Turn off the Lights

Justice League Dark #10 – Review

First things first: I would like to issue an apology to anyone who read my review of Justice League Dark #9. In it, I linked to an article that discussed the recent cancellation of Justice League International and the subscription cancellation of several other books, including JLD. At a couple points I got a little maudlin about how disappointed I was that this series was ending. Of course, astute readers, that is to say, anyone who actually read the words and does not make up assumptions like an idiot, would notice that the article does not say anything about Justice League Dark being cancelled. It just says that it is no longer being offered as a subscription. This is not the last issue of Justice League Dark. I am dumb. Like, so dumb. Dumb and sorry. ANYWAY.
Last time on Justice League Dark John Constantine and his squad of magical dupes went on a government sanctioned mission to beat up professional magic creep, Felix Faust. After dismantling his Indiana Jones villain roleplay fantasy, they discovered that the artifact Faust was protecting was a map to the Books of Magic; aka as far as magic goes these things are basically the best. Today’s mission? Decide what to do with it.
JLD #10
In between books, it has been decided that while Faust belongs in government custody, they cannot be trusted with the map. So it is that Constantine reveals to the League his illicitly-gained ownership of the House of Mystery, a house so mysterious that its mystery is overshadowed only by its capacity to be a house. The assembled party of Deadman, Zatanna, Andrew Bennett, Black Orchid, and the recently rescued Dr. Mist listen as Constantine explains the origins of the map and, more importantly, what the Books might be. By the end of his spiel, Constantine has effectively alienated every single other person there, but that is always bound to happen when John Constantine opens his mouth.

There are two actual important parts surrounding this conversation. The more immediately pressing plot point is that, while everyone is split up, they manage to get the map stolen right out from under them. I won’t go into exactly what happens, but rest assured it is a decent surprise that really gives the sense of a legitimate narrative arc to this story. The other important plot point involves a brief interjection on the story by Madame Xanadu, who decided to sit this mission out last issue. Throughout Justice League Dark, Xanadu has shared with readers brief glimpses of a horrible future. It is the whole reason she pulled these characters together in the first place. This issue gives us more of this vision than we have ever seen before and more than I, personally, expected. While these pages do not tie in as immediately with the currently running story, it gives the entire series so far that narrative arc. I got the sense that all of this has been building to something specific, instead of just being an ongoing series of loosely connected events and that prospect is very exciting to me.

Unfortunately, that set up for what is to come is the best part of this issue’s story. The book reeks of transition and exposition. There is not a whole lot going on here. Every page seems to be someone explaining something. Constantine explains the map. Mist explains his powers. Faust explains his plans. Xanadu’s vision explains what Xanadu should be doing. Basing this book around the House of Mystery was potentially a compelling decision, but it ends up being setting and nothing more. The cover of this book asks, “Dare they enter . . . the House of Mystery?” but its all window dressing. The important plot points both involve things happening to other characters in other places. There are a lot of really cool ideas here, but whatever potential they have to be truly compelling hasn’t been realized yet.

With all this not very much going on, it would be easy to gloss over the art in this issue, as well. At a second glance though, it is my opinion that the art actually trumps the story in this book. When all of the dialogue is replacing wit with exposition, the way these characters look and move is often a lot more interesting. The only moment I found to be more character driven than the rest is really emphasized by how expressive Zatanna is drawn in these pages. Dr. Mist looks like an absolute boss in one panel and Felix Faust does his absolute best impression of Emperor Palpatine with a sadistically gleeful grin. My favorite aspect of the book’s art has to be the House of Mystery, though. As I said, its only function in the story is as a setting, but what a setting it is. Both interior and exterior shots are consistent in making this place look like every haunted house from every ghost story you’ve ever been delighted to be afraid of. This place oozes ambiance and there is a definite sense of the mysteriousness that it is named for. I maintain that, for being prominently featured on the cover, the House of Mystery is woefully underused. However, it is the art, far more than the writing, that gave me an idea of the potential I was missing out on.

Justice League Dark #10 is not poorly written, but it is also not especially interesting. It is very well drawn, but without any of the truly marvelous set pieces the series has delivered before. Despite all that missed potential, I firmly believe there are just too many good ideas here to let this book go unnoticed. If you are a fan of the series, then you will definitely enjoy this issue for the promise of what is to come. If you have not checked it out yet, then just make sure to get issue #9, as well, when you pick this one up.


Meet the Author

Follow Us