On April 26, the Justice League died. We've all known that would happen for months, but if you haven't read April 26's Justice League #75 yet and don't want to know any more details than that, now's the time to head on out, because...
Spoilers ahead for Justice League #75
So where were we..?
Okay, the Justice League minus Black Adam were killed by Pariah, a supervillain seeking to destroy the Multiverse, but not before Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and co. temporarily quash his plans. Enraged, Pariah unleashed strange, blue-tinted energy that enveloped the members of the League and their Multiversal counterparts, the Justice League Incarnate. The energy obliterated their bodies, stripping them down to skeletons and then to dust.
Eagle-eyed DC fans will recognize that this is similar to the way Barry Allen died all the way back in 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez, down to the multi-layered fading panels. However, an even more similar manner of "death," (yep, we're using the term loosely) might have been seen in a DC comic book as recently as September of 2021, and who is "killed" and who wrote the scene makes all the difference in the world...
And if our theory is accurate, the scene may mean that the Justice League is not quite dead at all…
Put your Omniversal thinking caps on, DC fans, it's time to wildly speculate.
Infinite Frontier #6 is September 2021 comic book drawn by Xermanico, colored by Romulo Fajardo Jr., lettered by Tom Napolitano, and just like Justice League #75, written by Joshua Williamson. Featuring an epic battle between Darkseid and a multiversal team of heroes, but it's the epilogue to their adventure that we're going to focus on.
After being manipulated by DC Crisis veteran Psycho-Pirate to break out of the Multiverse, Flash finds himself in the ruins of a dead one. A voice from off-panel informs him that this is Multiverse II and was, in fact, the first Multiverse that was destroyed in the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths. That voice turns out to be Pariah, who introduces himself to the Scarlet Speedster and blasts him with a familiar blue energy, stripping away Flash's mortal form until he winds up…
Totally fine?(opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)
Well, not exactly. While the blast of energy leaves Flash completely whole, it transports him to a pocket reality called "Earth-Flash.1." This reality gives off some serious Silver Age vibes and, from the looks of it, is an absolute paradise for Barry Allen. Infinite Frontier #6 ends with Pariah seemingly holding the Flash's new Earth in the palms of his hands, surrounded by the hero's symbol of a lightning bolt.
Flash forward (sorry) to March of 2022, when another Joshua Williamson-written comic hit the shelves. That Justice League Incarnate #5, co-written by Dennis Culver, drawn by Jesús Merino and Andrei Bressan, colored by Hi-Fi, and lettered once again by Tom Napolitano.
In this issue, a different team of reality hopping heroes is battling Darkseid (again) and seeks the help of Barry Allen in defeating him. One of their members, a hero calling herself Doctor Multiverse, locates Barry and teleports her teammates to his location. As you might have already guessed, this location is Earth-Flash.1.
Pariah himself shows up in the Flash's dreamlike world, and the JLI are quick to leave it after learning that it's a reality that's too weak to support multiversal visitors. And yet, despite its momentary appearance, Earth-Flash.1's inclusion in this issue might just have revealed the fate of the rest of the "dead" Justice League after the events of #75.
Could it be that each Justice Leaguer has their own "Earth-Flash.1" designed to be something of an idyllic paradise but is really a cage, a familiar sci-fi trope? Did they get transported there when Pariah blasted them with his strange power? While we certainly don't have an answer to this right now, there's some notable evidence out there to support this theory, and we're not just talking about Infinite Frontier #6 and Justice League Incarnate #5.
Check out DC's June solicitations for the comic Dark Crisis: Young Justice #1. Notice anything? It tells us that three young DC heroes go missing during the Justice League's funeral and that they "aren't on this Earth anymore...they're on the world of their dreams, one they may never want to leave!"
Sound familiar?(opens in new tab)
Now head over to DC's July solicitations, where the copy for Dark Crisis: Worlds Without a Justice League - Superman #1 tells us that "the Man of Steel [suffers] the same fate as that of his comrades, join us for a look at a world of dreams he would never have thought possible…" where he gets to be a superhero side-by-side with a pre-teen version of son Jon. The keywords here are "world of dreams," echoed in the copy for Dark Crisis: Young Justice #2's hint at a "fantasy world" and "retro surroundings" that the heroes are trapped in.
The special, which also includes an Aquaman story and will be followed by other similar Worlds Without a Justice League specials, was announced by DC as "tributes" to the dead Justice Leaguers, but it appears now as if they will actually play a vital in-continuity role in the Dark Crisis storyline.
Finally, look at the copy for Flash #784, which describes "the planet Pariah has trapped Barry on." As if the description isn't enough, the cover literally shows us a glimpse of Earth-Flash.1, shattered and presided over by Pariah himself.(opens in new tab)
So the theory is simple: the Justice League's mortal bodies may be dead, but some essence of them is very much alive, scattered across these "weak" Earths that Pariah has created and governs over. And remember, in the very first Dark Crisis announcement, DC described the storyline as the heroes of the DC Universe coming together to "...combat this great evil and save the lost Justice League..."
But is that what's really going to happen? Are Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and the rest just "lost" on these prison worlds of Pariah's creation? We'll have to wait for Dark Crisis to begin in earnest to find out more. For now, we'll just leave you with a quote from Williamson himself, who recently took to DC's official blog to chat about JL #75 on April 25.
"I think it'll be really surprising to people," said the writer and the event's architect. "It's really fascinating to watch, but there are certain images that have been put out there that we've put out on purpose to kind of mislead people into where they think the story's going, and it is not going to go that way."
Not an image, but calling the Worlds Without a Justice League specials "tribute" stories would qualify as some good 'ole fashion misdirection.
So we've got our evidence and our theories, but if there's one thing Justice League #75 has suggested, it's that Dark Crisis might still have its surprises, whether or not we figured out its biggest one.