Death of the Justice League
Variant cover by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund.

The new Death of the Justice League story is out next month, included in its entirety in Justice League #75, and in advance of what will surely be the end of all of DC Comics’ biggest heroes (surely!), writer Joshua Williamson recently took some time out to talk with press about the event.

Yes, Justice League #75 is set for release on April 19, featuring artwork by Rafa Sandoval and Jordi Tarragona, colors by Matt Herms, and letters by Joshua Reed. The story is about exactly what the name implies — the death of the Justice League. And when it’s over, the Justice League title will end (definitely forever, because as established, there’s just no way any of these characters ever comes back), but these story threads — including reactions, grieving, anger, and what does a Justice League-less world look like for villains — will be explored in other DC Comics all summer.

The main plot will continue in the forthcoming event story, Dark Crisisalso penned by Williamson with art by Daniel Sampere, colors by Alejandro Sánchez, and letters by Tom Napolitano. That story is slated to begin on the May 7 FCBD, with Dark Crisis #0 FCBD Special Edition, before continuing onward.

Death of the Justice League
From Justice League #75 by Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona, and Matt Herms.

It’s a lot, and — as Williamson noted in our recent conversation — the scope of the thing will be expanding, with crossovers, one-shots, and related series launching out of the event. So, to my mind one of the chief questions then becomes, what can readers brush up on to prepare? This is a crisis after all, a callback to DC history that Williamson said will definitely pull together story threads from past stories.

Well, some of the usual crisis reading applies here, Williamson noted, specifically Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis, both of which he pointed to as major inspirations for this story.

“I was heavily influenced by Infinite Crisis,” Williamson said. “I was working at a comic book store when it was coming out — it was actually the last year I was working at a store, when Infinite Crisis was coming out — and I was so into it. I was the manager of a store, and I remember hand-selling that book and being really invested in that one. The stuff that was going on with Superboy-Prime and Alexander Luthor. I’ve probably read Crisis on Infinite Earths more than any other event at this point, and then the second one is probably Infinite Crisis.”

This led Williamson to take a long look at Pariah, who as we learn in Death of the Justice League has been the main villain behind the most villainous villainy we’ve seen in the current era of DC Comics, perhaps dating all the way back to the Infinite Frontier #0 one-shot.

Death of the Justice League
From Justice League #75 by Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona, and Matt Herms.

“When you look at Pariah, [Crisis on Infinite Earths] started because of him,” Williamson said. “It was his quest for knowledge. When you read that story, he’s warned, he’s doing this for ego and all the wrong reasons, and he’s like, ‘Well, I’m the smartest person here and I know what’s best.’ Then he essentially unleashes Crisis on Infinite Earths.

The text then notes that Pariah spends 1,000 years in the dark by himself before The Monitor pulls him out and curses him with having to go to every world and watch it die.

“What does that do to somebody?” Williamson said.

There’s then a scene in Crisis where Pariah explains this origin, infuriating Lady Quark who next looks to punish him for starting this whole multiversal imbroglio. Before Lady Quark can do that, the character Uncle Sam intervenes and says Pariah has suffered enough — which just ends it there, Pariah’s culpability never to be revisited.

“It was always so fascinating to me,” Williamson said. “It’s like, this person did do something wrong, and that’s it? Uncle Sam just says it’s cool?”

What does any of this have to do with our (admittedly!) click bait-y headline? Well, here it is: there is an issue of The New Titans that actually does check back in on Pariah, and Williamson says this — along with Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis — makes for strong background reading in advance of Death of the Justice League.

And that issue is…New Titans #81!

“That issue checks back in on Pariah…” Williamson said, “…and Pariah essentially starts saying this was a mistake, I’m still being tortured by this, I’m still in pain.”

That issue ties into the 1991 DC Comics event, War of the Godswhich also has a line toward its ending that addresses Pariah, directly saying, “And poor Pariah, who gave up his one chance to end his tortures so that more futures can live and die. It isn’t fair.”

Williamson, in fact, has this line saved for easy reading in the context of his new work. He sees Pariah in a similar role in this new event toward what Superboy-Prime and Alexander Luthor were going through in those other crises. However! Williamson said the roles are different, whereas those two characters tended to be looking for some perfect world, he sees Pariah here as coming from a more nihilistic place, wanting to just burn everything down.

Phew, so there you have it. That’s the issue of New Titans you should read in advance of Death of the Justice League, and that’s why. And if you still want to think about Pariah even more, Williamson also revealed during our chat that writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson (who is doing excellent work on the current run of Action Comics) would be penning a Pariah short story to appear in DC’s forthcoming one-shot, Justice League: Road to Dark Crisis, and that short will explore more of Pariah’s backstory.

Now, all of that said…Williamson also emphasized that no advanced reading is necessary, not really. The goal of the creative team (as generally tends to be the case for this sort of tentpole superhero thing) was to also make the book new reader-friendly. One doesn’t have to read Crisis on Infinite Earths or Infinite Crisis or Williamson’s work on precursor stories like Infinite Frontier, Justice League Incarnate, and Shadow War. 

No, those will help you get more out of it, but Barry Allen is trapped some place and Darkseid is possessed by a great darkness…”Those are the things you really need to know,” Williamson said.

Once again, Justice League #75 with the Death of the Justice League storyline is due out April 19.