Created by Jack Kirby in 1971, Darkseid is a quintessential villain when it comes to DC lore. A part of the New Gods mythology, Darkseid is tyranny incarnate and a threat to be feared across the multiverse. That being said, it’s difficult to find some of the best stories to really understand just how imposing a threat Darkseid is.
While it’s deeply tempting to say that you should start with the work of Jack Kirby, namely New Gods, Mister Miracle, The Forever People and Superman’s Best Friend Jimmy Olsen, these might not appeal to newer readers trying to just get to grips with the character. They can also be a little expensive when it comes to getting all the necessary volumes. It is something that should definitely be looked into for the character, and especially the mythology of the New Gods, but it’s by no means a benchmark for entry. Instead, here are some suggestions for stories that might give you a better idea of the character and his impact presented in chronological order.
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The Great Darkness Saga (1982)
Set in the 30th Century, The Great Darkness Saga gives us a change of scenery and a different set of heroes: The Legion of Super-Heroes. A great darkness, once slept for a thousand years, now stretches its reach across the universe. Growing stronger and now threatening to consume the entire universe, the Legionnaires may well be out of their league here, as Darkseid returns.
Somewhat out of print, but worth tracking down a trade. The Great Darkness Saga is one of the best Legion of Super-Heroes produced. A fusion of classic Kirby Mythology with the density of Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen’s Legion work. The story is beautifully paced, steeped in mystery, and an amazing read all around.
The first event post Crisis on Infinite Earths and it needed to be orchestrated by Darkseid himself. This is essentially presented as a first meeting between the Justice League and Darkseid, but with a good amount of meddling from those loyal to Darkseid such as the TV evangelist G. Gordon Godfrey. Darkseid uses his abilities and his followers to manipulate events and show the people of earth just how dangerous it is to have these superheroes about. Most evidently shown with the young Billy Batson, Captain Marvel.
Legends is relatively short, only lasting 6 standard size issues. But is an interesting story for getting to know the chemistry between the Justice League and Darkseid on a relatively small scale compared to stories to come.
JLA #10-15 Rock of Ages (1998)
Part of the hugely celebrated JLA run by Grant Morrison, Rock of Ages gives us a lot of insight into what Morrison might do with the character someday. The story finds the Justice League in a future where Darkseid has fully developed the Anti-life Equation. Taking complete control of not only Apokolips and New Genesis, but also Earth. Causing the population to be kept in complete submission thanks to the constant broadcast.
The story is heavily praised by not only fans of Morrison, but comic fans in general. The story is incredibly well paced and impactful in how it handles its twits and turns. The plot is heavily steeped in the then current continuity, so a quick Google search may be needed to understand why Superman looks the way he does here.
Orion by Walter Simonson (2000 – 2002)
The legendary writer Walt Simonson took on the challenge of taking Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Mythology and fleshing it out for the 21st century. Simonson takes a very straight focus with the series by explicitly focusing on the relationship between Orion and his father Darkseid. Despite Orion being raised by the Highfather on New Genesis, Simonson creates these powerful scenes that truly parallel the series hero with its ultimate villain. Simonson’s work can be found in two volumes, but it feels like an epic on the scale of Kirby’s original.
Simonson both writes and draws Orion, making full use of both storytelling and visual parallels. Simonson brings a beautiful sense of faithfulness and expansion to Kirby’s creation. If there ever was a successor to Kirby, it would be Simonson.
Final Crisis (2009)
Final Crisis is the event comic of event comics. It requires a lot of homework to make the most out of it, with a number of tie-in storylines released both before and during. But it is also a quintessential story to read if you want an all-out Darkseid and Apokolips experience against the Justice League. While it does have both Countdown to Final Crisis and Death of the New Gods as baggage, both of these are ignored by the event’s writer, Grant Morrison.
