DC Ten Year Plan

Introduction

For those of you who may not have heard, James Gunn and Peter Safran, new heads of DC’s movieverse, are putting together a ten year plan. So I thought I’d pitch my own.

Assumptions

1. We’re playing it where it lies. That means no rewriting 2023’s The Flash to get rid of Ezra Miller, or assuming he’ll be killed in the final five minutes (he might be… but that’s a much easier thing to fix in my pitch than the reverse).

2. Budget is now one of the names of the game. So we’re a lot less likely to see the kinds of big-budget ensembles I prefer for my comic movies, (as you can tell from my other pitches). But I still expect team-ups and duos to be the norm.

3. Covid makes some movie failures an open question. WW2 could have been a winner at the box office, even if it wasn’t a great movie. For that reason I expect sequels to be greenlit that wouldn’t otherwise (you wouldn’t normally do a Suicide Squad 3 after that kind of a box office drop… but the pandemic creates this odd uncertainty- so I expect sequels to happen if only to keep the talent happy).

4. We’re assuming none of these balls get dropped, which is a big assumption. No one expected Black Adam to thud quite as hard as it did; it was supposed to build out the Justice Society, but it won’t get a sequel, and I suspect the Society won’t get a spin-off, either, at least not in its current state.

5. I’m assuming 3 movies per year. I know next year will have 4, but I think that’s entirely because DC blinked and moved Aquaman off of Avatar 2’s weekend- no reason to give up $100+ million just to play chicken with Disney- maybe a lot more, if Avatar is well-received and Aquaman isn’t. I expect 3 movies is the max DC will try to do on average; anything else risks glutting the market and stretching their producers too thin. It’s possible that changes; if they can consistently produce 3 per year without major duds, they might step up to 4… but I suspect savvy executives would recognize Marvel’s quality has slipped somewhat due to Feige being stretched thin, and try to avoid that.

6. I’m assuming we stop at trilogies. Marvel are experimenting with Thor 4 and Cap 4, but that happened later; for now we’re assuming after trilogies that things evolve.

7. You could read the statement about not having 4 Batmen as meaning literally that… but I think it points to a collapse of the multiverse- a Crisis on Infinite Earths as dictated by corporate fiat. Which we can work with.

TWIST

Given that reports have put Wonder Woman 3 as getting the ax, Momoa being out as Aquaman and Gunn rebooting Superman without Cavill… it looks like they’re aiming for more of a tabula rasa than I initially assumed. Because my procrastination is an onion of infinite leaf, I will still pitch my original version, and then also pitch a wide open, blue sky version after that. Honestly, I think a clean slate is the way to go… but I’m frankly a little shocked Warner/Discovery are moving ahead with it.

2024

I figure this is kind of a rebuilding year. So I’m only pitching one project, the only one I think has a chance of getting greenlit and made in time to come out in the same year as Joker 2.

Wonder Woman 3: War of the Realms

I’ve seen the reporting. I don’t believe the sequel is dead; the first one made $800 million, and the sequel suffered because of the pandemic. So it’s getting a sequel, and it’s one of very few projects that might make a 2024 deadline at this point.. To me the main question is whether or not Patty Jenkins will be involved. The next is whether or not they want to recast Gal Gadot- which is far riskier (most people don’t know Jenkins, but they know the actress in the role).

I think 1984 got made largely because after the first one blew up, Jenkins had too much clout. They thought the Wondertrain could never be derailed, so they might as well keep milking prequels, and if it ever did, you could just start making modern sequels. I think it’s time to pull that rip-cord.

This one takes place in the aftermath of Justice League. Wonder Woman has come full-circle, rejoining the world as well as now essentially leading the League. So it’s going to involve at least a little of her role as part of the world. I’d lean into it, make her ambassador from both Themyscira and also from the Hall of Justice- so she represents her people and the Justice League to the United Nations. That also neatly sets up an arc for her, in that there’s bound to be tension between the League and her nation.

The other big narrative thread we have lingering is Steve. She needs to get over Steve. Personally, I prefer the Frozen route; she’s the world’s premier superheroine, so it’s not great if her movies are all about the boy she likes (and we can’t even lean into her sex-positivity of the first film because she’s been portrayed at this point as being an emotional shut-in after Steve’s death). So I’d introduce Artemis. I’d make her literally Diana’s little sister, bratty, brash, spoiled and snotty, in all the ways a second child to the perfect first can be. She’s also incredibly hurt that Diana abandoned her, and the Amazons.

Perhaps that’s why, when there’s a minor territorial scuffle with Atlantis, Artemis fans its flames into outright war. Now, obviously, this sequel would be more financially viable if you get Momoa as Aquaman. But you could also do Mera, running Atlantis in his stead while he attends to League business, perhaps settling up a cool, strange superheroine cat fight. Or you could have it be Orm, Black Manta, the bench of, “briefly took over Atlantis to cause trouble” villains is reasonably deep (this pun is intentional).

Regardless, it becomes clear to everyone, the Amazons and the world, that she can’t both be their ambassador for peace and a part of the world’s unofficial superhero justice department. She has to choose. I’d have her speak to Athena (because again, the Gods are real in her world), and the Goddess of wisdom says that she can be a true and faithful sister to her people- or she can embrace the world as her people, and be faithful to them, and leave rule and representation of the Amazons to those without a foot in both worlds.

So she helps put an end to the conflict, first, then resigns as the Amazonian ambassador, because she can’t be both a peacekeeper and a peacemaker- and her heart and her skills are more in the one than the other. And at the same time she reconnects with her love for her sister- with her love for all of her sisters- and realizes that at some point Steve became a symbol for the loss of all of them, as well.

2025

The Batman 2: Hush

I’m assuming Matt Reeves maintains largely full control, but I can’t pass up a chance to pitch some Batman, and it’s taking up space in my schedule, anyway, so loosely tracking the comic story, in the same way that The Batman loosely tracked a few different stories; Joker is treated like Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs in the original story. We could go a step further, keeping him in shadow for most of the runtime. That would allow us to, if Joker 2 makes anywhere near what the first did, have a cameo from Phoenix, canonizing his Joker as the post-Flashpoint Joker (or at least one of them). Because we’d need Dick around, and because I think the idea of Robert Pattinson trying to foster a child would be funny, one of the segments of the story involves the death of the Graysons and Bruce taking Dick in- then immediately realizing he’s an emotionally stunted adolescent, and in no way ready for a kid.

The Suicide Squads

Sequel box office is usually a referendum on audience enjoyment of the previous film; it can be helped by marketing, but only so much. People were intrigued by Squad 1, then let down, so they were less keen to be bit a second time- even by a superior product. But this superior product was also the baby of the new boss of DC, or at least one of them, so I expect it to get a third entry.

I assume James Gunn would be writing and likely directing this one himself. As the name implies, it’s Squad 1 vs. Squad 2. Amanda Waller re-recruits her first squad to go after her rogue squad, headlined by Redemption Tour Will Smith. She wants them dead or back on her leash, and their leverage destroyed. How can you not salivate at the idea of Deadshot vs. Bloodsport, King Shark vs. Killer Croc, Harley and her Spear vs. Kitana and her Kitana? It might even be fun to do Ratcatcher 2 vs. Enchantress.

Given the casualties 1 suffered, we could either add characters. My preference would be to recruit Clayface, but a brainwashed Clayface who believes he’s Steve Trevor, and that he’s been serving as a deep cover black operative since his ‘death,’ with the aim of eventually putting him and Wonder Woman together for some emotional fireworks. Or you cold just have Peacemaker show up and join their squad. Either way, 2 is outmatched and things look dire… until Harley cashes in a favor from the Birds of Prey! Waller is lead away in cuffs (handed off to General Wade Eiling), and Task Force X is officially disbanded, with both squads freed.

Of course… that just means Waller and her special project go deeper underground… but that’s a concern for another day.

Green Lantern Corps.

Not to be confused with my more pie in the sky version I pitched before, this would be smaller.

Given that Ryan Reynolds was essentially doing a variation on Guy Gardner’s personality, and I’m assuming we’re going to be doing this as small-scale as you can do something like this, we have two human main characters, and they’ll be John Stewart and Kyle Rayner. John’s been around the block, and Kyle’s the rookie.

