When the world is plummeted into chaos and destruction, who are you going to call? Not the Ghostbusters, at least not if you're an inhabitant of the DC Universe. In the world of DC comics, the first group you'd think to alert is the Justice League.
Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern-- some of DC's most powerful beings are on the Justice League roster. When a group like that gets together, you'd think no villainous force could stand against them. For the most part, that would be correct. However, the Justice League doesn't have a perfect record.
Even though you can always trust the Justice League to try their hardest to save the world, sometimes that simply isn't enough. Either a foe is too powerful, a scheme too intricate, or an enemy too prepared for the Justice League to win.
The usual result is a massive loss of life and wanton destruction. The Justice League eventually saves the day, but that isn't before they lose, and the world suffers for it.
With that said, here are the 15 Times The Justice League Didn't Save The World.
Raven, the famous Teen Titan, can never really catch a break. For one, Raven’s powers force her to constantly keep a check on her emotions. However, more devastating is Raven’s father, the demon Trigon, who has repeatedly tried to enslave the Earth. On a few occasions, Trigon was successful, with the Justice League powerless to stop him.
After a failed attempt at crossing over into our dimension, Trigon was able to escape his otherworldly prison. Able to possess his daughter Raven (whose magical-psychic defences had grown weak), Trigon was able to enter into our physical plane.
From there, it didn’t take long for Trigon to take over. Quite literally in the blink of an eye, Trigon turned the Justice League and the rest of the superhero community into stone statues, allowing the demon to preside over the planet as ruler.
Fortunately, where the Justice League failed the Titans were successful, eventually allowing for the forces of good to reclaim the Earth.
Things need to get worse before they’re going to get better. That proverb applies to most superhero stories, where the forces of good suffer a humiliating defeat only to overcome the servants of darkness. But few pull that narrative trope quite as effectively as Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis crossover event.
Much like the two other DC crises, Final Crisis is an epic affair involving many heroes, but the Justice League are at the core of the story. To sum up the multifaceted event, Final Crisis tells the tale of the New God’s successful takeover of Earth.
Despite the best efforts of the Justice League, Darkseid and his villainous cabal of New Gods (possessing the bodies of mortals) are able to enslave humanity by broadcasting the Anti-Life Equation. Some of the heroes (like Wonder Woman) even become servants of Darkseid, forced into villainy by a mind-controlling bacteria.
Only through the intervention of some cosmic entities are the heroes able to overcome Darkseid’s forces, eventually undoing the New God’s global takeover. Even still, entire cities (like Blüdhaven) were destroyed in the process, not to mention all of the people emotionally scarred after being mind-controlled by the Anti-Life Equation.
If you’re buying property in the DC Universe, don’t make an offer on a house in Blüdhaven. Gotham may get a bad rep, but it’s nothing compared to Blüdhaven, which makes Batman’s home city look like Metropolis in comparison.
It’s not just the rampant crime and corrupt police that make Blüdhaven a poor real estate investment. The city has a penchant for being destroyed.
The first time Blüdhaven is all-but-obliterated is during Infinite Crisis. This is when the Secret Society of Super-Villains unleashes Chemo, a sentient collective of radioactive chemicals, to blow up the city.
Despite many heroes intervening, the result was the same: Blüdhaven was largely destroyed. Years later, after the city is rebuilt, Darkseid makes Blüdhaven his base of operations during a global takeover. After a massive battle between the Justice League, earth’s other heroes, and Darkseid’s forces, Blüdhaven is completely wrecked once again.
Sorry, people of Blüdhaven, but not even the Justice League can save you.
Batman is really too smart for his own good. Need proof? Brother Eye, the advanced surveillance system capable of monitoring the entire world that pretty much takes over the entire planet-- even Batman couldn’t stop his creation.
As told in the Futures End mini-series, in thirty-five years, Brother Eye rules over the planet with an iron grip. Using cybernetic bugs, Brother Eye was able to transform and enslave most of the superhero community to do his bidding.
The Justice League were powerless to stop Brother Eye. Even a time-travel operation, first led by Batman Terry McGinnis, couldn’t stop Brother Eye. When traveling to the past to stop the evil machine before it became a threat, McGinnis is killed. Tim Drake doesn’t fare much better, and by the end of the story, Drake realizes Brother Eye can’t be beaten by manipulating the time stream.
Drake is forced to return to his dystopian future and lead a resistance against Brother Eye in the present, since the Justice League couldn’t stop the machine the first time around.
Angels are supposed to be avatars of goodness. In the DC Universe, where angels are real, that is the case... for the most part. However, just like humans, angels can be corrupted by a desire for more power. That’s what happened with Asmodel, King Angel of the Bull Host of Heaven, who led an assault on San Francisco.
