Today, Taylor and Shelby are discussing Justice League Dark 19, originally released April 24, 2013.
Taylor: There’s nothing like having a little time to yourself. This proves to be especially true after you’ve completed a large project or gone through an important life event that required a lot of your time or energy. Having just completed a stint as a student teacher, I understand how nice it is to regain a little bit of time for yourself. Suddenly, I have ample time to pursue my own interests, to take care of things I’ve been putting off for too long, and to generally dedicate myself to laziness and slobbery. Comic book writers and artists, along with the characters they give life to, similarly get to enjoy these moments of re-centering when they come to an end of a story arch. Without the obligations of having to progress a plot or defeat absolute evil, comic creators have the chance to spend a little more time on their characters and enjoy their company. Additionally, this is a chance for writers to reassess where they would like the focus of their series to fall and on whom. Justice League Dark, having wrapped up the Timothy Hunter arc, is enjoying one of these precious moments and in issue 19 it’s a pleasure to see what effect that has on the series.
Having created peace between Earth and Epoch, it seems like the Justice League Dark is taking some time off from each other, which makes sense when your leader is John Constantine. John is spending time gambling on the races when the House of Mystery is stolen from him by the Cult of the Cold Flame. Deadman, meanwhile, is speaking with Colonel Trevor of A.R.G.U.S. about keeping tabs on Constantine when Madame Xanadu summons him and Frankenstein to her house. There she tells these two about Constantine’s misplacement of the House of Mystery when John himself shows up. He quickly summons Swamp Thing to track down the house (since it’s made of wood of course). Before the team can get far though, each member is sent into their own personal nightmare, courtesy of whoever has stolen the House of Mystery. The Flash shows up to help Frankenstein in his nightmare and elsewhere Swamp Thing learns that the man behind the nightmares and the stolen house is Doctor Destiny.
What’s nice about this issue of JLD and the development of a new story arch is that the plot has yet to take precedence over all else in the story. The last couple issues of JLD were almost hectically busy wrapping up the Timothy Hunter/Epoch story arch with a lot of magical bombast and action. While these are good issues and fun to read, we really don’t get a lot of chances to enjoy being with our characters. Constantine, Deadman, Frankenstein and Orchid all are interesting characters and throughout this series it’s been a pleasure to simply get to know and hangout with these weirdoes. One of the things I liked most about issue 19 is that we once again get to spend some quality time with our heroes without them having to defeat the forces of evil. In particular, Deadman is as enjoyable as ever what with his possessing a fat guy and knocking the Justice League Dark name.
This is the type of exchange that, when the action gets hot and heavy, is left out of an issue. It’s a funny bit of dialogue and perhaps offers us readers some insight into how Jeff Lemire feels about the title of the comic. You have to agree, Justice League Dark isn’t exactly an accurate title for this series. These hallmark moments simply can’t make it into the more plot heavy issues of this title so it’s always a treat to see them come out when the narrative of the title hasn’t taken precedent yet.
What’s also nice about these moments where the a title has a little bit of time to itself is that it gives its creators the chance to develop its characters a bit. Once Doctor Destiny (are magic doctors always evil?) sends our heroes into their own personal nightmares we get a glimpse into some of their most intense and personal fears. For Constantine that means confronting the sacrifices he’s committed in the name of magic. For Deadman it’s a cannibalistic circus and for Frankenstein it means confronting his own hell-child. These are all scary situations but nothing is as scary or as interesting as Madame Xanadu’s nightmare. Instead of fighting monsters or confronting personal failings, she must confront the ghosts of lovers past.
While the idea of confronting past lovers is bad, think about having to confront a lover who is dead. And not only dead, but dead from ages ago because you are immortal and have outlived everyone you have ever loved. Add to this the fact that when swept up in love people are liable to say things they feel in the spirit of the moment and this nightmare seems devastatingly convincing. This in effect humanizes Madame Xanadu who before this issue has lived in somewhat of an ivory tower. Before, she was magical and helpful and good but that was about it. In this instance, however, we get a tantalizing glance into her past and perhaps some the things that motivate her. Additionally, I really like this spin on the issue of immortality. Given the chance, would any of us really want to be immortal if it means continually seeing everyone we know and love waste away and die?
Wow, so that got dark quickly, but then again, perhaps this issue is living up the Justice League Dark (emphasis on dark) title. Regardless, it’s great that this series can explore these ideas and characters when it gets a little time to itself and I, for one, thoroughly enjoy spending my free time with this title.
Shelby, I didn’t talk about Swamp Thing at all since I figure you’re more well-versed in that story than I. What do you think of his appearance in the title? What do you think about the Flash? That’s two recent crossover events for the Flash, do you think they are somehow connected? Also, do you have any predictions for this new story arc?
Shelby: We’ve actually got three super fun cameo characters to deal with here. I love that Constantine called on Swamp Thing to come help him; John Constantine was originally created as a friend/sidekick for Swamp Thing when Alan Moore was writing it back in the day. It makes me giddy as a schoolgirl to see these two teaming up again, even though John was making Swamp Thing do it, and it went poorly for everyone involved. I’m interested in seeing if Lemire and Charles Soule over on Swamp Thing are going to tie these two titles together.
The Flash’s appearance is very interesting as well. He is really traversing some weird corners of the DCU. Xanadu advised Frank to “make the lightning his friend,” which means we’re gonna see Frank team up with Barry Allen to take down monsters. If I have to explain to you what is exciting about that, we can’t be friends any more. I just feel like, once the standard hero-misunderstanding-punchfest is over, these two will become fast friends. Or maybe I just want them to be. This also bodes well for Frank’s permanent position on the JLD, which we all want so badly. He’s such a fascinating character, and Lemire writes him so well.
Our last cameo, and the one I’m the most excited about, is Doctor Destiny.
Doctor D. is an old Justice League villain who has the power to control dreams. I became most familiar with him from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, which revealed his dream-controlling ruby actually belonged to Morpheus, Lord of the Dream. While I doubt that connection exists in the New 52, this is not the first time we’ve seen the dreamstone. Way back in the day, Steve Trevor used it to convince Constantine he needed to start up the team in the first place. How did Doctor Destiny get a hold of it again? It’s an incredible powerful artifact on it’s own, but when paired with the House of Mystery and maybe also all of Swamp Thing’s power of the Green, it is going to take a lot to take this guy out. Not only do we have an outrageously powerful villain, we also get to see our heroes at their most vulnerable. I never grow tired of the old “face your fears” story line. Especially considering how vulnerable Epoch made Constantine; between spilling his guts to his teammates and being forced to face a bloody reflection of himself as a representation of the blood he’s spilled, he is having a rough couple weeks. I don’t know if he’s strong enough to fight this, and I cannot wait to see him try.
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?