Last issue, ended with a shocking betrayal– the JLD’s newest member, Doctor Mist turned on John Constantine and joined Felix Faust. This issue opens with a scene that explains why– his wife died and he wants to bring her back. (That is a terrible idea, jussayin’.) The remaining JLD members, along with Steve Trevor, arrive but Mist and Faust escape. Constantine senses that the maps to the Books of Magic are in Slaughter Swamp outside of Gotham City, while Zatanna traces Mist and Faust back to Peru. The heroes split up to investigate both locations.
Meanwhile in England, Timothy Hunter explains to Madame Xanadu how he rid himself of all of his magical abilities, throwing off her earlier vision that he would one day become the mightiest mystic in the world. He advises her to seek out a new prophecy.
In the pyramid in Peru, Faust and Mist collaborate with a mysterious third party. He divides up the Books of Magic, giving Mist the Book of Death, Faust the Book of Chaos, while he keeps the other two. He opens one of the maps and Faust learns that his Book is in Nanda Parbat (a location familiar to Deadman). The mystery man doesn’t reveal where Mist’s Book is, telling him that he wants him by his side when Zatanna and the others attack. Mist tells the M.M. that Constantine controls the House of Mystery, to which M.M. replies, “Guess I’ll just have to buy a house of my own.” DC fans should know what house he’s referring to, but should be surprised to see who currently occupies it.
Meanwhile, at the afore mentioned House of Mystery, Constantine and Black Orchid chat. While Orchid is withholding information, she learns why Zatanna and Constantine don’t get along. It’s not as simple as a past hookup… although that happened too. Ultimately, both teams of heroes reach their locations, only to find magical assailants awaiting them.
I’ll start with the art, which is always LOVELY on this title. Mikel Janin’s work is so beautiful and looks lush and super detailed in a way that I cannot believe he delivers on a monthly basis. He goes to the trouble of giving every character a unique and consistent face and body. His character designs are simply amazing and don’t look like anyone else’s costume or character designs. Doctor Mist and Black Orchid’s costumes are ridiculously detailed and it’s mind blowing that he draws them panel after panel, issue after issue. The one character whose look doesn’t impress me is Zatanna, but my understanding is DC forced him to give her the leather dominatrix look and he’s just following orders. Not only do the characters look amazing, but the magic effects are outstanding and burst off the page. Not to discount his storytelling, which is also excellent.
The storyline is intriguing. The core characters are handled very well, especially Constantine, Zatanna, Deadman and Xanadu. But this is one of those books where the seams are showing… or rather, the audience is getting glimpses of the hustle and bustle backstage. This book changed writers very early on and the roster has been in constant flux. We’ve already met and said goodbye to several team members including Shade the Changing Man and Andrew Bennett who lasted all of one issue. Doctor Mist joined last issue and betrayed the team by issue’s end. (I think he’ll be redeemed, though.) I can’t help but sense there’s some editorial string-pulling and that’s hampering the reader’s experience. I want to read a comic and simply enjoy the escapist experience. I don’t want to feel the backstage drama, yet I am.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a GOOD book, but I feel there’s too much meddling. I think creators need to tell the stories they want to tell. That usually results in the best work. When there is constant shifting of creators and characters, you can’t help but feel that they are desperately throwing things into the pot to see what works. Maybe the sales aren’t what DC wants, but this book is just shy of excellent.
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #12
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Mikel Janin
Cover by Ryan Sook