Justice League Dark #1 (DC) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Justice League Dark #1


Written by Peter Milligan; Art by Mikel Janin

Sep 28, 2011 DC Comics Bookmark and Share

Justice League Dark #1 is a decent premise with a ridiculous title; a book with a beautiful cover (Ryan Sook!) and interior art that’s quite inconsistent; and a storyline that tries to inject the classic DC Vertigo history and sensibilities into the fertile NuDCU. What we get is a book that pulls you this way and that, and we’re not quite sure to what end.

(Again, quickly, let me point to the wonderful cover and share my wish that Ryan Sook was doing interiors on this, or really any, book. Time to break out the 7 Soldiers: Zatanna issues from the long box).

Here’s the vague recap: weird mystical stuff is happening. Madame Xanadu, the tarot-reading sage of the DCU, is convinced that the end is nigh. June Moon walks the world with dozens of carbon copies of her doing the same. Is she even the real one? Who knows. Her clones wander somewhat aimlessly, even to the point of becoming fodder for freeway traffic and the local news. But the June we follow takes us to Deadman’s door (guest appearance by his girlfriend, Dawn/Dove, from Hawk & Dove). The regular ol’ Justice League sends Superman, Cyborg, and Wonder Woman to take down the mad witch called The Enchantress, who lives inside a green envelope that’s on the floor of a crooked shack. Yes, she lives in an envelope. The League has determined that The Enchantress is responsible for some other mystical weirdness, including gruesome deaths and power plants becoming sentient. The League fails. Zatanna decides she’ll do it herself, despite Batman’s protests. This somehow sends John Constantine, who’s in England, through a mystical portal that deposits him in another part of England, yet he knows there’s something to do with Zatanna. Shade the Changing Man is talking to Kathy, but she’s not real, just someone he created with his reality-altering M-vest. Xanadu somehow summons Shade to her place. The end.

Had enough? Yes, it’s pretty disjointed. The art is disjointed too; faces look funny and different from panel to panel in some cases; noses are particularly distracting sometimes. And Zatanna’s proportions change with every full body shot, even on the same page. It’s an odd complaint because many of Mikel Janin’s panels by themselves are just beautiful or wonderfully terrible (such as The Enchantress screaming and looking like the withered husk of Iggy Pop), but comics involves sequence.

So, we have neat concepts with odd execution on several fronts. Worst is probably the Zatanna/Batman scene, where he doesn’t want her to tackle The Enchantress alone, so she casts a spell on him that entangles him in vines. The conversation is stilted and awkward, and the action seems unnecessary (being the talk-backwards-make-shit-happen magician, she could have extricated herself without performing bondage on the Bat).

Here’s what’s to like, along with the art in places.

The choices of characters could hardly be more compelling. Zatanna, Deadman, Constantine, The Enchantress/June Moon (who used to be one in the same, sort of a perversion on the Captain Marvel story) are all wonderful concepts, and it seems that writer Peter Milligan is bringing more or less his Vertigo version of Shade, the Changing Man into the main DCU. This bodes well for the reader, if not necessarily the characters. Shade’s a whackadoo. Despite the earlier mentioned awkward dialogue, most of the conversation and characterization are spot on. Also, the horror elements are there, and the weirdness is really clever.

Maybe I’m penalizing Milligan for writing a story that’s much denser than most of these relaunchesthere’s a lot of stuff happening here. It’s easier to enjoy a bit of fluff such as the main Justice League relaunch because it goes so quick, delivers comparatively little, and is essentially like eating chocolate frosting.

So let me say this: I enjoy the meaty stew that is Justice League Dark #1 more than some of the titles I’ve rated better, even though it fell short in some of its ambitions. This is what you get when comparing issues versus, say, 4-6 issue story arcs. This was one of my favorites, and right in my wheelhouse, but points off for some technical blunders and story confusion, the latter of which may be resolved in subsequent issues. (www.dccomics.com)

Author rating: 6/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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October 5th 2011

Really good review Jeremy - though I do think that you are being a tad harsh for the first in the series.

When you have the time, check out my review of Justice League Dark - http://www.comicbookandmoviereviews.com/2011/10/justice-league-dark-1.html