Featured Blogs >> My most anticipated book of the DC new 52: Justice League Dark #1
Since the beginning of this reboot I hoped for one thing above all others. As a HUGE John Constantine fan I hoped that he would receive a top billing somewhere in this new DC Universe. And much to my delight, it happened! They created a book called Justice League Dark for him and some of the other magical characters in the DC Universe to band together and fight evil. The concept in my opinion is a brilliant one. Assemble five of the most interesting and also morally flexible characters to fight things that are so evil that these so called “heroes” must band together and fight them. These evils are the kinds that the likes of Superman, Batman and other traditional superheroes do not have the tools to face. That is a fantastic story premise. Now with an awesome idea in hand, they had to assemble a group of characters that would fit the promise of this premise.
At the head of the line of this new group is John Constantine. John Constantine was created by Alan Moore in the pages of his Swamp Thing run back in the 80’s (Issue #37 of Saga of the Swamp Thing) to much acclaim. After being used in Swamp Thing John Constantine was given his own book that is still going on today, and it’s the only original Vertigo series that has sustained over the years. For those of you who maybe have not experience John Constantine before his character is of a street wise magician who while he does have morals and has a sense of right and wrong, he is a character who is not afraid to spill blood or cross the line for the cause of the greater good. He will help save us from the apocalypse but if you get in his way or are the cause of it watch out. After a successful run in Swamp Thing John was granted his own series in 1988 with creators Jamie Delano and John Ridgeway and the book has never looked back. The book has been a veritable who’s who of great comic creators. Writers such as Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Mike Carey, Brian Azzarello, Andy Diggle, Peter Milligan and many others have had long runs on the book. And joining these fantastic writers were artists such as Steve Dillon, Glenn Fabry, Tim Bradstreet, Lee Bermejo, Simon Bisley, Mark Buckingham, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Richard Corben, Guy Davis, Jock, David Lloyd, Leonardo Manco, Dave McKean, Sean Phillips and tons of others. Many of the runs from these creators have been fantastic and have truly developed John Constantine in a very rounded and rich way. So at the end of last year’s event Brightest Day when Geoff Johns and company brought Swamp Thing and Constantine back into the universe I was thrilled. The opportunity to see John interact with fellow magic characters and superheroes is another aspect that has never really been played too much in the Vertigo series, but it could now be. So with the introduction of a book filled with John doing what he does best and trying to get along in a world with other supernatural characters makes this something very interesting to watch for in the pages of this book.
The next interesting character that has been chosen to protect the world from evil is the fascinating Shade the Changing Man. Shade the Changing Man was originally created by Steve Ditko in 1977 for DC Comics. The original Shade was a fugitive on a militant other dimensional world called Meta. With the help of his stolen “M-Vest” he could protect himself with a force field of a larger version of himself. This version of the character was even a member of the Suicide Squad for some time, before Vertigo comics and Peter Milligan got a hold of him. This iteration of Shade the Changing Man that will be present in Justice League Dark will be that of the Milligan/Bachalo Vertigo version. In 1990 during the so-called “British Invasion” of American comic books came Peter Milligan with his version of Shade. His Shade was a poet who was sent to earth to stop a growing Madness that would consume the planet. His “M-Vest” was now the “Madness-Vest” and it could be used to change reality. These stories were of course darker and more surreal than the Steve Ditko version. This version of Shade the Changing Man has run into characters like John Constantine while at Vertigo but they never interacted as a part of a team. Shade is a most interesting character because like John he is a multilayered character and is never black and white. It will be incredibly interesting to see what he is like in this new DC Universe running around with Superman.
This next character needs no introduction because he is the classic DC Comics character Deadman. Deadman was created by Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino in 1967. Deadman’s real name was Boston Brand a trapeze artist who while alive was not the most likable person. After he is murdered during an act, he comes back as a ghost with the powers to control other human beings. With this power he goes in the search for Justice. His powers and motivations have remained the same ever since. Some of comic’s greatest creators from Neil Adams and Jack Kirby to the most recent Geoff Johns writings in Blackest Night and Brightest Day have given the characters new depths. The reason this is a very good choice for this book is because of the nature of the character. Deadman can be a free willed and loving character but at the core he is a ghost that posses people and he can never fully interact personally with the people he loves or wants to protect. But he has to do the best he can to atone for his past sins. So being on a book with other magical characters trying to thwart evil can make for some interesting moments.
