Review: 'Justice League Dark' #1 Frightens in the Best of Ways

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(Photo: DC Comics)

There’s a moment in Justice League Dark #1 where Zatanna’s narrating a beautiful story as her and Wonder Woman work towards getting rid of a rogue spell that managed to manifest itself into a monster. “It was beauty, and horror and ecstasy all at once,” she says. Whether it was planned or not, Zatanna’s line perfectly described the first issue in James Tynion IV’s new run on Justice League Dark. Joined by a splendid team of artist, Tynion IV crafted a masterful tale that showed both beauty and horror throughout the book.

As many stories like this go, Justice League Dark seems to fall victim to the trope that many team-up titles do. One hero has an idea to band together out of necessity, but nobody else sees the situation that way. Thankfully for us, Tynion decided to have the team join together by the end of the first issue, rather than dragging out the process throughout the better part of a first arc.

For fans of the unsettling, Justice League Dark #1 manages to straddle the line between thriller and horror brilliantly. While I feel it doesn’t go full-on horror until very late in the issue, I found myself holding my breath several times throughout as tension began to grow.

The basis of the story is one that’s not been done all too many times before. Somehow, the Earth’s magic has run amok, and it’s causing all sorts of problems for the world’s magicians and sorcerers. It’s a storyline that naturally piques one’s interest, and I found it translated perfectly into serialized story telling.

As with most team-ups, there wasn’t necessarily a formidable opponent right out of the gates. Rather, the majority of this debut issue’s conflicts came from the team members arguing amongst themselves trying to determine if it’s really worth it or not to put together a team. That’s not necessarily a true critique, however, as by the time the end of the issue comes around, Justice League Dark has more than just their hands full.

When it comes to comics, I’m an absolute sucker for the corniest of team-ups. In fact, I think that’s something unique to the comic industry and no place else, unless you factor Guardians of the Galaxy into the equation, that is.

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The team assembled in Justice League Dark #1 has a little of everything, quite frankly. From Wonder Woman assuming role as the team leader, she’s joined by the ever-reluctant Zatanna as well as the reformed Man-Bat and the drunken monkey Detective Chimp. Oh, and the muscle? Swamp Thing eventually decides to join the team, since his Tree of Wonder is at the root of all evil, apparently.

While I didn’t really feel that the art particularly stood out, I did take note of several instances in which the inks really added to the story. In particular, there’s a sequence of panels in which Zatanna is speaking with John Constantine and with some crosshatch and halftone ink patterns with some dark coloring, you can nearly feel the hairs on your neck stand on end.

With this issue being the first in the series, I expected it to deal with the dysfunctions a superhero team would find and that’s what we got — so it was a bit too predictable on that front. When one starts to factor in magic and sorcery, however, anything is possible and I feel that as the story progresses, Tynion and company have certainly laid the groundwork to make a series that will keep you gasping as you rapidly flip page to page to try and find out what happens next.

Published by DC Comics

On July 25, 2018

Written by James Tynion IV

Art by Alvaro Martinez Bueno

Inks by Raul Fernandez

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Colors by Brad Anderson

Letters by Rob Leigh