Bizarro Back Issues: Darkseid’s Invasion Of Earth And How It Never Actually Happened (1984)
It's never the wrong time to read a Jack Kirby comic, but with the King's birthday coming up in two weeks, now is a better time than most. Of course, the big problem there is trying to narrow it down --- Kirby's career did, after all, span six decades and involve some pretty prolific major work --- but really, when you want to read Kirby comics, you want to go for the big stuff.
And there's nothing bigger than Darkseid finally launching his attack on Earth, a battle so titanic that it took the combined forces of the Justice League and their most diabolical villains to repel it. It's the most titanic battle possible, on the grandest, most cosmic scale!
Except for the part where, you know, it doesn't actually happen.
I went back and read this one at the suggestion of reader Ben Rowe. Admittedly, he actually meant #5 of Super Powers volume 2 --- you know, the one where Batman and Robin go to a post-apocalyptic future version of Las Vegas where Batman has a wrestling match with a giant green monster --- but when I got confused and leafed through the first volume instead, I still found plenty to talk about.
If you weren't a kid in the '80s, then Super Powers itself might require a bit of explanation. It was a tie-in to a line of DC Comics action figures that was itself at least partially a way to get Kirby some stealth royalties. Even though characters like Darkseid and Kalibak had been created as work-for-hire at DC, Jenette Kahn and Paul Levitz arranged for Kirby to redesign the characters for the action figure line, since a giant evil rock-faced space god in a miniskirt made for a pretty fitting way to compete with Masters of the Universe.
The figures would be used in various DC projects well into the '90s, but the comics are notable for being some of the only work that Kirby ever did on the most of DC's most popular characters, including Batman. Sadly, even that is fleeting. While Kirby plotted the entirety of the first volume (and drew all six issues of the second, with writer Paul Kupperberg), the actual script and art in the first four issues were handled by Joey Cavalieri and Adrian Gonzales, with only #5 being written and drawn by Kirby in its entirety.
But if you're only going to do one issue, this is probably the one.
This is, after all, the epic climax, and when we join the story, things look dire indeed. After granting villains like Luthor, the Joker and the Penguin super-powers in order to distract the Justice League, Darkseid's forces have betrayed the bad guys and sent Earth's heroes and villains bouncing around through time and space with no particular end in sight. And to make matters worse, Darkseid himself has arrived, organizing his soldiers into a conquering force that's ready to bust through a quartet of Boom Tubes and lay waste to our planet.
The good news is that the invasion doesn't seem to be going that well.
The reason, as it turns out, is that everyone's been waiting for Darkseid himself to give the order, so to that end, he goes to the best spot in the world to watch an alien invasion: The offices of DC Comics Incorporated.
While poor young Shmidlapp is sharing an awkward elevator ride with Darkseid --- which I assume involves a terrifying conversation about Shmidlapp's tendency to erase all the crowd scenes and backgrounds when he's inking Mack Derby's pages --- the heroes and villains are still falling though a series of nearby dimensions. It seems like it's their fate to just bounce around the multiverse forever, but suddenly, they're snatched from limbo by the power of the Worlogog and brought before Metron of the New Gods.
And now you know what Grant Morrison was reading when he came up with Rock of Ages.
With the help of Metron, and with the villains realizing that they probably won't be able to continue their careers as criminals if Darkseid conquers the planet and enslaves the entire human race, murder-clowns included, the Super Powers gang all decide to pool their resources and make one last ditch effort at saving the Earth. The thing is, even with their combined powers, which are considerable, they won't be able to stop things head on.
Darkseid has four armies ready to swarm Earth, poised to launch simultaneously in cities around the world, so if they're going to save the world, they're going to have to do something different. And that's where things start to get weird.
Rather than fighting the armies, the Super Powers use their, uh, super-powers --- including the last vestiges of the abilities Darkseid granted to the supervillains --- to power up Metron's mental artillery and head off the armies at the Boom Tube pass, redirecting them to other destinations. The army that's heading for Metropolis, for instance, is rerouted through time to land in the Metropolis of the year 80,000 AD, where a massive sentient computer proves more than capable of dealing with an interdimensional invasion. Army #1 is blasted out into the depths of space, with Future Metropolis none the worse for wear.
Army #2 takes on a similar fate, but rather than the future, they're sent to the distant past, and in the process, they're de-evolved through "genetic regression" into cavemen who immediately turn on each other and bludgeon their fellow soldiers to death with clubs.
Armies #3 and 4 have even stranger fates.
So uh... yeah. The Justice League teams up with their villains to defeat an invasion of Earth by just straight up murdering an army of invading parademons by drowning them, and then sends another to "spend an eternity in a mad universe" that was created by the Joker. But, you know, they're parademons, so it's not even like they really count.
And with that, Earth is saved. Darkseid is sent packing back to Apokolips with no army, and the heroes and villains are all sent home --- although the vilains end up having their memories wiped so that they can't remember saving the world, something that Batman finds hilarious.
It's a weird way to end the war, but consider this: Super Powers was a toy comic. Having all the available action figures team up to stop the evil army from showing up was a whole lot more cost-effective for the kids reading it to re-enact with their toys than having them buy a couple hundred Parademons with Power Action Battle Flight.