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Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #4: All the twists and turns explained by Joshua Williamson

As Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths hits its halfway point, Joshua Williamson unpacks the shocking development from the DC event’s fourth issue

Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #4 excerpt by Daniel Sampere
Image credit: Daniel Sampere (DC)
Spoilers ahead for September 6's Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #4.

Counting its prelude issue, the DC Comics crossover event Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths has officially hit its halfway point with its fourth issue as Joshua Williamson and Daniel Sampere up the stakes for the fate of the DC Multiverse. The heroes continue to be on the defensive as Pariah tightens his control over his Dark Army, with a possessed Deathstroke leading the corrupted supervillains against the Legion of Doom after dismantling the Titans. This comes after the shocking revelation that the Justice League, assumed killed in their showdown with Pariah, are actually trapped in their own pocket universes, with energy from these worlds being siphoned directly into Pariah to make the maddened multiversal villain even more powerful.

Not all hope is lost, of course, with the Flash and Green Lantern teaming up to rescue the trapped heroes from these extra-dimensional prisons of their own making. Meanwhile back on Earth, Alan Scott leads the Justice Society of America to help inspire the younger heroes, including a particularly somber Nightwing, haunted by his recent skirmish with Deathstroke. However, this heroic rally may prove to be too little too late as Pariah uses his newfound power to create a new DC Multiverse, with ominous implications for the DC Universe as it currently stands.

In a postgame interview with Popverse for Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #4, Williamson walks through all the twists and turns in the issue, explains why he brought several key moments and callbacks to move the story forward, and hints where readers should look next to see the next major developments for Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #4 excerpt by Daniel Sampere
Image credit: Daniel Sampere (DC)

Popverse: This issue kicks off the reunion of the Brave and the Bold, with Barry Allen rescuing Hal Jordan. What was it about opening the issue with this scene?

Joshua Williamson: I love them together, I really like their friendship. I like what they represent in the DCU, with that part of the Brave and the Bold and they also represent legacy; they are legacy characters because of Alan Scott and Jay Garrick. Obviously, I’m being selfish because I love them together so I’m going to put them together and I think they’re fun and represent certain things so I want to keep them here up front. Having a page-turning moment of Barry running in is fun, I’ve written many of those so I had no problem doing it again.

From a story level, it made sense for the two of them to be the ones to beat this. Hal hasn’t really been on the Justice League for a while and Barry wasn’t on the Justice League for a bit. We took Barry off the table for a while in Infinite Frontier so that Wally West could step up and had him go on his multiverse adventure where he ran into Darkseid and Psycho-Pirate and all the stuff that happened there. Having him get thrown outside of the multiverse into Pariah’s realm, it made sense that we eventually had to go get him.

That’s what happened in The Flash, where Wally and the Flash Family went and got Barry but then they went their separate ways, with Barry continuing on this journey. It made sense to me that the two of them would be drawn to each other. If you’re going to choose any two characters from the Justice League, it made sense they would run into each other. Barry is going to look for [the other heroes] and, ever since [Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #1], Hal is like 'I’m going to find them.'

It made sense for the two of them to collide and be together again and again, on a selfish level, I just love writing them together.

Reading this issue, I can’t remember a previous time when Alan Scott and Dick Grayson had a one-on-one scene together.

I don’t think [they have] and it’s fascinating because they’re both from Gotham. It’s fascinating that you have this character who’s from Gotham and he doesn’t have a lot of interaction [with it]. There’s that scene in 'Hush' that Jim Lee did where it’s young Bruce Wayne and Tommy Elliot where they saw him, with those beautiful ink wash pages that Jim did of Alan Scott; those pages are amazing.

We don’t really get to see a lot of Alan Scott. How many times in the past 30 years have we seen Alan Scott in Gotham? This gave us the chance to see the two of them together. That’s a big part of this too, Dark Crisis is showing characters together that you don’t normally see together. When do you get to see Alan Scott, Nightwing, Jon Kent, and Yara Flor meet in the Justice League Dark headquarters? When do you get to see John Constantine and Nightwing talking? It’s rare to get to see those things and I know that I had Nightwing and Detective Chimp hang out during Death Metal and that’s why they have that moment in this issue. I just love having characters we don’t normally see in the DCU interact with each other fight side-by-side or just have a conversation.

Alan Scott is one of the elder statesmen of the DCU, Alan has been through a lot, and having him go to Nightwing – a lot of people would agree that Nightwing is about legacy and not just a leader of sidekicks but a leader of the DCU. I think he is at the same level as Green Lantern and the Flash, I really see him as this elevated character. It made sense, when he’s in a dark moment, for Alan to be the one to come in. That whole scene was something that I wanted really early on and I was very protective of that scene to make sure it was the one that it was. Daniel and I talked about last year, long before I actually wrote this scene, that I knew I would have a scene where Nightwing and Alan Scott would have a moment to talk about what was going on and it would be a little darker and somber moment.

Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #4 excerpt by Daniel Sampere
Image credit: Daniel Sampere (DC)

In a way, it also feels like a callback to Doomsday Clock, where once Alan was taken off the board, the entire DCU as we knew it crumbled.

He’s a really important character and that’s why I have him as the member of the JSA talking to Dick. Also, he was in Infinite Frontier and that’s a whole other thing. [laughs]

Speaking of the Justice League Dark, we get to see them after everything they’ve gone through lately. What was it about checking in on the supernatural side of the DCU here?

I don’t think you can do a story about the Great Darkness without checking in on Justice League Dark and Swamp Thing and Constantine. I originally had them on the last page of one of the [earlier] issues but then I just moved it around. I knew that I wanted to get to the Justice League Dark characters, especially with the death of Zatanna. The fact that Zatanna had died, I knew we had to show that impact and show that impacted more than just Constantine, that’s part of what that [scene] represents.

She had friends beyond just Constantine and the Justice League and we needed to check in on that group. Because this story is about legacy and all those pieces of the DCU that aren’t just the Justice League, I needed to touch on Justice League Dark and that’s why we also had the Legion of Doom. We have some cameos with some other characters in issues five and six, it just gets bigger and bigger. If you’re going to do a Crisis, you have to touch on everything and every choice in the book isn’t one thing but multiple reasons why we do it.

How messed up is Black Adam after watching the last two teams he’s been on just crumble in a matter of minutes?

What until you see issue #5! He’s not in a good place by the time we get to the end of issue #5. Black Adam, his emotional character arc over this book, is one of my favorite parts of the story. The fact that he goes from having watched the Justice League die and what that does to him – and he talks about getting hurt in that experience – and then trying to do something with Jon’s new team and he rejects them, saying it so much that they believe it. Having him go join the Legion of Doom thinking it’s the way and then watching the Legion of Doom fall, you’ll be surprised where he’s at.

Black Adam has so much cool stuff in this book and I’m really proud of the work we’re doing with him. He has some of my favorite moments closer towards the end of the series.

Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #4 excerpt by Daniel Sampere
Image credit: Daniel Sampere (DC)

You’ve positioned both Nightwing and Black Adam to both go on the hero’s journey across the story, albeit on different paths.

With Nightwing, I talked to Tom Taylor early on about this and gave him the outline of issue #1. Not only did I want to make sure I wasn’t derailing Tom’s plans but I wanted to be sure, by the time we got to the end of Dark Crisis, that I had new pieces of Nightwing to give to Tom Taylor. We’ve talked and there’s some really exciting stuff coming out of Dark Crisis involving Nightwing. It’s interesting with Nightwing because I knew there was only so much I could do with him emotionally because he’s already such a great character. Having him go on this rollercoaster ride of being the one to rise up the way that he does, but with Black Adam too.

Black Adam, at this point, is only in his book and his book takes place after [Dark Crisis]. I wanted to give him a different emotional place and there’s some really big emotional stuff with him coming up that I’m really excited about.

While Barry visited each of the Justice League’s other worlds created by Pariah, what was it about having him and Hal’s first stop be Batman’s clockwork Gotham?

The steampunk world is all Si Spurrier and Ryan Sook, they developed that and it’s really fun. Hal and Barry have their relationship, Barry doesn’t really have much of a relationship with Aquaman; not in the same way that he has with Hal. Of all the cast, he has different friendships but him and Batman, they are the two greatest detectives. When they’re detectives together, I think they can solve anything.

When Barry is talking to Hal, he needs Hal’s help to basically wake up Batman and that’s why he picks up Bruce. He’s like “This is a mystery and a puzzle and who do we know that’s great at mysteries and puzzles? It’s Batman!”

John Stewart and Hawkgirl all play these great roles but, for Barry – and Hal might not agree with this – but if somebody is going to figure out this mystery, it’s Bruce so that’s why they go for him first.

While we see shadow demons and Deathstroke and his corrupted Secret Society in this issue, where are the Dark Army? We haven’t really seen them since Justice League #75.

You’ll see them a lot in issue #5. [laughs] That’s the most I can say, you get a touchstone with them in issue #5. The thing with this book is there are times when I want to include more characters and more panels but I think Daniel would kill me. With the Dark Army, we’ve only been showing snippets of them but they are still with Pariah and, in issue #5, you’ll see them in a major way.

Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #4 excerpt by Daniel Sampere
Image credit: Daniel Sampere (DC)

We’ve talked before about how Alan Moore wrote a Crisis on Infinite Earths tie-in during his Swamp Thing run and that gets paid off in Dark Crisis #4. What was it about having the Green’s perspective on what’s going on here?

On a meta level, if you’re going to do a story about the Great Darkness, you have to talk to John Constantine and Swamp Thing. That story plays an important part in Dark Crisis and really why it’s called Dark Crisis, that’s where the Great Darkness connections came from. It really ties much more into the Great Darkness pieces, without getting into spoilers.

Bringing the Swamp Things, there are multiple reasons for it. I wanted to bring in Swamp Thing because of his connections to Dark Crisis and I feel like the work that Ram V did on The Swamp Thing was great and I wanted to make sure that that character didn’t just go away at the end of that run. I wanted to make sure it was very firmly established that Levi Kamei is in the DCU and with these other characters. I know Ram had already done it but I thought it would be fun to show Alec and Levi together and, even though Levi has only been Swamp Thing for a bit, they have a perspective on things and they’re seeing something everyone else can’t see.

Their story continues in The Deadly Green, with Swamp Thing, John Constantine, and a few other people. That scene in this issue leads directly into The Deadly Green. The Deadly Green, in a lot of ways, might as well be Dark Crisis #4.5 because it takes place between Dark Crisis #4-5 and it’s absolutely crucial. If you don’t read The Deadly Green and get to Dark Crisis #5, there’s a moment in issue #5 where something happens and people might be like 'What?! When did that happen?!' and it’s over here in The Deadly Green, it’s very important. [laughs]

There’s a page in issue #5 where it’s going to make sense if you’ve read The Deadly Green and, on the same page, Damian Wayne goes on a mission and you better read Dark Crisis: The Dark Army because The Dark Army might as well be Dark Crisis #5.5. That’s kind of how they’re slotted, except for Dark Crisis: War Zone because that takes place during Dark Crisis #6-7. The Deadly Green takes place immediately between Dark Crisis #4-5 and The Dark Army takes place immediately in between Dark Crisis #5-6.

This issue ends on a huge moment, with Pariah using his acquired energy to create a new multiverse. How much can you talk about the implications of this ending scene?

I can’t talk much about it now but I will say that there is some fun stuff coming that hasn’t been announced yet. Good, old Pariah; I love him. I was thinking about this all this week, partially because some of the stuff that happens in Dark Crisis #6, but can you imagine destroying your world and being trapped in the dark for millions of years? No sense of smell, touch, or sight, just you alone for a million years and what that does to a person.

I find it so fascinating that Pariah was barely used after the original Crisis. He was in War of the Gods and they sprinkle him in every once and awhile and then they killed him off in Villains United before Infinite Crisis started. I just find it fascinating that people haven’t ever really used him. I would be in meetings for events, even as far back as Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, when we were planning that years ago. I would always be like 'What about Pariah? Where’s Pariah at and doing?'

What can you tease next, as we look at Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #5 and Dark Crisis: The Deadly Green #1?

The Deadly Green is really crucial and there are some big revelations in it. There are a couple parts of that issue that I think will really surprise people. Ram, Alex Paknadel, and Dan Watters went deep and they really went into the characters because it isn’t just about the Swamp Things and John Constantine, but also there are two other characters that go with them into the dark. Ram had this idea that was really good, that they go inside Alan Scott’s ring because of Alan Scott’s connection with magic.

That’s why it’s called 'Deadly Green,' because they go inside his ring to try and find a way to see what’s going on with the Great Darkness, why it’s corrupted or whatever it is that’s going on with it because it’s so unlike it that it would be doing this so they’re trying to find out what the pieces are. It’s really good and they just did a good job on it, going really deep with the characters.

Dark Crisis #5 is a lot of fun and has some really big moments in it. Issue #5 is very much about things getting more and more dire and then you have a big rah-rah moment and then the shit just hits the fan. If you thought things were bad before, it gets really dire in Issue #5.

Written by Joshua Williamson, illustrated by Daniel Sampere, colored by Alejandro Sanchez, and lettered by Tom Napolitano, Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #4 is on sale now from DC. The story continues in Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #5 and Dark Crisis: The Deadly Green #1, both on sale October 4.

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Sam Stone: Sam Stone is an entertainment journalist based out of the Washington, D.C. area that has been working in the industry since 2016. Starting out as a columnist for the Image Comics preview magazine Image+, Sam also translated the Eisner Award nominated-Beowulf for the publisher. Sam has since written for CBR, Looper, and, with a penchant for Star Trek, Nintendo, and martial arts movies.
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