Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Justice League Dark #10 review

John Constantine and his ragtag Justice League Dark dare to enter the House of Mystery.

Not that getting in is difficult - Constantine has a key, and proprietorial privileges to the property, 'one of two twin [sic] houses that exist at the cross section of all space and time'. Specifically, he has a demon servant, N'aall, and a hold over anyone who accepts his invitation to enter. So even though his reluctant colleagues may leave, he can always summon them back.

Zatanna and Deadman aren't happy about this, but they see the sense in helping Constantine with his quest to find the legendary Books of Magic. Having grabbed the map to the Books' hidden location from old Justice League enemy Felix Faust, he plans to track them down.

Meanwhile in Washington DC, Faust is questioned by government agent Steve Trevor - tortured, if truth be told - and he reveals that he's boobytrapped the box holding the map. Even as they speak, his Demons Three are attacking the League, with the aim of bringing the Books back to him.

And in Greenwich Village, the occultist Madame Xanadu's vision tells her that letting Constantine find the texts would doom the world.

So, the House of Mystery makes its DC New 52 debut, but without its most famous caretaker, Cain - presumably because the team recently fought a less cuddly version of the first murderer. Instead we have N'aall, who looks to be your standard sarcy servant, Alfred with bat-wings. And unwelcome guests in the form of the Demons Three.

The dynamic between our heroes - Constantine, Zatanna, Deadman, Dr Mist, Black Orchid and vampire Andrew Bennett - continues to be sparky without getting wearisome. We see what Mist's powers are, and find that Black Orchid isn't someone to cross. Zee learns that Constantine lied to her last issue (as I feared), while Deadman wants to leave, but reckons John is right that the Books of Magic shouldn't fall into the hands of any government, which is what would happen were they to turn the map over to their handler, Trevor. Bennett does leave, irked by Constantine's manipulations, but his newly forged link to the House means he'll be back.

In terms of character and narrative, writer Jeff Lemire is delivering. The plot is well-worked, the dialogue sparky and he isn't afraid to tap into DC's mystical toybox to show how big the magical universe is. The script isn't perfect, though - Dr Mist's usage of 'my dear' a couple of times is beyond cheesy; maybe he's trying too hard to play the mystic. And Constantine is referred to as 'the limey bastard' by two different characters over the course of four pages - has anyone really used the term 'Limey' since, oh, I dunno, the Second World War?

More seriously, I don't like Trevor's use of torture to get Faust to talk - this is Steve Trevor, traditionally the noblest of American military men; he should be above that.

I do like that Trevor's assistant is called Von Eeden. Put them together and you get Trevor Von Eeden, under-appreciated Eighties stylist. I also like Mikel Janin's expressive artwork, which really sells the idea that this corner of the DC Universe is just that little bit different. He's also first-rate at capturing the tension between the various heroes. Now, if only he and colourist Ulises Arreola would be kind enough to give the Demons Three their classic looks back - here, they appear to be rock creatures rather than the motley monstrosities of old - things would be perfect.

Topping off the issue is a splendid homage to probably the most famous House of Mystery cover, and it's typical of the care the creative team is putting into this offbeat superhero comic.

20 comments:

  1. I'm really curious about this new iteration of the team, and even with your qualms I might be picking this up in trade paperback.

    And Trevor Von Eeden is certainly underappreciated... but not by me! I'd *love* to see more work by him! (And it kills me that the artist whose work seems to have the most Von Eeden influence right now -- Freddie Williams III, whose work has matured in leaps and bounds since his stint on Flash -- is on Captain Atom for the time being, a book that I have very little interest in. Here's hoping he finds a new series soon -- he's great!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I dropped Captain Atom - bored by another too-long story - but was loving Freddie's art, it's so much better than his boobilicious JSA All-Stars work. I'm sure he'll be back soon.

      And my qualms are relatively small, don't miss this new JLD, it's the bee's knees.

