Friday, September 30, 2011

Comics Review: Justice League Dark #1 - It's Freshly and Insanely Magical

There's a reason the word "dark" is in this comics series' title.

And in DC Comics' new title "Justice League Dark #1", which is part of the new DCU, Ian Austin (web-comic creator of "Death Boy" and "Tezzer") found the story with a magical twist surprisingly enjoyable.

Here are his thoughts:


In the wide reaches of the DC-verse, rarely did the Justice League meet an opponent they could not beat. This extended to magic foes, a concept which falls apart when you think about it. While they should overcome all odds, the magical aspect of DC has rarely been explored in a depth that fit with the rest of the universe... and thus it felt like their magical foes weren't really ALL THAT.

And when Superman, whose weakness is magic, constantly beats magical characters... well, it tends to minimalise the role of characters like Zatanna. Indeed, Zattana being in the Justice League of America (JLA) at all was always odd. They had to neuter her because she was too powerful, a concept later retconned by Brad Meltzer in (a personal favour) Identity Crisis as being the result of her having to perform a mindwipe on Doctor Light. So when JL Dark was announced, I felt intrigued. The magical side of the DC-verse (from Wonder Woman to Captain Marvel) is an untapped goldmine of potential brilliance.

To this end, I'm happy to say that JL Dark mostly succeeds in presenting a world that the JLA are hopelessly inept in solving. Indeed, given how much I hated the first Wonder Woman comic (as a single issue, if you see it as the start of a TPB it's slightly better) I'm reasonably confident that her exclusion from this team on a full-time basis is a blessing in disguise. She does appear, along with Superman, Batman and Cyborg, and is as ineffectual as they are.

Superman in particular gets his ass kicked in an incredibly violent way. Batman and Cyborg fare little better. Wonder Woman is vague, likely because she's now a 'horror comic' character despite her comic having no horror elements. Having these characters appear here quickly sets up how useless they are at dealing with magical threats. It's particularly gratifying to see Batman getting schooled, given how logical it is that he'd have no way to deal with magic. Magic is not science, it's fantastical: a construct that doesn't make sense so much as it simply is.

The introduction of our core characters (of who Constantine and Zatanna stand out) serves as a deconstruction of the traditional DC group formation. Our heavy hitting trio are rendered inert quickly, and Constatine et al have to save the day. This, in turn, feels like the first launch of the 'magic' verse. DC were right to hold off on Alan Scott, Captain Marvel and co to that end. The same way that JL #1 launched this entire universe, JL Dark #1 pushes magic as a viable mini-verse.

And I have to say, I loved it.

It felt fun and fresh. Crisp images meet up with an interesting story bringing underused characters like the Shade and Madam Xanadu into the fray without an over-abundance of fanfare. They're fighting strange monsters and concepts that feel fresh and rather disconcerting. It improves on the one weakness of JL #1 in that nearly every character of import appears in this very issue. At the same time, it's not trying to do too much too fast like JLI #1 aimed. Unfortunately, it does fall into the trap of lacking a discernible lead. While teambooks should concern an ensemble, you do need that one standout character. Here, Constantine comes close... but his unique quirks aren't brought to the forefront as much as I'd like.

Still, that's a petty niggle. The truth is that this comic surprised me by successfully kick-starting an intriguing new avenue of DC stories. And I'm incapable of hating something which leads to more Captain Marvel stories.


No comments:

Post a Comment