Review: Justice League Dark #1

The single thing I was most excited about with DC Comics’ New 52 initiative was the way that Vertigo was clearly bleeding into the DC Universe. With the inclusion of Swamp Thing and John Constantine into the DC Universe, the publisher declared that all the things that go bump in the night were going to make their way back into DC Comics in a big way. Over the years DC has featured some amazing magic and supernatural characters, and just like Justice League has been their flagship superhero title, nothing embodies this new DC magic like Justice League Dark.

Justice League Dark starts off as well as any fan of magic and mystery can hope. Incredibly strange things have started happening and the pattern hasn’t escaped the deduction of Batman. After it becomes clear that Superman and the other Justice Leaguers aren’t suited to address the source of this issue, Zatanna decides that she must take action. Luckily, it doesn’t look like she’ll be alone as an all-star cast of spellslingers will be joining her… eventually.

The biggest problem that Justice League Dark suffers from is that it’s a first issue. Like so many other comics in the New 52, there is a learning curve for many readers. While a comic like Action Comics or Batman doesn’t suffer as much due to their high profile protagonist, Justice League Dark on the other hand is filled with a lot of characters that people won’t be familiar with. This means precious pages are used to establish who people are, what they can do, and why they matter.

Luckily Peter Milligan is a great writer and makes this exposition interesting. When we learn that Shade has the ability to alter reality, we get some creepy insight to his character and some great storytelling tucked inside. This cream-filling style of writing makes a slow building introductory issue a lot easier to digest. While there was a lot of information coming at me, I never felt like I was reading a manual. Also, the story is just plain good. There’s some creepy moments, some cool moments, and a lot of potential for more to come.

There is a general feeling of something not being right on every page of the comic and Mikel Janin’s art only strengthens this environment of unease. While his lines are soft and his characters are beautiful, there is something other-worldly about his panels. Even when there wasn’t strange things happening on the page, there was just this shadow hanging over the world. Kind of like that creepy “It’s a little too quiet” feel you get in a monster movie when the characters first realize something is wrong. I will also go on the record saying that his Superman and Wonder Woman might be my favorites from this relaunch. I don’t know what possessed DC Comics to hire all these lesser known European artist to draw so many of these books, but it really is a tactic that is working well for them. While I love Jim Lee, it’s nice that DC Comics hasn’t fallen into that rut of all their comics looking the same after this massive relaunch.

This could easily turn out to be one of my favorite ongoing titles to come out of the New 52. I will be looking forward to seeing what sort of creepy and magical terror this unusual League encounters. Justice League Dark seems like it might end up being “Vertigo Comics Presents Creepy Magic Stuff,” but I can’t seem to find a reason why this would be a bad thing.

Pros:

  •  Great concept and interesting story
  •  Beautiful art
  • Not a typical capes and cowls superhero comic

Cons:

  • Almost too much story and not enough pages
  • Supernatural and horror story elements won’t be for everyone

Final Verdict:

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