Justice League Dark: Jeff Lemire, Mikel Janin, Ulises Arreola, Rob Leigh, Ryan Sook
Holy frijoles! Wow, what a way to kick off the new series! This feels MUCH more like the Justice League Dark I loved from the beginning, but just SO much more improved!! And it’s no surprise, with Jeff Lemire on the case. This felt like a true magic book, celebrating the magical abilities instead of feeling encumbered by them, limited by them. Confused by them.
Also, Mikel Janin is back on from his departure after #6, and the series feels like it’s really shining now. There are so many things I loved about this ish, so let’s get down to it.
First of all…Felix Faust. What would the magic community of DC Comics be without Felix? Typically he’s more closely tied with Black Adam, but here we’ve got him in the Amazon jungle — perhaps not far from Aquaman? — taking refuge in old ruins. He’s building an army with an unknown magical artifact that Constantine’s been recruited to acquire.
So I’m getting into the JLD here, and I should mention the team change-up. Gone is Shade and Mindwarp, though Mindwarp’s been gone for a while, so it’s no surprise. In fact it’s more of a surprise that they keep mentioning him for some reason. Andrew Bennet, of I, Vampire, is present because of a “you-owe-me” to John. Finally there’s Black Orchid, a superhuman female with multiple skillsets…most useful of all is shape-shifting. I don’t know much on Black Orchid, and this issue literally explained nothing about her history or character, but some quick online research shows me she’s been around since the 70s!
Many incarnations later, she seems pretty damn awesome, and I’m pulling for full-time team membership. Deadman, Zatanna, Constantine, and Xanadu all remain (though Xanadu remains at home for this ish). I have to admit how much I love this new lineup. Bennett is a really cool addition, and I really hope they’re able to keep him on for several issues after this. Sure, this arc will have Bennett brooding up the pages for a few, but it makes so much sense for Constantine to want to keep him around.
Next, something has to be said about the scene between Steve Trevor and Constantine. It’s so well done. The dialog is quick and snappy, even though there’s a lot of it. I didn’t mind the lengthy dialog here, because it did a great job of explaining what’s going on. Constantine’s apartment/place is a filthy mess, and I just love the detail that went into it.
Another thing that was awesome was how Constantine gets Zatanna to go along on the mission: the promise of her father’s magician’s hat. Apparently a very power magical item. It’s hidden away in the Black Room, a warehouse containing magic artifacts under government lock-and-key, Indiana Jones style. Trevor promised Constantine five minutes inside to take whatever he wants. I love this idea, because I really want to see Constantine tricked out with magic things that blow people up. I’m sure he wants the same.
Finally, what I loved was the tease at the end for…THE HOUSE OF MYSTERY!! I almost pooped my pants when I saw that on the last page. Suddenly, this title contains nothing but PROMISE. A future full of outstanding writing and really incredible, detailed art. Arreola’s nailing it on the coloring, as can be seen in the various glow effects throughout the issue. The lighting and shadow. All very well done. I also really dug how the ish FELT like it looked different, simply because the team was out in the sunny open jungle! They were bathed in sunlight (still can’t pinpoint why Andrew doesn’t burst into flames. Magic?), and all the scenes there were almost washed out. It felt like they were really there and out of their assumed comfort zones.
Faust as a villain did feel powerful here, and they were trying to pull a preboot Dr. Light on us with suddenly making Faust a much stronger villain than he was before. His motivations seemed a bit flat, and I can’t honestly say exactly how deep he was preboot either. I always assumed he was extremely power/knowledge hungry, like the Faust of lore, so I felt this issue fit for him in that regard.
Here’s my prediction: the Steve Trevor that recruited Constantine…was Black Orchid. Because isn’t Trevor incapacitated over in Justice League?
Justice League Dark #9, the verdict: Wow, this title just did a 180 on us. I was so disappointed with last issue, and the inclusion in Rise of the Vampires, that I almost dropped this title. I might’ve even crossed it off my pull list, so I now have to double-check. As long as Lemire remains on the book, I’ll be happy. He has an excellent feel for displaying magic to a broader audience, while including huge Easter eggs and hints at bigger concepts and circumstances to hardcore DC magic fans. Constantine, I think, as a character falls in between those extremes. He’s accessible while being pretty hardcore magic, over in Hellblazer. And that’s why I know Peter Milligan’s not a hack (he writes it). There was just something not working for him in Justice League Dark. The early issues were fun, with Enchantress, but after that it felt like it completely lost focus and spiraled out of control. Lemire fished it out of the sea, cleaned it, cooked it, and served us up some really fine dinner salmon. Sorry, I’m a little hungry.
(Photo Source: Talking Comic Books)