Justice League Dark 13

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.

High praise to the art team for managing kick-ass action on one page and lovely moments like this one on the next.

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?

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?

18 comments on “Justice League Dark 13

  1. Constantine is one complex dude. I don’t think he has the worst intentions but they probably aren’t the best either. I assume that he actually does want the Books all for himself as gaining magical power seems to be his biggest motivation. At the same time, I don’t think that he intends on taking over the world once he gets the Books even though that’s exactly what he’d do if he ever did manage to get his hands on it. Xanadu has already seen that happen and it probably is an accurate vision of things to come. With that said I think that something unexpected has to happen to steer Constantine away from that path. I’d love to see him get the books and turn to the dark side but then see him make a conscious effort to turn back into the light. Would Zee or perhaps Tim Hunter change his mind? Either way, I’d want it to be Con’s choice to turn away from the Books and even give them up completely. If Constantine and Necro are opposites then I would have to think that Con giving up the Books would show that better than anything else.

    • Agreed. It’s a tricky situation: we’ve got a morally dubious character as the “good guy” facing off against a bad guy who, one could argue, is mostly bad because he was betrayed by our good guy. Now, I think it’s fairly obvious that Necro’s obsession with power would have prevented him from ever using them for anything other than evil, but that betrayal is still there.

      Rachel commented on this very situation in the zero write-up. Rachel, if you’re out there, did you read this issue? Did it change your mind at all about Constantine, or just cement your opinion that he’s absolutely the worst?

    • The thing with Constantine is that he’s basically a collector. Yeah, he might also want to use all the magic shit he collects, but mostly in a “I want to see this magic thing do it’s magic” kind of way. The fairy cage is a good example of this: he stole it and then just revels in the use of his new toy. More than anything else, he just seems like a fan of Magic.

      • This is more or less how I see Constantine, but I’ll admit that his motivations aren’t particularly clear. “Magic fandom” explains his actions pretty well, but so would “obsession masked as nonchalance.” I honestly don’t know what he would do if presented with the books of magic.

  2. The house race had me rolling. Lemire’s “it’s magic because it is” approach is just spectacular since rather than smashing magic in as simply a “superpower” there really is no explanation to it. Conversely the comics medium continually tries to ground super abilities that spun out of the exuberantly creative Silver Age.

    I can’t enjoy this book enough.

  3. Continuing to have great fun here, I don’t have much comment except just “bravo”. My real quesion is: is the version of Madame Xanadu we see in this week’s National Comics: Madame X the same as this version? Is that book in the DCnU at all? And if it is or if it isn’t, either way, what is the point of using it as a showcase for a character who already appears in two books (I’m counting dark ages Xanadu in Demon Knights) when there are so many out there in limbo like the characters presented in every other issue of the book so far? It was a good issue of National, but I’m just baffled as to whether its in continuity and where exactly it fits in if so

    • To me they’re both kind of jerks, but whether or not they’re just bad people at their core is more relative as to where you draw that line and what you consider redeemable – thus these answers may be different to different folks rather than even just different opinions based on the intereperetations of the events. I see nuArthur as being at the beginning arc of a redemption tale, and he’s not even starting *that* much in the red – he didn’t actually mean to kill Manta’s father, and Manta was a criminal just begging to be brought to justice in the first place. So, then, it becomes a question of whether you believe vigilantes at their core are bad people for taking the law into their own hands – or maybe a question of whether you believe someone who harms another out if negligence is redeemable or not. John is a tougher call because I don’t actually see his ongoing narrative as a redemption story – I see it more of a constant guessing game of what exactly *is* at the center of that particular Tootsie Pop. This is a great argument to ponder though, Patrick, I’m having fun thinking about it

    • I don’t know that I believe 100% that John Constantine is a bad guy. I also, though, don’t believe 100% that he is a good guy. He’s my favorite kind of character, the one that rides the line between good and bad.

  4. Did anyone else struggle with the opening page and seeing exactly what Black Orchid DID that was ‘controlling vegetation’? When Trollface said, “Yer a wood-witch, eh?” I was baffled. Looking at the first panel on the second page, I see she’s gesturing towards the ground, there’s very pretty lights all over. . . umm, the troll seems to have his head in the wrong spot.

    I think it was a cool idea and the coloring made it impossible to actually tell what the hell was going on. I still don’t really know what she did, other than be a wood witch and slow Boris down long enough for Constantine to whip on the fairy jail.

    Other than that, I liked it. First two pages confused the heck out of me, though.

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