Review: Justice League Dark #3 by Peter Milligan & Mikel Janin

As of November 2011, the DC Relaunch has been a success. Starting all of the books with a new #1 was a bold move, but one that really has been well accepted, and even an old comic-book curmudgeon like me has enjoyed it. However, there is one small problem with relaunching all of the books with new #1s.

All of the books (that I read) started in the same month, and all off the books (that I read) are working on story-arcs that can be nicely collected in a bound edition for release next spring. This means that every title is doing the same thing each month. This was fine for issue #1, where every comic book was re-establishing their corner of the DC Universe. Issue #2 was also less of a problem, as most books were enhancing what was already written and continuing the fresh new story. But in November, all of the titles are at issue #3, so that means each DC comic this month is a transition issue.

For me, this has started to feel rather repetitive. Each book is transitioning towards the story-arc finale, or bringing in new information to add to the ongoing story-arc. Not annoying in itself, but when you read lots of issue #3s in a single month, it starts to get weary. So I am looking forward to next month, as we will finally break the pack up a bit with more arc-finales and answering of questions. Additionally, the fan reaction will have reached the creative teams, so we shall see how they react to the cheers and the boos from the stands.

Onto Justice League Dark #3. Let’s see if it can move beyond the transition aspects of issue #3.

Justice League Dark #3: In the Dark: Shibboleths and Alcohol

Publisher: DC Comics
Written By: Peter Milligan
Art By: Mikel Janin
Publish Date: 11/23/2011 (Jan 2012)
Cover Price: $2.99
Review: Digital Copy (by Comixology)

In previous issues, the Justice League is attempting to stop The Enchantress, a powerful sorceress who is causing magical disturbances. In reaction, several magical heroes are independently reacting to this. Specifically Deadman (and his girlfriend Dove) are trying to confront June Moore, the former host of Enchantress. Zatana is notified of the situation by the Justice League and tries to confront Enchantress. Her distress pulls in John Constantine. And Madame Xanadu tries to manage the situation.

Synopsis:

  • Enchantress is aware of the presence of the magical heroes moving towards her.
  • Constantine rescues Zantana from her magical trance. The two of them cast a spell (Cmaithuna) to repair Zantana. Constantine leaves Zantana and tracks down Shade.
  • Deadman is comforting June, who runs from Shade trying to contact Deadman. Deadman has to possess June to save her from falling off the building.
  • After trying to contact Deadman, Xanadu tells Shade to find the hero, Mindwarp, in Los Angeles. Shade is able to confront Mindwarp in Australia.
  • Deadman and June try to comfort someone they hit with their car, but it ends up being The Enchantress.

Questions and Answers

Answer: June Moore was indeed the host of The Enchantress.

Answer: The next member of Justice League Dark (or at lease candidate) is Mindwarp who is Jay Young

Question: What were Mindwarp’s intentions in Australia? Punishing the wicked? Or just attacking people he wants to.

Question: What is Constantine’s purpose when he leaves Zatana? Is he confronting The Enchantress himself, or just gathering intel. And how does he know Shade is involved.

Question: Enchantress mentions Zatana, Deadman, Shade, and June at the beginning of the issue. She talks directly to Xanadu in issue #2. Is Constantine omitted on purpose, or is he the wild card that is off her radar.

Analysis

As I feared, another transition issue. Milligan crammed tons of raw information into this comic book, and very little actually happens. The ‘heroes’ have still to deal with the threat of The Enchantress head on. I thought she was breaking down reality, but apparently the heroes have time to bump into each other in bars, and visit potential new members. It’s actually a rather large mistake, if the first issue portrayed The Enchantress as an immediate threat requiring Justice League intervention, then you can’t have the magical heroes taking their sweet time to deal with her.

Deadman is being portrayed as a bit of a heel here. This is somewhat surprising. And it’s interesting that Milligan gave him an ‘out’ by suggesting that the Enchantress’s magic may be affecting him. I wonder if that’s due to early fan-reaction or just a heads up call by Milligan (or the editor) as Deadman is a shared character.

The Madame Xanadu/Shade interaction is rather confusing. First off, it’s been since issue #1 since we even saw Shade. Secondly, in issue #2 Madame Xanadu contacted Enchantress to seemingly betray the magical heroes, but in issue #3 Shade and she are hanging out. So what, did she contact Enchantress on the way to the bathroom? Plus, would it kill anyone to explain how Shade and Xanadu know each other

By contrast, we learn very easily how Constantine and Zatana know each other. Or at least, we understand their relationship rather quickly. But it would be helpful for someone to explain the purpose of the Maithuna ritual between Zantana and Constantine. I mean is it magical protection, magical strength, healing, information download, strategizing? To the casual reader, Constantine rescues Zantana, and then end up naked in hotel bathrobes performing a tantric sexual act that expels magical pleasure. An interesting idea, for sure, but how it helps fight The Enchantress, I’m really unsure.

Leaving Zatana in the lurch to go tackle the issue in his own way is a lovely display of Constantine being a complete bastard and loner.

The closeness of Deadman and June seems very rushed in this title. Maybe June is just latching onto whoever shows her the ability to help, but it seems very rushed. And for Deadman to be friendly/intimate with anyone when he has a relationship with Dove portrays him as a real jerk. Maybe I’m being over-protective of Dawn, but it didn’t sit well with me.

There is a second possibility, that June is playing Deadman to gain an advantage of some kind. Maybe she isn’t as innocent as she appears. I would totally respect that.

And I would really respect, Deadman actually realizing this, and preparing to take her down in some way.

The Shade/Mindwarp confrontation was really poor. Maybe if I read the subsequent Flashpoint titles (where Mindwarp apparently appeared) the scene wouldn’t have confused me as much. But I didn’t, so it was. I don’t know Mindwarp’s powers, so I’m very confused as to why he’s doing what he’s doing. And I’m very confused why Shade had to visit an apartment in Los Angeles to get a connection with Mindwarp who is in an Australian bathroom to visit someone in an Australian hotel room. Is Jay Young the identity of Mindwarp?

Nice touch having the Flashpoint titles in Jay Young’s apartment. Quite clever!

Very lame cliffhanger at the end. As if the creative team got to the action on page 21 and said, “Okay, we’ve run out of pages. What’s a quick and easy way to end this thing, so we can start the finale next issue? Hey boss, how about the old, thinking you hit someone in a car trick!”

Verdict

The book worked, but there were a lot of things to complain about. We’re three issues in and this book still feels like we’ve just started. I guess that’s good in some way, but we should be moving along a little better at this point. It’s nice that Milligan hasn’t resorted to a meet cute to get everyone together, but he’s almost avoiding it to a fault.

I’m still interested in issue #4, because the problems feel more meta (number of pages, number of issues in a trade paperback, etc.) than a deficiency in the creative team or what they can produce. All that said, this could have been better.

Overall Grade: 6.5 (Circling the airport, waiting for clearance)

Current Series Grade: B

 

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