As told in the pages of JLA, Asmodel wanted to overthrow the Presence (aka God). The only hitch in the plan was Zauriel, a guardian angel who had learned of his plan and was living on Earth as a member of the Justice League.
To take out Zauriel, Asmodel leads a gigantic angelic chariot (basically a sci-fi warship) that demolishes San Francisco’s cityscape. All sorts of destruction resulted in the ensuing battle, with the League battling Asmodel’s angelic forces, along with the mighty angel itself.
The League would prevail, in the end, but is it really a “win” when untold amounts of damage (both physical and emotional) is inflicted upon a major city like San Francisco?
Mark Waid and Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come is beyond classic, it’s iconic. Depicting the later years of the DC superhero community, the mini-series presents a world where heroes and villains are indistinguishable.
The new generation of heroes use lethal force on their enemies, constantly putting the public in danger. The older heroes, for the most part, retired their capes, rejected by a world that no longer wants them.
The Joker played a key role in making the world as bleak as it is in Kingdom Come. Targeting Lois Lane, the Joker blows up the Daily Planet. Superman, forever a boy scout, lets the cops take Joker away, but the new hero Magog kills the Joker for his actions, to the applause of the public. Superman then retreats into the Fortress of Solitude, the other Justice League members retire, and the world devolves into a state of chaos.
Oh, and let’s also not forget about how all of Kansas is destroyed in an atomic blast caused by Captain Atom. The Justice League definitely weren’t around to stop that massive loss of life, but they would kick into high-gear later on in the series.
Darker versions of the main DC continuity have also been popular in Elseworld tales and one-shots. Arguably none are quite as popular as the Injustice timeline. Based on the fighting video game of the same name, the Injustice timeline was bolstered by a phenomenal comic book accompaniment that filled in some narrative gaps not covered by the game.
In both, however, is the catalyst for the dark reality that caused Superman to essentially take over the world as a supreme dictator: the Joker destroying Metropolis.
Deciding to take on a hero a bit “easier” than Batman, the Joker set his sights on Superman. Using a hallucinogenic drug, the Joker made Superman think a pregnant Lois Lane was the monstrosity Doomsday.
Superman killed Lois and his unborn child, then triggering a nuclear bomb that destroys Metropolis. This would put Superman on a dark path, and the Justice League are unable to stop his takeover. Actually, some join Superman’s crusade. No hero, however, could prevent the Joker’s assault on Superman and the massive loss of life that was a result.
Every hero worth their salt has a home city. Batman has Gotham, Superman protects Metropolis, and Green Lantern Hal Jordan calls Coast City home... well, he did, until the entire place was obliterated.
Back in the 1990s, Mongul decided to visit Coast City. It didn’t go well. Using his gigantic ship, Mongul (at the behest of Cyborg Superman) used a series of spherical bombs to lay waste to Coast City.
Hal Jordon, and the rest of the Justice League, were powerless to curb the massive loss of life. Thousands of people died and it took decades for the city to be rebuilt. The devastating act also caused Hal Jordon to become the villain Parallax, which in turn led to the death of nearly the entire Green Lantern Corps.
For every good thing in the world, there is an equal evil. It’s the rule of opposites, one that also exists in the DC Universe. Where the Monitors preserve the existence of the universe, the Anti-Monitor exists to destroy it. Despite the Justice League’s best efforts, the Anti-Monitor is pretty successful in fulfilling his dark task.
Popping up in various stories throughout DC history, the most iconic battle between the Justice League and the Anti-Monitor is told in the pages of Crisis on Infinite Earths. The now-classic storyline was one of the first (and still may be the best) epic crossover from DC comics.
The outcomes of the story were long-lasting and intense, to say the least. Practically every single universe was destroyed by the Anti-Monitor, Barry Allen died, and Wonder Woman was reverted to a ball of clay.
Sure, the heroes may have “won” at the end of the story, but an untold amount of universes died in the process. Not to mention several iconic heroes. The Justice League may have won the war against the Anti-Monitor, but too many battles were lost in the process.
Stopping giant robots and evil alien invaders are standard stuff for the Justice League. All they need to do is punch the problem away. But when villains get a bit more nuanced with their schemes, the League doesn’t always fare so well. Case in point: Ra's al Ghul’s dastardly plot in the “Tower of Babel” storyline.
Told in the pages of JLA #43-#46, the storyline is most famous for Batman’s “contingency plans” against the Justice League. Stolen by Ra’s, the villain uses Batman’s knack for distrust and preparation to incapacitate the League, using special plans designed for each member.
However, it’s the larger scheme that really does a number on the world. By broadcasting a special signal, Ra’s is able to disrupt humanity’s language-processing abilities. First the written word becomes mumbo-jumbo, then the spoken word.
