Sunday, June 21, 2015

Justice League Dark: In The Dark (comics)

Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Mikel Janin
Collects: Justice League Dark #1-6

Okay, right away, can I just say "Justice League Dark" is the dumbest title for a comic? I get the reasoning. The Justice League is a popular brand. I get it. Hell, Marvel does it too. But come on, you mean to tell me that with all the talented writers and staff on hand at DC no one could come up with a better title than "Justice League Dark"?

Just rolls right off the tongue. Could be worse, I guess. The concept could be as stupid as the name. Sup', Avengers A.I.?

Stupid name aside, I was actually kind of excited about this book when it was announced as a part of the launch of the New 52. A team comic based on the supernatural and magical elements of the DC universe? I'm into it.

Sadly, the first volume doesn't quite live up to the potential. The book has all the elements of something great. There's a bunch of interesting characters with diverse personalities and problems, you have magic, you have crazy vests attached to insane people. Split personalities. Just a bunch of cool stuff. It simply never comes together.

That's not to say that the book doesn't have its moments. Having Superman and a few other members of the main League go down early to an attack as bizarre as a hurricane of gross magic witch teeth feels inspired. Sadly, scenes like that prove to be a bit of an exception. Most of the book is aggressively average, from the writing to the art, which is not what you want to be when you're one of fifty two books introduced all at once in a massive relaunch.

Even the conflict is kind of ho-hum, at least for it's length. Apparently, the Enchantress has split into two, with June Moon running from the magical embodiment of her insanity. Not a terrible plot for a short arc, but for five issues it comes down to a fair amount of wheel spinning. The threat of the crazed Enchantress is rarely confronted head-on and her ultimate defeat just kind of happens without a ton of conflict, aside from two team members briefly fighting over the solution. I appreciate that the manner in which the threat is resolved shows Constantine as the outright bastard he typically is, but it doesn't make for an exciting read. The team scatters to the wind afterwards, since no one likes Constantine or trusts Madame Xanadu.

The volume ends on a single issue where the group decides to stick together after having some shared nightmares. Six issues in and we finally have our team formally introduced. Credit where it's due, however; while the team doesn't form until the end, we meet each member fairly early in the book and their paths cross numerous times before we're done. It's a fair middle ground between Justice Leagues staggered approach and Justice League Internationals quick formation.

We close with an interesting cliffhanger that promises a tie to one of the New 52's under-rated gems, but I sincerely hope business picks up in volume two, because you can only coast on potential for so long. Justice League Dark might have an easier time surviving than, say, Shadowpact, if only because of the name, but eventually you need to properly hook people if you want to keep readers. As it is, having an opening trade this bland doesn't help the books cause, especially since DC insists on numbering them and subsequently discouraging the more casual reader from skipping a duller volume.

My Opinion: Try It


  1. The way you position this team's formation relative to Justice League and Justice League International is interesting; I felt similarly to you about those books, if maybe just a little more negative, so now I'm curious to read this as well.

    Strangely, I've only seen Vol. 2 of this series at the library; I don't think they have Vol. 1, but convincing them to get it shouldn't be too hard a sell since they already have at least one subsequent volume.

  2. I think you could get away with skipping the first volume and just reading the second. The way the volume ended didn't exactly suggest that Enchantress was going to be integral to the volume going forward, so aside from seeing how the team got together her arc isn't too essential. The sixth issue, where they decide to form up, mostly consists of shared nightmares and premonitions that the world is screwed if they split up, along with the cliffhanger leading to the next volume.

    Overall, the scattered League titles are, if nothing else, readable. I find it a bit sad that International was cut off at the knees, though, because unlike Dark that book felt like it didn't get the proper amount of time to gestate. The team didn't even manage to become official; the whole thing fell apart at the unveiling. I also liked its portrayal of Batman. Actually, that's one thing about Jurgans I like. His Batman is reasonable in his interactions with others, especially Booster Gold. In Jurgans books, Batman is still a little hard at times, but he's almost encouraging. I miss that.

    I saw an interview with Greg Rucka recently where he muses about how Batman is better solo and should not have a big, extended family, which is a notion that frustrates me. It feels like too many people subscribe to that notion, which leads to the constant in fighting in the family. But if Batman didn't care about others, he sure as hell wouldn't do what he does each night. International managed to show that side in a way not every book does.

    Justice League started out really rough - Origin, while not terrible, was kind of a mess and had the single worst piece of dialogue I read in years - and the second volume was outright garbage, but it's been steadily improving. I just read Trinity War and that's in the pipeline for a review, but I realized that I accidentally skipped volume 4 of JL - The Grid - mistakenly believing it took place after. So I think I'm gonna get that first, read it and review it before Trinity War. Maybe, given the title, it'll shed light on who The Grid is and where he came from (his seemingly out of nowhere appearance late in a story that built off everything JL and JLA had done so far was my clue that I missed something).

  3. I agree about solo vs. family-oriented Batman -- I think I've read much more solo Batman, and at this point I'm more interested in seeing him interact with other characters. In fact, the more I read of Bendis's X-Men books, the more I'm realizing that, honestly, that might be all I want from superhero comics now: people with superpowers talking to each other. I'm more interested in seeing how people with power function as human beings than I am in seeing them make things go "boom."

    Agreed on Justice League as well. I read the first trade and the first issue of the second trade (which I thought was better than the entire first trade put together), but I stopped reading after that. I've intended to write a review of that first volume ever since I read it, but I'd need to re-read it at this point and I just don't think I have it in me to do that. What was the awful line of dialogue?

  4. "You're the worlds greatest super-humans!"

    Totally something someone might actually, say, am I right? Stupid. It reminds me of zombie fiction that dances around calling them zombies, as though every single universe that has a zombie apocalypse never had a single person come up with the thought of dead bodies coming back to life and making a zombie flick.

    Justice League improved mightily with Throne of Atlantis, though. Honestly, I'd pick up Throne and continue with Justice League from there. Trinity War builds off everything in JL and JLA up to that point, but not so much so that you have to read the prior volumes.

    I still love solo Batman stories, don't get me wrong. I just think writers ought to embrace the fact that Batman cares more. Too many of them get up their own ass with the idea of Batman as some kind of loner vigilante who only works when he's like that. Grant Morrison pretty definitively put the lie to that notion.