Review: Justice League Dark #22 – Jeff Lemire & Mikel Janin

Justice-league-darkAnother day, another large crossover. Actually, that’s a bit unfair, because DC’s latest event Trinity War, is shaping up to be something pretty darn cool. A three-way war between the three big superhero teams: Justice League, Justice League of America and Justice League Dark, with characters switching allegiances? Sign me up. The third part of this event, following from Justice League #22, then Justice League of America #6, focuses predominantly on the third team, and while it doesn’t seem clear what the overall point of pitching these teams against each other is right now, its a darn fun time.

This issue picks up right where JLA#6 left off. Superman, still reeling from his actions in the first part of the event, remains in captivity. Each character is finding themselves unsure of who to trust, and when Wonder Woman seeks the help from the begrudgingly named Justice League Dark, they find themselves part of a war they didn’t entirely want, as they seek (or prevent the others from finding) Pandora, and ultimately Pandora’s Box.

Why this is something important, I’m not entirely sure. It seems that each of the characters are running around trying to figure out what is the problem with the box, leaving it frustratingly unclear why we should care that the heroes don’t have it. There is some vague “it’ll spell the end of the world” spiels, but it never culminates into anything. While this isn’t necessarily the fault of this issue’s writer Jeff Lemire (the other issues were penned by Geoff Johns), it does leave it a bit open.

But you know what? Currently I’m okay with that. Superhero-on-superhero-on-superhero action is what we want, and while this issue seems like it’s trying to set something bigger up, even having one of the characters saying himself they are moving around like pieces on a chessboard. There is one cool face-off between Wonder Woman and Batman’s teams – it doesn’t end up being much, but they keep teasing a big showdown, and I really can’t wait.

Mikel Janin is arguably the best artist of the bunch in this arc. While Ivan Reis and Doug Mahnke are awesome in their own right, Janin’s clean pencils, and his lack of clutter suit the issue well. Amazingly, no panel feels too packed, despite having what appears to be the entire current roster of New52 heroes throughout the issue. Janin is an artist I love to see, and is one of the main reasons I return to this series month after month.

As a quick aside, since I haven’t had a chance to do so, I’d love to commend DC in their approach to their universe lately. It seems they are doing a massive push in the magic side of the universe, and it has produced some of the most interesting titles out there. I’m really happy that a title like Justice League Dark exists, and is such a large part of the greater DC universe.

All in all, Justice League Dark #22 does appear to be mostly filler, putting everyone in place for the next three issues, but the mere hint of something greater is tantalising. I just hope that whatever Pandora’s Box turns out to be, as well as the lead up to the Forever Evil event later in the year, makes this all worth it.

Justice League Dark #20 – Lemire / Fawkes / Janin /Cifuentes

justice-league-dark-20The House of Mystery has been seized and Swamp Thing imprisoned – the work of the sinister Doctor Destiny. He has sent his nightmare creations to battle the Justice League Dark, who have recruited The Flash to aid them in the fight. These are the events that bring us up to issue 20 which is the second part of a three issue story arc by Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes with artwork by the very impressive team of Mikel Janin and Vicente Cifuentes.

The Flash and Frankenstein find themselves assailed by Doctor Destiny’s constructs of Frankenstein’s bride and their son. The abominations seem to be similar to the Green Lantern’s constructs in that they are the product of “hard energy”, a material The Flash is able to dispel by use of his vibrations. This is a method that will serve them well in battles to come. The two are then off to find the rest of the team beginning with Madame Xanadu, which The Flash accomplishes in scant seconds.

At this point in the story Doctor Destiny is slowly torturing Swamp Thing with fire and a prophecy that promises his ultimate demise. While elsewhere Deadman finds himself at the merciless hands of a twisted perverse troupe of circus performers before he is rescued by Frankenstein, The Flash and Madame Xanadu. The next order of business is to rescue their fearless leader, John Constantine, who is at that very moment busy fighting himself – specifically duplicates of himself made of his own blood. The team shows up and thanks again in large part to The Flash, they make rather short work of the constructs and save Constantine’s chain-smoking cantankerous hide.

Far from a happy reunion, the Justice League Dark welcomes their leader back into the fold with accusations and threats. The plucky Englishman takes it all in stride and suggests they get on with the business of finding The House of Mystery. Once again it falls to The Flash to get this done and once again he does so in a split second. He locates the house and off goes the team to retrieve it; however it is not in its original form – it is twisted and spreading like a patch of bad weeds. Constantine dispatches Frankenstein and The Flash to deal with any street level threats while he and the others go inside in search of Swamp Thing. They are met straight away by Doctor Destiny who greets Constantine as The Last Mage. This leads to a final page cliff-hanger that very deeply impacts the League as a whole but one particular member even more so. Trust me, you will want to read this issue.

There is an under-current of dissension in the ranks all through this issue as the rift between Constantine and his team mates begins to become a chasm. His arrogance and shoddy leadership seem to be pulling the team apart. Lemire and Fawkes are writing the Constantine book as well, so they have become the voice of this character who has been written by some of the best writers in comics today (Andy Diggle, Jamie Delano and Garth Ennis to name a very few). I find the use of Constantine not only in a team but as its leader to be quite contrary to his character but I am enjoying it – Lemire and Fawkes are doing a bang-up job. Constantine in the New 52 is definitely not Hellblazer of the Vertigo universe but it is a good read. I’m on board to see where this goes, whether he is replaced or remains on the team. Justice League Dark is a fun book with perhaps the most unique team dynamic anywhere in comics.

Mikel Janin is superb. He is solid and consistent. His work is flawless. I can’t wait to see what he does on this title as we move into Trinity Wars. He handles the supernatural subject matter so well, especially the scenes of Doctor Destiny.  I would be remiss if I failed to mention Jeremy Cox’s colors here. He adds such dimension to Janin’s work that some of the pages look as if you could reach into them. Overall Justice League Dark is one of the books I look forward to every month. It has been solid since the inception of the New 52 and I hope it continues to gain the readers and recognition a book of this calibre deserves. I unreservedly recommend adding it to your pull list especially now with Trinity Wars gearing up.

So until next week, see you at the comic book store.