WARNING: This article contains potential SPOILERS for Justice League
The Justice League may be Earth's greatest heroes, but Steppenwolf's secret weapon may be one only Superman can stop. Simply stating that the villain of DC's upcoming Justice League movie has a secret weapon at all is sure to surprise some fans: the marketing so far has shown his known weapons are enough to conquer nations, if not planets. But as the trailers and promos for the movie have shown more and more of Steppenwolf, his Parademon soldiers, and the Apokoliptian tech they use to attack Earth, an unexpected threat may have been revealed. It's not a blade or gun to kill the movie's heroes, and it may not even be alien technology used to turn Superman evil.
If the trailer reveal what they appear to, then Steppenwolf's attack will be against the planet Earth itself. Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Batman may all be able to defeat Parademons in a fight, and outsmart Darkseid's top general as a team. But saving the planet from the infection of Apokolips? Well, that's looking like a task only Superman could tackle - if anyone.
To explain our theory for Steppenwolf and Darkseid's actual assault on Earth, readers will need to be brought up to speed on a unique piece of Apokoliptian technology. It's one that hasn't been regularly used in many comic book stories, but played a major role in one of the best known Darkseid stories of the modern age. We'e all heard about the Mother Boxes.
Justice League fans, it's time to learn about Hellspores.
The Goal of Apokolips: Conquer Planet Earth
Considering how obviously the twin worlds of DC's 'New Gods' are built in the image of Heaven and Hell, New Genesis and Apokolips don't need to be intimately understood for readers or comic enthusiasts to grasp. Take one look at the scorched planet known as Apokolips, kingdom of Darkseid - armies and workers enslaved, massive fire pits ejecting lava, fire, ash, and smoke into the sky - and everyone knows that's a fate never to be wished on any peaceful world. So when Darkseid threatens to conquer and enslave Earth to a similar fate - as seen in Bruce Wayne's BvS 'Knightmare' - it isn't just humanity's way of life that must be defended: it's the right of every living plant and creature to exist. It's for that reason that Darkseid is such an effective 'big bad,' and so easy a figure to rally against (hopefully the same can be said for his uncle, Steppenwolf).
Still, that only covers the what and the why of Darkseid's Hellish empire spreading: he apparently consumes worlds, transforming their surfaces into scorched deserts of explosive fire. Their inhabitants? The Justice League trailer shows them turned into Parademons. He does it all because he's evil. But that doesn't explain HOW worlds are consumed, or how the energy and heat within them is turned into fuel for Darkseid's armies and war machines. That was, until trailers showed more and more of Steppenwolf and the Parademon attacks on Earth - featuring the villain smashing his axe into the ground, creating fiery rifts and burning everything around him to a crisp.
It helps to char a battlefield and set the cinematic mood, but there's obviously more going on in the consumption of a planet than heat. Thankfully, the world of DC Comics offers one of the only hints at the secret to Apokoliptian world-eating - and why only a being as powerful as Superman could ever reverse it.
The Hellspores of the DC Comics Universe
Comic book movie fans would expect there to be a rich history, filled with famous stories of Darkseid conquering heroic or peaceful worlds, revealing the science, geology, and fantasy of world-conversion in the process (like the Kryptonian World Engine of Man of Steel, for instance). But that's not really the case. In fact, one of the only clues to the science fiction of Apokolips - in other words, what Darkseid would even do with Earth - comes from the 2004 story "The Supergirl From Krypton." In it, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman head to Apokolips to rescue the titular Supergirl. And it's only when Batman turns the secret weapon of Darkseid's technological arsenal against him that the villain must forfeit. Depicted as black orbs, this twist on the mythology of Apokolips was writer Jeph Loeb's explanation for the method to Darkseid's madness.
The weapon is actually not intended as a weapon at all, but a means to convert slave worlds into energy sources. These are the Hellspores, and all that's known about them is what's shown in the image above: a single spore can blast its way through a planet's crust and send its molten core erupting in a firepit on the surface (just like those seen in the Knightmare).
You have to admit, it's effective. And going by the new reveals in the latest Justice League trailers and promos, we think the movie may be following this example. Which explains why the team will need Superman's powers to stop a global chain reaction.
- Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017