We play the GL Corps. almost like a police department, that kind of bureaucracy, codes of conduct, etc. Assuming we want to make this as cost-effective as possible, we can do it almost like Men in Black, that there’s essentially a sector house stationed on Earth, that they work out of. The front office is staffed by humans, or at least shapeshifters and humanoids. As they get deeper in, their coworkers get weirder. Then John leads him into an interrogation room.

Stewart tells him they’re at war. One of their own, Sinestro, has been recruiting. Their rings run on willpower. Sinstro’s runs on fear. His theory, the same of many petty dictators, is that fear is more powerful than will. And Kyle’s there because, right now, they’re losing that war, and doesn’t want to talk about what happened to Hal. He asks Kyle to tell him how they got there.

Kyle was a graphic designer. Mostly freelance. Hard to keep a single gig going in this economy. Between gigs he liked to station himself at a coffee shop and sketch, to keep his design skills limber.

A Sinestro member crashes through the shop. Kyle’s slashed with a piece of broken glass. The Sinestro is blasted by green light, and we see that he landed on a Green Lantern. It holds out its ring to Kyle, and tells him to take it- take it and run.

We see Kyle running down the street as yellow energy flies past him. Someone vulnerable is frozen in his path, a child, maybe a stroller or an elder person. Kyle turns, the ring clutched in his hand, and holds up his arms and closes his eyes- he can’t let someone else get hurt because of him.

We’re back in the interrogation. “For the record, that blast would have incinerated both of you. For the same record- I’ve never seen a civilian activate a ring, let alone one they were only holding.” We’re back. Kyle opens his eyes, and sees the green bubble he created. The Sinestro starts to punch it, and the bubble cracks. Kyle tries to reinforce it with his mind, a flurry of motion as he imagines intricate defenses, but they’re too weak to hold the creature back, it’s going to break through.

A green burst of energy knocks him down and back, and Stewart lands in front of Kyle. In the interrogation room, Stewart asks for the ring, and says they can’t be taken. Kyle says it was given to him. “Be that as it may, the odds of you getting it to work again are astronomical, and even if you do, you won’t have a way to recharge it. Unless I swear you in.”

They talk about what joining the Lanterns means, and eventually has him repeat the oath after him, then has him slide on the ring, and he transforms into a Green Lantern.

We meet Sinestro. We’re going to do something different, here. The Sinestros are mostly working on Earth. They’ve taken over a Central American cartel- converting some of them with rings, killing others. They did this for access to their chemical processing and networks. And the reason is that they’ve partnered with a human with expertise in creating fear chemically, Dr. Jonathan Crane, and they intend to use his chemicals to amplify their strength a hundred fold and crush the Green Lanterns, first on Earth, but eventually on Oa.

So you can do a lower key, earth-based crime story with the Lanterns for a lower budget, but with the promise of potential space-based chicanery to come- but depending on box office you can keep the action mostly Earth-based- so it doesn’t have to be a Star Wars to justify sequels.

2026

Flash 2/Earth 2

I’m assuming that with as risk-averse as WB-Discovery has been, they don’t want to keep Ezra Miller around. In light of that, I expect they’ll recast- maybe a cameo of Ezra, but replace him, maybe with Wally from a different universe, the future, whatever.

So at the end of Flashpoint (I’m assuming they keep him through that- if only because they want him around, at least theoretically, for press), Barry emerges on Earth 2. At first he doesn’t understand it- he’s never emerged in the wrong universe before. We play up the similarities between this world and the Snyderverse, hinting hard in promo material that Flash will actually be returning to Snyder’s DCEU.

I’d honestly keep that going as long as possible. Flash is captured by people who look a lot like his Justice League… only they aren’t. And they’ve also captured another Flash, a Wally West. He came with his Barry here, summoned by some kind of mad science that pulls those in touch with the Speed Force there. Because this Earth is dying. It’s a wrong Earth. They want to use the Flashes to escape it before it’s destroyed.

The two Flashes are able to escape together. They have a conversation at superspeed, Wally at first thrilled to see Barry, before the realization hits him- he isn’t his Barry, which means his Barry really is dead. The Crime Syndicate are just behind them. Barry realizes they can’t both get away- and sacrifices himself so Wally can make it out- because I’m a sucker for the classics, I’d have his death happen like it did in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Suddenly Wally is our lead.

He’s found by Lex Luthor- this planet’s greatest hero. They team up with a heroic version of the Joker, called the Jester, to destroy the stolen LexTech that is drawing Flashes. While the Syndicate were distracted looking for their own way out, Lex evacuated the rest of the Earth- but he and Jester stayed behind to make sure the Syndicate didn’t follow- or escape to some other unsuspecting Earth.

The pair fall fighting the Crime Syndicate, and Flash both manages to destroy the Flash lure, and escape back to Barry’s original timeline. If we can wangle the cameos, Flash goes to the Justice League. Most of them just assume he’s Barry. But Batman sees through him. He waits until the others have given them distance. “You aren’t Barry. Just who the hell are you?”

Aquaman 3: Return of the King

I’ll assume James Wan (or at least his bank account) are pissed at the cancellation of The Trench. But that was a silly idea- an unbranded Aquaman spin-off designed around… Black Manta? But there’s no reason the concept, and the production design has to go to waste. I’m assuming from the synopsis that it’s Black Manta Aquaman will be teaming with in 2, otherwise he would be the main villain here. If he’s in 2, then we’ll swap in Charybdis… and we’re going to do a lot of foreshadowing about severed hands- but we’re probably not going to chop off his hand… no matter how big of a fan of the Evil Dead movies I am (though if we do, we aren’t giving him a hook- we’ll give him a turbine hand). But if we do do Charybdis… I’d have him claim to be the rightful king of the seven seas, with the Trench’s legions at his back to enforce the claim.

This would be, overall, a much darker story. The creatures of the Trench have been riled by a new leader, promising that their old foes, the Atlanteans, the Amazons and the Lost Kingdomians can no longer hold back their strength. And… they win, around the halfway mark. The terrible creatures of the Trench overrun Atlantis, which is forced to evacuate, half of their forces going to Paradise Island, the other to the Lost Kingdom. I’m just… going to assume that Arthur’s arc is accepting his role and responsibility as Atlantis’ ruler, which means Atlantis falls in part when Arthur refuses to lead, expecting the generals and army to handle things. He fights with them, even at the head- but he is not their figurehead.

I’ll assume including Aquaman, or at minimum Aquaman elements, in Wonder Woman 3, will have both cemented a connection between the two places, and helped juice box office. So I’d say the reverse would work here, and also, Wondy sort of owes Arthur a return of the favor. The Amazons sustain casualties as part of the evacuation, leading Diana to lead the Amazon forces. She’s a natural at it, something that awes Arthur (it’s one thing to command seven heroes, another to command an army and a nation without breaking stride). She gives him the tough love pep talk he needs, inspiring him to be the leader Atlantis needs. As part of that he pleads to let the Atlanteans take the first line- they were beaten back, but not broken. They need to reclaim their dignity nearly as much as they need to reclaim their home. The Amazon generals are reluctant; if their front line doesn’t hold their defenses overall weaken- the Atlanteans could lead to the fall of the Amazons if they can’t hold long enough. Arthur is adamant they’ll hold. He gives his warriors a Braveheart speech, and they drive the Trench warriors back into the sea.

They continue the fighting all the way back to Atlantis, and retake the city. Atlantis’ generals argue for driving them back into the trench, then mining the cliffs; that will close the passage, and collapse the trench, killing most of them, and sealing the rest away. But Aquaman, during the evacuation, saw some of Atlantis’ worse-off, those left behind by previous regimes, and sees the parallels. At first he resists, and the generals press harder, assuming, from his inexperience, that he can be cowed, until finally he bellows, “No. They are angry because we have, again and again, made them lesser. We are not their betters- we are their brothers. I am not the king of the beautiful parts of the ocean, I am king of the seas, and they are my people, too.” So Arthur sues for peace, and with a little humility, is able to end the conflict without bloodshed, reuniting the two kingdoms under his rule.

Shazam vs Black Adam

Yes, this essentially functions as Shazam 3 and Black Adam 2, and is probably the smart bet whether or not Shazam 2 is a breakout sequel. Black Adam is one of his big antagonists; one of the other two is a telepathic caterpillar… so I’m going with the one played by the Rock (although I now desperately want Vin Diesel to voice Mr. Mind at some point).

