The world of Apokolips had declared war on Earth twice before. The first battle led to the formation of the Justice League. The second nearly saw Superman destroyed by the monster called Doomsday. Now, Apokolips has manifested on the far edge of Earth’s solar system, pushing Superman to lead Earth’s heroes in a mission to take the fight to Darkseid before his forces can reach Earth.
Two years later, a now powerless Superman approaches John Constantine, who fled the field of battle and abandoned the love of his life, Zatanna. With Darkseid strip-mining Earth of resources and Lex Luthor acting as his agent on Earth, humanity doesn’t have long to live or much of a chance of liberation. Despite this, Clark Kent has organized a new League, made up of what few heroes remain. This includes the remnants of the Suicide Squad, now liberated from Amanda Waller’s control, and Raven, whose magical powers are great but sorely tested by her imprisoning her father, the multidimensional demon Trigon, within her own head.
It’s utterly insane and hopeless, but that’s when John Constantine is at his best. But even John Constantine’s ability to conjure gold out of muck may be sorely tested by the battle to come. Yet one way or the other, a new day will dawn and the Earth will be forever changed.
Justice League Dark: Apokolips War is a bit of an oddity for the DC Animated Universe – the shared reality that started with 2013’s Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. Most of the movies made for the DCAU were adaptations of comic book storylines set in the New 52 era of DC Comics, such as Flashpoint and Throne of Atlantis. More recently, the DCAU adapted more classic storylines, such as Teen Titans: The Judas Contract and The Death of Superman.
By contrast, Apokolips War is a wholly original story without any directly obvious spiritual predecessor. The broad concept however – John Constantine emerging to save the world when the superheroes failed – is reminiscent of Alan Moore’s Twilight of the Superheroes. On another Earth and in another time, this story would have offered up an ending for the DC Universe akin to Moore’s work on the “final” Superman story, “Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?” While the story isn’t even close to the same, apart from the presence of Constantine, there is a certain grandeur to the script by Marghared Scott and Ernie Altbacker that reminds one of Moore’s early DC Comics work.
What really sells Apokolips War, however, is its use of comedy. It’s largely dark comedy, as befits the situation, but there are a lot of little character touches throughout that left me having to stop the movie to laugh. Chief among this is a revelation regarding John Constantine’s love life and how Harley Quinn was too crazy for even him to consider sleeping with. Another involved Raven dropping the F-bomb – not because I don’t believe Raven wouldn’t use such language but because of how utterly unexpected and natural it was that she should mutter “Oh for F@#$’s sake.”
Unsurprisingly, the voice acting is top-notch, with Matt Ryan delivering his usual flawless interpretation of John Constantine. The usual DCAU suspects are also on hand to see their characters get a grand send off, with Jerry O’Connell (who has come so far since being the super-powered kid on My Secret Identity) giving Superman the appropriate level of gravitas and Taissa Farmiga’s performance as Raven being of particular note. All in all, the DCAU couldn’t have asked for a better finale.