Today, Peter and Shelby are discussing Justice League Dark 12, originally released August 22nd, 2012.
Peter: Justice League Dark is an interesting book. In a DC universe that is really finicky about magic, it takes it all in. It is full of small context clues, as well as small parts of mystical DC history. It may be lost on some, but with a little time and commitment, it is a fantastic book filled with relatable characters and interesting plotting. The team dynamic may seem like a stretch at first, but when a team of miscreants, dead people, con men, vampires, stage magicians, and government agents come together, it just somehow works.
Issue 12 begins where 11 ended. After a quick rehash of Dr. Mist’s origin, he and Faust are escaping with the Tesseract/Map from A.R.G.U.S. News flash, Steve Trevor’s mad at Constantine. In true Scooby-Doo fashion, the team splits up; John and Black Orchid go to the Slaughter Swamp where the books are supposedly kept, and Zatanna and Boston head back to Peru where Faust and Mist went.
After some brief and vague rehashing of the past between Constantine and Black Orchid (John is responsible for Zatara’s death!) they arrive in Gotham via the House of Mysteries. However, the Books of Magic aren’t there. Instead they are met by Black Boris, Cannibal King of the Fire Trolls! Meanwhile, Xanadu is discerning the future. She decides that since John can’t have the Books, Timothy Hunter is the only one who can. She goes to England to talk to him, but turns out, he gave away all his magic. She is now without hope.
In Peru, Boston and Zatanna aren’t met by the forces of Faust, Mist, and their mysterious friend, but by Blackbriar Thorn, the evil living forest! Our heroes are in trouble! Faust’s mysterious boss (whose identity we’ll speculate on in a minute) arrives at the House of Secrets, the House of Mysteries’ twin in Limbo. After some pleasantries with Dr. Occult, Paranormal Detective (and also the House’s current owner), the mystery man kills him, and takes control of the House.
It’s almost redundant to say that the writing here is good. Jeff Lemire has done a great job taking over this title when it was struggling. My favorite part is that he’s taking older (pre-New52) thoughts and ideas and bringing them back into the story and lives of these mystical people. It’s pretty obvious that our team is pretty much nowhere, and really only faced with enemies that are several times their size. This does not bode well for anyone. First, lets talk about Constantine’s chat with Black Orchid. Turns out, he is responsible for Zatana’s father, Giovanni Zatara’s, death. That makes for an incredible dynamic between them. Try going back and reading the previous 3 issues with that in mind. World of difference.
Second, there is the subject of this mystery man that is working with Faust and Mist. We know that he already knows many members of this mystical community — Constantine, Faust, Zatanna, Dr. Occult, etc — maybe even everyone, but has a clear history with these AT LEAST. Also, with some name dropping, and other context clues, we can figure out who it is not. First, it may or may not be someone at this table.
This is a historical moment between members of the mystical community. I can identify everyone here. From clockwise at the top; Zatanna, Constantine, Sargon the Sorcerer, Baron Winters, Mento, Dr. Occult, and Zatara. From the mystery man’s conversation we know it’s not Sargon the Sorcerer or Dr. Occult (obviously). It’s clearly not Zatanna or Constantine, since he wants to kill them himself. It’s not Zatara, since he’s dead. I guess there is a chance that it is Baron Winters or Mento but those seem unlikely, and here’s why: Dr. Occult gives us the clue…
He talks about people from his generation. Both Winters and Mento would fit into his generation of mystics. Which leads me to believe that it is not anyone at that table, but someone who is younger, someone we haven’t met yet. Are you ready for my guess? Sebastian Faust, son of Felix Faust. Not always working for anyone one ‘side’ of a conflict, Sebastian was created when Felix tried to sacrifice his own children for more power. It backfired, and instead gave powers from Felix to his children. Sebastian went on to be a fairly prominent member of The Outsiders, as well as a powerful member of the mystical community. Pre-New 52, Sebastian’s mystical powers looks all shimmery and purple; not unlike those of his father. In this issue, when our mystery man kills Dr. Occult, it is done with some purple lightning, not unlike Felix’s powers from issue 11.
In any event, we still have to consider the matter of the division of the Books of Magic. If Felix gets the Book of Chaos, and Mist gets the Book of Death, our man of mystery ends up with the Books of Order and Life — the ‘good’ books of the four. In a book riddled with cons, con men and traitors, why couldn’t that also include the big bad guy?
Justice League Dark has turned into a fantastic title. Zero month should shed some light on Constantine and Zatanna’s relationship, which will be sweet. I am officially sold on this book. Only thing I hope for is that Boston Brand becomes ever so slightly more useful in the following issues.
Shelby: Hey, go easy on Boston. He had a tough trip from the bowels of hell. I’m glad you like this title, not just because I always feel anxious about people liking my recommendations, but also because I knew your encyclopedic knowledge would definitely come in handy. I love the allure of a mysterious, shrouded villain, but I don’t know enough about the Darker side of DC to even really make a proper guess. Whoever this guy is, he is definitely being groomed to be Constantine’s equivalent. They look similar, both smoke, have the same probably magic tattoo; the biggest difference is this guy seems to be a brunette. That makes him the evil twin, which naturally makes Constantine the good twin, so we’re in a lot of trouble.
The art in this book continues to be incredible. Mikel Janin’s painterly style continues to wow me. Is it cheating on Yanick Paquette to say I love Janin’s swampy monster? It’s not that it’s better, it’s just different!
I like this title a lot, it makes me think about other DC titles. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of New Guardians. It’s a fun team story, rife with clashing personalities and epic battles, just with magic instead of in space. And honestly, with the Rainbow Corps dealing with angels, it’s not that far off. I also like to compare this title to Justice League (regular? Justice League Light?). Both stories have teams that don’t work together very well, both are facing major villains, both are currently dealing with the mystic and the macabre. Justice League should have a major leg up; it’s been running for a year, and it’s the god-damned Justice League! Those are some heavy-hitting characters in comparison to these. So why do I find myself enjoying JLD more? It could be that I expect the JLD to not work well together, whereas I feel the Justice League should have gotten its shit together by now. It could be that I prefer the magic power set to the metahuman power set. It’s probably just the fact that Lemire is taking the team on fun adventures which borrow just enough from the Houses of Mysteries and Secrets to keep things interesting.
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?