Today, Shelby and Taylor are discussing Justice League Dark 16, originally released January 30th, 2013.
Shelby: I loved magic when I was a kid. Stories about fairies, dragons, unicorns: I ate that shit up. I always wanted so badly for those sorts of things to be real. Even as an adult, I still wish for real magic in the world. Embarrassing confession time: I saw the first Chronicles of Narnia movie in the theater with my family. It came out in 2005, so I was 21 years old, and leaving the movie I was bummed out that I couldn’t actually go to Narnia. Nearly a real adult, and I just wanted to be whisked away to a dreamworld of magic. It’s really no surprise I like Justice League Dark as much as I do; Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes have crafted a world where that magic exists and is in danger of being eradicated. Obviously you know which side I’m rooting for.
Once again, Deadman is dead. He finds himself making his way through this world’s afterlife back to the rest of the gang to find the situation has not improved. Xanadu is getting older by the second, and neither Frank nor Orchid are strong enough to take out Enforcer Vikar. Constantine tries talking to him, bu tthat just makes things hilariously worse. Finally, Xanadu says they surrender, that she’ll tell him everything (provided she doesn’t drop dead of old age first). Meanwhile, Timothy and Zatanna are getting a little history lesson. Apparently, this place used to be what I always wanted: a place where people and magic co-existed.
But, humans being the jerks that they are, learned some science and immediately began creating weapons to exterminate the magical creatures. A powerful wizard known as The Hunter figured out a way to combine magic and science to create a portal to a different world, where the remaining magical creatures could marshal their forces. The Hunter, a distant relative of Tim’s, was the only one who made it through, and now everyone is super-pumped their wizard king has returned. Suddenly, both the magic-free zone and Nanda Parbat begin to shake; something about the portal between worlds was literally shaking them both apart.
It’s a classic story we all know; two sides exist in harmony until one side figures out how to oppress and eliminate the other. It’s interesting to compare this new world to Nanda Parbat, where Dr. Peril just used Dr. Myst’s magic and genetics to create a portal. In the new world, the creatures can survive on magic alone, and the humans can thrive on the power of their science, but it’s only in combining the two does one have the power to travel between worlds. It’s probably for the best that there is such a strong divide between science and magic up in Epoch territory; I don’t know that I want a group of people so interested in subjugating others to have the power to destroy whole worlds.
I love the insight we get into what is happening to our heroes. Vikar says it perfectly: “No more tricks. No more magic. You’ve been neutralized.” That includes Constantine’s con-man smooth talking, Xanadu’s immortality, and Boston’s…aliveness, I guess. Still not sure what has happened to Orchid, but seeing as we still don’t really know the source of her powers, I’m sure we’ll get an explanation eventually. I also really love that Frank has not changed because he’s not magic. He may be a monster with ungodly strength, but it was science that made him that way, so in the eyes of the enforcer that makes him less of a threat.
Every month this title comes in as one of my favorites. Lemire and now Fawkes as well show a great talent for both large-scale world building and intimate character moments. There is nothing funnier to me than Constantine telling Boston he genuinely feels bad for him, and Boston replying with, “dude, don’t be a dick.” I like the politics of this new world, and I’m looking forward to learning more about science’s side of the story. Did they always set out to oppress their magical neighbors, or did their scientific research start out of fear of what magic could accomplish? Taylor, old friend, what did you think of this month’s issue? Do you have any theories on what caused the rift between science and magic in the first place? How much older do you think Xanadu can get?
Taylor: Maybe Xanadu can get as old as she has been alive. I’m not certain how old she is given that she’s immortal, but I think it would be pretty neat to see her at age 814. It’s weird to think that Xanadu’s defining magic power, apparently, is her ability to live forever given all of the other magical stuff she is capable of pulling off. Shouldn’t all of her skills sets be reversed? Or is that not how this world works? If it’s not, how does it choose what powers are reversed? This idea of power inversion further confuses me with Constantine’s sudden inability to to lie. While it makes for an excellent joke, I’m not sure why this particular ability would be reversed. Certainly, Constantine is is the consummate liar and manipulater, but I have no reason to believe that this talent of his is magical in nature. We even saw earlier in the House of Mystery just exactly how Constantine does control all of the people around him thanks to Orchid’s snooping about, so I’m not sure what is happening with him here. Regardless, I’m hoping we get a scene where the Epoch central command somehow quantifies Constantine’s lying ability. As it has to be of a degree they have never seen before, I’m sure it could ripples all the way down to their machined-laden roots.
Speaking of ripple effects, this issue opens with an episode dealing with events that happened towards the end of issue 16. Deadman, somewhat redundantly, is dead and once again has to climb out of the underworld to rejoin his friends in battle. Last month we had wondered what exactly would come of Deadman and whether his death in human form meant the death of him completely. Well turns out he’s just dead again, resetting the status quo. This is another case of the humor Lemire and Fawkes have interjected into this title that makes so much fun. They toy with their readers by having Deadman die climatically at the end of issue 15 only to pull the rug out from under their feet immediately in issue 16. That they spent no time in building the suspense of Deadman’s death shows of just how little consequence it really was all along. Further, that this is such sophisticated humor that pokes fun at the very genre it employs, is further proof that JDL is in good hands with these two writers in charge.
I would be remiss to not mention the art in this issue, as once again Mikel Janin turns in another excellent effort. He is so consistent with his art that sometimes it is easy to forget to stop and just enjoy the visuals you see before you. Janin appears to take special delight in portraying Deadman as he is sucked into the Ecto-containment unit (Ghostbusters?). The result is grotesque and stunning and I can’t look away.
Now Shelby, my old friend, I’m not sure what might have caused the rift between the magic users and the techno-nerds but I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough. I’m a little sad to see that my theory of people using a combination of magic and technology didn’t really pan out. Perhaps that’s a void Tim Hunter will fill, thus bringing peace to this mysterious realm.
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?