DC has officially announced its big summer crossover event Dark Crisis, which picks up on threads that have run through DC continuity from as far back as the original Crisis on Infinite Earths (opens in new tab) to the recent Dark Nights: Death Metal (opens in new tab) event.
Looming on the horizon of the Dark Crisis is the Dark Army, a group of extremely powerful villains all connected to the concepts of death and destruction who have come together under the leadership of Pariah, who wields a destructive force known as the ‘Great Darkness.’
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So who exactly makes up the Dark Army? While DC has not explicitly named the line-up, they appear in two images, on the top left-hand section of the cover to Dark Crisis #1 (cropped above) and an image found in a promotional video featuring writer Joshua Williamson (below).
With Pariah pulling the strings, Eclipso, Doomsday, The Empty Hand, Nekron, Neron, Darkseid, and Ares appear in both images.
But Deathstroke appears in one image, and the Spectre appears in the other, while the second image also features the Upside-Down Man.
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So whether the official line-up includes Deathstroke or the Spectre (or both), and whether the Upside-Down Man is involved, before this literal murderer’s row of supervillains seemingly slays the Justice League in May’s Justice League #75, kicking off Dark Crisis with the story ‘Death of the Justice League,’ here’s everything you need to know about the members of the worst villain team ever assembled in the DC Omniverse.
Pariah was the survivor of the world where DC’s original Crisis on Infinite Earths began. When the Anti-Monitor took advantage of one of Pariah’s antimatter experiments to manifest into the DC Multiverse and begin destroying it, Pariah was doomed to travel to each reality the Anti-Monitor visited, witnessing the destruction of untold worlds and countless lives.
Pariah has reappeared a few times over the years, usually with a complicated relationship with DC’s heroes. But most recently, he seems to have shifted into out-and-out villainy, apparently assembling the Dark Army that will kill the Justice League.
Most recently, Pariah was seen in the burned out husk of ‘Multiverse 2,’ the original DC Multiverse that was destroyed in Crisis on Infinite Earths, apparently trapping Barry Allen in a kind of psychic Multiverse prison apparently based on a modern version of his Silver Age status quo.
Now, he’s apparently mastered the power of the ‘Great Darkness,’ using it to assemble a Dark Army that he believes can restore his dead world and its Multiverse by destroying Earth-0, the DC Universe’s primary Earth.
Eclipso may be one of the more obscure villains in the Dark Army, but his (or its) history in the DC Universe is crucial to some fundamental aspects of the magical side of DC’s mythos. Eclipso is an entity of destruction housed in the Black Diamond, who possesses anyone who claims the Diamond’s power.
But Eclipso is also more than just your average evil entity – it’s the original embodiment of the ‘Wrath of God’, DC’s comic book adaptation of the Biblical concept of the Judeo-Christian God’s divine justice and vengeance. Eclipso was trapped in the Black Diamond by its replacement the Spectre, one of DC’s most enigmatic heroes.
In recent issues of The Flash, Wally West has faced off with Eclipso as the latter attempts to infect Central City with his own anger and rage. However, Wally has apparently been immune to these manipulations, leading Doctor Fate to recruit Wally to his Justice League Dark squad to fight the villain.
Eclipso may seem out of left field as a choice for a team-up of top level DC villains, but he (in his current host) brings a level of ancient, arcane power to the Dark Army that few can match – and he fits in perfectly with the theme of beings of primordial death and destruction.
Speaking of the Spectre, the current entity of ‘God’s Wrath’ may also be part of the Dark Army, appearing in an image alongside the team which eschews Deathstroke from the line-up.
Until the events of Infinite Frontier #1 (opens in new tab), Spectre was part of a group called the Quintessence, made up of extremely powerful beings who monitor the Omniverse. Why isn’t he part of the group anymore? Well, he was seemingly murdered by Darkseid along with the rest of the Quintessence – meaning the Spectre entity is theoretically out there somewhere looking for some direction, if not a new host.
He’s been shown to sometimes go mad when without a human host to ground him – so there’s precedent for him as a villain on some level.
Spectre was a key player in the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, so there may be some strong motivation for the ancient entity to side with the group that wants to restore what was destroyed by Crisis on Infinite Earths, especially if he’s been fully unmoored from his most recent (and longest running) host, Jim Corrigan.
Everyone knows Doomsday as the genetically-engineered Kryptonian mega-monster that killed Superman way back in 1992’s Superman #75 (opens in new tab) – so it’s only fitting he play an apparent role in killing the Justice League on the 30th anniversary of that legendary story.
When it comes to killing Justice Leaguers, Doomsday has as fierce a pedigree as anyone, having taken down a whole Kryptonian – the League’s strongest member, to boot. Which means that the Dark Army knows when to bring a Howitzer cannon to a knife fight.
