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Review: Justice League Dark #1

Justice League Dark #1 is like the Justice League only weirder and dysfunctional, Seriously, Wonder Woman and Man-Bat are the only two team members until the Alvaro Martinez Bueno, Raul Fernandez, and Brad Anderson splash page. In the opening salvo of his series spinning out of the Justice League: No Justice, writer James Tynion IV introduces his main threat both verbally and visually: magic is dying and humanity with it. However, he gives the varied denizens of Justice League Dark humanity and humor and along with Martinez’s engrossing double page spread, keeps the book entertaining and not overwhelmed by the gravity of its stakes like its brother League book.

From the first scene where Zatanna’s simple rabbit in the hat trick turns into a B-horror movie, Tynion and Martinez set up Justice League Dark as a book about the ever shifting and chaotic nature of magic first and punching things later. These priorities are reflected in his choice of cast members, who with the notable exception of Wonder Woman aren’t the team up and fight things type although they are in all out action by the time the final page arrives. Zatanna, who is Wonder Woman’s first choice for her “magical” Justice League team, refuses at first because of complicated reasons like her father’s death and a valid belief that a superhero team isn’t the best way to investigate the dying of magic. In Justice League Dark #1’s first double page spread, Martinez and Fernandez show that Diana and Zatanna don’t have the greatest chemistry with Wonder Woman relying on brute force while Zatanna continues to fall back on her spells even as they backfire in multicolored explosions from Anderson. And the other “members” are even less conventional from Detective Chimp, who is more mopey bartender and comic relief and heavy hitter to Man-Bat,

Speaking of Man-Bat, Dr. Kirk Langstrom almost steals the entire comic of Justice League Dark #1 as he pulls off the whole villain striving for redemption as a hero with humor and quirkiness instead of the cliched brooding darkness. The inviting nature of Man-Bat as a character begins with the visual design with Alvaro Martinez Bueno and Raul Fernandez going for the totally adorable combination of bat head and lab coat and Brad Anderson choosing a more neutral grey instead of going full Goth with his palette. Until the big fight at the end when Martinez and Fernandez make Man-Bat more ferocious and less cuddly with intense line work, they and Tynion craft the character more like Beast from the X-Men and less than the horrific, nocturnal threat of Batman The Animated Series’ pilot “On Leather Wings”. He’s another hit on James Tynion’s “rogues gallery rehab” world tour that kicked off with his heroic and heartbreaking writing of Basil Karlo aka Clayface in Detective Comics.  Hopefully, these small moments of Man-Bat obsessively rattling his scientific credentials, Traci 13 jokingly turning Detective Chimp’s beer into apple juice, and heaven and Hell (Aka Lucifer and Zauriel) squaring off in basically a Goth board room setting continue throughout the series as the threat of the Otherkind ramps up.

In Justice League Dark #1, James Tynion takes one part of his tongue in cheek, yet serious exploration of magic and its consequences and complexities in his Hellblazer run, another part the family dynamic of Detective Comics, and gives the book the blockbuster sensibility of co-writing gigs with Scott Snyder and others on books like Dark Nights Metal and Justice League No Justice even going back to his work on the Batman Eternal weeklies and turns into a fairly delightful concoction. He, Alvaro Martinez Bueno, Raul Fernandez, and Brad Anderson create connections between characters before having them punch, bite, or throw tendrils of the Green at things and the philosophy makes the book shine even if the antagonists are vaguer and vague.

Plus Tynion writes Swamp Thing like Treebeard from Lord of the Rings, which is incredibly ingenious.

Story: James Tynion IV Pencils: Alvaro Martinez Bueno
Inks: Raul Fernandez Colors: Brad Anderson Letters: Rob Leigh
Story: 8.5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review