Now… I’ll admit, I haven’t seen Black Adam yet. I don’t know whether or not he retakes his country in that film or not… but that’s a minor detail, because that’s how this movie begins. He remakes the ancient city-state of Kahndaq. This bugs the crap out of Shazam, because people assume it’s him, because they both have a lightning bolt chest. I just imagine Zachary Levi, exasperated, telling an old woman he saved from being hit by a truck and is now beating him mercilessly with her purse pointing to a TV in a shop window bearing news footage of Black Adam rampaging, telling her, as she hits him, “I look nothing like the guy. I have hair. And a cape!” She starts swinging underhand, and while the swing goes off screen, we can tell she’s whacking him in the crotch. “Stop that,” he says, catching the purse.

Shazam convenes the rest of the Marvel family. They discuss; most of them argue for cooler heads; but Billy’s really struggling, here. He wanted to be like Superman, but he’s becoming, “Thanks for saving me, I guess, but screw you, man!” So Billy goes off on his own to fight Black Adam… and has his clock pretty thoroughly cleaned.

I imagine there’s a lot of comedy to be had, excitable Zach Levi trying to convince Black Adam that his relatively naïve and idealistic morality is superior… and Black Adam just really not having any patience for this child in a man’s body.

The Marvels arrive to rescue Billy, and they start to have a big superhero fight… before Billy realizes the damage they’re doing, and all to salve his ego. He realizes what’s really important- the little people, the ones who can’t stop tank shells. Billy convinces the Marvels to stop fighting.

Just then, the warlords Black Adam took Kahndaq back from, counter-attack, seeing the Marvels’ intervention as an exploitable crisis. And they’ve upped their game, getting some magically infused tank shells that actually do hurt him. Billy recognizes that the warlords are the worse of the two evils, so they team up with Black Adam.

At the end, the Marvels tell Adam to leave Kahndaq alone. “No.” He tells them the only way they can pry his home from him is with a war that will level the country- and he knows they wouldn’t do that.

Billy’s angry, but recognizes Adam has a point. “Today, you’re the lesser of the evils. The day that changes, I’m dragging you out of here myself.”

Now… if Shazam 2 is a breakout sequel, you might be able to get money enough for a Justice Society cameo. Say the tanks, given that they’re specifically designed with Shazams in mind, could be a problem for all of our heroes… until the Justice Society show up to help out. This could foster good will with the Marvels, and pave the way for Shazam to continue as a part of the Justice Society.

2027

Justice League: Dark

Okay… this one is wild, even for me. It starts as we’d expect, Constantine, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, and Tim Hunter, dealing with a magical threat. Because I’m trying to save Justice League movies the way Marvel does for Avengers events, and Wonder Woman’s series ended at 3… she ends up here, to add some star power to the line-up. The magical threat ends up shunting them off into a different DC Universe- essentially a thinly veiled Snyderverse. Something is deeply wrong with a world where Batman is gunning people down on the streets from the safety of his own personal tank. Flash (paralleling Ezra Miller’s real-life problems) is having mental crises faster than anyone can think up solutions. Superman, after the death of Lois Lane, is going full-on fascist. So the characters are caught in this dark, increasingly dystopian world, and have to figure out if they can save it, and if they can’t, whether or not they can at least escape it. Depending on how it plays, this could lay the groundwork for Injustice Lords or the Injustice universe. This exists both because the concept has been a high priority for adaptation, and because elements within WB/Discovery really want to bring back the Snyderverse in some capacity, and presents an opportunity to have your cake and eat it, too. When they finally escape, the end up in the Batcave.

The 3 Jokers

Okay… assuming everything is going to plan, we need to square why we have 2 Jokers running around, and also multiple Harleys. So here’s how we do it, by roughly adapting the 3 Jokers story. Phoenix has a run-in; depending on whether or not a Batman shows up in Joker 2, it can just be with police or a rival mob. Harley saves him, narrowly. She’s concerned for his safety. So they hatch a plan to create more Jokers. He starts experimenting with psychoactive drugs on people they kidnap.

One will, eventually, be the gangster version from Suicide Squad.

This also involves Batman, who at the end of the story captures the Joker, and puts him in Arkham- where he is in Hush.

Personally, I’d also make the original Joker the only one aware of the shifting timelines, first after Flashpoint, then after Wally takes Barry’s place (time rewrites, so that Wally was always their Flash- Batman seems to be the only one who remembered Barry).

Blue Beetle 2: Justice for All

Similar, but distinct from my Justice League: International pitch.

Assuming Blue Beetle does well, it will likely in part be attributed to it catering to the Latino audience in the way that Black Panther’s success was partly attributed to the underserved Black audience (and given the success of Coco is likely a savvy move). So the next logical step is to put him on the International Justice League. Wonder Woman resigning her post as dual Amazon ambassador and Justice League ambassador leaves the UN feeling vulnerable. She’s still their liaison, but in effect it has made the League more independent. So they request the right to build their own League, an international one that can cater to the world’s needs, not just whatever the gods among them deign to intervene in. Some of this is prompted by Russia fielding their own hero team, the Rocket Reds, think a team of Russian Iron Men, and China their own. The world is getting nervous.

Given Blue Beetle has already had one success, and he’s both an American with Latin American roots, he’s viewed as an ideal candidate to lead the team. We want to be as international as possible, so I’d bring in Fire from Brazil, Ice from Iceland, Vixen from somewhere in Africa, Dr. Light (Dr. Hoshi version) from Japan.

I’m thinking a goodly portion of the story is assembling the team, finding and convincing them to work together. Then a crisis occurs, as the Chinese superteam and Russian one combine forces to take over Mongolia, with the stated aim of dividing the country between them. Just as the JLI are about to go fight the good fight, their new handler, Max Lord, pulls Beetle aside. They’ve been waiting for this eventuality. They had warning. From a visitor claiming to be from the future.

He’s been kept in a bunker, a UN safe house that’s essentially its own little Gitmo in New York. Beetle goes to the heart of it, and meets Booster Gold. He told them three things would happen, and two have come to pass. The third is the combining of the Russian and Chinese teams. He’s told them that without him, the conflict will escalate to a full-scale nuclear war. As part of his intake, Max asked Booster why a man from the future would let them catch him. “You’ll let me out. When you need to.”

So the JLI fight the combined forces. They’re tough, but the JLI prove tougher… except Booster stops them. He knows the Russians and Chinese can’t lose face like this- if they can’t compete in the next arms race, they’ll rattle their sabers in the old one… but their fear will lead to launches, and nuclear devastation. But the real truth is they aren’t the aggressors here. Someone is pulling their strings.

There are a lot of directions you can go from here. Any number of telepaths, mind controllers, etc. Whoever it is, I’d make their plan a part of the Anti-Monitor’s plan, meant to soften the Earth up so it provides less resistance- in the same way he guided Sinestro to Earth to weaken the GLs, and eventually Oa. Despero might be the best option, because he can both control some of the characters, but also provide a good boss fight at the end.

Booster’s future tech is able to detect the hidden adversary, and he attacks them, freeing the 3 super teams to fight together and end the conflict.

2028

The Batman 3: Knightfall

I’m pitching this one as much because I get the sense that Reeves just kind of wants to play with all the toys, and this would let him put his imprint on whoever was left. Bane cracks Arkham wide open. This sets up a gauntlet for Batman, who has to capture as many of the inmates before they hurt innocent people as he can. All the while, Bane keeps taking shots at him, to weaken him more and more. But unlike prior, crappier adaptations… Batman doesn’t get his back broken. You could do that in the comics and spend a year on that storyline. But for a film, even a 3 hour one, that makes for a lousy story. So instead… Batman figures out Bane’s plan. It takes a toll on him, true. But he prepares for the moment Bane’s going to attack him, and puts Dick Grayson in the costume; he’s been champing at the bit the entire movie, wanting to help while Batman held him off. It’s for this moment. Bane trashes Dick. He’s brutal, and with the venom Dick can’t win. Bane hoists him over his head, and we hear the sound of a bataring whip through the air. It doesn’t stop Bane from smashing his knee into Dick’s back, but it does cut him off from his venom supply. The real Batman emerges from the shadows, and beats Bane, who slices open his veins to jam the venom line directly into his arm. This fight’s harder, but Bane gets tripped up by Dick from the floor, and Batman knocks him out. Batman asks Dick if he’s all right. “First thing they teach you in the circus is how to fall…ow…”

Green Lantern Corps: Parallax

The Green Lanterns managed to beat Sinestro. As he’s being transported to a launch facility for escort back to Oa, his convoy is attacked. It’s part of a series of raids and attacks the Lanterns are dealing with from a terrorist group calling themselves Parallax. They’ve been targeting Green Lantern support staff and allies, those without rings themselves, bombing their cars, their homes. Energy signatures at the crime scenes indicate presence of both Sinestro and Green Lantern rings- leading to paranoia about who among them have turned, causing Kyle and John to not be able to trust anyone.

