Comic Review: Justice League Dark Volume 1

The events of Dark Nights: Metal ended with a crack in the Source Wall, allowing all sorts of powerful threats into the DC Universe, threats that seem to be more powerful than any past threats the various heroes of that universe have ever dealt with before.

And since some of those threats are of a more magical nature, there’s a need for a new branch of the Justice League to deal with them.  That team, the Justice League Dark, is back with a new series.  The first trade just came out recently, subtitled The Last Age of Magic.

The new branch is formed by Wonder Woman, the one member of the main team that has anything approaching a magical origin.  She doesn’t really know too much about magic, but then again, her team isn’t the most magical around.  Who does she have?  Zatanna, whose magic isn’t quite working right; Swamp Thing, the elemental; Detective Chimp, the talking ape who got himself some sort of immortality and a magic sword; and Man-Bat, the longtime Batman foe who is here mostly as the team’s resident “mad scientist”.  For a magical team, they don’t seem particularly magical, or even all that knowledgeable on how magic even works in most cases.

But there’s a big problem.  Wonder Woman and the League have been discovering numerous dead magicians, most of them minor, and the League always shows up too late to take care of them.  Diana, seeing the need, assembles a team to help.  I’ve already listed who they are, but their adversaries are the mysterious Otherkind.  Led by the Upside-Down Man, these beings take a wide variety of frankly rather intimidating forms.  Perhaps the best issue reprinted in this volume is the last one as Man-Bat reads some files for some of the freakier Otherkind, creatures that seem to be individually completely unstoppable.

So, I’ve read some other work from writer James Tynion IV, mostly his Detective Comics run, and I had a similar reaction to his work there.  His Wonder Woman doesn’t feel quite right, much like his Batman.  He does create a feeling of hopelessness as the Otherkind seem to rather effortlessly defeat all manner of magical DC beings, and Tynion makes this a plenty big story by showing all kinds of guests stars getting their heads handed to them as another longtime DC character proves to be an enemy.  This volume shows some utter helplessness for the heroes, as multiple big guns are removed from the field, magical locations are destroyed, and the main heroes struggle.  And while I wasn’t overly fond of the characterization of Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing, or guest star John Constantine, I did get a kick out of Man-Bat as a scientist who’s just loving every discovery he makes along the way.  Who knew having a generally gleeful character could make a dour book more fun?

Then again, this volume also skips two issues due to a crossover with Wonder Woman’s solo book, and while the plot for that story is briefly explained, it doesn’t help the overall momentum of the volume I had in my hand.  Bottom line:  I think there’s a neat story being built here, and I will probably check out more in the future, but it’s not quite a must-read right now.  7.5 out of 10 hidden foes who aren’t that hidden.

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