‘Justice League Dark’ #7:
DC’s ‘New 52’ certainly has its critics, but one point that I give them props for is the effort they’ve put into establishing that these heroes all inhabit a singular world with connections running throughout the line. There’s already been a crossover between ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘O.M.A.C.’ and now we get another involving two of their ‘The Edge’ titles, ‘Justice League Dark’ and ‘I, Vampire.’ Andrew Bennett, the lead in ‘I, Vampire’ has already crossed paths with JLDark’s John Constantine, in issue #4 of his title. In that book, he warned Constantine that if he were to fall, then it would be up to Constantine and his mystical associates to battle Mary, Queen of Blood. Then in the last issue of ‘I, Vampire’ Andrew was slain by his supposed ally, the teenage slayer, Tig. So now… it’s up to Constantine and his mystical associates. (Though they hardly qualify as a team!)
Madame Xanadu senses what has transpired; upon Andrew’s death, the ultimate evil was unleashed, father of all vampires, Cain. Shade, the Changing Man, attempts to use his M-Vest to teleport them to Cain, but his dark magic causes interference. They are then swarmed by Mary’s vampire army and Shade freaks out. “I mean, I kn-knew [vampires] existed as a cultural phenomenon on Earth. Bram Stoker. Twilight. But…” It seems strange that a magical super hero would be clueless that vampires not only exist, but have for hundreds of years! Constantine tells him to get it together and teleport them once more, but once again, his vest doesn’t quite work correctly. They appear on a rooftop and watch as a bickering couple in a car below them is attacked by blood-suckers, before Batgirl arrives and fights them off, only to find herself overwhelmed by their sheer number. Deadman attempts to possess one of them, just as he is about to bite Batgirl, but has a weird reaction and has to flee his body. Batgirl keeps slugging and comments, “You’re Zatanna’s team, right?” Constantine bristles at the classification, while Shade’s powers keep going haywire. His aren’t the only ones, as Zatanna’s backwards spells stop working and she is nearly assaulted by a vampire and Constantine attempts to create a protective circle, only for it to dissolve.
Xanadu surmises that Cain is siphoning off their magic and channeling it into his army. She dispatches Constantine and Deadman to the land of the dead to rescue Andrew Bennett. She herself projects her astral form someplace. Shade and Zatanna take Xanadu’s body and teleport once more this time reaching the rooftop where Batman, John Troughton and Tig are doing their best to fend off the vampires. Constantine prepares a spell and opens a gateway to the underworld, after some goading from Deadman. Xanadu arrives in the astral realm of a being called the Crystal One and is prepared to pay a valuable fee for the help needed to defeat Cain.
Then, over in ‘I, Vampire’ Andrew wakes up “nowhere,” literally, he is in an empty void. Batman grabs Troughton and Tig and flees as Cain presents himself to his new army. He grabs the flippant Mary by the throat and steals control of the vampires from her. Back in the void, Andrew speaks to a disembodied voice which at first is elusive but then, in a lovely two-page spread, reveals Cain’s origin; that “before there was light or dark or Heaven or Earth, there was blackness. And this blackness took the form of a man.” He later encounters a woman cast out of heaven and feeds on her, finding power in her body, with she in return, being cursed by his bite. The pair spread terror throughout the world until a band of mystics imprisoned him, using Andrew as the “lock.” (It’s not clear, but Cain seems to be fighting Etrigan the Demon, so could this be an upcoming storyline in ‘Demon Knights?’) Once Andrew “died” Cain was freed.
Cutting back to Zatanna and Shade joining Batman, Troughton and Tig on the rooftop. Zatanna and Batman catch each other up on the events leading up to their meeting. Below, Mary attempts to rally her vampires only to discover, “You guys’re all souped up and magicky and crazy.” Back above, Batman high tails it to save Gotham City, leaving Andrews allies in JLDark’s hands. Tig discovers that cutting the vamps’ heads off is longer working. Help arrives… from the most unlikely source, Mary! She unleashes her fury and kills the attacking horde. However, Cain is just now addressing his new army and seems to create a force field around Gotham City. The city’s defenders, Nightwing, Batgirl, Robin and even Catwoman are shown, not fairing very well against the vampires. Mary laments her situation, “A primordial evil co-opting my army, a bunch of mystical morons all around me, and Andrew’s boyfriend and his stupid kid… I bet somewhere, Andrew Bennett is really enjoying this.”
So things look bad all around. Justice League Dark is hardly a team. They can’t stand one another and have no capacity to function as a unit. And at this point, their powers aren’t even working, since Cain is absorbing it all. Batman is also not much of a team player and bailed on them all. At this point, it’s all up to Constantine and Deadman being able to rescue Andrew from the void where he is trapped or Xanadu and the Crystal One… or both! Just when we (‘I, Vampire’ readers, that is) thought Mary was as bad as it got, Cain dwarfs her in terms of evil and power!
So how well do these two books mesh? Well, they both deal with the supernatural, so there’s that. Unfortunately, the casts of the two books don’t have that much interaction. Zatanna and Batman exchange a few words. John and Tig get a couple of lines, but mainly talk to each other. I’m looking forward to more in next months books. It was nice that both books street on the same week, so I got to read both chapters in one sitting.
I’ve praised ‘I, Vampire’ illustrator Andrea Sorrentino’s art before. It’s so gritty and perfectly suited to this book’s dark premise. Here’s where the books don’t mesh so well. The art team on ‘Justice League Dark’ has such a beautiful, painterly style! It looks great, but then to have this storyline flow between the two books– there’s no transition. The art styles are completely different! If any casual readers are checking either book out for the first time, that may turn them off. It’s jarring, but both are excellent in their own way. I just tried to overlook it, although I admit it was difficult.
‘I, Vampire’ is one of my favorite books right now. It’s one I most look forward to reading, the weeks when it comes out. ‘Justice League Dark’ has been a bit spottier for me. It’s pretty. The characters bicker a lot and are kind of hit or miss. I love Zatanna and she makes it out the best of the bunch. Constantine is amusing too. But Deadman has come across as pretty unlikeable, Xanadu is a cypher and Shade is kind of an imbecile. (Black Orchid will be joining shortly, speaking of cyphers…) Their first storyline had most of them apart for most of it. Maybe it just needs to jell a bit more. It’s not that I don’t like it at all, but it’s slid lower and lower on my priority list. I’ll give them at least one more storyline after this crossover is done, though.
But obviously, this is a crossover and you have to read both titles, so…
Verdict for Both: Buy
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #7
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Daniel Sampere and Admira Wijaya
Cover by Ryan Sook
I, VAMPIRE #7
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art and Cover by Andrea Sorrentino