Thursday, 29 December 2011

Justice League Dark #4 review

Good Lord, this is dark stuff. Of course, the clue's in the title, but I've rarely seen a non-'mature' book play with such disturbing imagery. Scalping, killer kids, women losing their heads ...

The opening serial of this DC New 52 series sees a bunch of supernatural players - 'heroes' might be overstating it, in some cases - out to stop the menace of the Enchantress. The sometimes hero/sometimes villain has lost her host, June Moone, and all hell is breaking loose across the DC Universe. The superheroes have retreated, hoping the likes of Deadman and Zatanna can save the day. Also involved are Shade the Changing Man, John Constantine, Madame Xanadu and a character first seen in the Flashpoint event of last summer, Mindwarp. One of these characters, it turns out this time, may actually be to blame for the Enchantress problem. All of them are feeling a bit out of their depth - but unlike the squeaky clean likes of Superman and Green Lantern, they're not giving up.

It's all rather inspirational, in a twisted way. Writer Peter Milligan keeps the plot bubbling like a witch's cauldron while spotlighting the personalities involved. There are a couple of missteps: portraying veteran mystic Madame Xanadu as engaging a drug dealer to help her cope with visions - to my mind, that's not something someone in the position of hero should be doing; and showing Constantine slapping Xanadu rather than giving her a chance to explain something - OK, I know these are intense people, heroes are always fighting, and she bashes him back, but the scene left a nasty taste. A more minor irritation is the Mindwarp fella; I can't get a handle on his character or powers, while he manages to annoy with every appearance.

The artwork is out and out stunning, with Mikel Janin letting his imagination run riot as he interprets Milligan's literate script. All the old characters are nicely on model - well, apart from poor old Enchantress - while the new nightmares grab the eyes. And the colours of Ulises Arreola are just beautiful, even when illuminating horrific moments.

The cover, as you can see, is also stonkingly good, as Ryan Sook presents a scene that's, pretty much, actually in the book. Maybe it'll start a trend?

8 comments:

  1. Hey Martin, thanks for the kind review! :)

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  2. I am really enjoying this book but I still feel that the characterisation of Constantine is a little off to the way he is in his own book, and I would prefer to see Zatanna in her old top hat & tails despite it not been a functional outfit but these are small gripes.
    Fantastic review as always.

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  3. I like some of the characters but this title seems to have the same problem that often plagues "magic" superhero titles: magic, instead of being a source of powers like any other always trumps scientific based powers, and the powers are usually not well defined. The "oh no, magic, I'm vulnerable to magic" for people like Green Lantern and Superman is a cop out, and the ill defined nature of magic powers often leads to lazy writing and logical inconsistencies.

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  4. As always mate a great review - hope you have an awesome New Year!

    Milligan never takes the usual way home, so it always makes for a pretty interesting read. I'm looking forward to Challengers of the Unknown in a few months, but when the goings good the downside of an anthology can be it leaves you wishing it was just a little longer :D

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  5. Really enjoying the storytelling and the art. Yes, even the colouring is great (I guess it's now the job of the colourist to do those lighting 'burn' effects, I think?)

    Possibly my favourite comic every month. I certainly spend more time lingering over the artwork (for example the final page made up of all of those individual figures) than I do for any of the other comics I read every month.

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  6. Martin, just wanted to give you a heads that i was contacted by Bill Mantlo's brother today. you know something about Bill's situation these days right? i'll be posting it on the ROM blog tomorrow in case your interested. feel free to remove this comment after you've read i didn't mean to hijack this comment thread.

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  7. You're very welcome, Mikel, keep the fun coming this year.

    I'm with you on Zee's look, Rob, it's unique in a comics heroine, and just perfect for her ... still, there, Mikel? ;)

    As for John, well, he's younger in this new universe so a bit of difference doesn't bother me.

    Great point as regards undefined magic, Anon. When a team has several magic users it's especially useful to know who can do what. Perhaps Peter Milligan will refine and define as we go on.

    I'm looking forward to the Challs strip too, Dan, but isn't that by Dan DiDio rather than Milligan? Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you.

    I'm not sure whether the colourist chooses the lighting effects based on their interpretation of the script, or whether writer or artist gives a note, Rob. If only we had someone who could tell us ...

    I'm intrigued, David. As for off-topic stuff, my email is available if you hit the 'contact me' link at the top right of this page.

    Happy New Year, everyone!

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  8. Janin's art has been spectacular, I just found myself put off by all those dead ladies in issue one. It's too bad, because I like the art, the characters, and generally the writer. The tone is just too "Dark" for me, but I suppose they did warn me in the title!

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