What They Say:
The witch known as The Enchantress has gone mad, unleashing a wave of chaos that not even the combined powers of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg can stop. Shade the Changing Man, Madame Xanadu, Deadman, Zatanna, Mindwarp and John Constantine may be our only hope – but how can we put our trust in beings whose very presence makes ordinary people break out in a cold sweat? Critically acclaimed writer Peter Milligan brings together an unorthodox team for the most unnatural threats. With stunning art by up and coming star Mikel Janin, Justice League Dark Vol. 1 visits the unexplored corners of the DCU!
One of my more anticipated books from the New 52 launch, Justice League Dark looked to more firmly establish magic within the new DC Universe. There’s always been magic in the world but a lot of it got shifted to the Vertigo line over the years and it had less and less of an impact across the normal superhero line. The bits we had were some of the longer standing ones and it was effective, but something about it just felt tacked on overall. With Justice League Dark, under the guiding hand of Peter Milligan to get it underway with artwork by Mikel Janin, What helps even more is that some of the characters had some pretty good roles in the Flashpoint stories that came before and in the Brightest Day storyline that also brought their presence more to the forefront.
The first volume does what most series of this nature has to do by bringing the whole group together. Not surprisingly, it’s going to be one that’s full of distinct personalities that simply do not play well together. That’s standard fare, but what the series tries to do is to give us a group that can do what needs to be done in the key moment, but the rest of the time they’re just trying to get back to their own lives. With most of them supporting their own books at one time or another, they all have strong, distinctive voices to them that can be difficult to wrangle together. Especially for some of them that haven’t been seen in quite some time, Flashpoint excepted.
What serves as the binding for this loose formation of powerful magic based characters is that reveal that the Enchantress is suffering a collapse. A collapse that is causing her magic to spiral out of control, enough so that it sends certain Justice League members like Superman, Cyborg and Wonder Woman away without being able to deal with it. With what her powers are doing, Madame Xanadue has forseen a future in which the world has ended because of it. So she uses her manipulations, being unable to say things plainly to anyone, to draw a disparate group together. Her drawing in of Rac Shade, aka the Changing Man, is a good starting point since he can psychically pinpoint people and open gateways for them, among other things, it lets Xanadu to draw in more people. Of course, Rac has his own issues that we see throughout the book as his powers are just strange as they always have been but also the fact that he creates an imaginary girlfriend that he has to leave and gets upset with him about it. It works, but it just highlights the odd nature of Rac Shade.
The use of Boston Brand as Deadman is something that I definitely liked, particularly since it brought in Dove for a bit as the two were a big part of my enjoyment of Brightest Day. Their relationship does factor into the book, including some creepy scenes that shows how disconnected he is from feelings, but it also allows him to get close to June Moon, who is one of the catalysts at the start here since she was the “good” part of the Enchantress that escaped and has been on the run since. The book is also balanced by a pair of rather proactive characters as Zatanna is intent on solving the problem in general while not having a big problem working with others while the flip side is Constantine who just wants to get away from it all. Of course, those who have a history with each other which makes for some amusing tension to unfold between them.
Over the first five issues here, there’s a greater focus on the character interactions than on the main story, which feels a little odd at times. The Enchantress and what she’s up to in her crazed mindset has an impact in each of the chapters, but it’s more just a binding element than something that really engages. Which is made even more evident in the final piece of it when everyone works together for a bit and it’s all tied up in a rather anti-climactic way. While that side falters for me overall, outside of some striking backgrounds and overall ideas, I did enjoy the character side. Constantine is the weak link for me, as is Xanadu in her own way, but I really enjoyed seeing Rac Shade brought into prominence again and to see he’s still as off as he’s always been. Deadman was a big draw as well, though there’s a part of him now that feels like he’s just a bit less connected to being human that he was before.
Justice League Dark really drew me in during the first three issues when I bought those and re-reading them here while getting more was definitely enjoyable. It feels like it didn’t quite carry through on its potential, but a lot of it comes down to the idea that these characters are almost too distinct to work together in a cohesive way. These are all characters I like and they all have some very good material here individually and in different configurations, but as a whole it feels like it just falls short in being what it needs to be. A lot of that really does come down to the lack of a strong, cohesive storyline to bring them all together. I’m a fan of the creative side of the book and what they can do with it and I’m a fan of the cast and this opening volume does a decent job of laying down the foundation for that kind of team that’s just to different to work together but does manage it in some way.