Justice League Dark #1 // Review
Branching out of the pages of “Justice League: No Justice,” James Tynion IV, Alvaro Martinez Bueno, Raul Fernandez, and Brad Anderson’s Justice League Dark #1 explores the ramifications of the Tree of Wonder’s recent bloom and how its existence affects DC’s magical realm.
Opening the issue, Zatanna’s stage performance is shown to go terribly awry when she attempts to pull a rabbit from her hat and instead unleashes ghastly horrors upon the audience. The day is saved through the intervention of Wonder Woman, who was in attendance in an attempt to recruit Zatanna onto her new team devoted to exploring recent disruptions in the magical spectrum. Zatanna rejects this call to adventure, and the reader is taken on a cursory tour of DC’s magical world, where a bevy of magic-based character cameos are provided, and provisions of minor backstories for Zatanna, Detective Chimp, and Man-Bat are supplied. Inaugural exposition concludes with the introduction of antagonists The Otherkind and The Upside Down Man, opposed by Swamp Thing, alongside the other aforementioned protagonists, who have been gathered together by the issue’s conclusion.
The artistic team of Alvaro Martinez Bueno, Raul Fernandez, and Brad Anderson cultivate a world far more cool in tone than “dark.” Easily accessible, their world balances elements of horror with wonder in its depiction, showcasing panels of Cronenburg-like horror on one page and an action-filled panel-breaking splash on the next. Evoking a sense of artistic realism, amid the magical mainstays, each page is grounded, engrossing, and exciting.
Amidst world building and standard introductory fare, Justice League Dark #1 hooks long-time readers with allusions to significant events from throughout the magical history of the DCU, both recent and archaic. The most modern nod made is to the ignoble death of Nightmaster in the pages of Dark Knights: Metal, with deeper cuts referencing John Constantine’s role in the Pre-Crisis (technically mid-crisis) death of Zatanna’s father, Zatara, and mention of the previously non-canonical dragon, Drakul Karfang.
Tynion IV reiterates his Detective Comics transformation of Clayface, with his depiction of Man-Bat; similarly taking a monstrous classic Batman villain and attempting to make them heroic, sympathetic, and lovable. While this iteration of the character has just been introduced, Man-Bat’s infectious earnestness and adorable standard form of a giant bat-head on a human body makes the sole science-based member of the team a stand-out inclusion from the get-go.
While the majority of the issue is spent in exposition, Justice League Dark #1 succeeds in constructing a fun, intriguing narrative with likable heroes, mysterious, terrifying villains, and a new facet to a familiar world. The stage is set, and Justice League Dark looks to be a promising performance.