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It’s interesting to analyze cases such as these. Cases where some slight changes and/or modifications can save something from extinction. In the final months of 2013 it seemed that one of DC’s lines was about to go the way of the dodo, or at the very least the way of the “Young Justice Line”. Which is in itself a fate that could be considered “worse than death”.
The Young Justice Line, which was whittled down to one single title over the course of several failed series. Bad writing, art, and editorial mismanagement were the bane of that line, which is losing even its final book, Teen Titans, and needs a hail mary pass to stave off being detached completely. The line we’re talking about, the “Dark Line”, was under much of the same cloud – plagued by the same problems. The Dark Line had been halved in terms of talent and titles again and again. A fan favorite and a critical darling, Demon Knights and I, Vampire respectively, had bit the dust with Knights writer Paul Cornell moving to Marvel. Dial H was a flash in the pan not to be seen again.
Replacements came and went, new comics that brought nothing much to the table and brought their own nuisances. Trinity of Sin: Pandora was bland, uninspired, and created no excitement in any other than those who are obsessed more with continuity wank than actual stories. After the fumbling of “Trinity War” it no longer serves any purpose. Constantine was much of the same, yet garnered vast reader displeasure by creating “New 52” versions of seminal characters in a slap-dash manner. Funnily enough both of these comics flew forth from the pen of Ray Fawkes, who has gained a negative reputation for his quality of work. We’ll get more into his specific titles and his style of writing later on.
The shining example of the failure of the Dark Line was their headliner – Justice League Dark. A series so completely without excitement or any real engaging qualities. It always read more as some one-off, by the wayside, comic than something that was meant to put the best feet of an entire line forward. If your “star attraction” can’t stand on its own two feet, then what hope do your other books have? Even the critically acclaimed such as Swamp Thing, Animal Man, and The Phantom Stranger – all distanced them elves earlier on. They’re tonally different enough that they seem of a higher caste. Of course, that was set to change soon enough.
It’s not every day that an event like Forever Evil comes along, an event that pretty much aids almost everything it comes into contact with. Yet, no one quite foresaw the change it would make in the Dark Line – at least in terms of sheer overhauling. “Forever Evil: Blight”, an 18-part crossover through all of the main Dark Line titles, all headed by J.M. DeMatteis. The very writer who turned The Phantom Stranger, as conceived by Dan Didio, into one of the most compelling, engaging, and emotionally rewarding character narratives in DC Comics in years. Ray Fawkes was along for the ride as well, but his role was mainly to use his lackluster titles to buff the main story.
The magic of “Blight” was something that was twofold. Primarily, it was hardly even directly tied to Forever Evil as a whole. It was tangential, it was to the side, and it was its own story – with the reins firmly in DeMatteis’ hands. It was free to play around and showcase its own agenda. Secondly, it was a continuation of something that had already had fans: The Phantom Stranger. “Blight” was a direct succession of plot threads and themes that DeMatteis had set up and laid the seeds for in Phantom Stranger, with the main villain being a character who originated from one of his now celebrated arcs. In essence, the mini-event had itself a built in fanbase.
Those that were afraid that the crossover would derail Stranger were satiated, and otherwise it was a simple enough story. What really began to sell it was one more final touch – how it elevated Fawkes. Constantine and Trinity of Sin: Pandora became chained to DeMatteis’ story, so much that they could not but help its flow. While under other circumstances this might come off as annoying, the fact that they left their own plots behind to buff out “Blight” definitely increased their stature. Adding on DeMatteis writing Justice League Dark (and contributing/concluding Lemire’s plot lines), and you are left with a storyline that is equal parts exposition, action, and emotionally based. It became a draw, something to be noted but not ignored, a curiosity.
Which, all in all, is leaving the line in a better place than it used to be. The most notable thing, however, was that DeMatteis was forward thinking enough to acknowledge that continuity hounds would shove it aside given its tangential nature, with the following issues of the crossover serving as a transition to the main Forever Evil hijinks. The main problem has already closed off, leaving the door open to deal with the main details of the event. “Blight” was able to generate a lot of buzz for a line that was beginning to falter, with DC running full page ads and even a double page spread advertising future plot lines. 2014 could be the year for the Dark. What say you? Comments and thoughts would be appreciated below.