Justice League Dark #21 review

The Parliaments of Life are at war with one another. The Red, the Green, the Grey, the Divided and the Rot are vying to rule Earth. The Green is manifesting flowers in corpses but it’s the Rot which is announcing itself with the most sickening style, taking over hordes of humans in Los Angeles.

Detective Chimp and Wonder Woman have joined local hero Animal Man in trying to stave off the attack of the Rot-possessed, knowing that if they get to high-enough ground they’ll explode, sending spores all across the landscape, taking millions more souls in one fell swoop. Animal Man. Buddy Baker, has an idea, but can Diana buy him some time?

You betcha.

JLD #21 has been out a week – has this page won an award yet?

Zatanna and John Constantine, meanwhile, are searching for Abigail Arcane, Mrs Swamp Thing turned avatar of the Rot. A bit of classic Constantine business tells him how to find Abby, but can Zatanna keep a cadre of Rot creatures away from him?

You betcha.

Steb. Annataz. Lleps. Reve.

I make no apologies for showing you two of my favourite pages from this JLD instalment because I really want to sell you on this issue, and besides, there’s more where these came from. Because penciller Alvaro Martínez Bueno, inker Raul Fernandez and colourist June Chung have produced a beautiful book, working with scripter and co-plotter Ram V and outgoing writer James Tynion IV to remind us that these heroes, such familiar figures, are really rather awesome. Dig the fizzing fingers of Zatanna, the martial magic of Wonder Woman!

If DC can keep this issue’s creative team together I’ve no doubt a classic run will result.

It’s not perfect; a recap explaining what’s going on is is badly needed – I had to pull up last month’s chapter digitally to get some set-up detail into this review… DC really need to stop treating individual issues as something that’s only ever going to be read in trade. Still, there’s so much to enjoy here, from the Zee and John chemistry to an old villain’s uncomfortably slinky new look to Animal’s Man’s most disgusting outreach project ever.

And if you were a fan of the Alan Moore/Steve Bissette/John Totleben Swamp Thing, there’s some terrific homaging as we see how the Rot eats away at Abigail Arcane’s humanity. Ram V evokes that torrid bayou feel but doesn’t go all the way with the wordage, avoiding full-on poesy – the narration is lyrical, but spare, with no attempt to ape Moore’s ornate language. Bueno and Fernandez produce perfectly pitched Swamp Thing scenes, capturing the dreamlike horror of the classic era. Chung sets down the mossy hues of the Louisiana swamp, evoking classic Swamp Thing colourist Tatjana Wood’s work, while going to the other extreme for that Wonder Woman fight scene – that yellow is an inspired choice, helping the gloriously choreographed stairwell battle pop.

And letterer Rob Leigh’s fonts for Abby’s dream sequences aren’t far from the style of Swamp Thing letterer John Costanza. His choices for the rest of the issue are equally good, while his title lettering is gorgeous.

The cover image by illustrator Yanick Paquette and colour artist Nathan Fairbairn is dramatic and well crafted, but I’d love to see what the interior team would have come up with. Try this issue and I bet you would too.

4 thoughts on “Justice League Dark #21 review

  1. I have been a fan of this book since it started. It is better than the main JL book has been. I think it would do well to include Shazam or maybe one of the others, like Mary, as they are linked heavily with magic, but that’s just me.

    This issue, however, was just fantastic. Better than most of the rest of this series has been so far. I love these characters, and I love how Wonder Woman’s raw physical power and knowledge based on what is decades of experience (Since she was the first super-hero now, apparently) is mixed with the arcane knowledge of Zatanna and Constantine. Diana is their leader, but she knows who the true experts are and they often lead when it comes to that. She is a general who knows her people are competent and don’t need her staring over their shoulder all the time the way Batman often does.

    The only thing this series did that bothered me was making Doctor Fate something of a villain for an arc. I’ve never liked the idea of Nabu being a villain.

    Thanks for this great review.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I agree, we’ve seen Nabu go dark a few times and it always depresses me.

    I’ve occasionally been unconvinced by Diana being part of this series, but you’re right, she was great this issue.

    Liked by 1 person

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