Justice League Dark 15

justice league dark 15

Today, Shelby and Taylor are discussing Justice League Dark 15, originally released January 2nd, 2013.

Shelby: Science and magic. In the broadest of terms, they are the two sources of meta-humans’ powers in the DCU. Superman? He’s an alien being powered up by the particular wavelength of light from our sun: that’s science. Wonder Woman? She’s a demi-god, pure and simple: that’s magic. Green Lantern? Trick question, it’s will-power harnessed and weaponized: I’m calling it magic refined by science. Lantern Corps aside, there’s usually a pretty clear line between science (far-fetched and ridiculous though it may be) and magic in the comic book universe. Often times the two sides face off, refusing to see that they are kind of two sides of the same coin, but every so often science and magic team up and we get something extra special. Luckily for us, Justice League Dark gives us both options in one action-packed issue. 

It’s a big day, folks; for the first time in Zatanna’s history with JLD, her magic isn’t failing her at a critical moment in the fight. She and Tim have landed in some sort of forest, and are immediately confronted by giants calling for the Hunter. She dispatches them with ease, and is super pumped about all the wild magic in the air, when Officer Vikar shows up in some sort of mecha suit and basically tries to arrest them. Zee won’t have it, and Tim has to stop her from killing him. Vikar lands a shot, but before he can take them in, they are pulled underground by a group of fairies, trolls, pixies, gnomes, and a satyr, all praising the Hunter. Meanwhile, back at Nanda Parbat, Dr. Peril has jury-rigged the books to work again with a combo of some Dr. Myst magic and Timothy’s dad’s DNA, and sends Constantine, Frank, Black Orchid, Xanadu, and Deadman to…wherever. The place has weird affects on all of them: Xanadu becomes an ancient crone, Orchid transforms into a giant purple creature that looks like a Swamp Thing/Anton Arcane hybrid, and Constantine finds that, hilariously, he is no longer capable of lying. And then there’s Deadman. He triumphantly screams to the sky that he is actually alive, as tears stream down his face, and then he is immediately shot dead by Vikar, who’s come back with an upgrade.

deadman is aliveman

Let’s start with that last bit; what exactly is this place doing to these people? Is it stripping them of what they consider to be their strongest suit? That would make it Orchid’s humanity, Zee’s restraint, Constantine’s ability to swindle, Xanadu’s…looks?, and Boston Brand’s deadness. We don’t know how Frankie’s been affected, nor do we know if these are the only effects on everyone, so we don’t have a lot to go on. Constantine’s problem is the funniest thing I’ve seen this side of Liar, Liar.

constantine can't lie

It’s actually kind of pathetically adorable; John acts like a dick so when people say, “Man, what a dick!” he can find comfort in the fact that it’s only because of this big act he’s putting on. If he were to be himself and people still though he was a dick, well, that’s a scary truth to face. Also, since most of his plans involve putting people in danger by lying to them to get what he wants, this is going to be a tough mission for him.

Poor Boston Brand, he seems to always be getting the short, dead end of the stick. I won’t lie to you, when he was immediately shot after proclaiming his joy at being alive, I thought it was a little funny. I DON’T FEEL GOOD ABOUT IT, OK? But, when it appeared that he was actually dead, I definitely felt more concerned than anything. We don’t know anything about how this place works, if Boston dies here, he might actually really stay dead. Is it possible that Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes just killed Deadman?

I’m excited for this new turn of events. As fun as last month’s haunted house romp was, I’m glad to get back into the swing of things. Lemire and Fawkes aren’t pulling their punches with this one, either; they immediately hit us with a world which is very clearly science vs. magic, where magic actually appears to be outlawed. It seems like Timothy has been destined to lead a magical coup against the science overlords of this place, and I am very eager to learn more about both the science and the magic we’re seeing here. Will Timothy be convinced to take up his magical mantle once again? He seemed pretty eager to just be a regular kid who never has to deal with these sorts of terrible things. More importanly, are we seeing some sort of Saga prequel with this science/magic conflict? I mean, we obviously aren’t, BUT WOULDN’T THAT BE AWESOME!?

Taylor:  Wow! This issue of JLD sure packed a punch and will definitely appease those who weren’t fans of the seemingly pedestrian events of last month’s issue. The pacing of issue 15 reminds me of some of the work we’ve seen in another magical title, Sword of Sorcery. The first couple of issues of that title are almost exclusively action and serve to set off the later events of the series quite well. While, like some, I was skeptical of the title given its apparent “teen princess” bent, I was sold on it after seeing the kinetic action of the first couple of adventures. Similarly, this issue of JLD is packed full of action that — while fast paced — never seems to be too confusing or out of control. This, in turn, has spun up the engines of this title once again and has set it on a new and intriguing direction. It is hard to imagine reading this issue and not immediately wanting more of what was just had. Like Sword of Sorcery, JLD has an excellent rhythm to both its individual issues and its story arches and it’s just stunning when it really hits that groove, as in this issue.

