Written by Peter Milligan and Jeff Lemire.
Art by Mikel Janin, Daniel Sampere, Admira Wijaya and Lee Garbett.
Published by DC Comics
On Sale July 10th
I have to say I’ve seen more than my fair share of New 52 bashing since DC made the bold move of re-launching their entire line. I won’t for one-second say they haven’t slipped up (seriously make up your mind about what’s in or out of continuity DC editorial!), or that some titles didn’t take a change or two in creative teams to get on the right track (looking at you Green Arrow). But what they got right from the outset was the decision to add more variety to the genres on offer in DC Universe books. I mean seriously, there is a western title and there are horror titles as well as the usual superheroes we all know and love. That has to be lauded regardless of your opinion on anything else about the re-launch. The book I’m reviewing today should fall right into the horror category but actually manages to bridge the gap nicely between superhero and horror fantasy.
Justice League Dark isn’t just an ‘edgy’ version of the Justice League as the title would suggest, thank God, rather it is a team of characters with links to the supernatural that tackle the magical threats to the DC Universe. The line-up includes many Vertigo imprint characters that have had their stories previously told by the likes of Alan Moore and Garth Ennis. However, JLD isn’t anywhere near as hard edged as any of those writers’ work but it’s still a nice supernatural title with a good mix of characters.
The first trades-worth of Justice League Dark issues written by DC and Vertigo veteran Peter Milligan were, if I’m being kind, mediocre. If I’m being unkind they were dull, confusing and a real let down. It was a title with potential and great looking art, but while Milligan’s writing is usually solid, here it felt lacking. I thought this was a title that needed a change and that’s what it got with Jeff Lemire taking over. The first two issue’s worth of material in this trade are parts one and three of a tie-in with ‘I, Vampire’ and are written by Milligan. I don’t think that these should be here, it’s by no means terrible stuff, but it seems odd to not have them printed separately alone with the other I, Vampire part of the crossover. Really you can read them quickly or just skip them to get to issue 9 (the third one you’ll find in this volume) where Lemire takes the reins. When that happens the book moves from mediocre to good within the first two pages.
The cast has more room to breathe and now have more clearly defined personalities. While Lemire stated in interviews leading up to his takeover of the book that the cast would be interchangeable, he sticks mostly to the core team of John Constantine, Zatanna, Deadman, Madame Xanadu and Black Orchid. The entire cast are introduced as if this is a first issue one again. It’s all real new reader friendly stuff.
The relationships between the characters are much more fleshed out by Lemire. John and Zatanna’s relationship and history is explored and elaborated on. Deadman; who Milligan seemed to be setting up as a slightly unsympathetic jerk in his run of JLD, has a clearer comic-relief role. All the characters that join the team are re-introduced to the reader so no one should get lost about who’s who.
Apart from the two crossover issues this volume is made up of two linked story arcs, one leading into the other smoothly. Story wise, it’s a simple quest for the magic artifact that opens up a larger quest for an even more powerful object, nothing really original or innovative. It’s the relationships between the characters that matter to Lemire and he handles them well.
The art by Mikel Janin, Daniel Sampere, Admira Wijaya is uniformly terrific. Characters are distinctive and interesting. The magic and supernatural elements look vivid and have colouring that lets the images jump off the page. However, as with the new Constantine series it’s also this vivid art and colouring that stops the title having anything approaching a proper horror look or feel. You know from the look alone that this a Justice League book.
Included in this trade is the 0 issue for the series with art by the ever reliable Lee Garbett. It shows us the first meeting of Zatanna and Constantine before the JLD is formed. Lemire uses a noiry; hardboiled detective style narration for Constantine in this issue, it gets a big tick from me as a fan of that style.
A great start on point for the series. Vertigo it ain’t. Get that idea out of your mind and this is a fun title. I’d recommend this for anyone that wants to ease into something a little different from just typical superheroes. It won’t be too jarring to read and will open you up to other types of characters and genres.
4 out of 5 nerds