In a way, I was really happy with this issue. Justice League Dark is the only series so far of which I have been able to review nearly every issue. When I end up giving praise to nearly every issue in a series, I am forced to start wondering if a series can really be that consistently good or if I’ve become biased. Well, thank goodness for Justice League Dark #7, because now I know it’s not the latter.
I suppose it had to happen eventually, but fails at nearly everything I’ve come to expect from it, if not everything it needs to do. Is it because the book has to make special considerations in its crossover with I, Vampire? Is it because writer Peter Milligan is phoning it in on his way out of the series? Is the whole thing just a fluke? These things are not for the likes of us to know. All I know is this is the Justice League Dark #7 we were given, though not the one we deserve, so let’s deal with it.
As I mentioned, this is the beginning of the Justice League Dark/I, Vampire crossover. I will say that I have yet to read any of the I, Vampire books. Perhaps that makes all the difference, but I’ll be reviewing this book primarily on its own merits. Typically, these merits are a collection of fantastic characters that are forced to work together and to show off their incredible magic powers that allow them to alter reality itself in varying ways. This time they zap some vampires. It’s way more boring than it sounds.
Each of these characters is fascinating in their own right and come from some fantastic single books. John Constantine steals the show, once again, as the guy everyone loves to hate, while also being the only one who ever actually does anything. Madame Xanadu is still standing around, shocked that her master plan has not stopped being a huge failure. Deadman and Zatanna basically do nothing, except yell at Constantine and Shade. Shade himself is easily the biggest failure as his all-powerful reality-rewriting M-vest is stuck on permanent teleport duty. Except the vest isn’t working today. Because Shade still doesn’t believe in vampires and he’s freaking out about it. The alien from another planet who traveled to Earth through dreams and uses a magic garment with a will of its own is losing it because he does not believe in vampires. There is no way I could make this up.
Unfortunately, that is basically all that happens. The group just brawls some vampires and kind of gets an idea of maybe why that is happening, but not really. Constantine starts getting together some magic to chat with one of the I, Vampire characters who might help them, but probably won’t. Xanadu goes to talk to a big blue Buddha. I have no idea why. These are your plot developments. Enjoy. Or don’t. Goodness knows I certainly wouldn’t blame you for it.
Of course, sometimes the main story elements and characters fall to the wayside in a crossover. That’s to be expected, if the book is going to focus on some of the guest characters and anything they might bring. This is probably this issue’s biggest failure. Through the story, we are introduced to three characters who I believe come from I, Vampire. Based on their appearances, I should be interested in finding more about them and picking up their series to continue the crossover story and find out more about them. Instead of anything substantial though, these characters show up completely tangentially, have no interaction with the main cast, and I cannot imagine caring less about them. What’s even worse is that Batman and Batgirl are here, for seemingly no reason. The team helps out Batgirl, she says they suck, she bails, and no one says anything to Batman. Even if their appearance is set up in another book, I just do not know if I can reconcile the Bat-family being here, except for unabashed fan service. These are normal people punching vampires in the face. No sleuthing is involved and no gadgets or stealth. Batman literally shows up in one panel to punch a vampire in the face. Obviously, this is awesome, but only because it’s Batman. He’s allowed to be as stupid and poorly written as he wants and he will still be the coolest dude on the page. At a certain point though, someone is just being lazy. Was there seriously no one better suited to this fight?
Last, but surprisingly not least, is the art. It is by no means bad, but Mikel Janin’s fantastic pencil work is sorely missed here. The art is split up between Admira Wijaya, who pulls double duty as the inker, on the early pages and Daniel Sampere, who drew the latter two thirds of the pages. Again, the art is not bad, but it does end up being a little inconsistent and it certainly does not measure up, in my opinion, to Janin’s work. Some pages look like paintings and some look less impressive, particularly on the faces. There are a couple inexplicable pug noses and off kilter eyes. Furthermore, even the better pages don’t do as much to strike a chord in me. I feel like everyone is just posing for a portrait on their Magic: The Gathering card. Maybe it’s a weird complaint, but I simply did not see the same visual storytelling that was on offer in earlier issues. Of course, that could be due to a lack of story to tell.
When I reviewed Justice League Dark #6, I said that it was my least favorite issue, but it was still a decent book by most standards. This is certainly now the worst issue in the series, but this time I can’t even offer the same backhanded compliment. In the end, there are still characters I like fighting vampires and something has to be said for that. The art is tolerable at times and decent at others. Even with these things going for it, the best I can say for this book is that it is just barely average. As far as I’m concerned, that is hard to accept with a pedigree like this series has, but it is what it is. My hope is that Milligan will step up his game before his run ends, but if not, there’s at least Lemire to look forward to.