The Empty Hand
One of many beings of cosmic destruction in the DC Omniverse who is obsessed with possessing the power of the ‘Great Darkness’, The Empty Hand is the leader of a group known as The Gentry, who swarm, conquer, and demolish worlds across the Multivers and Omniverse.
The Empty Hand was the villain behind the formation of the original Justice Incarnate team back in The Multiversity (opens in new tab), and, in line with its desire to obtain the Great Darkness, has apparently thrown his lot in with Pariah’s Dark Army.
Not to be confused with his Dark Army teammate Neron, Nekron is an ancient entity of death and entropy, and worse, undeath, who was the ultimate villain behind Blackest Night (opens in new tab), in which nearly everyone in the DC Universe who had ever died – hero, villain, and civilian alike – as bloodthirsty super-zombies. If the Dark Army needs a literal dark army, they could do a lot worse than repeating that trick.
Nekron created his zombies using Black Lantern Rings – and regular DC readers know that right now, Roy Harper is alive thanks to the power of one of those very rings. That … doesn’t seem like a coincidence, given writer Joshua Williamson, writer of Dark Crisis, has been shepherding Harper’s story in multiple series since his resurrection in Dark Nights: Death Metal.
Seeing as how two-and-two usually make four (even across DC’s Omniverse), there’s a lot of potential argument to be made that each of the members of the so-called Dark Army have had their hands in recent storylines leading up to this moment.
Neron is one of DC’s equivalents of the devil, a being of infernal power who rules over his own realm of torment, and who offers up twisted deals for power in exchange for the souls of those who accept his bargains – a little like DC’s version of Marvel’s Mephisto, in comic book terms.
Back in the ’90s, he made his reputation in the story Underworld Unleashed (opens in new tab), in which he empowered numerous DC villains in weird ways, like turning Killer Moth into a literal moth-mutant, and doing the same with Black Manta and his animal namesake.
If you’re thinking that’s a bit like Lex Luthor and Perpetua’s gimmick of powering up supervillains in the recent ‘Year of the Villain’ storyline that led up to Dark Nights: Death Metal, it could be that there’s a connection – after all, Dark Crisis is picking up directly on some threads from Death Metal.
The words “Great Darkness” summon no character to mind as quickly as Darkseid, the evil ruler of Apokolips, home of a cadre of equally evil New Gods, and the villain of the original ‘Great Darkness Saga (opens in new tab)‘ (one of the best DC stories ever).
At this point, just about everybody knows who Darkseid is, and about the terrible, enigmatic power of his Omega Force. But it’s likely his obsession with obtaining the so-called Anti-Life Equation, a cosmic mathematical formula for obtaining power over life and death, that brings him to the Dark Army, as Pariah has apparently mastered the power of the “Great Darkness” behind Anti-Life.
Darkseid has rarely been a ‘joiner,’ usually taking the lead as absolute ruler of any schemes he’s involved in. But it kinda makes sense that, if there’s a pantheon of DC’s most evil cosmic beings coming together, the lord of Apokolips would seek his rightful place among them, especially if the group’s organizer possesses the power of the Great Darkness.
When building a Dark Army, doesn’t it make sense to enlist the God of War? Wonder Woman’s arch-enemy Ares has rarely taken his place among the top villains of the DC Omniverse, but bringing him into a team of the biggest bad guys across all reality – especially one based around building an army – is a perfect opportunity to give him his due.
And you can bet that Ares himself won’t be passing up any chance to make war on a scale this massive – or to get a swing (and seemingly score a critical hit) at Wonder Woman, who is one of the members of the Justice League who will apparently die in the lead up to Dark Crisis.
Given his Wonder Woman connections, there’s also a solid chance he’ll somehow play a role in the upcoming Trial of the Amazons crossover.
The Upside-Down Man is a being of sinister magic from deep in the Dark Multiverse, born alongside Hecate (an adaptation of the Greek goddess who is canonically DC’s first magic user), as a dark reflection of her magical power.
Alongside his fellow twisted magical beings the Otherkind, the Upside-Down Man serves as a counterbalance on the primal fulcrum of magic in the DC Universe.
Which means that if he’s involved in the Dark Army, the Upside-Down Man and his Otherkind could wreak total havoc on DC’s magic landscape, perhaps even neutralizing some of the DC heroes best potential defenses against an interdimensional attack.
Of all the members of the Dark Army, Deathstroke is the least powerful – but possibly the most prominent in terms of his stature with the group. Known as the world’s deadliest assassin (with a body count to match his reputation), Deathstroke recently became the so-called ‘King of the Supervillains’ as the leader of a new Secret Society of Super-Villains.
This means that, despite being merely a human standing among beings of unspeakable power, Deathstroke has possibly managed to earn a spot among a conglomeration of the most destructive forces ever assembled across the DC Omniverse.
Deathstroke, like the Spectre, is included in only one of the two images of the Dark Army – so it’s possible they’re both on the team, or only one of them will be when the chips come down.
Will Dark Crisis earn a place among the most impactful DC events of all time?