      Delete
  2. Yet again I'm denied Lemire comics when the mail truck decided not to deliever my comic store's orders for this week. They got word and everything that it should have come in today, but nope. Darn mail, but at least my Frankenstein: Agent of Shade book came in a day early.

    Nice catch with the cover. I didn't even notice the homage until I was hunting around on the Internet for the Showcase Presents House of Mystery Vol. 1 book. Amusingly enough, Swamp Thing this month had a homage cover as well.

    Oh by the way, have you checked out Batman: The Dark Knight yet? Word on the Internet is that the new writer has done the same as Lemire did with this book, made it worth reading and being excited about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry about the lack of comics. What a pain.

      I didn't pick up the Batman comic ... I likely will read it eventually, but I don't actually like the current Batman enough to want to read too many comics about him. My mission this week is to get my 18 or so issues of Kieron Gillen's Kid Loki-starring Journey Into Mystery read - and six issues in, the buzz was correct, it's magic.

      Delete
  3. I have heard that justice league dark will have a new team member. I am very curious. In Madame xanadu's vision John tells xanadu that she must find the guy who is basically worthy of the books. I think it's going to be Timothy hunter from the books of magic

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Crossed my mind, but I hope it's not Tim - I don't want too many plot points to depend on Vertigo.

      Delete
    2. Yeah same here. I'd rather see sandman but I don't think it's going to happen

      Delete
    3. If it were a Nu Earth Tim rather than Earth V Tim I'd be all for it. Tim's life got waaay too convoluted and over the top by the end. I'd like to see this Lemire take on the potential of what Tim started out as and run with it...


      Oh and I love non-planty, non magical Black Orchid!

      Delete
    4. I reckon you're right, Anon, DC seem to be honouring the 'no Sandman' agreement.

      Steve, I really enjoyed the first several issues of the Books of Magic ongoing, but it seemed to lose its way and I dropped it. It could be interesting to see Lemire take Tim new places - after all, he did well with the teenagers while writing Superboy.

      Delete
    5. This could be WAYYYYY off, but when Xanadu mentioned finding somebody pure, my first thought was Captain Marvel.

      Delete
    6. That would be interesting but given Billy Batson in the JL. Shazam series, I fear the adult version won't be as lovely as he traditionally is.

      Delete
  4. The one thing i don't like about this is that the demons three are faust's servants when it should be the other way around

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe there'll be a reversal as the story progresses. Faust may even get his original look back.

      Delete
    2. somehow i doubt that but at least we have blackbriar thorn to look forward to

      Delete
  5. hey mart I just realized this book will have a connection with demon knights, due Constantine's story about the books and how the map was made by mordru and merlin, this means we could see the maps creation in demon knights plus in xan's vision among the broken heroes we see etrigan among them

    ReplyDelete
  6. hey mart do you think there may be a quasi cross over with this title and demon knights

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Possibly, DC seeem to be crossover happy right now. But I do hope not, I like both books a lot but would rather they concentrate on their own stories.

      Delete
    2. you don't have to worry they said their won't be time travel past events in period books like demon knights or all star western affecting the present like in Constantine's story about merlin and mordru

      Delete
  7. I'm still getting a huge kick out of my monthly dose of the JL Dark team. I really like the fact that the membership is already changing a little. After all, that reflects real life right? Some people leave an organisation when their needs and motivations change while others join. People come and go. That gives us as readers exposure to a little more excitement and to see a different interplay between the characters than if the team stays exactly the same all the time.

    While many other readers may have seen the little minor twist coming at the end of the issue, I hadn't. I was fully expecting for the JLD to go on their quest to find the books of magic. I hadn't expected things to come back round to Steve Trevor so quickly.

    Great writing and lush, enticing art that makes me linger over the pages longer than some of the other comics I get. Ah, if only this comic came out say 16 times a year...!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, stop it Rob, I'm broke enough! But it is an enticing thought. And if I switched to digital, and waited a month. the cash saved would pretty much pay for the extra issues. Hmmmmm

      Delete