Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Justice League Dark 17, originally released February 27th, 2013.
Patrick: Have you ever been introduced to a group of new people with a specific adjective? Someone says “this is my funny friend Patrick” or “you’ll be working with Patrick, he’s really smart.” Suddenly, it doesn’t matter how you view yourself, it becomes your singular goal to live up to that defining adjective. It’s stressful, but having your friends state their expectations of you right upfront increases that likelihood that you will be the thing they say you are. So what do you say about someone to turn them into your hero?
With the majority of the JLD in Epoch custody, Timothy Hunter and Zatana have to figure out a way to rescue them. Fortunately, the magical creatures of this world believe Tim to be the long-lost ancestor of their greatest warrior, and therefore, their rightful king. With a little bit of backwards-talkin’ magic, they assemble a formidable force to march against the city. Meanwhile, our captured heroes do a pretty good job of rescuing themselves, due — in no small part — to Frankenstein being a totally un-altered badass.
The story itself is pretty slight, essentially moving everyone into place for the epic battle to come. But there are a few more intriguing details that don’t necessarily fit under the column “plot synopsis.” First is Dr. Peril’s description of what’s happening back on earth. His analogy about the worlds being balloons pushing magic-gases out toward the surface reminds me of Bender’s description on Leela’s plan to attack the Star-Trek-obsessed energy being, Melllvar. Which is to say that it’s silly to the point of being trivial. It’s sort of surprising to see the Ray Fawkes and Jeff Lemire attempt to give us an explanation of what’s happening here – isn’t it enough to know that weird shit happens when a gateway opens between worlds? The catastrophic lighting storm they’re experiencing in Nanda Parbat and Epoch are just the result of crazy magic shit happening, end of story. Steve Trevor seems to echo my sentiments, all but telling Dr. Peril that he doesn’t care what’s happening – they just need to find a way to stop it.
The second, and much more intriguing set of details comes from a fresh Xanadu prophecy. Maybe. The issues starts with Xanadu’s voice over explaining that, for the first time in like forever, she can’t see the future, and she never foresaw the events of this issue. Regardless, by the end of the issue, she tells John that she has in fact seen the future. Let’s take a look at the prophecy:
Constantine…. Constantine. I die here. But while I yet have strength to speak, I can warn you. Some of us do not return from this place. I see us… I see you, in Cataclysm, racing to the exit. Every possible path shows the portal closing before you all return. Sometimes it is the boy who is left behind. Sometimes it is Orchid… or Brand. Always you return, you are the first to leave. [...] In the days to come… hands clasped around a fire… a fire that does not burn. An evil voice whispering your name. And Zatana. Zatana dies at your word. You will give the order. You will lead her to her death.
We don’t get any sort of visual indicator that Xanadu actually sees this future. And that’s, like, Comic Book Prophecies 101. I’ve dissected my fair share of Green Lantern prophecies to know that arts relish the opportunity to draw the hypothetical deaths of superheroes, but Mikel Janin doesn’t get that same opportunity. We sorta have to take Xanadu’s word for it. But why would she make that up?
Interestingly, that’s not the only story we have to take on faith in this issue. The magical-fairy-men tell a pretty compelling tale about Hunter’s lineage, but we don’t necessarily have any reason to believe it. Zatana even makes a specific point to caution Tim against falling in with these creatures just because he might want what they say to be true.
Both Timothy Hunter and John Constantine can be motivated to heroic action because of the stories told about them. Xanadu might not see a future wherein Constantine abandon’s his teammates, but her saying so makes him vow not to leave anyone behind. Similarly, whatever Timothy’s family legacy, merely believing that he’s the savor of the magical creatures gives him the determination to lead their army.
Shelby, I’ll pass this off to you now, but I wanted to point out one thing I loved that has nothing to do with my thesis on this issue. Frankenstein is awesome – he’s like an eloquent Chewbacca that you just know is always going to be able to get the JLD out of any jam. As if to enforce this idea, Frank literally adds insult to injury when escaping from his prison.
Incidentally, I need that as a motivational poster I can hang up in my office.
Shelby: I so hope Frank has found a permanent home here with the JLD, because he’s perfect, and I never want him to leave.
I am very intrigued by Xanadu’s prophecy. Like you, I can’t speak to the meaning of the first half; does she actually foresee her death and the abandonment of one of the team, or is she telling John what he needs to hear so he can maybe get over his current wimpy truthfulness and just get the job done? I do think the second half is setting Constantine up for his adventures in his own title. Based on the preview in the back of all the DC titles, it looks like he’s dealing with the Cult of the Cold Flame and Sargon the Sorcerer. Even though I know it’s largely a marketing ploy to lead readers from one book to another they will probably like, I appreciate the in-story connection. It feels like a little Easter egg waiting for those of us reading both titles to find; does it mean that John will actually lead Zatanna to her death? Speaking of Zatanna, I hope those two get a chance to exchange words before they leave Epoch; it would be a real waste of magical truth-telling if John didn’t get to tell Zatanna how he really feels about her.
As much as I love these characters and the fact that I’m about to watch a magical tween ride a dragon into battle against science, it’s the humor of this series that really sells it for me. The scene at Nanda Parbat is a great example. The way I read it, Lemire and Fawkes included Dr. Peril’s explanation of the situation because that’s just what you have to do: villains gotta monologue, scientists gotta offer long-winded and ridiculous explanations of what is happening. Trevor’s requests for Dr. Peril to just shut up and do something about it strike me as Lemire and Fawkes’ own hilarious commentary on how dumb that sort of behavior would be in a real-world situation. I still think every instance of Constantine telling the truth is funny, but this exchange between him and Brand takes the cake.
Hahaha, John just wants to talk about his feelings, and that makes Boston uncomfortable. Even just the idea of John Constantine’s feelings being hurt is a little funny, mean of a sentiment as that is. Lemire and Fawkes have peppered this title with little moments of humor that serve to ground the otherwise fantastic cast and plot of the book. With epic battles, interesting characters, and smart humor, it’s really no wonder this book continues to be one of my favorites. For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?