WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, now available on Digital HD.
Darkseid has always had a special place in his heart for Superman — and by special we mean sadistic. He’s often seen the Man of Steel as his main threat in the Justice League. So over the years, in various DC comics, cartoons and animated movies, he’s tried to outright destroy Earth, or enslave the planet using the Anti-Life Equation, or keep Supergirl as a slave to remind Superman he was the most powerful entity around.
However, in Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, the tyrant changes things up and deals the Kryptonian his worst punishment ever; one that doesn’t even involve an attempt to kill Kal-El. In fact, Darkseid makes it so life is a greater torture for his nemesis.
In the movie’s first act, Superman leads the League in an attack on Apokolips. He’s aggressive and believes in being proactive, despite the concerns of some members. This proves to be a bad move as Darkseid was spying on them all along, and when they invade, Paradooms (Parademon/Doomsday hybrids) ravage the League, killing most of them.
But when we catch up with Constantine — who fled the battlefield and returned to Earth — two years later as he drinks with Etrigan, the Man of Steel resurfaces with Raven. They’ve been instructed by the resistance leader, Lois Lane, and a spy within Darkseid’s camp known as Sleeper (who turns out to be the villain’s Earth general, Lex Luthor), to bring a squad to Apokolips to blow up its reactor. This Superman, though, is older and has green eyes, and when Constantine punches him for his poor leadership, he actually fells the Kryptonian.
Superman reveals when Darkseid’s forces tore the League apart, he was kept alive in the experimental chambers. They tattooed the House of El sigil to his chest with liquid kryptonite so he’d wear it forever. That’s right, the symbol of hope became one of pain, and a stark reminder of Superman’s greatest sin. Darkseid wanted him to live on remembering his iconic logo got Earth’s best heroes killed, and without them, Apokolips was able to enslave the planet. Darkseid now has Reapers draining Earth of its magma, destroying its core, and as the entire world lays in rubble, Darkseid’s plan leaves Superman blaming himself.
He was hotheaded and ignored sound advice not to attack rashly, and his friends paid for it. Memories of Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Shazam, Cyborg and the other heroes being ripped apart are still fresh in Superman’s mind. He continues to carry this burden, and when they visit Damian Wayne, his shame only amplifies. Damian shows him the cell containing the warped Dick Grayson to let Superman know he cost Damian his family. With Batman mentally enslaved by Darkseid and Nightwing dying at Titans Tower, Damian had no choice but to resurrect Dick in the Lazarus Pit, only for the process to destroy his mind.
Superman is broken because he’s let not just the world down, but the entire cosmos. Darkseid wanted him to know he was out there conquering other planets as well, beginning with Oa. To Darkseid, this is the ultimate punishment because by breaking his will and spirit, he’ll own the Man of Steel forever. And seeing as Lois, Clark’s last surviving family member, dies in an explosion at Lex’s tower, Darkseid has Superman truly resigned to a living nightmare filled with failure, death and destruction.
Justice League Dark: Apokolips War stars Matt Ryan as John Constantine, Jerry O’Connell as Superman, Taissa Farmiga as Raven, Stuart Allan as Robin, Tony Todd as Darkseid, Jason O’Mara as Batman, Rosario Dawson as Wonder Woman, Shemar Moore as Cyborg, Christopher Gorham as the Flash, Rebecca Romijn as Lois Lane and Rainn Wilson as Lex Luthor. The film is out on Digital HD and arrives on Blu-ray May 19.
Justice League Dark: Apokolips War dealt Superman his worst punishment ever as part of a sadistic game by Darkseid to show his power.