Justice League Dark #2
Twelve-year-old Diana of Themyscira, inquisitive as always, quietly sneaks through the forests of Themyscira, following the Chthonian Witch Women – nine Amazon worshippers of Hecate – on the night of the Hunter’s Moon. What she finds is the women huddled in groups of three, dancing, naked, chanting Hecate’s name. As the women start to merge together into weird, grotesque forms, the triple goddess herself rises from an urn – ancient, powerful, and horrific. The witch goddess realizes that Diana is watching the proceedings and commands the nine Amazons to bring the princess to her, and though Diana runs, she is not yet fast enough to outrun the other Amazons. Thus captured, Hecate brands Diana with the triple moon symbol on her forehead as Diana screams...
In the present day, Diana, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, Detective Chimp, and Man-Bat are in the basement of the Hall of Justice – specifically in the special area set aside for the magical Justice League – fighting off a small army of revived magic users who have been turned into reanimated monsters. Though Zatanna is reluctant to use her magic – somehow it only makes the enemy stronger – and Detective Chimp’s magic sword isn’t one that does the fighting for him, they manage to take the reanimated corpses down. While Langstrom – who has gone full Man-Bat – flies up towards the ceiling, an angry, frustrated Diana grabs Zatanna by the collar and hoists her up, demanding an explanation for Zatanna’s having said that one of the five people in the room will bring about the end of the world. After Swamp Thing asks Diana to step down – Zatanna had been on her way to explain, after all – the Mistress of Magic tells Diana and the others about the apocalyptic warning handed down to her by the vision of her dead father – one of them will either be the key to saving magic, or they will speed up the apocalypse. Diana asks for Zatanna’s forgiveness – she is only frustrated because she wants answers. Luckily for them, Zatanna has an idea as to who might have answers for all of them.
The Justice League Dark then find themselves in Salem, Massachusetts, standing outside a four-sided pillar – a tower that represents the tear between one reality and another, a beacon of magical power. Called the Tower of Fate, its shadow falls across the Tree of Wonder, and it is the home of none other than Dr. Fate. Zatanna calls for Fate’s assistance, though he only answers after Detective Chimp makes a quip about the tower not having a doorbell. Swamp Thing feels that something is wrong, and excuses himself to go investigate the Tree of Wonder.
Diana, Zatanna, Detective Chimp, and Kirk Langstrom enter the Tower, where they are met by Dr. Fate, who reminds Diana of her outsider status within the magical community. Zatanna requests that they get to speak with Nabu, and Dr. Fate agrees – but only Zatanna and Diana may accompany him.
Meanwhile, Swamp Thing visits the Tree of Wonder, where he is met by John Constantine, who calls him out on planning on joining the Parliament of Trees, a group of plant elementals. Constantine had expected Swamp Thing to have a longer run, and is disappointed that he seems to be giving everything up so soon. Constantine then proceeds to tell him that the thing that’s killing everyone is very, very close, and Swamp Thing agrees, admitting that it’s nearly there.
Inside the Tower, Zatanna asks why they had to be separated from Detective Chimp and Langstrom. Fate explains that it’s because Diana and Zatanna respect order, and the others are more chaotic figures. Diana asks for Nabu’s guidance, but before Dr. Fate can allow them to speak to Nabu, he needs to tell them a story. He tells them about how, during the dawn of man, a group of people – the Lords of Order - found the first magic of the world and bound the magic to artifacts that could focus and contain it. They also wrote the Books of Magic to benefit the world, but as all things created with the best of intentions, all of this ancient history was coming back to bite the modern world in the butt. The walls of reality are weakening and the original owners of magic are coming.
In another part of the Tower, Detective Chimp and Langstrom explore their surroundings. Detective Chimp is creeped out by the fact that the laws of nature don’t work the same inside the Tower as they do outside and Langstrom, ever the scientist finds it all very interesting. Detective Chimp explains that all magic has a cost, and so all of the wonder in this Tower means that there’s something very dark and terrifying outside. Langstrom finds an urn and sees an animated image of a young man waving at him. Langstrom asks Detective Chimp to take a look and moves to hand it to him but drops the urn instead. A flash of light and lightning surround them and revealed before them is Khalid Nassour, the previous Dr. Fate. He informs Detective Chimp and Langstrom that Kent Nelson hasn’t been in control of the Helm of Fate for weeks – that Nabu is the one in charge, and that he’s the one bringing the Otherkind. Before he can say anymore, though, he finds himself turning into the urn again.
