Review – Justice League Dark #1 (DC Comics)

Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artwork: Alvaro Martinez Bueno (pencils), Raul Fernandez (inks)
Colours: Brad Anderson
Lettering: Rob Leigh
Release Date: 25th July 2018

In the wake of the rather enjoyable “No Justice” event, the world’s magic isn’t acting the way it should.  The Tree of Wonder is causing some sinister misfires, including some magic users being grotesquely murdered and mutilated by their own powers in a way that would make John Carpenter himself proud, and Wonder Woman is trying to get to the bottom of it.

It’s an interesting decision to have Diana as the driving force behind the new occult subdivision of the Justice League, and while she may not be someone who is traditionally associated with the magical side of the DCU, her involvement and motivations here feel natural and logical.

As for the rest of the team? Well, Zatanna’s involvement feels far more comfortable, and she’s always been a character I’ve enjoyed reading so it’s great to see her featuring so prominently in the overarching story.  Detective Chimp is an addition to the roster that, I’ll admit, initially made me a little apprehensive.  Not knowing anything about the character, he looked like he was going to be a cartoony dose of comic relief, but I’m pleased to report that Tynion IV presents him as anything but, with a slightly tragic backstory and a straightforward, matter-of-fact delivery that believes his ‘primate Sherlock Holmes’ appearance.  Manbat fulfils the Clayface-esque ‘villain seeking redemption’ role in the team, adding some unexpectedly humorous beats along the way.   Oh, and Swamp Thing is there too, which is pretty much all I needed to convince me to pick up this book from the moment the roster was released.

While its essentially a ‘new team book by numbers’, where the different members are recruited and the threat to be overcome is revealed, Tynion IV does an admirable job of making his story feel fresh.  Like a lot of these large-scale superhero books, there’s an eyebrow-raising “what, the entire world as we know it is in danger again?!”, but the fact that the threat is coming from the magical realm makes it feel a little more logical that the likes of Superman and Batman aren’t just showing up to punch and Batarang the threat into submission.

Visually, the partnership of Alvaro Martinez Bueno and Raul Fernandez do a solid job on pencils and inks respectively, keeping things fairly restrained for the most part before cutting loose occasionally with some cracking splash pages or creative visual flourishes.  The character designs are equally solid, and I’m particularly getting a kick out of the bearded, Alan Moore-esque Swampy. Brad Anderson rounds things out with some typically strong colour work, giving the book an unmistakably DC aesthetic and really helping some of the key moments to pop.

As I mentioned above, the JLD roster is an interesting one, and while the ‘big bad’ itself feels a tad uninspired for the time being (not in terms of the threat they pose, but more the actual delivery), it seems like the interactions between the team as they gradually come together are going to provide the main driving force for the series.  The first encounter between Diana and Detective Chimp, for instance, is pure gold.

It also doesn’t hurt things that, with an absolutely stellar run on Detective Comics under his belt, Tynion IV has proven that he knows exactly how to structure a team book, and the quirky blend of characters he has assembled here is likely to provide all manner of opportunities for interesting development and sub-plots as the series unfolds.

Ultimately then, while it’s clearly still ramping things up story-wise, this first issue proves that this latest JLD resurrection is definitely going to be a worthwhile one, with a blend of interesting characters and a passionate creative team who are clearly planning on shedding a little light on some of the darker corners of the DCU.  You can count me in for the foreseeable future, that’s for sure.

Rating: 4/5.


ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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