows Johns to showcase just how these two characters are almost opposite of each other.
Jessica’s story heavily focuses on fear and her ability and choice to face it and overcome it. Unfortunately, Johns relies on previous knowledge of the character and her past decisions to really sell her new choices. This reliance on the character’s back story limits the effect Jessica’s emotional journey can have on readers.
In contrast, Johns fully delves into Grail’s history showcasing her struggles to control her nature while also teasing a pivotal moment in Wonder Woman’s birth. This is a theme Johns explores with Grail, the idea behind a character’s nature and their ability to control their nature and make decisions. Can the offspring of a completely evil being be able to choose good? Johns lightly wrestles with this question and doesn’t seem to come to an answer, at least not in this issue. It is a theme that provides depth to the story and makes it that much more compelling.
While the writing for Jessica’s story is solid, the inclusion of it doesn’t fit the rest of the story. Johns only hints at tying the two characters without actually doing it. It makes the overall story feel a little unsatisfying with so much allusion to their connectedness without actually seeing it take place.
While Johns separates the story into two parts focused on Jessica and Grail, the artwork is split into three different parts: Jessica’s story, Grail’s early history, and Grail in the current time line. Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, Oscar Jimenez, and Paul Pelletier and Tony Kordos work on these three sections and effortlessly maintain the style of Jason Fabok’s Justice League as well as create distinct differences to showcase the different stories and time lines.
The scenes in the past do a good job of attempting to humanize Grail. They minimize backgrounds and settings in favor of detailed character moments focused on Grail, her actions, and her mother, Myrina. This is also where you see Johns exploring the nature vs choice dynamic. It’s quite interesting to see the actual nature in these panels is hardly present.
In contrast, the present time-line scenes have intricate nature panels set deep within a cave. The cave is the focus over Grail and Myrina. In one panel you can barely make out Grail and Myrina as the cave swallows them up. It’s almost as if Grail has succumbed to her nature.
Alex Sinclair’s colors are excellent. He adds a nice grayish filter to the past scenes to give them a memory-like feeling. The present time-line scenes feel fantastical with his use of light in the cave. It is also dark and brooding, at times foreshadowing terrible events to happen. His colors are able to emphasize emotions and even instill awe and fear into some of the large splash pages.
Justice League Darkseid War Special #1 doesn’t feel like an essential part to the Darkseid War saga Geoff Johns is writing, but it does provide a solid back story for Grail and lightly explores some deeper themes with Jessica and Grail. Jessica’s story doesn’t really tie in with Grail despite the excellent transitions and allusions to connectedness. The art is solid and does a great job of keeping within the style of the Darkseid War. You can probably skip this one, but if you are really interested in learning more about Grail and Jessica go pick this one up.
- Light exploration of deeper themes
- Excellent transitions
- Solid artwork
- The two stories are seemingly unrelated