Justice League Dark #5
Sometime before present events, Jim Rook, who was both a former member of the band the Electrics and the superhero known as the Nightmaster, died. Bobo, the Detective Chimp, finds himself inheriting both the Oblivion Bar and Nightmaster’s sword, the Sword of Night, along with which comes the protectorship of the mystical land of Myrra. Through it all – Rook's funeral, the Phantom Stranger telling Bobo about his inheritance, and visits from friends like the Blue Devil, Bobo sulks and drinks, and drinks, and, well, drinks.
Cut to the present, post-the Witching Hour, and Bobo’s drinking problem is as strong as ever. Clearly, Rook’s death isn’t something that he’s taken well or really dealt with in any meaningful way. Most of the Justice League Dark is assembled at the Oblivion Bar, along with bartender and witch Traci 13, who isn’t dealing well with the deaths of her friends during the Witching Hour event. While Diana comforts the young witch, Kirk Langstrom tries to learn more about spellwork from Traci. In the meantime, Zatanna tells Bobo that they need his help – they need to go to Myrra, because the Otherkind is close to breaking through to Earth, and they need to go there and find a way to fight back against the Otherkind. Bobo isn’t a fan of this idea – it's not safe for him to go back to Myrra – but Zatanna grabs the Sword of Night and opens a portal to Myrra anyway. Bobo firmly believes it’s a bad idea, but he follows Diana, Zatanna, and Langstrom through the portal, leaving Traci in charge while he’s gone.
Meanwhile, John Constantine and Swamp Thing are at the Tree of Wonder, where Constantine asks Nabu to show himself. It's something of a suicide mission, given how powerful Nabu is, but the Lord of Order has gotten chaotic and they need to speak to him, unwise though it might be. After all, they don’t have enough power to fight Nabu, but Constantine and Swamp Thing have some new tricks up their sleeve.
In Myrra – which we learn is a world where thoughts and ideas can come to life – Bobo comes clean with his friends and tells them that last time he was there, he sort of broke the mystical realm. Before he can really elaborate, they’re attacked by someone riding a giant dragon, and undead warriors start to rise up out of the ground.
Back at the Tree of Wonder, Constantine and Swamp Thing fight Nabu, but it doesn’t go too far before the Phantom Stranger arrives, having been drawn to the beacon of power there. He tells Nabu that they need to talk.
Diana does a different kind of talking in Myrra as she attacks the dragon with her sword, while Langstrom wonders how the skeletons are moving and working. Bobo admits to being the one who cast the spell to turn Myrra into this, and Diana manages to bring down the dragon. Except, the dragon was only the beginning because the cavalry soon arrives...being led by none other than Blue Devil himself. A very angry Blue Devil, because Bobo has broken a pact with him, and it’s time that Bobo paid for breaking it.
While the first arc of Justice League Dark concentrated on Diana and dovetailed into the Witching Hour crossover event that solidified her place in the DCU’s magical community, the second arc wisely seems to be focusing more on Detective Chimp, one of the more interesting, less-well-explored members of the team. What could easily have just been a comedic character – a chimp who talks and detects things – instead becomes a compelling character who has made a grievous mistake with something a dear friend had entrusted him with. It’s clear that the arc is going to work on exploring Bobo’s grief over Rook’s loss, and how out of his depth he was in inheriting the Nightmaster title. Given how fantastic James Tynion IV is with his character work – he really has a knack of getting into a character’s mindset and finding out what makes them tick, allowing them to evolve from there – I’d say we’re in for a heck of a ride as Bobo continues to own up to his mistakes and redeems himself at least a little bit.
There are some little moments that really stand out and shine in this issue, the first being Diana’s embracing of Traci 13, empathizing with what she’s going through, sharing in her mourning and her grief. Diana’s strongest superpower – more so than her Lasso of Truth, her strength, or any of the other gifts she possesses – has always been her compassion, and Tynion never forgets that. Traci’s bonding with Langstrom right after is also such a great little beat. Given his criminal history, and how he looks, Langstrom is one of those characters who doesn’t really seem to expect to make many friendships and connections, and the fact that Traci treats him like a human and an equal – it says a lot about both characters. Traci may not be a big part of the book, but Tynion’s handle on her is fantastic, and she’s more than a welcome supporting cast member.
Constantine, Swamp Thing, and Phantom Stranger teaming up against Nabu is going to be a strong, powerful fight, especially with how unhinged Nabu has become without a host. A thread was dropped where Langstrom said he wants to free someone – Khalid Nassour, the previous bearer of the Helm of Fate – from an urn, so it may well be that we’ll see Nassour take back the helm.
There was some excellent foreshadowing early on in the issue with Blue Devil and his relationship with both Rook and Bobo, and the artwork hinted at Blue Devil being someone who supported Bobo when he was grieving over Rook, but it was subtle enough that finding Blue Devil in Myrra was still a surprising last second twist. Whatever went down between Bobo and Blue Devil was clearly bad, and how it plays out will be fun to watch.
Daniel Sampere joins the book for art duties in this issue, and it’s some spectacular work. Detective Chimp is one of those characters who would be easy to make look too cartoony and stylized, but Sampere is careful to keep him looking like an authentic, real chimp. This is portrayed best in the opening pages, which contain a flashback that mostly centers on Bobo. Sampere also draws a great Diana and Zatanna – there are some close-ups of Diana that are truly breathtaking – and his Kirk Langstrom is fantastic – ugly cute, but absolutely charming. Sampere draws some fantastic actions scenes as well – easy to follow, never too muddled or difficult to figure out what’s going on. His Constantine especially, when he’s throwing magick at Nabu, stands out. Adriano Lucas’ colours also stand out, elevating Sampere’s pencils. He has a way with light that adds an effortless three-dimensionality to the book.
Simply put, between the plotting, character work, and art Justice League Dark is the best book coming out of DC's Justice League line.
Justice League Dark #5: The Nightmaster Returns
Writing - 10/1010/10
Storyline - 10/1010/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 10/1010/10
Cover Art - 9/109/10
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