Justice League Dark Annual #1 Review
Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 16:11
Jeff Lemire continues to prove that he is one of the best writers on DC’s payroll month after month. While his work on Animal Man has turned the relatively B-list character’s book into the best series on the publisher’s docket, he’s also quietly kept up work on another DC title for the past few months.
That title is Justice League Dark, which Lemire took over at issue number nine earlier this year.
The book features the darker, lesser-known and more supernatural members of the DC wheelhouse that have traditionally been featured mostly within the DC Vertigo continuity before the New 52.
While the team has been pretty unstable from the jump, the most notable and regular members have remained Zatanna, Deadman, Madame Xanadu and, perhaps most importantly, the much beloved John Constantine.
Annual #1 presents the climax of Lemire’s Books of Magic story arc, which has taken us across the DC universe’s supernatural landscape. From the new (de-fanged) origin of Constantine’s lust for power, to the start of his relationship with Zatanna, it’s been quite the bombastic run. Annual #1 helps to pay off on that built up potential with a final showdown between the JLD and the combine forces of Doctor Mist, classic bad guy Felix Faust and the newly created Nick Necro.
Lemire seems to have recognized that a big showdown required a big cast, and he used the plus-sized annual format for just that purpose. Not only did we still see Constantine, Xanadu, Black Orchid, Zatanna and Deadman reunited after the previous few issues, but the author also brought in Amethyst (Sword of Sorcery), Andrew Bennet (I, Vampire) and the always welcome Frankenstein (Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.).
While this industrial-sized cast does get a bit unwieldy at times (Bennet’s appearance felt a bit unnecessary, partially because the character is just so annoying), the combined might of Lemire’s writing Mikel Janin’s clean, detailed art keep things from getting out of hand.
My biggest issue with JLD Annual #1 is the same that I’ve had with the series from the start. There just isn’t the same level of chemistry and emotional connection between the team that one has come to expect from Lemire.
It certainly doesn’t help that the JLD can’t seem to keep one, constant cast for more than three issues, but it’s also the story itself. While the creative team did inject a bit of life into the plot by pulling in references to DC’s pulp fiction past (and even a few Alan Moore-era Swamp Thing nods, including one scene pulled directly from Crisis on Infinite Earths) we’ve all seen this story before. The bad guys want a magical artifact, the good guys want to stop them. It’s just Indiana Jones with demons, and while that sounds great it’s just not as effective as Lemire’s work on Frankenstein and Animal Man.
Annual #1 also ends on a pretty blatant cliffhanger, which leaves what was billed as the end of the Books of Magic arc feeling a bit hollow by the end.
Hopefully, when JLD returns we’ll see a more stable cast of characters that will have the time to get comfortable, both with one another, and with the fans.
Until then, this is an incredibly solid book in a series that just hasn’t found its stride quite yet. That being said, I have faith in Lemire and Janin to possibly make it one of the best series on the market.