I will be the first to admit that a comic about Darkseid and Highfather before they were gods sounds incredibly boring. With that in mind, credit where it's due: Greg Pak, Paulo Siqueira and Netho Diaz turned what sounded like an awful idea in "Justice League #23.1: Darkseid" into a comic that's actually worth reading.
There's something bizarrely enchanting about the world that Darkseid (then Uxas), Highfather (Izaya), and Darkseid's sister/Highfather's wife (Avia) live in. It's a place with adobe huts, creepy feathered serpents, carefully tended gardens -- oh, and massive 200 feet tall gods who casually stomp across the land as they interact with one another. It's a strange world to live in, and the idea of tiny Uxas being the whisper of doubt so cunning and evil that he can cause the old gods to go to war is one that speaks well to the understanding of Darkseid. He's brute force and possesses a blackened heart, but I like that idea that there's also that voice that somehow shakes your resolve, that is able to plant that doubt where it should be barren. After Darkseid was a generic bad guy in the opening "Justice League" storyline two years ago, Pak has a much better understanding of what makes this villain tick.
Siqueira and Diaz's art looks good, too. They work well with Hi-Fi to make the old gods look not just huge, but larger than life. Crackling with energy and power, even lying down these gods look like genuinely majestic creatures, and that's critical for "Justice League #23.1" to work. Uxas needs to be a fly in the world of all powerful creatures, so that his eventual destruction of them is that much more impressive. I especially like when they draw the Lord of the Sky, whose strange crosshatched body is both normal and also feels slightly alien, even though it's hard to place exactly why.
There are a few clunkers here and there. The line, "These powers are gifts -- we -- we are the New Gods!" is cringe worthy, for example. (Izaya's name also becomes Ixaya at one point.) And while visually Kaiyo the Trickster looks great here (and whom Pak created in "Batman/Superman" #1 earlier this year), the narration of the character is still annoying. Still "Justice League" #23.1 manages to tie Darkseid and the forces of Apocalypse's appearances in "Batman/Superman," "Earth 2," and "Justice League" together quite neatly, so that's no small feat.
"Justice League" #23.1 is the sort of comic that we don't seem to need, but in the end I'm glad we got it. Pak, Siqueira, and Diaz have taken a thankless task and turned out a comic that's actually pretty good. Quite frankly, it gives me hope. Nice job.