Justice League Dark #14
Nighttime at the Hall of Justice, and Diana of Themyscira sleeps a fitful sleep. The moon hangs bright and low over Washington DC and before she knows it, she’s pulled into dream, to speak with Giovanni Zatara inside a burning version of Wintersgate Manor. Zatara tells Diana something about how dreams are useful places for omens, and though she listens, she instead tells him that Zatanna is trying to save him. Zatara agrees that his daughter has the power to save them all, but then he gets to the crux of why he’s called upon Diana in her dream – she's the opposite of Zatanna. He’s come to warn her about her adversary, who is recruiting an army that could threaten everything. Diana thinks it’s the Upside-Down Man, but it is not. Saying his name summons the pale-skinned creep, though, and all Zatara has time to tell Diana before he casts the spell to wake her up is that the Witching War is about to begin.
Diana wakes up with a gasp of shock and reaches out to Zatanna...who tells her that they’ve been trying to get ahold of her for the better part of an hour. It’s not the great Witching War that’s begun, thankfully, but Zatanna, Man-Bat, Detective Chimp, Kent Nelson, Khalid Nassour, and Swamp Thing are in a church, fighting an enormous coven of vampires. Thankfully for the team, Kent and Khalid are able to work together to cast a spell that summons forth a giant, fake sun that dusts all the vampires around them. Zatanna then asks Diana what she wants to talk about, and Diana tells her that they’ll talk about it later.
Diana visits the Oblivion Bar – which is placed just to the left of reality, it seems – and tries to console Traci Thirteen, who is broken up everything that has happened lately. Traci walks off, telling Diana that magic rarely has happy endings, a sentiment that Constantine agrees with. Diana tells him that they’ve fought off some terrible things, and she believes that having done so is worth a little hope – especially as she’s been told that she’s the key to ending all of magic, and ending the world. Diana wants to figure out who, and Constantine is the one who is able to guide her to the culprit – Circe. Diana tells Constantine to have the rest of the Justice League Dark meet her in the Hall as soon as they arrive, and to make sure Bobo doesn’t drink, because they’ll have to work fast. She’s also going to need Constantine’s help, since he has a history with Circe.
Back at the church, Zatanna and the others discuss why the vampires would have attacked. While Bobo thinks it’s because a master vampire ordered the coven to, Khalid suggests that Bobo not base his knowledge of vampires on old movies. Kent corrects Khalid – because magic has been broken and is rewriting itself, the old rules are out, and the new ones are the ones based on collective belief. As they talk, Bobo comes across a cat. He grabs its tail, but it hisses, scratches him and runs away...up to another level of the church, where he comes across a blue skinned boy in black robes – Klarion, the Witch Boy, who it turns out was behind the vampire attack. Man-Bat hears Klarion talking to the cat – Teekl – and when he comes to investigate, Klarion casts a spell on him, enchanting him so that he’s more than likely going to do something awful in the near future.
Klarion then disappears...and reappears in Jamaica, at a place called Crescent Moon. There he’s met by some compatriots – Solomon Grundy, Papa Midnite, the Floronic Man, and Circe, who’s adopted a new, Sgt. Pepper-inspired look. She draws power to her, and tells her new team that they will fall once she gets their last recruit – Eclipso.
Justice League Dark truly is the book that keeps on giving. It’s clear that James Tynion IV has thought a lot about the book and its characters, the stories he wants to tell, and where he wants to go, because each arc has seamlessly built upon the arc that’s come before it. The team is growing and changing organically, and the addition of Kent and Khalid is a seamless one – it’s also very cool to see these two former Fates working alongside the Justice League, lending their knowledge and know-how in such a way that it supplements the rest of the team’s, but doesn’t steal the show. At the end of the day, this is still very much Wonder Woman and Zatanna’s book, and Tynion keeps the brunt of the focus there.
One of the book’s greatest strengths is the dialogue and how the characters relate to one another and play off each other. Tynion’s always been really good at letting each individual character shine, even in a group setting, and this continues to be the case for this book. Giving Kent and Khalid space to bond and have a mentor-mentee relationship is fantastic, and will only serve to make them both stronger characters in the future, a pair that could possibly be spun-off into their own Fate book. There’s also the lighthearted banter between Bobo and Man-Bat that works extremely well. It’s not just the light stuff that works dialogue-wise, either. The moment between Diana and Traci also works extremely well. Traci, though a minor character in the book, has always been given a little bit of focus and characterization, and her observation both about Diana and about the world and magic are effective in setting up who Diana is in this world that, until now, she’s always sort of been an outsider in.
A common trope in comics – and most kinds of sci-fi and fantasy media, it’s true – is the dark mirror reflection character of the protagonist, the evil opposite. Xena had Callisto, Buffy had Faith, and now it seems that the Justice League Dark has one with the team that Circe’s building. There are already some interesting parallels between the two teams, with Grundy and Floronic Man both somehow connecting to Swamp Thing, Circe connecting to both Zatanna and Diana, Klarion’s special brand of chaos connecting both to the order that Kent and Khalid bring and to Constantine’s darker shade of magic. How they’ll play off of each other once the teams clash will be interesting to see indeed – especially Circe versus Diana. Tynion’s Circe is a force to be reckoned with in a way which she’s never really been before – there’s an insidiousness to the character that’s been lacking for a while, and it makes her so much more interesting to read.
Alvaro Martinez Bueno continues to be a superstar of an artist on this book. He and Tynion IV clearly share a great rapport, and the visuals do not disappoint. There’s a lot going on during the church scene when most of the team is fighting the vampires, and the visualization brought to the sun spell is fantastic. Also of note are the new looks for Kent and Khalid – they’re really great looks that weave in a little bit of their pasts as Dr. Fate, but gives each person his own identity, while still tying the both of them together to make it clear that they’re essentially a team within the team. There is a little bit of a weird decision regarding Klarion and the little circle of hair he keeps around a bald head – it’s not a look the character has ever sported before, and I wonder why that was the look they went for here – but overall it’s a beautiful look. There’s a smart bit of storytelling too, with how Bueno chooses to depict the moon in the story, given how big of a presence the moon is in the script. At the very beginning, we see it as a full moon, low and bright in the sky, and that’s how it stays for the most part, until we get to Circe’s team, where the moon is now in crescent form. Eclipsed. And yes, okay, maybe that part is a little on the nose, but it’s still a great little detail to sneak in, and it’s always fantastic when little things like that are littered in through the artwork.
A promising start to a new arc, this is a book that simply gets better and better with each new installment.
Justice League Dark #14: Lunacy
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 8/108/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 7/107/10
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