What’s further impressive about all of the action in this issue is that it is not devoid of content in any way. There are times when reading a comic book that you come to realize the action serves no purpose to the story, making you question why it is even there in the first place. While this in and of itself isn’t terrible (because action is almost always fun), the really good titles have a way of making that action matter. This happens in JLD 15 as we are introduced to a new world that is steeped both in magic and technology. For all the action that surrounds Vikar, the reader learns a great amount of his world from his dialogue and his interactions with his network of enforcers. What’s also neat to consider is that when reading this issue you never get the sense that Vikar is necessarily an evil figure. Generally when the titular heroes of a comic book are fighting someone, it’s pretty clear that who they are fighting is an antagonist in some sense. However, Vikar doesn’t have that aura about him (at least not yet) so his presence so far is serving as an introduction to the dimension we have just entered.

Speaking of which, it’s interesting to consider what exactly this place is anyway. Shelby, you mentioned that you think this world seems to be pitting magic and science against each other, a notion nowhere as pronounced as in this frame.

Let Me Give You a Hand

Here we have the magical and naturalistic Wood Nymphs juxtaposed with what is perhaps the science-laden suit of Vikar’s rebooting. It’s a marvelous panel and really brings home the ideas of science vs. magic and nature vs. technology all into a single frame, which is quite impressive. But for all that, I can’t say that I’m entirely sold on this being a universe where magic and science are strictly at odds with each other. Remember, the books of magic brought Tim and Zatanna here and at one time they were believed to be magic by the most knowledgeable magic makers on Earth. That has me second-guessing everything we see now in this title in terms of what is magic and what is science. Doesn’t it seem possible that Vikar’s suit is somehow controlled by or makes use of magic? Also, the enforcers here certainly seem to know what magic is and they have their own name for it. This doesn’t necessarily make them users of magic or technology exclusively, at least not yet. Perhaps it is some sort of hybrid?

I’ve really come to appreciate the style that Mikel Janin has employed in this series so far. It is detailed, but not overly so, which makes the renderings of some of the more fantastic elements of this title work extremely well. Additionally, the colors of Jeromy Cox really help to make the magic in this issue seem, well, magical. The final shot of Vikar in his beefed up suit is a good example of the overall quality of the art in this issue.

The Colors Duke!

And there’s Deadman laying dead at the bottom. Shelby, I also laughed when he died, but unlike you I don’t think we need to worry too much about Boston Brand. This title has always had a good sense of humor and I think it’s pretty safe to assume that’s what’s going on here. Also, the killing of Deadman would really pull the rug out from under our feet and I don’t that would happen without him first either doing something heroic or being a wise ass. In either case, I’m sure we’ll see him again soon.

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?

30 comments on “Justice League Dark 15

  1. T: I had the same thought, that our science guys might be more magical than appears. At this point, there’s a pretty clear line being drawn between nature and tech, and honestly I would love it if it turns out they’re both powered by the same magiscience essence.

    • My theory is that Tim is somehow going to bring the forces of science and magic together into a more harmonious state. You know, sort of like Anakin Skywalker and the Force. Ugh, I feel gross even making that comparison, mostly because I’m sure if that’s the case it will be handled so much better in this series.

      • Hahaha. Man, between this and the Liar, Liar reference, this issue kind of specializes in turning shitty movie premises into solid gold. What a weird thing to specialize in.

      • I like that the original reveal that the Books of Magic were somehow advanced alien technology is sort of undermined by this issue. The Books may be technological, but they are also a connection to this world where magic is a force to be reckoned with. Basically, the answer to the question: “what are the books of magic?” ends up being far more complicated, and based around some sort of physical conflict (too early to say what, exactly, that conflict is, but it seems to be the literal realization of the metaphorical science v. magic debate.)

  2. Shelby — I know you were kind of kidding, but Madame Xanadu losing her eternal youth is really interesting. I hadn’t made the connection that it was Zatana’s restraint that was lost, but that makes total sense. I’m really nervous about whatever it is that Frank has lost that we just don’t know about yet.

    • Maybe it’s not her eternal youth, but just her immortality. Constantine was joking right before they left that she had nothing to worry about, being immortal and all.

      • I can’t profess to know enough about Xanadu to say if there’s a difference between her eternal youth and her immortality — can she get her head chopped off, or what? But yeah, Constantine’s comment there totally bit him in the butt. Lemire really does have one of the best senses of humor in comics right now.

        • You have no idea how excited I am for the comedic gold of John Constantine being forced to always tell the truth.

        • It’s weird how much I like the premise of Liar Liar when I don’t hate everything about its execution. Kudos to Lemire and Fawkes for that.