The body of Orion has been found on Earth complete with a bullet wound. This spires on a murder mystery into who could possibly kill a New God. But it’s not just Orion. Darkseid and his forces have begun to reincarnate on Earth after falling onto the multiverse after a battle. However, the New Gods being on Earth means that Darkseid is now closer than ever when it comes to implementing the Anti-Life Equation. Remember, “to die on the job is to die for Darkseid.” The story does take some time to piece together but if you’re patient with it, it does make sense. Though I would recommend reading Superman Beyond, and Batman RIP along side it, or even picking up the Final Crisis omnibus, which is well worth the extra money.
Justice League: Origins & Justice League: The Darkseid War (2011 & 2015)
These two stories are being put together on a single entry due to the fact that they essentially bookend the New 52 Justice League run written by Geoff Johns. The first, Origin, sees the Justice League forming itself in this new continuity in reaction to Darkseid and his Parademons invading Earth. The story is largely centered upon the creation of this New Justice League but does also work as a low impact introduction to Darkseid, through the minds eye of the Justice League.
The Darkseid War on the other hand sees a more seasoned Justice League take on not only Darkseid, but his illegitimate daughter, Grail. The team sees themselves on Apokolips where they essentially become Gods in their own right. The story gives the reader a very strong sense of what Darkseid means to the universe, rather than just to the Justice League or an individual member.
Mister Miracle (2017-2019)
A recent juggernaut in the comics landscape, Tom King and Mitch Gerard’s Mister Miracle series gained critical acclaim for its portrayal of both mental health and revitalizing interest in the New Gods, to the point that the series even won the prestigious Eisner award in 2019. While Darkseid doesn’t physically appear until the second to last issue, his impact can be felt from the very first issue. The issue begins with Scott Free, Mister Miracle himself, in a very low point in his life. With the first issue seeing Scott rushed to the hospital after attempting suicide. The 12-issue series sees Scott try to figure out his place in the world while going through increasingly difficult trials, including the birth of his young son Jacob.
Darkseid can be felt through the entirety of the series. On a physical note, we the reader can see the words “Darkseid is” frequently shown in the page layout. As well as characters such as Desaad, and Granny Goodness making appearances throughout. Darkseid’s reach dates back to Scott’s upbringing on Apokolips. Originally born as the son of Highfather of New Genesis, he was traded to Apokolips as part of a piece treaty in exchange for Orion, the son of Darkseid. While raised on Apokolips, Scott was put under tremendous torture beyond anything imaginable. If you want to see the depths of Darkseid’s evil, you need only see its effects on Scott Free.
Justice League Odyssey (2018 to Present)
For those looking for something a little more modern, but outside of the core Justice League, then Justice League Odyssey is a must. Set far out in space in the vicinity known as the Ghost Sector, Jessica Cruz, Cyborg, Starfire and Azrael are called into the Sector where they find civilization worshiping them as though they were gods. Cyborg in particular can hear a voice calling them, only to discover that it’s Darkseid who has summoned them. The worlds within the Ghost Sector and citizens can be both friend or foe, but it’s trying to unravel what Darkseid’s ultimate plan is, especially as our heroes begin to submit one by one, that truly makes this a must read.
Compared to both Justice League and Justice League Dark, Odyssey has largely flown under the radar. But its creative team just screams pure talent. With Joshua Williamson kicking it off, before Dan Abnett picks up the torch. The art by Carmine Di Giandomenico, Stejpan Sejic, Daniel Sampere and more is amazing and truly adds to the cosmic feel, just from looking at these pages, you know this isn’t your usual adventure on Earth.
Bonus Entry: DCeased (2019)
While not a story based around Darkseid, he is the catalyst to the virus that ends up destroying the world. During his latest battle with the Justice League, Darkseid and his forces kidnap Cyborg, Victor Stone. They remove his tongue and combine a part of the Black Racer with the Anti-Life Equation. This new virus begins to tear apart Darkseid and Apokolips before using Cyborg and his tech to send this new form of death to Earth, where through the 6 issues, we see heroes become zombified husks of who they once were. As a small band of survivors do their best to carry on, even when their loved ones are falling apart at the seams.
While Darkseid is only seen in the first half of issue one, the actual outcome of the story feels very in tone with Darkseid’s usual methods of madness, however this time we see what happens when the initial plan is too much for even Darkseid to handle.
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