REVIEW: Justice League Dark #1

Justice League Dark 1 2018 featured image

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #1 / Writer: James Tynion IV / Artist: Alvaro Martinez Bueno / Inker: Raul Fernandez / Colorist: Brad Anderson / Letterer: Rob Leigh / Cover Artist: Martinez, Fernandez, and Anderson / Publisher: DC Comics / July 25, 2018Justice League Dark 1 2018 cover

THE MAGICAL SIDE OF DC

Can you name the comic book that set the path for superheroes and DC Comics? Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman. but he wasn’t the only character to appear there. This was also the first appearance of Giovanni Zatara, the first character in DC’s magic pantheon. Sure Fred Guardineer’s character was a stage magician who used tricks instead of actual magic, but this is the first step.

The Magic side of the DC Universe is an often overlooked aspect of the giant mythology that is DC Comics. This is the sad truth of magic based DC books. While we do get Constantine, Swamp Thing, and even an occasional series focused on The Demon, there hasn’t been a good magic team book since Shadowpact. We had the original Justice League Dark with The New 52, but despite being an intriguing idea the series struggled with constant creative team changes. Oh, and there was Mystik U, but that was an interesting idea that wasted the full potential of its characters.

Thankfully this new series is the brainchild of James Tynion IV (Detective Comics and The Immortal Men) and it is off to an insanely good smart. I was on board the moment I heard that a new Justice League Dark series had a lineup of Wonder Woman, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, Detective Chimp, and… Man-Bat! (Kirk Langstrom the Batman villain that injects himself with a serum to turn into a werewolf like bat-creature?) James Tynion IV is one of the best up and comers in the business and there’s a magic in this world that has gone sorely unnoticed for far too long.

Justice League Dark 1 2018 John and Zatanna image

TEAM BUILDING

As mentioned before this is an… odd line up for a superhero team, but you can understand each character’s purpose in the first issue. Magic has broken. The normal rules don’t work anymore, so the world needs a team, an unorthodox Justice League, that can learn and fight magic. DC’s magic characters have always been a bit pretentious, feeling they know the deeper darker secrets of the world so heroes like Wonder Woman, misfits like Detective Chimp, and outcasts like Man-Bat shouldn’t have anything to do with magic. Yet they steal the show in this issue.

Zatanna and Swamp Thing aren’t out-shined in the issue, but the non-magic characters express themselves beautifully. Wonder Woman, a literal being of magic, is tired of being considered more superhero than Amazon. Detective Chimp, normally content with his lesser standing in the magic community, acts against his non-heroic instincts and joins to help as much as he can. Then there’s Man-Bat.

Justice League Dark 1 2018 Diana and Bobo at the Oblivion Bar image

I wasn’t sure how this character would be handled when he’s hardly been defined in the Batman comics. Tynion has experience with creating empathy for Batman baddies such as Clayface in his Detective Comics run; but Kirk Langstrom is a different animal, no pun intended.  He’s either a genius scientist with an addiction, a bat-themed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or a random fan-service drop for a fight that never goes any deeper. Here he is treated as a scientist in a book about magic and it’s genius. This looks to be presenting a character that tries to understand magic logically while also dealing with the stigma of being a villain.

In the end, each character gets their moment in this book. This is the purest team book I’ve read in years with the characters goals and concerns being established clearly in this debut issue. The inclusion of Wonder Woman leading a Justice League team adds an interesting dynamic. I cannot recall a time she’s been the leader of the team, but not only is she a leader, she’s a leader for a cause she believes in.

SPELLBINDING ARTWORK

Alvaro Martinez Bueno (Cataclysm: Ultimate X-Men and Aquaman: Future’s End) delivers the best panel work I’ve seen in comics all year. Forget Tom King’s nine-panel masterpieces, Justice League Dark #1 has Edgar Wright level cinematography in a comic book even during the simplest of scenes where Zatanna stands in front of Baron Winter’s mansion and John Constantine lights a cigarette or when Wonder Woman and Bobo talk in The Oblivion Bar and their conversation continues in their reflection.

Justice League Dark 1 2018 Man-Bat Wonder Woman and Detective Chimp image

Almost every major magical DC character makes an appearance in this issue, and they are drawn perfectly. Constantine doesn’t usually go around without his overcoat, but he pulls it off. Swamp Thing looks like he’s made of actual nature instead of a mound of moss as he’s often portrayed. Also, Man-Bat and Bobo have the most expressive faces in the book despite being animals. The art knows when to be contained. When to break the panel in what can only be described as the most magical looking book of the year.

KOOB SIHT DAER

Who would’ve thought a backward-talking sorceress, a guardian of the green, an immortal chimpanzee with a deductive mind, a d-list Batman villain, and an Amazon warrior would make up the best Justice League book going on right now. It’s the mark of a great writer and artist to take an idea that most readers have little to no interest in and make the best story on the shelf.

In conclusion, I’ve said the magic side of the DC Universe matters a lot in this review. and it does, but don’t think you need to know who Baron Winters is to comprehend what’s going on. This is a simple story with stupendous characters. You know why each member joins this team, except for maybe Swamp Thing, and you know what motivates them. This a strong first chapter for old and new readers alike.

Verdict: 5 out of 5

Oh, is this a bio? I better tell people who I am and what I do, right? Well, that’s easy I’ll just explain that I’m a writer of sorts who goes under the alias of Nobody, but my friends call me Kade, because that’s my name. I’m a student working on a degree in creative writing.

Oh, is this a bio? I better tell people who I am and what I do, right? Well, that's easy I'll just explain that I'm a writer of sorts who goes under the alias of Nobody, but my friends call me Kade, because that's my name. I'm a student working on a degree in creative writing.

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