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Justice League Dark #13 – Review

By: Jeff Lemire (story), Mikel Janin (pencils), Victor Drujiniu (inks), Ulises Arreola (colors)

The Story: Anyone know of good insurance for a magical house located in outer space-time?

The Review: Besides the sheer lameness of a name like “Justice League Dark,” I mostly dislike the title because I feel the Justice League operates in such vastly different world than its Dark counterpart that sharing a brand doesn’t make sense—particularly if no one recognizes it.  Still, the title does give you the idea that where magical threats are concerned, we’re dealing with some League-scale villains, which requires League-class heroes.

Certainly the potential for a major showdown between the mystic forces of good and evil is there.  The introduction of big ideas (the Houses of Mystery and Secrets, the Black Room, the Books of Magic) and big names in DC’s occult universe (Felix Faust, Dr. Mist, Timothy Hunter, and Dr. Occult) is evidence that Lemire wants to write that epic.  At the moment, though, he hasn’t quite put all these elements to the best work possible.

It’s like Lemire was given permission to do as he pleased in the biggest toy shop in the world, and he’s just pulling whatever catches his eye off the shelves and throwing them into a pile, not necessarily playing with them for very long first.  Here you have Black Boris and Blackbriar Thorn, who make for some pretty sizable foes, and both get taken down without much sweat from either JLD party.  Perhaps Lemire feels an urgency to get the overarching story going, but rushing through opportunities like these only results in disappointment.

Besides, what’s the point of hurrying to the discovery of the big baddie when #0 all but told us that Nick Necro would wind up filling those shoes?  His motivations haven’t changed during his time in Hell, apparently, although his thirst for revenge seems more juvenile than ever.  All in all, he makes for a powerful opponent, but not a very compelling one.  Whether Lemire intended it or not, Zee acts out our own reaction to Necro perfectly: a disgusted punch to the face.

The truly interesting bits of the issue have little to do with the primary action.  We finally get some insight into Black Orchid’s nature, which Lemire has kept under wraps for some time now.  Her presence on the team now makes a whole lot more sense, and she’s more intriguing a figure than ever.  That’s the beauty of lesser-known characters: the potential to explore ground no one’s really trodden yet, leading to genuine surprises.

I also wish Lemire will take more time to craft the different varieties of magic.  Letting John use the “fairy prison” on Black Boris and discarding it a few panels later feels like a waste, when it should really be a chance to indulge in some highly spectacular lore.  And this has been a frequent complaint of mine from the beginning, but at some point, Lemire needs to distinguish each adept’s brand of magic from the others.  Madame Xanadu’s spell-work looks and works no differently than Faust’s or Necro’s or Constantine’s, making for some pretty bland magic.

Perhaps Lemire was betting on Janin exercising more of his own creativity, but that hasn’t happened, sadly.  Without exception, everyone’s magic manifests as electric webs of energy with hardly any shape or substance.  Their only difference is in the color, although with Necro, Faust, and Madame X, you don’t get even that.  Altogether, Janin delivers a beautiful issue, though he really needs a colorist with slicker style than Arreola.

Conclusion: Lemire definitely has the right ideas, but displays some clumsiness and impatience in his execution.  Imperfections in the art don’t help matters, either.

Grade: B-

- Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: - Aw…so John cares about Zee after all.  It’s sweet, but I’m not sure how I feel about a Constantine with a heart.

- Poor, poor N’aall.  Just doing his best to live up to a cursed punishment, and what does he get in return?  Tea and cookies spilt upon his butler’s frock.

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