DC NEW 52: JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #1

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #1  (DC, September 28, 2011)  “In The Dark – Part One: Imaginary Women”.  Written by Peter Milligan.  Art by Mikel Janin.  Colors by Ulises Arreola.  Letters by Rob Leigh. Cover by Ryan Sook. 

Justice League Dark

I’m not reading every single #1 issue of the DC NEW 52, but the numbers keep growing from my original plan to follow 9 series for at least their first 3 issues.  I recently added WONDER WOMAN to that list, decided I could manage without  DETECTIVE COMICS after reading one issue, and now I’m about to change the game plan to “Mike’s DC 11” after finishing  JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #1. 

This is definitely the most twisted title in the DC NEW 52 that I’ve read so far. It’s wacky and all over the place, but in a way that endears itself to me.  Writer Peter Milligan has a way with inserting random, scatter shot events into his stories that seem out of place until he connects everything together much later  (as in issues later, or sometimes not at all). 

In contrast to the other JUSTICE LEAGUE book, this one is closer to meeting my expectations.  Most of the characters are introduced.  We get some quick insights into their personalities/powers.  A real conflict is established and a first attempt is made to resolve it.  Those are all things I expected to see happen in JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 - - - but they didn’t.  Geoff Johns and Jim Lee told a good story,  not a great one, but moved at a snail’s pace compared to JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK.    The amount of story contained in the first issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK would take Johns/Lee four or more issues to tell if it occurred in their book.   I like the faster pace.  This could be a great story (I’m holding back in case it unravels and doesn’t live up to the promise in upcoming issues).

Of course, JUSTICE LEAGUE #1  has great art.  Artist Mikel Janin in JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #1 is no match for Jim Lee.  Few artists can match his creative abilities and detail.  JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK has good art - - that gets better on repeated viewings and may end up elevating my rating of it.  What at first appeared to be inconsistent art actually isn’t - - it’s variations by the ink and colors team that changes from sharp bold lines and vivid colors to thinner lines and muted colors (and less of them) depending on the scene/locale and the characters/actions taking place.  It seems deliberate, but the effect may be disorienting because of the quick transitions in Milligan’s story between scenes.  There are some pages here of very creative art that deserve to be lingered over and appreciated - - including the opening page with Madame Xanadu and the Tarot Cards; the double page spread of multiple versions of June Moone involved in various highway hit-and-run/accidents/fatalities; and the final image of a landfill composed of human bodies.

You guessed it.  If you’ve read this far, you’ve come to the spoiler point.  This is a book worthy of your attention and purchase.  Stop now unless you still need to know more about this book.

So, what happens in Issue #1?

Madame Xanadu consults her Tarot cards and learns of a “time of terrible danger.”  The mad and insane witch Enchantress has made a cabin hideaway from where she is (perhaps unintentionally) creating supernatural and catastrophic events across the world.  The Justice League also becomes aware of this and dispatches Cyborg, Superman, and Wonder Woman.  They are defeated by the magic powers of the Enchantress.  Both Zatanna  and Madame Xanadu work from different locations to assemble a “darker” team whose powers may be more appropriate to help combat this particular threat:  Shade, The Changing Man; John Constantine, Hellblazer; and Deadman (plus Zatanna and Xanadu, of course).  Not sure if June Moone (who some of the characters are familiar with) is going to be joining the team. She may be part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

What else did I like? (that I didn’t mention above)

1) The quick character introductions that give succinct insights:  a lonely Shade who creates/imagines a female companion;  a confident Zatanna insulted by Batman’s insinuation that she can’t handle the problem without his help - - rather than argue, she conjures thick vines to bind his feet so he can’t interfere;  self-centered nature of John Constantine;  a very sullen and quiet Deadman who doesn’t appear much in this issue but we see just enough to learn he’s shacking up with another super-team member

What didn’t I like?

1) This is more of a concern:  I’m used to seeing Shade and Constantine in Vertigo titles where more complex and adult-themed storylines occur than in standard DC books. Is this an attempt to bring them into the DC universe on a more permanent basis?  If so, is it going to change and adjust these characters to make them fit in better - - perhaps  muting or diminishing their mature story and character potential? 

Do I love, like, stay neutral, dislike, or hate this book?

I like this very much.  I’m not ready to call it love just yet.  I want to see where Milligan takes this story line in the next few issues.

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