Zatanna senses the release of Khalid, though she doesn’t know what exactly has happened. She wants to go find the others, but Dr. Fate then admits to opening up the door for the Otherkind to come and take it back. Diana realizes then that they aren’t speaking to Kent Nelson, and Dr. Fate tells her that she shouldn’t have meddled in the magical world. Zatanna asks Nabu what he did with Kent, and Nabu replies that neither Kent nor Khalid had what it took to do what was necessary. Nabu starts to flee, and Diana and Zatanna are both unable to stop him. Darkness falls in the tower, and Diana gets a familiar feeling – akin to the one that she’d had the night she’d discovered the Amazons dancing for Hecate. In front of the two superheroines, standing upside down, is a foul creature, pale white, eyeless, with a gaping, sharp-toothed maw. He wants to know which one of the two he should eat first.
There is always a fear with a second issue, that it may not stand up to the first issue of a book, especially if the first issue was particularly fantastic. Thankfully, there is nothing to worry about here because Tynion hands in a very solid first issue. Tynion has always had an ease of hand at tying disparate elements of a plot together, and he doesn’t fail here, foreshadowing the upcoming Wonder Woman and Justice League Dark crossover with the Themysciran flashback, and later tying it into the appearance of the Otherkind at the end of the issue. Though the Otherkind is definitely going to be a difficult threat that’s going to solidify the Justice League Dark as a team, it seems appropriate that the looming threat of Hecate is almost terrifyingly worse. It’ll be interesting to see if there are any ties between Hecate and the Otherkind since both seem to be summoned from darker, mystical places.
The exploration of Diana as an outsider in the mystical community is one that has been a long time coming – though she’s always been tied to magic and borne of magic (regardless of whether she’s the clay of Themyscira given breath by the gods or the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta) she’s never really been tied to the magic of the greater DCU in any meaningful way, outside of dealing with monsters of myth. It’s a new light to shine upon her, especially because Diana has always been one of those characters who was easily accepted by everyone around her – the Justice League, the Justice Society, other heroes meeting her for the first time. She’s always easily become an insider, even when she first arrived in Patriarch’s World and couldn’t speak English. To have someone of her status and power be kept on the outside, not be easily accepted, it’s a new direction, and a very interesting one, because it changes how she acts with the world around her. Even though Zatanna and Diana are colleagues, even though they have served on the League and have friends and colleagues in common, it’s interesting to see that Zatanna considers Diana an outsider in some ways, and is unwilling to work with her at first, even when something so vital is at stake. Undoubtedly, Diana will eventually be accepted by the magical community, but the journey adds another layer to the character, and it’s a great step for Tynion to take.
Similarly, the betrayal of Nabu to the balances of Order and Chaos is interesting – Nabu has always been about maintaining the status quo, but here, by letting the Otherkind in, he’s disrupting it, and isn’t really standing for Order the way he has suggested he is. For a character normally so tied to order and keeping the bad guys away, it’s a great twist, one which will undoubtedly lead the Helm to fall into someone else’s hand – whether that’s Kent Nelson, Khalid Nassour, or a completely different party remains to be seen.
Tynion fills the issue with lots of little character beats that will obviously become bigger deals later – Langstrom and how far he can control his transformation into Man-Bat, and if he’ll ever be able to turn back without a serum or anything; Detective Chimp and his new sword, which we know from solicits will be followed up on soon; Swamp Thing potentially joining the Parliament of Trees and what that means for the other guardians of the Green. It’s a lot of meat, interesting stuff to chew on, even as the big looming threat beyond the Otherkind is Hecate herself.
Alvaro Martinez Bueno continues bringing some very beautiful art to the proceedings. His opening scene with the Amazons is unsettling and creepy – especially as the Amazons merge into weirdly combined triple-people – and his Hecate is just as terrifying as the Otherkind we meet at the end of the book, who seems like some nightmarish cross between the Joker and Gentleman from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The action scenes are phenomenal, and he is incredibly adept at imbuing his characters with emotion. He does a particularly wonderful job with Swamp Thing during Swamp Thing’s conversation with John Constantine. Brad Anderson’s colors are a perfect complement to the art here – a bold, bright palette that’s just muted enough to let the magical details pop out when they need to.
An effortless blend of story-telling, mood-setting, and world-building melded with lush, expressive art, Justice League Dark continues to be the best book spinning out of the New Justice line. This one earns the highest of recommendations.
Justice League Dark #2: The Othering and the Otherkind
Writing - 10/1010/10
Storyline - 10/1010/10
Art - 10/1010/10
Color - 10/1010/10
Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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