The Justice League are dead and a Dark Army is approaching. This seems like a pretty good reason to be afraid.

Dark Crisis is the DC Universe’s latest crossover event, and things are far from safe. While the DC Universe has had its fair share of crises in the past, the Justice League has always been there to fight back. With the world’s most powerful heroes now dead, it’s up to their sidekicks and successors to carry the torch. Dark Crisis #1 is on sale today, and it’s the comic summer blockbuster event you don’t want to miss.

Of course, if you’re new around here, or perhaps a longtime fan in need of a memory refresh, you might be wondering how we got here, how the League died, and how all these increasingly existential threats have been building. Let’s bring you up to speed with everything you need to know before you dive into Dark Crisis

The Lost World

The story began in 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths #1, but don’t worry, you won’t need to read 36 years’ worth of comics to understand what’s going on. DC’s classic comic book event begins with a being known as Pariah being forced to watch the destruction of multiple worlds, unable to do anything to stop them. As you can imagine, this isn’t exactly a fun binge watch and the ordeal is quite traumatic. As the series progresses, we learn that Pariah was indirectly responsible for the destruction of the multiverse, since he was the one who accidentally unleashed the reality-destroying Anti-Monitor. His world was one of the first ones destroyed, with Pariah being the only survivor. The effects of that trauma play a big role in Dark Crisis.

Darkness Falls Across the Land

To comprehend how dire things are in Dark Crisis, it’s important to understand the Great Darkness. The Great Darkness is an omnipotent evil dating back to 1986’s Swamp Thing #49. As the Anti-Monitor’s attack on the multiverse was raging on, a cult decided to take advantage of the chaos by summoning the powerful force to destroy God. Swamp Thing and John Constantine recruited a team of the most powerful magic users on the planet, including the Spectre, but even they found themselves powerless against the Great Darkness. In the end, Darkness decided to form a truce with its counterpart the Light, and that’s the only reason reality survived. Of course, if anyone thought that Darkness would honor the truce forever…well, they probably should have paid more attention to the whole “it’s a force of pure, omnipotent evil” thing

Into the Infinite Frontier

The seeds of Dark Crisis began to grow in Infinite Frontier and Justice League Incarnate. It was revealed that the Great Darkness had abandoned the truce some time ago and had secretly been manipulating the villains of the DC Universe for years. Remember when Superboy Prime massacred a bunch of heroes during Infinite Crisis? Yup, the Great Darkness had corrupted the Boy of Steel. The Great Darkness had even manipulated Doctor Manhattan into altering the fabric of reality, resulting in the New 52 and Doomsday Clock. In other words, check out your old back issues. The Great Darkness might not be mentioned in some of these classic stories, but the entity is there working behind the scenes.

Dark Army

Darkseid thought he could control the Great Darkness, which suggests that the dude really needs to pay attention because…seriously? It’s an OMNIPOTENT EVIL FORCE. OMNI-freaking-POTENT!!! It was brought to our reality to kill God!!!

Anyhow, the Great Darkness wound up enslaving Darkseid (duh!) and adding him to its Dark Army. Did I mention that the Great Darkness has been corrupting villains for its Dark Army? They are and it’s terrifying. Along with Darkseid, the Dark Army also includes Doomsday, Neron, the Spectre, Eclipso and more. Even worse, it’s led by Pariah, who has also been corrupted by the Great Darkness. The entity emotionally manipulated him, praying on Pariah’s guilt over the destruction of his world.

Fall of the Justice League

As you can imagine, the Justice League wasn’t too keen on the Great Darkness’ nefarious plans for reality. The League gallantly battled the Dark Army in April’s Justice League #75, giving the fight everything they had. In the end, however, Pariah channeled the Great Darkness and used its power to kill the team. Black Adam was the only survivor, and he made his way back to Earth to warn the surviving heroes about the approaching Great Darkness and its Dark Army. Of course, if the Justice League didn’t have what it takes to defeat them, then what hope do the rest of the world’s heroes have?

A War of Darkness

This brings us to the present day. The Justice League is dead and the Dark Army is only growing. With the fate of the entire multiverse in play, the stakes couldn’t be any higher. The Great Darkness has been preparing for this since 1986 and the heroes of Earth only learned about it last month. Dark Crisis officially kicks off today, and it’ll run through the end of the year. And next year?

Well, if the Dark Army has its way, there won’t be a next year. So why don’t we enjoy this action-packed, world-shattering comic book event while we still can, eh?

Dark Crisis #1 by Joshua Williamson, Daniel Sampere and Alejandro Sanchez is now available in print and as a digital comic book.

Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.