Justice League Dark: Jeff Lemire, Mikel Janin, Ulises Arreola, Rob Leigh, Ryan Sook
Wow, I had a lot of emotions reading through this one. It was a roller coaster, no lie. I thought there were a couple of clunky dialog issues, but overall I had a really good time. There was a moment where I almost threw the book across the room, but I kept pressing on, and it paid off. I won’t give away too much, since this is still a “fresh” issue, and I’m no fan of spoilers. This Annual picks right up where issue #13 left off: the House of Mystery in the Sahara Desert, destroyed from Dr. Mist’s magic blasts. This opening bit does have good humor, with Constantine fretting over his crumpled cigs, and N’aall the demon crying over the broken china.
What comes next is a bit of a surprise, to be honest - Franky shows up! Frankenstein. Agent of S.H.A.D.E.. Wanted to make sure no one was confused at my meaning. This is pretty cool, I suppose. Lemire was writing Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. up through issue #9, and - while I never read the book myself - I did just learn that it was canceled as of issue #16. Sorry, chaps. In any case, it makes sense that Lemire would bring his old character aboard for this special Annual issue. What I don’t get is how come nobody ever notices the huge flying ships that show up overhead out of nowhere in the middle of nowhere? You’d think you’d see it coming off in the distance instead of not knowing until it’s right on top of you….
Nick Necro, aboard the HMS House of Secrets, recants his tale about how he came so very close to finding the Books of Magic before his delightful sojourn into Hell, and we get to see - once again - Mordru and Merlin! Seemingly right out of the pages of Demon Knights, we watch these giant-sized magic men duke it out over the all-knowledge of magic! We also learn that Timothy Hunter is apparently part of a prophecy to have the Books, and how Felix Faust is responsible for bringing Necro back from Hell. So, instead of incredible power or ancient knowledge, Faust sold his soul to a demon to break Nick out of eternal damnation……in exchange, then, for half of the books, which is equal to incredible power and ancient knowledge, so it all makes sense still.
Nick Necro then reveals that HE is responsible for forming the magic-based “Dark” team, thanks to Dr. Mist influencing Steve Trevor within A.R.G.U.S.. This is the far-fetched part, really. And super-corny as well. I mean, Nick Necro actually mentions the name “Justice League Dark” as their official sanction. That turned my smile upside-down. Wait, that didn’t rhyme. That turned my upside-down frown upside-down. There. Double-rhyme.
What I mainly didn’t like about Necro having been behind the team formation is that most of them had already been a team, formed under Xanadu because she wanted them to help save the world. So…after that, these same people happened to also be suggested to Steve Trevor by Nick Necro? Why include Xanadu? She’s so powerful. And Deadman and Black Orchid? I mean, the team that Nick helped assemble are full of people who, under the right circumstances, could take him down. That doesn’t seem wise. I suppose if he did it just for the sake of getting the Books of Magic, the risk would be worth it, because then he’d have unlimited power.
The House of Mystery rebuilds itself, and out come running Xanadu and Timothy. Xanadu finally reveals her vision of death with Constantine in possession of the Books, and Constantine suggests that, for Tim to get his magic power back, he just needs a jump-start. Constantine then starts to gather the “reserves” of his team, calling Princess Amaya by using the pink gemstone he found in Sword of Sorcery #0. That’s pretty cool, I’ll admit. She even has the right reaction at being “kidnapped,” so to speak. However, she does help Tim rediscover some of the magic buried within him…which…is…AWESOME. Finally, Constantine pulls Andrew back into things…but, luckily, it’s the Andrew Bennett BEFORE he goes crazy-evil and absorbs all vampires into himself. Whew.
Avengers Assembled! Kind of. I think Tim’s too short in this group shot. He was the same height against Constantine while he was sitting. That…doesn’t make sense to me. He looks like he’s eight at that height, or Constantine is REALLY tall. Even Andrew doesn’t meet his height there. What happened?
The big confrontation unfolds as the JLD descend upon Nanda Parbat. The team has some really good chemistry on these pages, and it was a lot of fun to read. I kind of wish it lasted longer. But even an Annual can only have so many pages. The best part, of course, was Deadman making his possessed body punch himself out. Hilarious.
We finally get to see the Books of Magic, and Faust is removed from the equation as he touches one and is super-zapped. The JLD arrives, and some REALLY crazy stuff goes down with Nick Necro demanding Constantine kill Tim to release Zatanna. This was where I almost threw the comic across the room. Not to give anything away, I did end up being okay with everything that happened, in the end.
Though, if I have to say one thing about the last page, it’s, “DAMNIT ZATANNA!” She’s always getting into trouble. The whole thing with the Books of Magic…I have no clue what the hell is going on there. That was super surprising and quite confusing. Obviously meant to be that way, but I mean Lemire did a GOOD JOB in befuddling the crap out of me.
Justice League Dark Annual #1, the verdict: A very fun issue full of great surprises. The additional characters were awesome to see together, and worked well off each other. I’m looking forward to seeing them more, Franky and Amaya. Those feel like good fits for the team as they no-doubt search for Zee. Well, Lemire’s first arc is safely tucked under his belt, and it was a great run that brought this title out of it’s fitful funk and away from the “drop list.” That is to say, I’m keeping this book! The art is fantastic, as always, and the few splash pages we saw were very well done. Great, witty dialog, and entertaining character interactions really drove this Annual forward with strength and confidence. I share this confidence as the title moves forward.
(Photo Source: Major Spoilers)