The Mind-Shattering Malevolence of Mageddon!
Man, I don't know what you guys are talking about; World War III is awesome.
I'm referring, of course, not to the incompetent clusterfuck that shipped from DC this week--because yeah, that thing blows--but rather an event that rocked the DC Universe to its core in the distant past of seven years ago, which is apparently a long enough wait to re-use the name:
Say what you want about Grant Morrison and Howard Porter's run on JLA, but you pretty much have to admit that it was big--and World War III, Morrison's last storyline before Mark Waid jumped on with Bryan "Once An Epoch" Hitch, was the biggest of them all. I mean really: It's the sequel to a story where the Justice League fights Lex Luthor's Injustice Gang while also battling Darkseid... in the future... during the Apocalypse.
Man, Rock of Ages is awesome. But that's beside the point.
This story, in typical Grant Morrison fashion, sees the Apocalypse moved up ahead of schedule, and the Injustice Gang--this time consisting of Lex Luthor, Queen Bee, Prometheus and the Genera--is right in the thick of it. Within the first issue, they've already wrecked the Watchtower, found Oracle, and generally completely wrecked the Justice League. And to make matters worse, well, take it away, Mister Miracle:
Ah yes: MAGEDDON!: One of those wonderful comic book concepts that can only be described with a judicious use of exclamation points:
MAGEDDON! THE WAR-BRINGER!
MAGEDDON! THE PRIMORDIAL ANNIHILATOR!
MAGEDDON! THAT THING AZTEK'S TOTALLY GOING TO WRECK IN ABOUT SIXTY PAGES!
But I'm getting ahead of myself here.
Originally referenced in his very first story arc, Mageddon(!) was the plot point that Morrison was building up to for his entire run, so it's pretty safe to say that it's a suitably big threat. Essentially a giant, planet-devouring sentient ball of hate and fear from fifteen billion years ago that already destroyed an entire planet of super-heroes twenty issues beforehand, it sets its sights on a planet and then slowly drives the entire population to madness until they annihilate themselves, leaving it to destroy the wreckage. And not to get too pseudo-intellectual here, but with Morrison's notorious meta-textual elements and the fact that he uses the League as a symbol of hope and the realized potential of the Good In People, it's no stretch to say that Mageddon's the embodiment of everything the League exists to fight.
Also--and I may have mentioned this--it is huge:
"Mother Box struggles to contain my rage for cosmic destruction."
And even with all that going on, even with countries literally declaring war on each other and mobilizing troops as Mageddon drives them to the edge of madness, Morrison and Porter still find the time to drop in one of the single most badass moments in comics history.
And everyone who's actually read this thing knows exactly what I'm talking about.
For those of you who only know of Prometheus from his brief, forgettable role as Hush's punching bag in A.J. Liberman's bottomlessly atrocious run on Gotham Knights, it may come as a surprise to learn that he was actually really, really awesome in JLA. This is, after all, a guy who nearly took out the JLA by himself in his first appearance, an accomplishment that included him beating the living crap out of Batman thanks to a device in his helmet that allowed him to download the moves of the greatest martial artists in the world directly into his brain.
Needless to say, it's a pretty radical throwdown, but the rematch is even better. Why? Because when Prometheus starts to get the upper hand, Batman uses a device that he prepared for just such an occasion--you know, because he's Batman--and rewrites the programming, giving Prometheus all the fighting ability of (drumroll, please)...
"Did I see you cheating?"
"Winning. First time I ever hit a man with Motor Neuron Disease."
I could seriously look at that page all day, I love it so much.
The thing about "World War III" is that everyone has that kind of amazing character moment--even Orion's dog--but as much as it might shock those of you who are familiar with my abject love of Batman-related grevious injury to the face, that's not the part that I get emotional over when I think about this sotry.
By the time the extra-sized 36 page final issue hits--which, for the record, contains more scenes of Orion flying around in his Astro-Harness shouting some of the most amazing phrases ever put on paper--Superman himself has been defeated by Mageddon and chained up within its "techno-active" body and reduced to an almost-mindless shell, reduced to an almost-mindless state. He eventually gets out, thanks to Aztek sacrificing his own life to blow up a good chunk of Mageddon by unleashing an explosion of 4-Dimensional energy (because Grant Morrison, that's why), but he's sorely outmatched.
Which is why the rest of the Justice League concocts a plot so complex that I can only tell you it involves a giant hamster wheel, the Purple Healing Ray, and the stone heads of Easter Island that temporarily gives every single person on Earth super-powers. And that's when the whole of humanity rises up as one to fight alongside Superman against the massive embodiment of despair and hopelessness, because after all the times that he saved them, how could they not save him when he needed them to?
It's an amazing scene, and it's one of the few moments in comics that I get honest-to-God choked up over every time I start talking about it, which is something I can't imagine anybody saying about Black Adam punching Terra's heart out or a clumsy, shoehorned plot about why the Martian Manhunter decided to wear pants this year. But really, I can only say so much, so if you haven't read it, you really ought to.