Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Justice League Dark, Vol. 1: The Last Age of Magic

  I love weird hodge-podge teams like this.

 And, if you're assembling a magic-based Justice League team that is firmly based in the mainstream DC Universe, who better to be the superhero representative than Wonder Woman?

 I've been taking a hard pass on most of DC's recent output. In fact, I've pretty much given up on all new comics coming from Marvel and DC in favor of picking up tricked-out collected editions of old favorites or storylines that I regretted missing the first time around. But the lineup of this book proved too intriguing to resist. Zatanna and Detective Chimp, PLUS Wonder Woman....? Sign me up!

 I've never been a fan of writer James Tynion IV. His output, in my opinion, has ranged from awful and derivative to merely adequate. But he really shines here in JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK, VOL. 1: THE LAST AGE OF MAGIC, delivering the closest approximation to a Vertigo story that DC has seen since they rolled out "The New 52" and absorbed John Constantine and Swamp Thing back into their main superhero universe.

 I won't dwell too much on the story (Massive magical threat forces The Justice League to set up a supernatural spinoff group), suffice to say that I found it to be superbly executed. Tynion IV seems to have really found his footing as a writer, or else he's just really taken with this concept and particular group of characters. The characters that he has chosen to round out this team are all excellent picks (Detective Chimp, Wonder Woman, Zatanna, Man-Bat, and Swamp Thing, who now looks like a green Alan Moore.....), and it was delightful to see DC's supernatural archives broken busted open, allowing appearances by The Phantom Stranger, Eclipso, Zauriel, Sargon The Sorcerer, Zatara, Baron Winter, Blue Devil, Nightshade, John Constantine, The Parliament of Trees, Black Orchid, and Doctor Fate, among others. The art is excellent (Sooooo many double-page spreads, though....), and I had a blast reading this book. The inevitable complaints.....

 ....as usual, DC has no idea how to collect a book. This volume collects issues 1-3 and 5-7. Where's #4, you ask? In DC's THE WITCHING HOUR collection. Which is NOT OUT YET. Yes, DC waited a whole three months before doing the mandatory epic crossover....way to roll out a new, otherwise new-reader-friendly, title, folks. This collection skips #4, and the rest of the crossover, entirely, opting instead for a small one-paragraph recap. As shitty as THE WITCHING HOUR was (It consisted of two one-shots, one JLD issue, and two WONDER WOMAN issues, all written by Tynion, who delivers the kind of bland shit that I had come to know him for), it is essential reading if you're going to keep up with this title. Hell, it is essential reading if you want to read the last half of THIS COLLECTION. I don't really see what the point of the crossover was, as it all could have been easily accomplished in the pages of JLD. It had the vibe of an editorially-mandated event, though, since Tynion IV seems to have been totally tuned-out during it. He pulls it back together once the crossover ends, thankfully, but....this is a pure cash grab, and it is bound to irritate and upset readers who pick up this collection expecting to get every issue of the series. At the very least, DC should have included issue #4, had a MUCH longer recap, and told readers where to go to get the complete story. Shit like this is why I've mostly given up on current comics.

 Overall, a VERY solid first volume, marred by a pointless crossover and a senseless omission. The creepy-factor is strong here, the characters are winners, and I am dying to see more of "The Upside-Down Man". I'm in for Volume 2.

  JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK, VOL. 1: THE LAST AGE OF MAGIC earns a solid nine out of ten cursed grimoires:

 DC Comics provided a review copy.

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