JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #16

By: Jeff Lemire & Ray Fawkes (story), Mikel Janin (art), Jeremy Cox (colors)

The Story: To his immense relief, Deadman finds that he truly lives up to his name.

The Review: I know I’m reaching broken-record levels here, but I’m gonna go for it anyway; I don’t get why mainstream comics have such a hard time telling stories about magic.  I think the last time I ever felt like a mass-market title really handled the occult exactly right was John Rozum’s Xombi, a series for which I still hold a grudge against DC for cancelling.  Xombi knew how to take bold imaginative leaps and stay grounded at the same time; that was key.

Justice League Dark errs, as nearly all Big Two titles do, by patronizing its audience.  Frankly, Lemire-Fawkes’ plot is nothing special, but rather amateurishly simple: a world where magic once roamed, where science conquered, and where a revolution is at hand, with a promised but reluctant savior at its head.  The issue spends a lengthy amount of time telling this story, but really, it sounds more like Lemire-Fawkes dressing up a generic plotline with a few semi-original details.

Even the little wrinkle about the last great mages stealing portal technology to cross over to Earth doesn’t feel that unique or outrageous.  No, this is all mostly safe material, easily accessible for almost any reader, but nowhere near the level of creativity and ambition of a Vertigo occult title, which I believe mainstream series can easily achieve (see again, e.g., Xombi).

Much as Lemire-Fawkes would like to believe they can get away with just some World of Warcraft-inspired names delivered with a crack of doom, I’m afraid that gets nowhere if the character himself fails to impress.  Sure, you can have a supernatural foe introduce himself as the “Tolltaker of the Damned…the Worldbridger…the Infernal Core!”  But beneath that lengthy title, he’s just another bulky demon with flames in various places who can get knocked over by a ghost-punch from a former acrobat and basically doused to death by man in a cyber-suit.

This issue doesn’t even sport the usually entertaining group dynamic that made previous issues, if not super-creative, at least enjoyable.  Everyone’s just too distracted with the sudden changes to their bodies and personalities (minus Frankenstein, who remains the confident, unflappable badass he always is) to deliver winning lines.  Even Constantine, who’s not only lost his ability to lie but is also compelled to tell the truth, only produces a few cheap laughs with his sitcomy frustration.  To Vikar, the science-cop attacking them: If I can just get you to stop and talk, I can distract you long enough for Orchid to smash you from behind…  Dammit!

Janin does a fine job as always, and with Cox’s colors, he certainly renders a pretty-looking issue.  In fact, the way he handles faeries, goblins, demons, and other assorted magical creatures shows that he has the chops to handle the technical parts of a serious occult title.  However, there’s something a little soulless and cold about the final result of his art.  I can’t really put my finger on it, but somehow everything appears too poised, artificial.  Still, a very attractive style of art, enough to cover up the blandness of the script itself.

Conclusion: Though competently executed, the plot is undeniably familiar, with only a few spots where Lemire and Fawkes try something new.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: - Between this ridiculous “WTF-certified” campaign and the painfully hokey Channel 52, DC is really pulling out all the stops to win Cheeseball Company of the Year, aren’t they?

Grade

Conclusion


12 Responses

  1. paladinking says:

    to be fair, the Infernal Core was forced on Lemire/Fawkes. It was a character created by some contest-winner on a SyFy tv-shot, name and all. It’s actually not that bad considering the editorial shoe-horning.

    • Minhquan Nguyen says:

      I had heard that, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the character was used very badly. Honestly, the Infernal Core could have had a little more weight than simply introducing him, then destroying him several pages later.

      • paladinking says:

        I’m actually happy that he was quickly dealt with like that. I’d rather that than Lemire and Fawkes struggling to find some deeper, prolonged purpose for a character created on some reality show that they were forced into using.

        I suppose I’d share your opinion if I wasn’t so adverse to this whole situation in the first place. As it is, I’m glad it was dumped in the trash-bin ASAP so that the creative team could move on with their lives.

        • Minhquan Nguyen says:

          Yeah, that’s true. But for someone who didn’t really know what was going on editorially with the character until after the fact, it was just this lame, random, utterly pointless lump in the issue.

          • paladinking says:

            oh, I agree 100%. I just put the blame for that more on DC than on Lemire and Fawkes. It just added another constraint on them that they were forced to spend several pages on. Perhaps if they didn’t have to waste those pages on the Infernal Core, they could’ve made the rest of the issue less densely packed with exposition.

  2. David Austin says:

    I really want to like this one – Lemire is enjoyable, Janin is doing a great job on art, and I miss the Frankenstein title, but on the few occasions I have picked it up, it just seemed dumb, frankly, and kind of a mess. Can’t get on the bandwagon here – not even a trade pickup for me.

  3. Gerry O says:

    I gave up on this title several months ago. Issue #0 showcasing the Constantine/Zatanna/Necro love triangle was, I think, the only fully realized story in this whole train wreck of a series. I’ve been a Constantine devotee since Alan Moore breathed life into him during his earliest appearances in Swamp Thing and it is painful to watch Lemire put words in his mouth that he wouldn’t be caught dead saying. The characterization is all wrong, the plots are pedestrian and super-heroey (not scary and haunting, as they should be in this title) and the artwork is not moody or evocative. It sucks. What a disappointment.

    • Minhquan Nguyen says:

      I admit, I expected something very different than what we’ve gotten on this title, which makes me rather doubtful as to the future of DC’s “Dark” titles.

      • David Austin says:

        Future? What future? Frankenstein and I, Vampire have been cancelled. I’ll eat my proverbial hat if Demon Knights lasts another 6 months. Love Dial H, but sales are not good. That pretty much just leaves the Lemire./Snyder books – JLA Dark, Constantine and Animal Man and Swamp Thing.

        • Gerry O says:

          I thought I read somewhere that as unbelievable as it sounds, Hellblazer had been cancelled too.

        • Minhquan Nguyen says:

          I do find Frankenstein and I, Vampire‘s cancellations rather sad, as they really did provide some interesting, new flavors to the DCU line-up. Unfortunately, that rarely translates to popular appeal and considering I, too, dropped both titles for my own reasons, I think those series struggled for niche appeal also.

          Still, the fact that DC still has Demon Knights, Dial H, Animal Man, and Swamp Thing on their stands speaks to a certain amount of dedication on the publisher’s part.

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