        • That’d be pretty similar to what happened to Black Orchid. BY THE WAY: I like this as a way to explore what the fuck she is, exactly. She’s hinted that she’s in tune with both the Red and the Green – she’s essentially turning into Swamp-n-Animal Thing. I feel like that character is slowly ingratiating herself to the DCU, and going to be an awesome permanent fixture in comics at large.

        • I looked back at the last issue, and in the dossier Constantine had collected on her, there’s a kind of obscured photo that looks like she might be in a wheel chair.

          There is an existing Black Orchid book, I think it’s a Gaiman/McKean team-up? She’s a character that has existed in some form before.

        • Well, it wouldn’t be a day commenting on Retcon Punch if I didn’t reveal my ignorance on one topic or another. I still think Black Orchid must be taking on a distinctly new role in the New 52 with her explicitly stated Green/Red powers. Just as Beast Boy and Poison Ivy have been pretty different since their powers became aligned with these forces. (Not as much as I would like, but that could be a function of the titles in which they principally appear.)

        • Oh, I do agree that she’s being redefined for Rotworld purposes, no doubt about that. I should read Black Orchid, if for no other reason than “Gaiman/McKean team-up.” They might as well have written “Hey Shelby, read this book” on the cover.

        • Well, with 80+ years of weekly publication and all, I’m SCARED of the person who knows *everything* about the DCU

      • I was thinking exactly that, after he told Constantine he had a “poison tongue” and threatened to cut it out, or some such thing.

  3. I want to see Deadman’s spirit rise out of Boston Brand’s body. I mean he was alive for a second, but now he’s just dead again. (Also, I am a sucker for any time Boston un-dies. I will read — and love — that story EVERY FUCKING TIME.)

    • I’m so happy with what Lemire has done with Deadman. I forget who was on this book before him, but he made Boston out to be kind of an asshole.

    • What’s great about Boston in this incantation is that you actually feel for him. You get the impression that he isn’t particularly happy about being enthralled in all of Constantine’s adventures. So when he is suddenly granted life, only to have it taken away, it kind of stings. Basically you only want the best for the guy and in a way it’s kind of tragic to never see him really get that.

  4. Damn, everybody wanted to get a word in on this issue, huh? What a great one though; JL Dark is firing on all cylinders right now.

  5. Hey, what do we make of Fawkes’ involvement with the writing here? Certainly bodes well for his two-issue stint on Batgirl. Is it possible that Lemire will have to give up one of his babies with his responsibilities on Green Arrow? Or maybe they’re working on a Fawkes-Lemire relationship so Fawkes can pick up Swamp Thing where Snyder leaves off?

    • That last bit of speculation is clever and I think that might be a really great fit if it is their intention. I do think, though, that Lemire is going to have editorial breathing down his neck more than he has experienced before what with their financial interest in Green Arrow due to his TV show. I see GA getting a big name writer as part of a general financial “push” for the character, but since Lemire hasn’t been on a flagship DC title and generally has been the guy to electrify and elevate the quieter titles its hard to gage how much breathing room he’ll be allowed. The good thing is that his name being on the cover should be an instant sales increase, if anything. This book started out meh and then became so dreadful with the onset of the Nocenti run that it made the Meh Issues by Jurgens, Giffen and co seem pretty good by comparison

        • Same here. I wanted to like the title anyway, but dropped it mid-Nocenti. I erred terribly by picking up Winnick’s 0 issue after having dropped it, too XD

    • For some reason, I was under the impression that Fawkes was taking over for this title once Lemire starts on Green Arrow. I’ll look for where I heard that (it’s possible I made this up), but I’m saying it out loud in case anyone here can confirm

      • I read an interview somewhere (‘Rama maybe?) with Lemire where he says Fawkes will be his permanent co-writer and scriptor once he picks up GA so I will imagine the credits and writing on the book will remain as they are now. This issue turned out great, so no complaints here. Loved the new cover artist, too

        • Yeah, Trevor McCarthy’s done a few issues of Batwoman and his stark, bold art ran toe-to-toe with Amy Reeder’s (who he came on to replace). Both of them are so differently, stylistically, to J.H. Williams, but strong enough to carry that wildly confusing story arc. I can always stand to have more McCarthy in my life.

  6. I really didn’t like last issue. This week, this was the last comic I read and I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it.

    Damn it was good. I want to write more about it, but trying to compile a best of 2012 list to add to those threads.

    I really don’t know what to do when Lemire’s Green Arrow starts. I have to read it. I WILL read it. I know I’ll give it a shot. What’s next, Kirkman writing a Legolas book?

    • This is certainly a more substantive issue (in terms of main plotting), and it managed to convey all the same fun and humor as the previous. Glad we’re back on the same side of the glass (though, I also have fun when we’re fighting).

      SPEAKING OF FIGHTING: I can’t wait to see your Best of 2012 list. I feel like this has been a fucking nuts year for comics (and so so so so so much NEW NEW NEW stuff) that no two lists are the same.

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