John Constantine. Deadman. Zatanna. Madame Xanadu. Andrew Bennett. Black Orchid. Dr. Mist. Together they form the supernatural super-team in DC Comics‘ “New 52″ universe: Justice League Dark. Beginning with last month’s Justice League Dark #9, another name has been added to this phantasmagorical pantheon: Jeff Lemire. No, he’s not a new character. For those of you who do know who Lemire is, this does not mean he has stopped writing DC’s epic – and universally lauded – Animal Man. What it does mean is that fans of Justice League Dark and its offbeat characters can rejoice in the fact that comics rockstar Jeff Lemire will take this quirky series above and beyond what any of us thought possible: into the literary realm of Gaiman’s Sandman and Robinson’s Starman.
Case and point: this month’s issue, Justice League Dark #10.
Starting from page one, the dialogue Lemire brings to the series is top notch. I don’t think I’ve read dialogue this snappy in a good long while. It gives the characters a tangibility, a realness that transcends their comic book trappings. Crisp dialogue can shed light on the relationships between characters, uncover the drama and conflict underneath the surface, as well as move the plot along. That’s exactly what happens here. For instance, John Constantine, that chain-smoking, love-him-or-hate-him magician/con-man thrives on dialogue: the man rarely shuts up. And thanks to Lemire’s formidable talents, we, as readers, don’t want Constantine to shut up – he’s simply too enjoyable! Deadman is another character who benefits from the dialogue; his push-and-pull conversations with Constantine are beyond entertaining and his almost constant background comments are quirkily hysterical.
In issue #10, Constantine leads the team to their new base of operations – The House of Mystery, which stands at the crossroads of time and space (and the Dreaming, as any fan of Sandman knows) and whose interior architecture changes almost constantly – where they can take a breather to discuss their next move. After an encounter with sorcerer Felix Faust (another great occult villain from the DC mythos), the team is now in possession of a box that supposedly holds the map to the “Black Room” the legendary Books of Magic (yet another Gaiman creation) are locked in. When Constantine drops a bomb on the rest of the team – since they’ve entered the House of Mystery through his invitation, they are bound to Constantine and the house and must return whenever he calls them – team members Zatanna, Deadman, Black Orchid, and Dr. Mist angrily storm out to get some air, leaving Constantine all by his lonesome, which he takes full advantage of (shocker!) to open the map box himself. Unbeknownst to the unscrupulous occultist, Felix Faust has put a spell on the map box, and when Constantine opens it, he is attacked by three demons. The demons get the best of Constantine and his team, and taking the map box head for Faust, who is being interrogated by Steve “Ex-Wonder Woman Boy Toy” Trevor. The issue ends with the three demons busting Faust out of prison.
I’m excited to see where Lemire is taking Justice League Dark. I’m loving the characters, the story has me intrigued, and Mikel Janin’s art really complements it all. Even though I’m a big fan of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s Justice League, I’d love for them to take note of what Lemire is doing with Constantine & Co.: the dialogue in Justice League Dark #9 and #10 really make these characters come to life and take the story beyond the typical good superheroes vs. bad supervillians storylines that I feel have been weighing Justice League down. In short, there is depth in Lemire’s take on Justice League Dark, and that makes all the difference. Here’s to hoping Jeff Lemire stays the course and makes Justice League Dark a series to remember.
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