A Welcome Return For Magic In The DCU Thanks To Justice League Dark #1

by Olly MacNamee

With the fallout from Dark Nights: Metal and Justice League: No Justice reverberating across the DCU, this week saw the release of Justice League Dark #1, the book that will be dealing with the breakdown of magic led by Wonder Woman, who has a hard time recruiting a team to support here in these endeavours.
Writer James Tynion IV gives us a leader who in recent years has returned to her roots and the mythological background upon which her stories were always intrinsically linked. It makes her, amongst the DC Trinity, the de facto choice to lead a group of magicians and magically attuned characters, being no stranger to supernatural happenings as we have seen in her own title and in the recent The Brave and The Bold run, in which she sat naturally amongst the Celtic pantheon of gods, faeries and monsters. It also helps to have a big name on the roster, as this is a Justice League that hasn’t always been favoured by readers, given their previous run was cancelled. Batman can do horror, Supes can represent sci-fi, but it’s good to have Wonder Woman representing the more mirky, magical nooks and crannies and bring these tales to the fore in this new world order.

But, this is a new DCU, one under threat, and I liked the twist on the whole ‘we’re getting the band back together’ that Tynion IV serves up. Meanwhile, as Princess Diana seeks out those who would fight by her side, albeit reluctantly, including Swamp Thing, Zatanna, Detective Chimp and John Constantine, what seems like every other magical being in the DCU congregate around Baron Winters – from the underrated Night Force –  in his house. It’s a virtual who’s who of DC Comics’ magical members, with Morgaine Le Fey, Klarion the Witch Boy, and of course, Jason Blood (Etrigan) all wondering what they can do to stop the wickedness that this way comes. It’s also a good sign of the type of characters at Tynion IV’s disposal. Characters that haven’t been used for some time, but deserve a second look. I do hope we see more of the mysterious Baron Winters and his Night Force. Something tells me we will. Justice League Dark seems the prefect arena to test out the popularity of such characters and the ideal springboard from which Night Force and others could well spring from.

Alvaro Martinez Beuno, along with Raul Fernandez on inks and Brad Anderson on colours, create a suitably dark comic, but with crisp, clear artwork on each and every page. There is no muddying of the scenes, which is a good indicator of the quality of the series going forward. Like a lot of horror, events unfold in the dark, whether that be sitting at a dim-lit bar nursing a drink, or congregating around a fire in Baron Winters’s creepy mansion (aren’t they all?), the partnership between these three delivers a tonally on point comic. It’s still super heroics, but with wands and spells.
I enjoyed the previous series of Justice League Dark, and I’ve enjoyed this restart too. It also acts as a guide to DC’s take on magic, and for longtime readers gives a nod to the past too, as well as acting as an introduction for newer readers into this fascinating corner of the DCU that isn’t often explored. It also references more recent attempts by the publishers to sustain books that covert this area, such as Shadowpact. all in all it sets the scene for events to come, giving each magic wielding meta or otherwise, a place and therefore a starting point on the chess board.
I suppose the inbuilt issue with magic and super heroics is that not enough readers see these genres as co-existing. Not when super heroics stem more from sci-fi than horror. But then, looks at Frankenstein. Seen as both an early example of gothic horror and science fiction! Go figure. As someone who has always embraced this shadier, ‘anything can happen’ aspect of DC, I’m glad that magic is back. It may be broke, but I’d put my short on Wonder Woman and chums sorting this one out. Albeit with blood spilt along the way, no doubt.
Here’s hoping to a new relevance for magic in the DCU off the back of this promising debut.

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