The confusion plummets the global community into chaos, nearly starting a nuclear war. The Justice League eventually prevail, stopping Ra’s, but not before plenty of destruction is inflicted around the planet.
Superman is an essential member of the Justice League. There are plenty of stories that prove this, either due to Superman’s immeasurable power or noble nature. However, none do it quite as well as the Justice League animated series episode “Hereafter.”
Shockingly, in the two-part story arc’s opening, Superman seemingly dies, killed by a group of his worst foes. But, as the viewer learns, Superman isn’t dead. The Man of Steel was sent to the distant future, one where the Earth is a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Why? Because the Justice League failed to save the planet.
A few months after Superman’s death, Vandal Savage equipped himself with a machine that could control gravity. With this device, Savage obliterated the Superman-less League. A side-effect of gravity-altering machine disrupted the balance of the solar system, dooming the human race.
Superman would, eventually, make it back to the past to stop Savage. Still, this alternate timeline is definitely one where the Justice League failed to save the world.
The Justice League’s greatest enemies are themselves. No, that isn’t supposed to be some introspective statement about the psychology of a superhero and the team’s (sometimes unhealthy) group dynamic. Rather, alternate versions of the Justice League are arguably the greatest challenge the team has ever faced. More specifically, the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3.
Evil counterparts to the Justice League, the Crime Syndicate first appeared in Justice League of America #29 from August 1964. An updated version of the Crime Syndicate was introduced during DC’s New 52 initiative, when the evil doppelgängers soundly defeated the Justice League and effectively took over the world.
Told in the pages of the Forever Evil crossover event, the Crime Syndicate wreaked havoc upon the world, terrorizing innocents and gathering more villains to do the same. It was only with the help of Lex Luthor that the Justice League were able to reclaim the planet, but not before plenty of damage was already done.
Super villains aren’t exactly known for their camaraderie and ability to work as a team. Even when villains do team up, superheroes can usually overcome their foes by playing the villains off of each other.
That’s a good thing, because if all the villains ever joined forces in a coordinated attack, the world would be in trouble. In the narrative introduction to DC Universe Online, this is exactly the case, and the Justice League are powerless to stop the end of the world.
The opening cinematic to the MMO has the last of DC’s heroes battling a group of villains in the ruins of Metropolis. In the sequence, many of top-tier Justice League members bite the nail, including Batman and Wonder Woman. Eventually, even Superman is killed, with Lex Luthor delivering the fatal blow.
Unfortunately for Lex, Braniac invades right after. And with the superhero community decimated, the world falls to the techno-alien invader. Lex, at least, tries to solve the problem through some time travel, but the fact remains: the Justice League lost and the world was effectively destroyed because of it.
Few DC crossover events are quite as epic and important as the “Crisis” storylines. Three crises descended upon the pre-Rebirth DC Universe, each one involving quite a huge loss of life and destruction.
One of the worst moments comes during the “middle crisis,” otherwise known as the Infinite Crisis storyline where the Justice League utterly failed to stop a rampaging Superboy. Superboy Prime, that is.
Stronger than an average Superman, Superboy Prime hails from a different reality and isn’t exactly sane. Believing he can remake the universe better than it is, Superboy Prime makes every effort to do so during Infinite Crisis. The Justice League, and the wider DC superhero community try to stop Superboy Prime, but not with much success.
After already killing Pantha, not to mention injuring countless other heroes, Superboy Prime joins in on the Battle of Metropolis, a giant city-wide battle that nearly demolishes Superman’s home.
However, that’s not all. Shortly after, Superboy Prime decimates 31 Green Lanterns, later killing Connor Kent. Needless to say, the Justice League definitely didn’t save the world from Superboy Prime, who went on to wreak even more havoc after Infinite Crisis ended.
Darkseid is not to be messed with. That’s basically a rule of the DC Universe, since the New God is arguably the greatest threat to Earth, and the entire galaxy. Darkseid isn’t an idle threat, either, because the villainous deity has beaten the Justice League and effectively destroyed the world on a few occasions. “Rock of Ages,” a JLA storyline written by Grant Morrison, is but one example.
After adventuring out in the furthest reaches of the universe, several Justice League members return home to find Earth not quite as they left it. In the future, Darkseid enslaved humanity, where the heroes find themselves now.
By using the Anti-Life Equation, Darkseid is able to subdue the world’s population, making them his subservient slaves. Let’s also not forget that Darkseid caused Superman’s suicide, the capture of Batman, and the deaths of many other heroes.
Darkseid’s regime would be ended and the timeline would be rectified, but this is still one very real example of the Justice League losing the first time around.
Can you think of any other times that the Justice League failed to save the day? Let us know in the comment section!