Today, Mikyzptlk and Shelby are discussing Justice League Dark 13, originally released October 24th, 2012.
Mikyzptlk: In my 9 to 5 work life I find that it’s important to remember to have a little fun from time to time in order to get through the day. If you neglect to reward yourself with a little fun in your work life, you might not be able to handle the stress that the average work day may present you. Issue 13 of Justice League Dark could have felt like just another stressful day of work, but because series writer Jeff Lemire made sure to infuse the issue with a sense of fun, he made it more than what is essentially just a lead up to the big conclusion taking place in the upcoming Annual.
Issue 13 opens in one of the more interesting places in Gotham City, Slaughter Swamp where Black Boris, Cannibal King of the Fire Trolls (as he not so succinctly puts it), is offering up a taste of his “fiery blade” to Constantine and Black Orchid. As Black Orchid slows down our not-so-friendly Cannibal King, Constantine pulls out one of the more hilarious artifacts I’ve seen him use and successfully takes Boris out of the equation. As Constantine and Orchid head back to the House of Mystery to rendezvous with the rest of team, Deadman and Zatanna face off against the living forest known as Blackbriar Thorn in Peru. As Deadman does a bit of introspection, he uses his acrobatic abilities to posses Thorn (seems legit) and takes him down. Deadman and Zee don’t have time to celebrate however as the House of Secrets shows up revealing our big bad, Nick Necro, back from the pits of Hell. Meanwhile in London, Madame Xanadu has just discovered that their would-be savior Tim Hunter has given up the magic game (no, not the one with the cards). Faust then crashes the party and reveals that Hunter is the key to finding the Books. Xanadu works her magic and is able to escape with Hunter. Back in Peru, Constantine and Black Orchid have arrived and Necro flexes his new magical muscles to illustrate that everything our heroes can do, he can do better. In an effort to prevent Necro from killing everyone, Zatanna agrees to leave with him. Constantine then rallies his troops and begins to give chase to a magical floating house with his own magical floating house. The issue ends as Necro and his forces take out the House of Magic leaving most of our heroes for dead.
Phew, there is A LOT going on in this issue. The team has been split into three and everyone has their own baddies to take down. Even though most of these baddies were there merely to distract our heroes, Jeff Lemire has a lot of fun in how he has our heroes take them out. Take Constantine for example: in order to take out the big bad Cannibal King, he pulls out what he calls a “fairy prison” that he swiped from the Black Room. Black Boris is instantly shrunken down and trapped inside of it with hilarious results.
It is also revealed in this fight that Black Orchid not only has shapeshifting powers but she’s also able to “manipulate vegetation” which, I assure you, is way cooler than it sounds. Seeing this, Constantine assumes that Black Orchid is somehow connected to both the Red and the Green. If you are reading Animal Man, also written by Lemire, then you’d know that these fauna and flora forces are at the crux of his mini-event, Rotworld, which we just happen to be covering over HERE! It’s clear that Lemire is having fun planting some seeds for what is to come in Rotworld even if Justice League Dark doesn’t technically fall into the Rotworld event.
Lemire also has some fun with Deadman. As I said before Deadman takes care of his foe by possessing him. This is a trick we’ve seen him do a lot in the past but Lemire takes it a step further and allows us to get inside Deadman’s head a bit. This is a pretty small part of the issue but it was probably my favorite part, as Deadman pontificates as to why ghosts look the way they do. In his mind, he’s still dressed in his circus costume because that was a large part of who he was when he was alive. He also states that being an acrobat is what allows him to possess people so easily, especially those as complex as a living forest! It’s such an interesting way to connect the man he was to the spirit he currently is and reinforces the idea that Boston Brand was chosen for this role. He’s not just some dead guy, he’s Deadman! Speaking of Deadman, take a look at this page by the art team of Mike Janin, Victor Drujiniu, and Ulises Arreola. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I love how it looks as if Deadman is both falling a floating as he searches for the “man behind the trees.”
This issue was definitely about getting our characters where they need to be for the big conclusion coming about in the Annual. I struggled a little bit with how I felt about the issue as there was quite a bit of running around and I couldn’t shake the feeling that Lemire’s saving most of the action for the Annual. Not every issue needs to have big surprises or earth shattering consequences but if Lemire wasn’t having so much fun with these characters I might have felt that this issue was more filler than anything else. Fortunately, all the fun Lemire has writing these characters translates into a lot of fun reading them. And, come on, the issue ends with a high-speed HOUSE chase! How can you not love that?
Shelby, you wrote the lead of the ZERO issue and you concluded that John Constantine is probably not such a good guy at the end of the day. In the end of this issue we see John struggle with letting Zatanna leave with Nick Necro. Do you think that Constantine is growing a conscience like Zatanna suggests or is he just worried that Necro will get to the Books of Magic first?
Shelby: That’s a really good question. I think it could very well be a little bit of both. I think the real question is whether he wants to keep Necro from the Books for the safety of the world, or if he just wants them for himself. Zatanna obviously wants to keep the Books away from Necro because she knows how dangerous that would be, but I think Constantine would be just as bad. His care for Zee may indicate he’s more of a good guy than I thought, but I think we can all agree he’s still a selfish bastard. He may be the best equipped for this sort of threat, but he’s definitely not the best man for the job.
Mik, you’re right, there is a lot going on in this issue. In the hands of many other writers, the story would be a bulky mess, but Lemire gives us enough character moments between Necro, Zee, and Constantine to make this issue more than just moving the players into place. I don’t know how he does it: there’s a fire troll in a cage, a possessed swamp monster, magical explosions, a house chase (known the world over as the best kind of high-speed chase), and yet we still get moments like this.
So, where does this issue leave us? Necro, Mist, and Zatanna are speeding around in the House of Secrets. Constantine, Boston, and Orchid have crashed their house in the desert. Xanadu and Timothy are…somewhere, presumably with Faust fast on their heels. Everyone is hurtling towards the most powerful sources of magic in the world, and the only one who can handle them without destroying everything isn’t interested in playing along. Maybe the annual will be the true test for Constantine; is there more to him than selfish, power-hungry jerk? Is he going to step up and be a team player now that Zee is in danger? Or is the world going to end up on the losing end of this fight, regardless who wins?
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