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Top 10 Darkest DC Alternate Timelines

VO: Adrian Sousa WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
It’s not just DC’s Cinematic Universe that has the tendency to get grim and gritty! You tell us! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Darkest DC Alternate Timelines. For this list, we’ll be looking at Elseworlds, possible futures, alternate timelines or parallel universes outside of the main DC continuity that are distinctly bleak, hopeless or just all around more hardcore or darkly atmospheric.
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It’s not just DC’s Cinematic Universe that has the tendency to get grim and gritty! You tell us! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Darkest DC Alternate Timelines.

For this list, we’ll be looking at Elseworlds, possible futures, alternate timelines or parallel universes outside of the main DC continuity that are distinctly bleak, hopeless or just all around more hardcore or darkly atmospheric.

#10: Armageddon 2001


Well, we can all take comfort in the fact that 2001 has come and gone without this reality becoming our own - or that of the main DC universe. Published in 1991, this crossover event consisted of two special “Armageddon 2001” issues and a number Annuals for titles like Batman, Flash, Superman and more. The story introduced a future set in 2030, a bleak world ruled by a tyrannical ex-hero-turned-dictator by the name of Monarch. The year of his the mysterious character’s ascension to power? 2001. What made this event so compelling is that the tie-in annual’s explored the fates of popular characters within this possible future… and they all went to rather dark places.

#9: Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham


Published between 2000 and 2001, this three issue mini-series followed everyone’s favorite Caped Crusader through an H.P. Lovecraft inspired Elseworlds reality set in the 1920s. The greatest thing about this particular experiment? The fact that Hellboy creator Mike Mignola served as both writer and cover artist, bringing his distinct brand of gothic horror to the beloved and distinctly spooky DC character. Now doesn’t that sound like a match made in comic book heaven? A pulpy reality full of things that go bump in the night and occult interests, “The Doom” also took Batman’s already dark cast of characters and gave them a distinctly creepy spin - much to the delight of readers.

#8: Superman: Red Son


It’s a question that has plagued comic book writers and fans alike for decades: what if Superman’s Kryptonian ship had landed somewhere else? Of all the stories that toy with this concept, Mark Millar’s Eisner Award-winning Soviet-Superman story is arguably the most compelling, influential and insightful. Kal-L begins as the country’s ultimate superweapon and deterrent, before rising to power himself and spreading the communist influence across the globe, with the exception of the United States (and Chile). The world seems superficially Utopian, but is a world devoid of choice and harsh criminal terms. In addition to being a great Superman story, it asks the question… what would we give up for world peace?

#7: JLA: Rock of Ages


Don’t confuse this with the musical-turned-film, “Rock of Ages” - Tom Cruise has no role in this universe. A classic Justice League of America story, written by the ever-inventive Grant Morrison, “Rock of Ages” explores one of the darkest possible futures ever conceived - one in which Darkseid has mastered the Anti-Life Equation and has used it to conquer both Earth and New Genesis. The story begins with a group of evil Justice League doppelgangers invading our reality, before our heroes travel into their future - a broken world where heroes were long-ago defeated and the world has largely lost all hope of salvation.

#6: JLA: Destiny


The poor Justice League of America; across the multiverse, few iterations of the team seem to be having an easy time protecting their version of earth. In this particular reality, explored across a four-issue miniseries, the team never received their two greatest assets and leaders, Batman and Superman. Instead, Martha and Bruce Wayne died in crime alley, while a grieving Thomas Wayne survived to bankroll the superhero team that would become the Justice League. This is a world of terrorism, conflicts can’t clearly be divided into good guys and bad guys and the Justice League simply isn’t enough. If nothing else… it will give you a newfound appreciation for Superman and Batman.

#5: The Dark Knight Returns


One of the most popular, celebrated and bestselling alternate storylines ever committed to the pages of a DC comic book, Frank Millar’s landmark miniseries requires little introduction. Taking place in a reality typically identified as Earth-31, the story explores a possible and rather dystopian future in which Bruce Wayne has given up and crime runs rampant in his city. Our story begins with Bruce returning to his vigilante ways, eventually inspiring a Gotham gang, the Mutants, to instead become his violent disciples in a brutal war on crime. It’s a deeply cynical story and has spawned multiple sequels that flesh out this twisted, violent timeline.

#4: The Batman & Dracula Trilogy


These two might share a number of thematic similarities, but we never could have believed just how well they would mesh on paper until Doug Moench penned this inspired Elseworlds tale in 1991, kicking off a trilogy of vampiric Batman stories. “Batman and Dracula: Red Rain” pitted Batman against Dracula and his minions, who have taken up residence in Gotham. In a shocking twist, Batman becomes a vampire in the process, losing his humanity but becoming an immortal, supernaturally-powered vigilante. Moench would go on to further develop this dark and brooding world (and his unique take on Batman) across two sequels, “Batman: Bloodsport” and Batman: Crimson Dawn”.

#3: Injustice


This video game and its sequel are among the more satisfying straightforward fighting games to grace modern consoles, but at least as far as comic book readers are concerned, this alternate reality’s greatest gift has been the accompanying comic book series, which has taken on a life of its own. Within the safety of this alternate reality, the writers have crafted a delightfully convoluted world in which Superman, pushed to edge by having been tricked into killing a pregnant Lois Lane, becomes and planet-wide dictator and rigid enforcer of the law. Superheroes are killed left, right and center, tragedies abound, friendships are destroyed, the earth is thrown into chaos, and it’s all utterly thrilling.

#2: Kingdom Come


This dark, beautiful and mature Elseworlds story, created by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, set a new bar for DC storytelling when it was published in 1996. Set in 2020, Kingdom Come focuses on an aging version of the characters we know and love, who have since been succeeded by a more violent, self-serving, nihilistic and egotistical breed of so-called heroes. When this finale results in catastrophe, A grim, world-weary Superman steps in to try to set things right, resulting in a major clash of capes with Batman trying to the conflict from reaching its potentially catastrophic conclusion. It’s a staggeringly insightful deconstruction of the genre set in a world we hope the main continuity can avoid.

#1: Flashpoint


We’ve got to give it to the creative team that crafted this game-changing crossover event; Flashpoint had a lot of moving parts, but Geoff Johns and company made it work. Perhaps most impressively, despite there being so many dark and gritty alternate Earths before theirs, the team managed to create a dark and deeply compelling reality that didn’t feel at all derivative. After using the speed force to save his mother in the past, the Flash creates a bleak new timeline, where Atlantis and Themyscira are at war, and where Bruce Wayne’s death causes his parents to become Batman and the Joker. It’s a world divided, and a depowered Barry Allen must fix this reality of broken nations and heroes.
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