I’m probably one of the few who didn’t blanch when it was announced that one of the New 52 titles would be a Justice League book featuring John Constantine. It sounds like a joke but the case for why such a move would be necessary was made years ago by the late and lamented Unca Cheeks on his gloriously mad website. So it was ironically, with a good deal of hope and optimism, that I opened up Justice League Dark #1.
Most of the issue is told from the perspective of fortune teller Madame Xanadu., whose visions keep showing her a woman named June Moone – an ordinary woman who is bound to a spirit of wild magic known as The Enchantress. As three members of the Justice League barely escape with their lives after trying to confront The Enchantress, Xanadu has an epiphany and realizes that a diverse group of people with unique magical talents will be needed to stop The Enchantress and save the innocent soul of June Moone. In order of appearance, they are...
Shade The Changing Man – guardian of the M-Vest;. a garment that allows the wearer to change reality, even as they themselves risk being warped by it.
Zatanna – the Justice League’s magic expert, who casts spells through the use of backwards-spoken words.
John Constantine – a con-man whose talent for getting into and out of trouble may be the greatest magic he has.
Deadman – A selfish man in life, trapeze artist Boston Brand was cursed in death to walk the world until he helped enough people to earn his final rest.
Peter Milligan’s script puts us in the thick of it and sets the stakes high early on. It is ironic that our first glimpse of the new Justice League – at least, our first glimpse as they will be – should come in this book where they are so clearly out of their element. He does a good job of introducing us to just how serious a threat The Enchantress is.
Sadly, the our main cast isn’t as well established. We learn quite a bit about Madame Xanadu, Zatanna and Shade The Changing Man but John Constantine’s appearance is limited to one page. Yet even he fairs better than Deadman, who doesn’t get so much as a line of dialogue or an internal monologue to describe himself! While Deadman’s background was extensively covered in last week’s DC Universe Presents #1, it seems a bit of a gamble to presume that readers of this book would have read that book already.
Newcomer artist Mikel Janin does an amazing job on this first issue. Avoiding the heavy inks and shadows that are the bread and butter of most Vertigo-toned series, he has left Justice League Dark looking brightly colored and well-defined, for the most part. This might seem an odd choice given the title but I think it works, giving everything the look of a standard superhero book that is slowly coming apart as the “dark” invades. If forced to make a comparison to another artist, I’d say that Janin’s style is reminiscent of Terry Dodson but without the heavy emphasis on cheesecake.
Despite some of the cast not being as well developed as others, I rather liked this book. Fans of Milligan’s previous Vertigo works (particularly Shade The Changing Man and Hellblazer) will want to check this one out, as will fans of the Shadowpact. I dare say that anybody who enjoys good modern-day urban fantasy will get a kick out of this series as well. I enjoyed it. And I’ll be back for more next month.