Justice League Dark #1 (November, 2011)
“in the dark, part one: Imaginary Women”
Writer – Peter Milligan
Artist – Mikel Janin
Colorists – Ulises Arreola
Letterer – Rob Leigh
Editors – Red Ogle & Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.99
“They’re not really going to call it that, right? That’s surely just a place-holder title.”
Those were my first thoughts when DC Comics announced a “Justice League Dark” title as part of their New-52! initiative. I mean, it feels like such an awkward way to exploit a brand and it’s just so damn cringy-sounding. This sounds like something I would have “created” back in junior high.
“So, what’s it about?”
“Well… it’s kinda like [insert comics brand], only… dark, maaaaaaan.”
Ehh, maybe I’m projecting. After all, this came out just a year or two after Marvel created an entire “dark” line of books… that were equally cringy-sounding, but might’ve had an audience.
Anyhoo, let’s get into it!
We open with Madame Xanadu, xanadoing what she does best… reading personalized tarot cards. She has looked into the future, and seen that there is a terrible danger on the horizon. There’s a close-up on the “Fool” card, and that’s when we’re introduced to a troubled young woman by the name of June Moone. She walks the streets of, whatever town we’re in, and sees terrible demons. She wanders into a local diner, where the townies are glued to the television… turns out there are a whole lotta ladies who look exactly like her currently wandering the freeway… and causing all manner of havoc.
We shift to a meeting between Shade the Changing Man and his girlfriend/better half/whatever Kathy. She implores him not to leave, but he insists that he must. Before he does, it’s revealed that she wasn’t a real girl, but a conjuring Rac made to stop him from being lonesome. I wonder if this is intended as a callback or to cap off the 1990’s Vertigo series in some way. Wouldn’t surprise me, I doubt any 2011 DC editorial execs read the thing!
Our next stop is a farmhouse… where a being known as the Enchantress dwells.
She uses her spells to bring about some madness in the world… it’s some real non-sequitur stuff, and really feels like it’s trying to evoke that early-Vertigo feel.
This has drawn the attention of the Justice League… er, Light-version, I guess. Zatanna and Batman watch on the monitors while Superman, Cyborg, and Wonder Woman make their approach. Cyborg doesn’t have a good feeling about this… and, well… his intuition is correct. The Mad Witch reveals herself… filling the skies with madness (and giving us our Pandora cameo [bottom left] to boot).
Suddenly teeth of all shapes swirl in the air, slicing Superman to ribbons… remember, he’s got a weakness to magic. It isn’t long before Cyborg and Wonder Woman are overcome by the toothy-typhoon as well.
Back at the Watchtower, Zatanna informs Batman that she’s going to head off and look into this. Batman insists that he joins her, however, she has other plans. She binds his feet and leaves without him.
Then… John Constantine pops into reality. Hey, nice of him to make an appearance seeing as he’s the reason we’re all buying this book, right?
Back in town, June Moone knocks on a random door of a random apartment. When the tenant answers, June tells her that she’s looking for (a) Deadman…
Back at Madame Xanadu’s shop, Rac Shade finds the lady of the house kayoed. When she comes to, she informs him of the wickedness of the Enchantress and the fact that Imaginary Women have seemed to enter reality en masse. She burdens him with the responsibility of setting things right.
We wrap up with Xanadu taking a look into the future… and not really liking what she sees.
Well… first things first. This art is ridiculous… I mean, how gorgeous is this book? I think this might’ve been my first exposure to Mikel Janin… and holy cow, this is one amazing-looking book!
Story wise, we get a pretty decent introduction to a few of our major players. It is pretty cool to have Milligan working on Shade again. I may be misremembering, but I recall so much of the “hoopla” around this book was the fact that John Constantine was going to be front-and-center. Maybe I’m wrong… but if not, only having John appear on a single page feels like kind of a con.
While on the subject, I’m not a fan of Constantine being a “mainstream” sorta guy… and really never glommed onto him being a member of the Justice League. To me, he always worked best on the fringes… or as a pestering thorn-in-the-side for the “big” heroes. This kinda feels like a DC exec thinking “Hey, deez kidz really like dis Constantine guy…” and then just adding him to “a” Justice League. Ehh, it’s over a half-decade in the past though… I may as well be shouting at the wind. Fact is, this wasn’t a bad issue… or series.
The early/proto-Vertigo evoking, while something I kinda feel like I’ve outgrown, is a welcome addition here. The Flashpoint fall-out was, if I’m not mistaken (and I might be)… the combining of the “main” DC Universe, Vertigo, and WildStorm. So, it stands to reason that some Vertigo-y elements would make their way through. Again, I feel like the “random” weirdness is a bit played out… but, it really “spoke to me” when I was a teen-ager. Hopefully it did the same for the teens of 2011.
But still… that name. Just saying “Justice League Dark” is enough to make my skin crawl. It’s one of those titles that feels like “bully bait”… like if you were caught reading this at school or something, you’d be ragged on mercilessly. It’s such a try-hard way of sounding edgy. It’s not as though DC doesn’t have “dark” teams… I mean, Shadowpact is right there… hell, Sentinels of Magic is too!
But, of course… you couldn’t piggyback either of those with the Justice League brand. Similar to how our current (soon to be ending) volume of Justice League of America (Volume 6, I believe) is basically Batman and the Outsiders under a new (and more “sellable”) title.
But really, if my only complaint about a book is that it has a silly (to me) title… then I think we’ve got a winner. I’m still not a fan of Constantine being a “team player” or anything, much less on any version of the Justice League… but still, I’d say this issue is well worth checking out.