Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Colors: Mitch Gerads
Cover: Nick Derington
Published: September 19, 2018
If you were preparing to hand your baby son over to the tyrannical leader of a planet that you’ve been raised to hate (or at least really really dislike), how many diapers would you bring? This is where Barda and Scott are at when issue #11 begins with them rushing around the apartment preparing to hand their son over to his tyrannical grandfather. The plan to kill Darkseid in the process of handing over their son is still on, but they want to make sure his first trip Apokolips isn’t too uncomfortable. As a callback to his trial (issue #3 or #4) Scott again brings a veggie tray to a very serious meeting. The first half this issue actually contains a number of solid jokes and visual gags, something that has been missing from the past couple of issues. There were moments in issue #10, but they were diminished by the weight of what Scott and Barda were going through, and issue #9 was just violent and nihilistic. Here Barda and Scott are back in their superhero getup and seem somewhat relaxed in the execution of their plan. This is also the first time we actually see Darkseid (the other time was dream/vision) and he’s eating a carrot from Scott’s tray. There’s a great set of panels on the next page where Darkseid’s speaker (who is Scott’s uncle Desaad) accuses Barda and Scott of having the intention of killing Darkseid, to which Scott respond with a few lines about how they will kill him. It takes Desaad a moment to respond simply by saying “sarcasm.” The composition of this dark hooded figure discussing sarcasm while standing in front of Darkseid who has the veggie tray on the arm of his throne is quite enjoyable. There are some other great panels where baby Jacob is crawling around the massive throne room or pulling at Darkseid’s nose. This gives the first ten or so pages the feeling of a satisfying exhale. As if King and Gerads have shown us a lot of dark and uncomfortable things leading up this point, but now that we’ve reached the end and pieces are prepared, let’s have some fun first. It’s totally welcomed and very enjoyable, until someone rips their eyeball out.
Satisfied that Barda and Scott have not appeared before him under false pretenses and that they are willing to give up their son, Darkseid rips his left eye out as a way of honoring his pact. Darkseid’s main power are his Omega Beams, lasers he shoots from his eyes that can find any person anywhere (comic books amirite). Without his eye he cannot use them, and without them he cannot impose his will in the ongoing war. Barda crushes the eye to ‘finalize’ the deal and then Scott has a moment with his son. This is an inflection point for Scott. Either Scott will kill Darkseid or will be killed by him, and what words are there for that situation. There aren’t any and that’s the point of these panels. There is nothing Scott or Barda can say that will be appropriate last words before your death or the end of a war, and watching Scott stumble towards saying “I love you” is heartwarming. As Scott holds Jacob in his arms, Barda unleashes their weapon, a giant unstoppable laser (more comic books amirite). It staggers Darkseid briefly, before he stands back up and beats her to the ground. He then turns his attention to Scott who (while still holding his son) unsuccessfully tries to evade him. While Scott is taking multiple punches Desaad begins telling him how he wasted Darkseid’s greatest gift, pain. Pain is supposedly what makes you strong and keeps you steady, and is exactly what Barda and Scott didn’t want for their son.
This sort of gets at core of this series, the story of one man/god’s pain and his attempts to escape from it. Remember that this book opened with an attempt at the ultimate escape from pain, via. death. That occurred eleven issues and over a year ago, but this whole series may come back to that point. Pain can be physical, emotional, mental, external, self inflicted, ect… And if pain is Scott’s subliminal programming, his starting ethos, then his apathy, at the mounting pile of New Genesis soldiers or drinking the blood of dead gods, becomes more understandable. There’s a romantic (possibly misplaced) notion in our culture that pain/suffering/sacrifice (these three cannot exactly be equated but for the purposes of argument…) are a requisite for making important art or achieving greatness. It would be reductive and a flattening of history to say that great art, important people, and lasting culture has not been forged by or been the product of great suffering, but sometimes pain begets more pain. Sometimes it crushes people and plagues families for generations. Barda and Scott are trying to start a family and in doing so crawl out from underneath what Darkseid inflicted on them, and they are barely making it. As Scott lays on the ground beaten and aware of how he failed a man he hates, Barda tells him to rise. As he does he reaches into the upturned veggie tray now laying on the ground, grabs a Fahren-Knife, and plunges it into Darkseid’s face over and over again finally killing the tyrant. It’s a brutal expletive laden scene, but the important detail among it all is the that Barda was one telling Scott to rise. It was mentioned in the discussion of issue #10, but she told Scott their son was not going to be given up and challenged him on why his emotions have been prioritized over hers. It begs the question (and this is something that we’ll discuss more when issue #12 comes out) of why his emotional labor has been foregrounded and she is the one who has to hold it together. This isn’t to say that Barda is is not a wonderful character and her strength is inspiring, but would this series not be so much more interesting if Barda was more multi-dimensional and less defined by Scott?
The issue cannot end without a final twist when Metron appears and tells Scott that he has stood down fear and death, but that he is not where he should be, “There is another world.” This phrase is accompanied by a splash page depicting all the classic DC universe heroes. It’s unclear exactly what this means as the final panels are just confused looks on Barda and Scott’s faces, but that remains for next time. Mitch Gerads did a wonderful job with the art in this issue. His depiction of Darkseid manages to be both threatening and also the type of person who enjoys carrots and ranch dip. It a weird line to straddle but he pulls it off, and that ‘humanizing’ moment in no way diminishes his ferocity when he confronts Barda and Scott. It hasn’t been discussed previously (I don’t think so) but Gerads draws bloody moments very well. The panels where Scott first plunges the knife into Darkseid is cathartic, but also really tough to look at both because of the blood and the extreme anguish on their faces. How to depict Darkseid was no small task because of the way this book has been building to this issue for the last year and Gerads really did a fantastic job managing to work a bit of humanity into a monster.
(Subjective) Score out of 10: 8