Justice League Dark #1 review

Magic is broken. All over the world, practitioners are being consumed by their spells, their corpses left grotesque and filled with a strange energy.

Wonder Woman, the Justice League member most familiar with enchantments, has been tasked with putting a team of specialists together. But even occasional Leaguer Zatanna, who gladly accepts Diana’s help when a magic show goes horribly wrong, doesn’t want to join a new version of Justice League Dark.

Rather, she attends a gathering of mystical forces at Wintersgate Manor, home to Night Force leader/manipulator Baron Winters. Jason Blood, Morgaine Le Fay, Klarion the Witch Boy and I…Vampire Andrew Bennett are just a few of the guests.

Having been turned down by everyone she’s tried, Diana retreats to the Oblivion Bar, former hub of the magic community and base of onetime superhero team Shadowpact. There, she finds a sympathetic ear.

On hearing Diana has the corpses of the dead mystics at the League’s Hall of Justice, Detective Chimp accompanies her there, and finds she does have one ally…

The last version of Justice League Dark was often a mess. Filling the spooky superhero time niche previously occupied by Shadowpact, but never as bonkers entertaining, it wasn’t missed by me when it ended. And when I heard JLD was making a comeback, I wasn’t too excited.

But this is really rather good. Hot off an entertaining run on Detective Comics, writer James Tynion IV lays out the main plot with an organic clarity, explaining why Wonder Woman – thought of as ‘Dark’ by precisely no one – is leading this team and introducing the core members. The dialogue is fine, bar some backwards sweariness from Zee and a cameoing Constantine using ‘sidewalk’ instead of ‘pavement’. There’s potential for some interesting character dynamics, with Zatanna believing Diana couldn’t possibly understand what they’re facing and Man-Bat weirdly cheery due to a new formula serum he’s worked up – he’s bumbling around like Wicked’s anthropomorphic goat Dr Dillamond.

It’s always interesting to see how a crisis brings sworn foes to the same table – here we have witch queen Morgaine Le Fay respectfully listening to the words of eternal enemy Jason Blood, earthly receptacle of the Demon.

And I do like how Blood refers to the non-creepy types

A callback to Alan Moore, Steve Bissette and John Totleben’s Swamp Thing nicely plugs the new threat of the Otherkind into the history of the DCU, as does a reference to Wonder Woman’s League of One graphic novel. The new take on Man-Bat is intriguing, I can’t imagine why he’d prefer to be doing science in a form somewhere between his Kirk Langstrom self and full-on bat-beast, but given his excellent work with another old Bat-villain, Clayface, in Detective Comics, Tynion deserves time to show his hand.

The art of penciller Alvaro Martinez Bueno, inker Raul Fernandez and colourist Brad Anderson is seriously good-looking. Swamp Thing’s new roots hairdo apart, everyone looks terrific, and there are splendid facial expressions. I may be imagining that Oblivion barwoman Traci 13 is being played by TV’s Pauley Perrette; whatever the case, I’d like to see this gifted gal on the team now she’s no longer a supporting character in the Superman books. Talking of which, former super-letterer Rob Leigh shows up here after his sterling work in this week’s Teen Titans and truly earns his wage, with Tynion’s script one of the wordiest I’ve seen in awhile. And Leigh remains one of the best splash-page letterers around – I don’t know whether he’s using commercial fonts or hand-lettering the titles and credits, but they look rather wondrous.

This may well be my favourite image of the issue.

We don’t see nearly enough of Wonder Woman downing a pint.

The interior art team provides the good-looking main cover, while Batman alumni Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion and FCO Plascencia offer a stylish variant (I guess Diana will have her hood up a lot now she’s officially ‘spooky’). And I like the logo variation.

An engrossing, great-looking read, Justice League Dark embraces the legacy of earlier DC titles to weave an impressive new tapestry.

6 thoughts on “Justice League Dark #1 review

  1. Great review, Mart. I quite enjoyed the second issue, but have been unable to find the first (Yes, the Internet; yes, I’m lazy), and your review sheds clarity on some of the dynamics I was unclear on in the second issue. And I agree that we don’t see enough of Di & pints. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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