What takes them longer to understand is that the terrorists are also targeting remainders of Sinestro’s cartel. This is somewhat hidden, because they take their rings after death, a missing finger being the only indication there was ever a ring there to begin with.

The leader of this ring-powered terrorist organization turns out to be none other than Hal Jordan. He blames both the Green Lantern Corps. and the Sinestros for the destruction of his home town of Coast City. He’s holding Sinestro prisoner, and using his ring as part of the attacks as he makes Sinestro watch his empire crumble.

Kyle and John find and free Sinestro, but are caught by Hal. They prove incapable of defeating him, until Sinestro puts his hand on Stewart’s, adding his will to John’s ring. Together, the three are able to forcibly extract Parallax, the fear entity, from Jordan, and he’s horrified about what he did under its influence.

Sinestro testifies in Jordan’s defense, telling them that under the Parallax entities’ control there’s very little a host can do to resist, that while he certainly aided the entity willingly, Jordan did not.

Batgirl and Supergirl: World’s Finest

We’re at the point where extrapolating from what is to what could be gets… interesting. Because I’m trying to pull together what nearly got made as a gauge of corporate interest… despite management changes wildly altering that interest several times over.

But presumably, there’s confidence in some kind of a Batgirl project. We’re also, if we’re building towards a Crisis, going to need a Supergirl. So I figure combine the two. Give it to whoever the current equivalent to Juno-era Diablo Cody is, maybe Emerald Fennel.

Kara Zor-El arrives on Earth. Jor-El sent his brother on the colony an identical ship to launch Kara, and he did so. But her ship was damaged enroute, and had to use orbital sling-shotting to arrive at Earth. Because she spent more time at near-light speeds, she incurred more time dilation, and Clark’s older cousin is now his younger cousin.

What neither of them know, however, is that the Kandor colony didn’t suffer Krypton’s fate. They were bottled at the last minute by Brainiac… but he considers the city incomplete, given that one survivor managed to escape. He tracks her to Earth, intent on shrinking her down as part of his collection.

Meanwhile, Batman tasks Batgirl with being Supergirl’s handler. He figures she’s good at blending, but can also protect her in a pinch. This leads Batgirl to training Supergirl to fight; she’s only absorbed a small amount of solar radiation, so she’s a lot more vulnerable right now than she will be.

I’m assuming it would kill the budget to actually show the Justice League, but we could have a news broadcast showing that the League, including the entire Hall of Justice, has been frozen in a solid block of ice. The ice seems to be mildly radioactive, so attempts to break free would spread radioactive dust across the city- Batman confirms to Batgirl via radio that the isotope is Kryptonite, that someone knew about the League and how they would be vulnerable. Batgirl doesn’t think it’s a coincidence this is happening right after the arrival of Supergirl.

Their paranoia proves correct, when both girls are kidnapped and brought aboard Brainiac’s ship. He largely ignores Barbara, thinking her to be a human, and of absolutely no consequence, casually threatening her before ignoring her completely to monologue at Kara. Batgirl manages to break the encryption on Brainiac’s computers, waging technologic war on him as he tries to fight Supergirl. It’s a tough fight, since she’s still mostly relying on the self-defense Barbara taught her. Eventually they force Brainiac to flee, and get into an escape pod back to Earth.

2029

The 3 Flashes

Wally keeps getting shunted to alternate worlds. Whatever the Crime Syndicate did, it continues to pull him from reality to reality. He meets another Flash, an older one, named Jay Garrick. Garrick postulates that, as Hawking theorized, there’s a cosmic editor, putting things back to where they were, fixing impossible paradoxes- that the multiverse is trying to send him home.

Both Flashes get pulled to another dark timeline. During their down time, Wally reflects on his Barry, and how he was the better hero, and he would be able to save them. Jay tells him that he was one of the first heroes on his world- he didn’t have anyone to look up to- he had to be the hero he wished he could look up to- and just as crucially, learn to forgive himself when he fell short of that ideal.

They’re met by one of the Monitors. He explains that his people are ethe editors Hawking theorized- that when a tear in reality threatens all existence, they fix it.

This dark reality, however, is actually the future, or at least a possible one, run by Eobard Thawn, the Reverse Flash. His connection to the Speed Force is artificial. He created it with technology, forcing himself into it. He can only maintain that by draining the life of other Flashes, recreating tech created by Lex Luthor to do so. So presuming that Reverse Flash is the antagonist of the first Flash movie, this serves as his origin.

So we get a pretty wild superspeed fight, during which Zoom absorbs enough of the Speed Force to have a legit connection, leading to him going back in time to attack Wally (accidentally attacking Barry, due to the continuity bending that attack created).

The Monitor appears at the end, sheepish over having used them. Reality is safe, for the moment… but they’re also a step closer to a Crisis point. Because the existence of Monitors means the existence of Anti-Monitors, anti-matter, opposing forces from the dark multiverse. They feed on matter, converting entire realities into energy- and one has set his sights on their Earth.

Justice League: Dark Multiverse

Justice League Dark thought they were home- thought they finally found their own universe. We start in the Batcave, where the last film ended. Batman tells them that he’s glad to see them, he could use their help. Joker’s won. He united all of Gotham’s villains under his banner, killed half the police and forced the remainder to disband. With the help of a mysterious, ragged stranger, he erected a magical barrier that’s keeping Gotham separate from the other heroes. Worse, he systematically killed all of Batman’s allies, all his Robins, Batgirls… he’s the last one left. Now he’s executing parents. Every hour, on the hour, he’s killing parents in crime alley, orphaning their children. He says the only way he’ll stop is if Batman kills him. He’s been up for days, at this point, trying to figure out a way to beat Joker. He’s a shell of a man, but he’s terrified that if he kills Joker, he’ll never stop. He knows Joker’s a singular threat, but how do you justify drawing that line? He already crippled Joker… but he still won’t stop.

Wonder Woman offers to do it. He reveals that he knows Joker has a failsafe, that he’s secreted a more virulent version of his toxin in his body that will transform whoever kills him into him. Batman is just a man- he can be beaten- but a Joker with the power of Wonder Woman might not be.

Batman’s plan is to wage an all-out assault on Joker’s compound, hopefully long enough to distract the ragged man and let them remove his magical bubble. They barrier is pouring from a giant bat totem, and is protected by dragons with the Joker’s face. They fight their way to the barrier, as Batman fights his way to the Joker. Batman tries all kinds of things, but he just can’t outmaneuver the Joker. Turns out the Joker isn’t even there, he’s doing all of this by remote. But there is a teleporter, that takes Batman to him. They’re locked in a cage, with a minute to go before the next parents die. They’re related to some member of the Batcast, and the resemblance shakes him. He tries to find a way out of the cage, some way that he can escape after he kills the Joker, biding time, hoping the Dark League can manage to bring down the barrier in time to let the League rescue the family. They only need a second, a fraction of a second, for Flash or Superman to arrive. We watch the clock as he tries desperately to escape, with seconds left. We cut back to the Dark League, destroying the barrier. They realize the ragged figure is behind them, and in a haunting voice he tells them, “Too late,” before disappearing.

We cut back to the cage with Batman and the Joker in it. We can see that the timer stopped, and the family is still alive. We pull back, to see the cage is filled with gas, and the Joker, his neck snapped, hangs limply from Batman’s hands.

An instant later, Superman is there, about to punch a hole in the cage. “Don’t,” Batman says. “Can’t risk you getting exposed to this gas.”