The next character is another character that needs no introduction because you’ve probably seen someone dress up as her at a con. I can be talking about no one other than Zatanna. Zatanna is a magical character that was created by Gardner Fox and artist Murphy Anderson. She is the most well know Magician in the DC Universe (well it’s a tossup between her and Dr.Fate). She comes from a long line of Magicians and has been the focal point in numerous stories, most recently Identity Crisis. She is another character that has had her time at Vertigo. She has crossed over with books like Hellblazer (see the hilarious Hellblazer issue #63 for her appearance with John) and the long running Books of Magic. She and Constantine have never gotten along very well in any iteration, so seeing them as a part of the same team is going to be a great dynamic. There is going to be some major sparks flying when these two characters enter the same room. It begs the wonderful question “how will they put aside difference to fight for good?” That’s what I hope will be offered in this new Justice League book.
Last but not least is the Elegant Madame Xanadu. Madame Xanadu was created in the 70’s by Michael William Kaluta, David Michelinie and Val Mayerik. Madame Xanadu is another magician and also sage who can see into the future. She has lived for hundreds of years and is nearly immortal. She has also recently gotten the Vertigo treatment by series creators Matt Wagner and Amy Reeder. In this new DC Universe she has been portrayed as someone with a secret agenda. She has appeared in other new DC 52 books such as Demon Knights and Resurrection Man as a main character. Each time we are given hints as to what her plans are really for. Is it for the good of everyone? Or is it for some other personal purpose? And can she continue this way of operating when she has some of the most cunning and skilled people working on a team with her? Plus all of them will take it very personal to being used if she is doing it for something other than a good reason. The only answer to those questions will take place in this new book, so here’s hoping to some great storytelling moments with this character.
So now that the essay long piece about the players in this drama are done I want to take a moment to talk about the creative team behind this book which has me equally excited as the characters they chose. As mentioned above writer of Justice League Dark Peter Milligan has played with these characters before to great effect. Shade the Changing Man was the book that gave him his rise in comic books. It’s the book that made him, and he’s returning to this character. He’s also currently writing the Vertigo Hellblazer series and it has been fantastic. Peter Milligan has been a long time writer for both Marvel and DC but has also been a frequent writer of Vertigo titles in the past. So asking him to work on two characters that he has shown again and again he can fully understand and compellingly write is a new brainer. There’s no one better (OK, maybe someone like Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore might be better but Peter is still up there) to bring these characters into the new DC Universe. Now not much is known about newcomer Mikel Janin but the images that have been seen wither through Previews, Twitter or the very awesome Justice League Dark Official trailer that was released shows how perfect he is for this book. His style from what I can see is a perfect blend of Vertigo darkness and superhero art. It’s an art style that looks amazingly perfect for a book like this and along with the writing, the art has me just as jazzed to open this book next Wednesday.
So there you have it folks, my super long editorial about the new Justice League Dark book. I wanted to write this to garner some interest into this book and to hopefully give a little information about these characters. I know there are many people who are going to try this book, so this is as much for the people who were on the fence or where not thinking of getting this book at all. This particular book is one of the reasons why the new DC 52 was a good idea and was much needed. This is a book opening up a whole new avenue to another corner of the DC universe. These characters that are written about inside this book are wonderful and deserve a chance in the spotlight. There will always be a Superman book; there will always be a Batman book. But a book about some of the most rich and compelling characters joined together for us the comic fans pleasure doesn’t happen every day. I’m putting a call out for people to try this book because I can understand the criticism or the reluctance to read the past 20 years of Hellblazer. I think it’s worth it but I can understand it. So with this new DC 52 this is a whole new world with a whole new iteration of John Constantine and Shade the Changing Man and these other characters. It also seems they are taking the best aspects of the characters and are presenting them to you the readers of comics to try. So all I can ask is you try this book. It’s a simple $2.99 comic and if you do try it and find it isn’t your thing that is a perfectly valid reason. But if you do try this book, maybe you’ll find new characters and a new book to love. I cannot say without a doubt that this book will be good, but with the aforementioned reasons and history behind this book it seems worthy of a shot. So here’s to Wednesday and to Justice League Dark #1!