When we last left the JLD, Zatanna and Timothy Hunter had just disappeared through a dimensional portal, to places unknown. In the first issue here ("Enter the House of Mystery") the group discovers that the so-called Books of Magic that triggered the portal are in fact entirely scientific artifacts, not magical at all. This is according to a new character, the appropriately-named Dr. John Peril. While he and Constantine work out a way to reactivate the books for a rescue attempt, other members of the team get themselves into trouble exploring the House of Mystery. Regular artist Mikel Janin gets a break for this issue, and the fill-in team of Graham Nolan and Victor Drujiniu do a good job illustrating in a compatible style.
As the title arc begins, Zatanna and Timothy find themselves in the "Wild Area" of a place called Epoch, about to be arrested for the crime of teleportation. When Zatanna uses some magic, she quickly discovers that the place is overflowing with magic: everything she does is much more powerful than usual. As she uses the power to fight off the police officer in a power suit, the pair are pulled beneath the earth into a faerie realm. Quite a blast from the past for longtime Vertigo readers! Meanwhile, Constantine, Madame Xanadu, Deadman, Black Orchid and Frankenstein teleport in for the rescue. They immediately start to notice dramatic changes in themselves. The immortal Xanadu begins to age rapidly; Boston Brand (Deadman) regains life; Constantine finds himself unable to lie; plant being Black Orchid becomes some kind of animal; only Frankenstein appears unchanged. No explanation for why neither Zatanna or Timothy Hunter noticed any affect, which I consider an odd narrative omission.
Meanwhile, Z and Tim hear the history of the place. When science became dominant and banished magic, the lone surviving mage was named Hunter. Which explains why Tim was able to trigger the portal, and why he was greeted as savior. He once again bears the mantle of "destined great mage" which he bridled under during his earlier appearances.
As the rescuers escape, Tim prepares to lead an attack on the science fortress. All of the magical activity has triggered a literal cataclysm, threatening to consume both Epoch and the Earth. You can't tell a Justice League story without having them face a world-threatening crisis, can you?
Best part of this story was Constantine not being able to lie.
Yeah, and Deadman keeps telling him he liked him better when he was a lying conman.
Mark S. Ogilvie said:
Best part of this story was Constantine not being able to lie.
Constantine being unable to lie is like Zatanna being gagged, his main power is gone.
Part Four of "The Death of Magic" features the expected fireworks, as the forces of magic and science clash. Things are looking dire; the JLD has run out of options. Then a deus ex machina appears, in the form of Tim Hunter's father Jack. Turns out that Jack, like Tim, was a great mage who gave up magic to live a normal life: I don't remember this even being hinted at before. The Hunters send a tremendous amount of mystic energy off into space, restoring the balance on both planets. They choose to stay behind to rebuild, and the JLD heads back to Earth to restore Xanadu's immortality before the rapid aging claims her. The rest of the group follows Constantine into the House of Mystery, rejecting an alliance with A.R.G.U.S.
The three-part "Horror City" concludes the collection. It brings Constantine's current nemesis The Cult of the Cold Flame into this title. They manage to distract Constantine long enough to steal the House of Mystery. John summons the Swamp Thing to help find it (he can do that because the House is made of wood, and is therefore accessible via the Green). The House has already begun turning New York City into a nightmare zone, and it turns out that Doctor Destiny is behind it. The Flash enters the picture to help out (which Flash would this be, anyway? I'm not up with the current continuity), which would make him a representative of...Justice League Light, maybe. Turns out Madam Xanadu is especially pivotal to this arc, because Doctor Destiny is her son. Another New 52 construct, I believe.
Xanadu cuts the Dreamstone out of Destiny's chest, which ends the immediate crisis. But she has seen some portents of a bad future. She refuses to reveal the identity of Doctor Destiny's father, and the story ends with her walking off alone: the fate of the world depends on it.
I'm happy to see some love for this book, because I'm very fond of these characters. But as the series progresses it feels more and more like a typical DCU superhero title. When you have characters like Batman and the Flash showing up, isn't it close to just being a Justice League story? I recognize that the roots of DC's mystical characters lie strongly in the DCU. It's where they started, and the years where many of them appeared only in Vertigo titles may very well be only a blip in the long term. But I love the kind of stories that were told there. They moved more slowly, with fewer world-threatening crises and far less interaction between the characters, even ones with close ties like John Constantine had with Zatanna and the Swamp Thing. Constantine lost friends, but years apart: he had time to consider the consequences of his actions. And when he fell in love and lost, the pain was earned, not put there by writer's fiat.
I guess I'm saying that I'm really not the target audience for Justice League Dark, even more than related New 52 titles like Animal Man and Swamp Thing. However good a superhero title it might be, it's still making superheroes out of characters that I don't think of in that way. How about you, Mark and Richard (and anyone else who's reading JLD regularly)? What's your history with these characters, and why do you like this book more than others in the New 52?
I don't have much of one, I don't like Constantine that much, he's the kind of guy who in my mind is more of a politician than a man, the kind you don't trust on anything more important than asking him what time of day it is. And even then you check your watch. Certainly you don't trust him with team leadership. I know Zatanna a little more and liked her until the whole Identity Crisis thing and could not believe how lightly she got from that (Catwoman should have really torn into her), but DC erased that from the character.
Personally I started picking up JLD on the strength of the Zatanna title that came before it and was canceled far too quickly for my tastes. I don't think that they really have a direction for JLD yet, it looks to be something like they were trying to do with Shadowpact. We'll see now that the big-mega-super-crossover is done, or when it actually is done.
One further observation: when Timothy Hunter appeared at the end of the previous collection--only to be whisked away into another dimension almost immediately--there was some question about how well the character was being used in this title. He had previously starred in several long-running books on his own, after all. He and his father do wind up being central to the title arc here, so their presence is well justified. But then their story appears to be over, as they remain in the alternate universe. So I'd say the jury is still out. If the series returns to them periodically, the character's use would be appropriate for his past DC history. But if Tim's story is truly over, I'd have to call it a waste.
BUMP, because I thought the discussion might have a little more life left in it.