Now… dependent on budget, I’d have the full League and Dark League with him in the cave, still sealed inside the cage, running diagnostics on him. He seems to be fine, and convinces them that he feels fine, and that if they’re going to counteract the poison he needs to be out there, with his equipment. It’s Superman who makes the call, because he’ll always trust Batman. The second he’s out, Batman activates the Babel protocol, countermeasures for the entire League as he systematically murders his way through them. He hadn’t planned on the Dark League being there, and being magic, they survive him a little longer- long enough to open a portal away. But he hitches a ride, coming through with them back into their universe (though that fact will only be revealed in the end credits).

Lobo

The Main Man takes a contract in a hive of scum and villainy. Seems that someone’s special captive got loose. She’s armed, extremely dangerous, and hiding out on Earth. During their first fight, she kicks his butt. Badly. Embarassingly so, to the degree the he never even manages to peel her out of a cloak. The last thing he sees is red glowing eyes.

In their second fight, he bushwhacks her, having finally read the brief provided by his employer. This time he brought kryptonite to the party. For a moment we’ll assume he’s after Supergirl… and you’d be half right- he’s caught Power Girl. Now… to try not to give you a nosebleed, but also tie her into the multiversal shenanigans we’re building up… she is originally from an alternate Earth. However, when her rocket managed to shatter through to a different universe, the Monitors rewrote her history, to be a clone of Kara created by her parents in the bottle city of Kandor to replace the daughter they lost. During the fight in World’s Finest, a little of Earth’s radiation managed to break through into the bottle city, giving Kara enough power to escape, vowing to marshal forces to free them all.

Lobo returns to Brainiac with his prize. Brainiac notices something amiss, and accuses Lobo of playing a fast one. Her signature is wrong… but she is genetically the Kara he was seeking. He deems it worthy of further study, then turns his attentions to Lobo.

See, Lobo is the last Czarnian, a worthy addition to Brainiac’s collection. He captures him, and houses him in a place he doubts very much Lobo will want to escape from.

It is a civilization consisting entirely of prostitution, gambling, liquor and cigar production. Lobo’s eyes light up, and we fade to black. We put up white text. “Fifty black-outs later…” Lobo is drinking alone. An alien prostitute makes a pass, but he’s melancholy. It’s a world catered entirely to his whims… except for his lust for violence and conflict. He’s getting restless. Even tiny, Lobo is able to crack his bottle. But once free, he realizes that without being able to fly, he’s not going to be able to make himself big. On the one hand, that means he can get hammered for pennies. On the other, it means only insect hookers for the rest of his days. He decides to bust out Power Girl. They make an uneasy alliance. She grows him first. He considers reneging, until she starts smacking him around as a superstrong fly- which should be very comical to watch. Finally he grows her. Lobo takes the shrink ray and the bottle he was trapped in. Kara takes the bottle city of Kandor.

I’m assuming Kara had been searching for Ray Palmer, the Atom, to help her try to regrow her city. He tells them that the cities have been shrunk too long; Brainiac’s tech can be reversed over a short period, but after that regrowing becomes impossible. But he promises to keep searching for a cure.

2030

Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths

The World Forger has been a busy little bee, creating a nigh-infinite multiverse. Feeling slighted that less attention seems to be paid to his dark, anti-matter universes, the Anti-Monitor devises a plan to consume the positive multiverse’s energy and usurp the World Forger, creating only dark universes.

With each destroyed universe, the Anti-Monitor becomes stronger, leaving the heroes with a single possible path to win: merging the multiverse into a single reality. They manage it, and then beat back the Anti-Monitor. Supergirl and Jay Garrick die in the offing.

Brianiac reports on the failure of the Anti-Monitor. Darkseid smiles. Brainiac doesn’t understand. “We exist beyond any universe While the wall between his realm and the universe remains intact, there is now a crack, through which we may directly influence events. Desaad proclaims, “Darkseid is coming. Darkseid is.”

Beyond

I mapped out three phases, the first ending in the Crisis, the second in defeating Darkseid, and the third ending in a fight with the Dark Knights.

Supergirl would have survived, encased in Kryptonian crystal and eventually revived by the Legion of Superheroes. The New Gods would have lost to Apokalips, as would the Greek Gods, before Darkseid laid siege to Earth

Batman would have paid Lobo to form the Outsiders into a nonlethal black ops team from remnants of Task Force X, who would eventually rebel against him, not realizing his plan was to convince them to use nonlethal means, not keeping them as Waller had.

Next

I’m going to work on my own DCNu movie universe, mostly because I’m jealous Gunn and Safran got that much leeway. Could take me a couple of weeks, but check back soon.

Pitchgiving 2021, part 8: The New Gods

I think we start with Granny Goodness. I’ve already said it really should be Kathy Bates playing her, because that would be perfect. But imagine her sitting down with some children, telling them a bedtime story in one of her orphanages, and it starting like any normal bedtime story, but slowly layering in horrors the like of which would give the Brothers Grimm nightmares. She tells the story of two warring peoples, the gods of New Genesis and Apokalips, and how their war scarred the cosmos, destroying planets, entire solar systems, until a fragile peace was declared, commenced with the exchange of two heirs to either ruling family- Scott Free, and Darkseid’s son, Orion. Once this fairy tale becomes too scary, we cut away from the dungeonous orphanage, to a balcony atop one of the spires of New Genesis.

We see some of the cruelty of New Genesis, as children mock Orion for being the son of the Devi; his temper flares, even if he keeps it under wraps until after the children leave. That’s when he’s found by the Highfather. Orion asks if his dad really is the Devil. “Darkseid isn’t the Devil, but yes, you are his heir.” Orion, clearly hurting, asks if his father loved him, how could he give him away. “Our children are our hope and prayer for a better tomorrow. But a prayer muttered alone will not build a better world; the best thing a parent can do for their children is also the hardest: letting them soar on the open wind.”

The story follows three children. Orion, raised in relative luxury on New Genesis. Scott, languishing in Granny’s orphanage. And Barda… okay, so Barda is also raised at Granny’s orphanage, but for the sake of contrast, I’m going to have her be, essentially, one of the popular kids, Granny’s favorite, groomed for a special place. Scott is her lowliest charge, essentially singled out by Darkseid and Granny to be ground into nothing- but not through violence, through his own insignificance- they put him into what is, essentially, parademon basic training, which, like all life on Apokalips but the most privileged, is to have all life, all hope, all will, pressed out of you. Barda and Scott aren’t really aware of each other. They tangentially run into each other; Barda is responsible for thwarting one of his escape attempts by chucking a weapon at his back as he flees. But increasingly the orphanage becomes bifurcated, with Scott’s section becoming more dungeonous, filled with traps and torture equipment, but also increasingly more dreary and cold. And increasingly, Scott becomes the face of the rebellious movement against Granny. He escapes, causes havoc, maybe does a little organizing, before getting put away again. Orion finds acceptance, at least temporarily, by helping save some children on New Genesis. All while Barda becomes more and more engrained in the upper echelons. But I think, at least at the beginning, we’re going to have three narrations, but also, that they’re going to kind of be the same, at least in their goals.

We start with Scott, because he’s the face of this thing, both its most fun and interesting character, but also its most tragic (at least in the beginning). “From the time I was a child, all I wanted to do was escape this hell.” I think we show a classroom, and for a moment it could be any science fiction story starting in an advanced school, albeit cold and alien-looking. Young Scott Free, as his adult self narrates, is answering a very simple, one-question test. Granny reads it aloud, to prevent there from being any question what the question is: As a citizen of Apokalips, I live only for… which Scott has answered, in an exotic kind of crayon, in a child’s unsteady hand, he’s written the word “escape.”

Granny’s shadow eclipses his paper, and Scott, a little intimidated, looks up at her. “Oh, Scott,” she begins, and for a moment we’re lulled into the possibility that she’s going to be kind, and gently correct him, that despite her space-fascist outfit and cape, there’s a glint of softness in her eyes, but we show her reeling back with her weapon as she says, “you really never learn.” I imagine violence against a child will be too much to depict in too great a detail, but we can have him off-screen, receiving the attack, as energy flashes light Granny’s face. Still on her face, but she’s now angry. She blasts with her weapon, as a slightly older Scott dodges overhead on his signature discs, the blast weakening the one window in the classroom enough that, as we cut outside to see the crack form, Scott flies out the window. “Thankfully, I always had a talent for escape.” In the next moment, Scott, a little beaten up, is thrust back into his seat in front of Granny. “Unfortunately for me, on Apokalips there really isn’t anywhere to escape to.”

We cut back to the previous scene. Adult Barda narrates: “From the time I was a child, all I wanted was to escape this life.” Granny finishes her attack on Scott and spins on her heels, lurking over Barda, who is sitting with her hands neatly folded. On her page, in surprisingly clean and crisp letters, she’s written the correct answer: Darkseid. Granny practically glows (at least insofar as she’s capable).

“Very good, Barda. Young Mr. Free could learn much from you- if he weren’t such a dunce. I think it’s time we sent you to the advanced course.” Barda is shown to be special. She was Granny’s favorite, shown as a child to have an exceptional talent for combat, even besting a parademon before puberty, and clearly enjoying the warrior’s life. She’s shown the closest thing Granny shows to affection (it is fleeting and superficial, but in an entire world that is basically a high-tech concentration camp, it’s a tiny flash of humanity). Granny pins a cape to a still quite young Barda, a signal of her rank. Below is a procession of dregs, in dirty, blackened rags, marching but with no fanfare at all, from their barracks to the factories. “It’s better to rule in hell, than to live among its offal.” We see Scott escape below, flying on his discs, this time narrowly avoiding large blocks that shift to try to contain his escape. Barda raises her weapon (similar to Granny’s; in fact, she’s starting to look like a young Granny) and fires, knocking Scott from the sky. He crashes on the shifting block, and is snatched by parademons. “Unfortunately, sometimes rulers have to be cruel to be kind.”

Now we show New Genesis again. A young Orion is held down by kids his own age, who smear handfuls of paint along his face to make him more closely resemble Darkseid, as they taunt him that he should be back on Apokalips with his own kind. Orion punches one of them, bloodying his knuckles, and the children flee. We cut to him, looking in the mirror at the greasy paint smeared into his hair and across his face, interrupted by streaky tears running down his face. An older Orion narrates as we also intercut his bloodied hands as he looks at his reflection in the mirror, seeing overlaid his father’s face, “From the time I was a child, all I wanted was to escape this devil,” (part of that, is wanting to escape his own rage, which he recognizes is the first step to his truly becoming Darkseid’s heir).

Izaya helps the boy wash his face, and comforts him. “Your rage is understandable, Orion,” the Highfather says. “Only children can be so cruel- and those who never outgrow a child’s outlook. They hate what they fear, and fear what they don’t understand. But what I know, my son, is that you are not the devil they see, nor are you the monster you fear. You are merely a boy, bravely hopeful that he can be better than his forebears. And you can.”

Orion, simply crushed under the weight of all of this, holds up his hand, still bloodied. “I struck one of them.”

Highfather is patient. “You did. But remember the time before? You struck several. And before that, you struck all of them, several repeatedly. And today, you did so with great reluctance. I know that our Eden is held as idyllic, our ways peaceful. They are neither. We are the counter to Apokalips. While the day may seem overly kind beside the dark, it is only through persevering over the night that we maintain life in the universe, growth. Without the day’s light, nothing could sustain life.” Orion asks about mushrooms, and Highfather smiles. “Mushrooms are merely a different kind of life, persevering even through the dark; they are a testament to the strength and will of life…”

We follow inside Granny’s orphanage as the Highfather’s words seep in, “but they are not enough to sustain it.” Scott anticipates returning to his classroom again, but a thin man in robes stops him. “Darkseid grows impatient with your lack of progress; Granny’s compassion has spoiled you, child, but I will not spare the rod.” The robed figure clings to his staff eagerly. Scott becomes more and more concerned as he is led into increasingly more dungeonous territory. A parademon brings a prisoner to the robed figure. The prisoner addresses him as “DeSaad,” and begs him for mercy, that he wasn’t trying to escape. DeSaad says he was hoping for a chance to test the enhancements to his rod. It bathes the man in fire, and he collapses to the ground, mewling. DeSaad is very proud of his handywork. “It takes an artists eye to get the balance right. Too much heat, and you’ll cook the meat and kill the body; too much force and you peel away the flesh, and they die. No, the key is just enough of both to make the pain exquisitely unbearable. He’ll beg to die, when he regains his strength, but in time he will heal, and we can start the progress over again.”

“You’re a monster,” Scott says.

“Unlucky for you, the real monster’s taken a personal interest in you, now. Normally, I like watching the systemic demolition of hope from a young man’s eyes. But the sheer hate he holds for you- if you want to jump, I’ll let you. I promise you, it’s the last kindness you’ll ever know.” Scott follows his gaze down into a chasm, its black depths punctuated by pools of molten rock at the bottom. During their gazing, the other prisoner manages to roll himself over the edge. He crumples as he lands, before the boiling rock envelopes him. But it doesn’t swallow. It just roils around him as he wriggles in agony. 

DeSaad is just tickled pink by this; it might be too much to have him howl in delight. “Takes a genius, to devise a trap like this one, and so few Apokaliptians are up to appreciating it. The fall is calculated, to the millimeter, to smash the bones, but not to kill. And the boiling rock, it’s not so hot to kill- just to sear- and to cauterize any wounds he sustained.” Water is poured down into the chasm. “We keep them moist, so they don’t dry out. They’d starve, before succumbing, but we pluck them out before it happens. Sometimes we set their bones, only to throw them back in. Sometimes we let all their burns heal. I’m a technologist by trade, but my passion is the science of suffering. You and I, Scott, you’re going to be my masterpiece of pain. And if you’re lucky, I’ll make some stumble and end you, because if I don’t, Darkseid’s wroth will render my research quaint. To him, I am not even an apprentice; he is the true master of agony.”

We cut to Darkseid, sitting in a throne over a gladiatorial pit. Goddfrey introduces the combatants: Lashina and Barda will fight two captured New Genesis weaponsmiths. Goddfrey tells them they have a chance to prove their worth by using their designed weapons to defeat Darkseid’s Furies… unless they’ve been sandbagging. At first the weapons don’t work (that’s the reason they’re in this pickle to begin with), but they manage to stay alive long enough to fix them, and turn them on the Furies. But Lashina and Barda have only been toying with them. Even with their fancy New God tech, the two Furies easily disarm them. Darkseid holds up his hand and both promise to live for Darkseid. He puts his thumb down, and Lashina executes them both as Barda watches, bidding they die for Darkseid.

On New Genesis, Orion is dressed in sentinel garb (his usual costume), essentially a peacekeeping force. However, one of his fellow soldiers mocks him as “the Little Dictator.” Orion tries to hold his temper, until the guy shoves him out of line, which turns his drill instructor’s attentions to him. Orion attacks. We cut to later, as Highfather arrives as Orion is being dressed down by the officer, who questions both his loyalty and bravery, attacking a fellow sentinel. Highfather chastises the instructor, saying his son is every bit as loyal as any of New Genesis’ citizens, and twice as brave, perhaps too brave, to where he’d fight his own for his honor. Highfather stares down the one who started it, saying Orion has a temper, but he’s no provocateur. Orion intercedes, and says to leave it- that he doesn’t want his father- either of them- to lord his position over someone, and storms off. After a moment, Highfather smiles, and follows.

Back on Apokalips, in a tight corridor, a child holds its parents’ hand, clinging desparately. A parademon strikes the parent, and the hand goes limp, even as the child clings more tightly, and  Scott Free, flying on his discs, bursts in, light streaming, now in his full Mr. Miracle garb. He stops the parademon assault, and whisks parent and child away. I’m assuming this is still a young Scott, so built like Spider-Man moreso than an adult. He sets the parent and child down safely, but they’re angry at exposing them to potentially more danger; they’re being kind of a jerk, but I want it to be reasonable, too, that we understand that they are simply reacting to Apokalips, where fighting back is far more dangerous than being crushed slowly to death- especially in the lessons it teaches an already frightened child (side note: their crime was trying to keep and raise their child- all children are supposed to be surrendered to Granny’s orphanages, so they really are a revolutionary in the making). Scott offers them an entertainment, a temporary escape from the violence and danger of Apokaliptian life, pulling back a curtain, inviting them, as a sign proclaims, to see Mr. Miracle’s escape. Oberon works as the hype man, as Scott performs death-defying feats. It’s a small, underground audience (Apokalips really doesn’t have space for theater- that’s also why his garb is so unusual; the world is mostly black and gray, the sole exception being officers in Darkseid’s army, for whom color is a sign of rank). After the show, Scott convinces parent and child to stick around. Then he convinces Oberon to help him smuggle them out, to the resistance. Oberon’s reluctant; the kid said the last time was the last time, that if they keep taking risks they get caught, and if they get caught the resistance gets exposed. Scott reluctantly agrees, that of course Oberon’s right, they can’t be careless, he just needs Oberon to do one thing and he’ll go along: he has to tell the kid they can’t help.

And Oberon tries, gets down on the kid’s level, and can see they’re just scared. Oberon melts, “Aw, kid, I’m no good at giving bad news.” He stands up, huffily. “Fine, fine, we’ll take em. You know the kid’s got that same dangerous glint in their eyes.” Scott asks if it’s charm. “Worse. Hope. We give too many of these people hope, and we’re just setting them up for this world to crush em even worse.”

Scott has a genuine offection for Oberon, and tells him he appreciates how he “keeps him grounded.” Oberon, seeing the kid from a distance, says Scott keeps him doing the right thing, despite himself.

We cut to New Genesis, basically modern day. He flies through the air in what is essentially an airborne segue. Orion’s wearing a helmet, and through that he’s radioed. “Orion, we have an airborne radar contact, trajectory would suggest an Apokaliptian origin. Flight pattern suggests a parademon, though whether its a scout or one of them escaped the pens we don’t know.” Orion says he’ll check it out. It’s a parademon, all right, and gives him a run for his money (I’m going to say we should upgrade parademons from the ones Steppenwolf brought to Earth in Justice League; since he was on the outs, his army consisted of the crummiest of the parademons- they should be more formidable than his were then, at least in general.

Orion talks to himself a bit, so we understand he’s following the typical protocol, that they usually just fire warning shots to chase the parademons back home. But this one is persistent, refusing; it wants something. Orion’s given the order to shoot it down to prevent it from completing whatever its mission is. He does, but it barrels down onto one of the trams (think a monorail, but the track is a pair of flimsy golden pipes- really elegant looking but the parademon smashes through it. And that juncture point is for a school- and Orion can see that there is basically a bus full of school children barreling towards the end of the line without an end point. Orion lands roughly to beat the kids to the end of the line and hold up the broken rail so the bus comes to a relatively smooth stop.

One of the teachers runs to the bus, but is surprised to see Orion. She’s somewhat shamed by her behavior as a kid, but also recognizes she’s beautiful and has a wellspring of confidence from that. “I used to pick on you,” she says, “when we were kids.” Orion, barely able to meet her gaze, tells her he remembers. She tells him she was wrong- they all were. She’s felt awful about it- but never enough to contact him- “I had no right to force an apology on you to salve my guilt. But I see it on your face, even now, how I hurt you. I had no right to do that, either. I’m sorry.” He asks if she teaches. She does, but also, her daughter was on that bus, she tells him, as her little girl gets clear and runs to her. She says she doesn’t know, after losing her child’s father last year, how she could have withstood losing her, too. “There are no words to express my sorrow for the pain I caused you, and an equal degree for the sorrow you spared me today.” She tells him he’s a better citizen of New Genesis than most of them could ever hope to be. She smiles at him and leaves.

“So why do I feel so angry?” Orion asks, as he limps his flying frame away. Izaya is talking to him through his helmet. He tells him that the wounds she caused him run deep, that she exposed a nerve, and while over the long term her words might touch him, even sooth him, in that moment, all they can do is deepen his hurts. Orion asks if those wounds ever heal, if he’ll ever feel like he’s earned his place on New Genesis. Highfather assures him he has, a hundred fold; he is, in the humble opinion of his father, one of their finest citizens. But he is also his father’s son, a creature of deep longing.

“But where Darkseid needs to control, all thought, all will, all life, you, Orion, need to belong, to feel loved and needed and cared for. The people of New Genesis have not always lived up to our ideals and provided for that need.”

Orion tells him he thinks he’s right- that, like his father, he needs too much. Izaya tells him that wasn’t the lesson he wanted him to take from what he said, and Orion tells him that doesn’t make it any less true. He says that his has not always been the easiest life, but he remembers his earliest days on Apokalips, that his worst day on New Genesis paled to his best moment on Apokalips, and even there he had been the favored son of its despot. He worries over Scott, the son the Highfather traded for him.  

The resistance leader, Himon, thanks Scott for turning in another refugee. Their campaign is going well, all things considered, and it’s only with the help of those like him that they’re able to continue to work to free even some of Apokalips from the tyrant’s grasp.

“Why him?” Barda asks, looking at a hologram of Mr. Miracle. We’re now in Granny Goodness’ war room, where she tasks her furies on their most secretive missions.

“Why him?” Granny asks. “Because Scott Free is the lowliest of the low. He has always been a worm, but the worst kind- the kind who refuses to be trod under foot.” She explains that Goddfrey’s spies have found dozens of resistance agents who could be used to destroy their movement. But it needs to be Scott. When we break his rebel friends, when the last dying ember of hope is stamped out, Scott Free needs to know that it was his failure that led to so much loss, and pain. “Why him? Because he has always refused to live for Darkseid, and I want his breaking to be the triumph they recall for millenia after me.”

“But why me?” Barda asks, suddenly anxious.

As Granny narrates, the hologram shifts, showing Barda at various points in her rise. “Because you, Barda, are my finest success. A brutal warrior, a brilliant student, the ruthless leader of my Furies. If anyone can remove the black stain of Scott Free’s smile from my record, it’s you, dear. Break him for me, Big Barda, and your reward will stir envy in your peers the like of which you’ve never seen.”

We cut to a transport. Barda seems anxious. Some of that is she’s dressed in the same rags as the rest of the underclass. Some of it is, it’s really her first experience among them. She’s been told, from childhood, that they are deserving of their status, they are dregs for a reason, capable only of corruption if not for the careful guidance of Darkseid, who yolks their unruly, wanton cruelty to provide some measure of prosperity. At first she feels naked without her armor or her weapon- after all, her entire life she’s been told how desperate the dregs are, clawing at their betters for any purchase to pull themselves up- or pull their betters down. But these people aren’t her enemy; they aren’t even capable of presenting a threat, they’re so beaten down and broken. One of the workers stumbles, and a parademon spins on him with a cat o’ nine tails like weapon. Barda catches his elbow. That gets her more attention from other guards, and eventually she’s beating the hell out of a handful of parademons on her own, caught up in the moment. The laborer she saved helps her escape, bidding her slide into a low-lying window.

Barda is surprised at herself. She wants to be upset- she could well have ruined her subterfuge, but the thrill of battle has her blood up. The laborer is terrified, of and for her, but reason they owe her help, since they’ll be looking for her. They can get her to the resistance. “To fight?” Barda asks, still exhilirated by the fight. They tell her it’s to flee- that they’re the only way she can get out of the city alive. The laborer leads them through some underground tunnels, which eventually open up into a gray market. The laborer explains to Barda where she needs to go, when a parademon notices them. She tells the laborer to run, that she’ll lead it off. She runs a squadron of them a merry chase, before being bottled in an alley. She’s about to fight, when Mr. Miracle descends from the sky on his flying discs. He’s almost as formidable as she is (though now she’s playing damsel a bit- helping when his back is turned so as not to arouse suspicion). Barda flips the rescue, preventing Scott from being shot in the back by a parademon. He whisks her away, and takes her to the rebellion’s secret base.

She meets our important players for this portion of the movie, who want to funnel Barda out of town. But she wants to stay and fight. Scott intercedes, telling them she saved his life, and seems more than capable of handling herself. Himon doesn’t like it, but one of their number got swept up by a patrol, so they’re short a hand; he warns her it’ll be sink or swim, “But if you do need a hand, I have been known to function as a floatation device,” Scott says. The leader plays the heavy, each time trying to convince her that they will cut her loose if she threatens any of their safety, or their mission, each time undercut by Scott. Scott is defiant, chivalrous and charming; despite herself, Barda begins to warm to him.

The mission is breaking into one of Darkseid’s research pens. Darkseid’s search for the Anti-Life equation is one half a spiritual quest, one half super unethical research. The fruits of his labors so far are the parademons, essentially mindless, feral husks that were once living people just like those on New Genesis.

The plan had not been for Barda to rough up a dozen parademons, so Granny, concerned, sends the other furies to arrest the rebel leaders. They snatch Barda in the night, give Barda her uniform, and tell her arrests happen at dawn. Barda can’t sleep. Eventually she bursts in on Scott, who tries to play it cool, at first not getting that this isn’t a booty call. She warns Scott, tells him to save himself- that they can’t save the resistance, but he doesn’t deserve whatever Darkseid has planned for him.

Scott tells her that he trusts her with his life, his happiness, his hope, that “none of it is worth saving from Darkseid if we think it’s so fragile we can never share it,” and he kisses her, and for a moment she’s lost in the kiss, in for once feeling something good and vital and life-affirming, but the crushing reality of Apokalips comes rushing back to her and she pulls away from him. She tells him, angrily, she already tried to save him, by warning him off; he answers with a smile, and tells her, “I know. Now I’m trying to save you.”

Barda comes with the other Furies, conflicted as all get out. But when Lashina sets upon Scott, she isn’t conflicted, and she doesn’t hesitate. She blasts Lashina, and she, Scott, and Oberon, flee. Only this time, they’ve got a Motherbox, so they can make it off world, arriving on New Genesis.

They tell Highfather what happened, Scott relating the degradation he suffered in the name of peace. Highfather weeps, “Would that I could have taken your place, son, I would have; would that I could take your sorrows as mine to erase them from your soul.”

Orion, hearing all this, is pissed. He’s worked so hard to be accepted, so hard to be loved, so hard to feel he deserves to be Highfather’s son, only for Darkseid’s castoff to waltz in and be granted the title merely for being born. “Son?” He roars. “You call this wretched beast son.”

“I do, son; I have learned great affection for beasts, no matter their wretchedness,” he says, and tenderly strokes Orion’s cheek. But Highfather’s (and Avia’s) love is no match for Orion’s pain, and he continues advancing, his steps heavy with anger. But just as tragedy seems fit to strike, Scott scoops Orion up, joy in his voice as he exclaims that he has a brother. Scott hugs him fiercely; he knew, in his heart, on Apokalips that he had parents, but for the first time, in this space, with all of those he loves, does he feel like he truly has a family. And, despite himself, so, too, does Orion, caught up (as much as the curmudgeonly New God can be) in Scott’s joy, admiting with some strain, and indeed surprise that he has a brother.

The fragile peace is ended, however, by Scott’s successful escape, giving Darkseid the pretext he required to reignite the war.

Only Darkseid has been busy. During the war that split Genesis, their original planet, in half, New Genesis was technologically superior. Think Russia during World War II, Darkseid’s gains in territory came at the cost of immense expenditures of life; it was possible that Darkseid would lose his first war because their technology was so inferior, but not guaranteed. Highfather so feared Darkseid might triumph that he agreed to unleash the unmitigated power of the Source, cracking the planet in two (why yes, clever reader, this is a metaphor for atomic warfare). Apokalips, including the industrial heart of Darkseid’s territory, which soon spread over his entire planet, and New Genesis, Highfather’s idyllic homeworld, including the floating metropolis, New Eden.

Their gravity remains intertwined, as the two spheres rotate around one another. It was thought that Highfather could end the threat of Apokalips by once again harnessing the power of the Source, but at the cost of a terrible genocide; it was to prevent such a senseless loss of life that Highfather accepted the trading of their heirs. Darkseid agreed, because it bought him time to rebuild, to regrow his armies, and to use the technologists stolen from Highfather (and thought lost in the cracking of the planet) to close the technology gap almost entirely.

Apokalips’ first assault is on the Source itself, capturing the weapon Highfather used to split the planet, and had used to enforce the peace with Apokalips. They cause a huge amount of damage, making it clear that Darkseid’s forces are now far more deadly than in their last war. Highfather holds a war council, splitting his forces to cover certain strategic areas, the most important being New Eden. Scott offers to return to Apokalips, but both Highfather and Orion refuse to let him- he was merely the pretext, a story that let Apokalips pretend to have won their earlier conflict, but also a seed for the next. Even if he did go back, Darkseid could see to it that no one believed that he did. Highfather places Orion, his most trusted lieutenant, in charge of a contingent with Mr. Miracle and Barda to retake the weapon’ without it, Apokalips will be unstoppable.

They’re able to insert Orion inside, but find too late it was a honey-pot, that the surrounding hills are choked with parademons. Miracle and Barda lead the forces fighting to buy Orion time, the idea being that if they can fire the weapon on Apokalips, the mere demonstration that it’s back in New Genesis’ control should be enough to force a ceasefire. And while they fight a battle they know they will lose to buy Orion time, Orion finds that the weapon has already been disassembled. He tries for a moment to fix it, before realizing it isn’t just that they disabled it- they were altering the weapon, so it could be fired into the heart of New Genesis itself. Orion calls up the security satellites, to watch as Scott and Barda are being overwhelmed. He calls his Highfather, who is bloodied, but still fighting, even if it’s clear he won’t be fighting for much longer.

“Father,” Orion says, “I’m sorry for what I must do.” Then we watch as Orion broadcasts a message across New Genesis and Apokalips, both. “I, Orion, son of Darkseid, hold the beating heart of New Genesis’ greatest weapon in my hands. For Darkseid, for Apokalips, I close my fist.” Orion turns his floating conveyence on the weapon, and fires.

Outside, the spire housing the weapon combusts impressively. Scott screams for Orion, even as Barda points to his shape flying from the tower, that he’s alive. They both pause, as they hear Orion broadcast across all channels. “I have struck a blow to our hated enemies. Apokalips, it has been too long since I stood in the halls of my father. I’m coming home, triumphant.”

The parademons stop fighting, and watch as he flies towards Apokalips. After a moment of eerie silence, they follow suit, abandoning their conquest and flying after Orion. I imagine I should seed it so that Orion was part of an Apokaliptian stab in the back myth, that he was stolen by the treacherous Highfather in a raid, a raid in which he callously left his own son behind. Darkseid saw to the wayward child as he did all Apokaliptians, caring for them by tempering them in the fires of his industrial furnace. The return of Orion is thus complicated. On the surface, Apokalips rejoices at the victorious return of its lost prince, as well as the crippling of New Genesis’ great weapon.

New Genesis is somber. With Orion gone, their forces are weaker than ever. And while Highfather publically puts a brave face on it- that Orion surrendered to end the assualt- he recognizes that it’s a blow to morale, regardless. He feels the sting of the loss of a child, but also, some small part of him nags that his son rejected years of teachings to return to his ‘real’ father.

Scott isnt ready to give up on his brother just yet. He talks with Barda, telling her he has to to go. He doesn’t know if he can escape Apokalips a second time, but he has to try. He asks her to watch over his father, and Oberon, if anything happens to him. She tells him she can’t, to which he brokenly says, “Oh,” taking it to mean that now that she’s free of Apokalips, she wants to be free of him, as well, and we linger on that moment, Scott’s heart breaking even as he prepares to face his likely demise. She tells him the reason she can’t watch them is she’ll be with him, in their home in New Eden, or in DeSaad’s dungeon on Apokalips- wherever he is is where she’ll be.

I think that’s where we go to credits. Yeah, we’re not even pretending there won’t be a sequel. Darkseid IS DC’s big bad. It’s worth at least a couple of movies, maybe three, to set him up- and I think you can make some damn fine movies out of these.

Mid-credits scene: Darkseid is pissed. Orion is chained to a pillar, clearly having been beaten, bloodied, bruised, but also angry, and for the first time he feels like he’s got a worthy recipient for his anger.

Darkseid slaps him, the blow enough to bloody even the mighty Orion further. But Darkseid’s anger is cold. “You revoked my pretext for war; I’ll invent another.” DeSaad hands him a rag to wipe away the blood from his fist. “You’ve bought them hours. Perhaps days.”

“”Is that all you have to say to me, ‘father?’ I’m your heir,” Orion cries out. “You’re an heir to an immortal, a surplus in a world that can only ever know hunger; you are useless to me. DeSaad? Break the welp. If any pieces of value remain when you’ve finished, bring them to me. If not, dispose of them in the furnace.”