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DC Comics New 52: Justice League Dark #1 - review

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The New 52 - Justice League Dark

© DC Comics

In the latest of our comprehensive series of reviews of DC Comics' 52 relaunched titles, we take a look at Justice League Dark #1.

Who's it by?
Justice League Dark #1 is written by Peter Milligan and illustrated by Mikel Janin.

What's the history?
Justice League Dark brings together a band of supernaturally powered characters, most of whom were previously associated with DC's Vertigo imprint. The comic follows on from the events of Brightest Day: The Search for Swamp Thing and the Flashpoint: Secret Seven miniseries.

The roster comprises John Constantine, Zatanna, Shade the Changing Man, Madame Xanadu, Deadman and Mindwarp, who team up to help the Justice League deal with the threat posed by the deranged witch Enchantress.

What's new?
The comic reintegrates the Vertigo characters with the mainstream DC Universe after what has been - for several of them at least - a lengthy absence. Constantine looks to have lost a few years, and his depiction is reminiscent of his early DC Universe outings.

The traditional Justice League members feature in its pages. Superman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg and Batman have all been drawn in a way that fits in with 'New 52' consistency, despite this book being different in tone to the majority of the other relaunch titles.

Writer Peter Milligan boards the title after introducing Mindwarp in the Flashpoint: Secret Seven miniseries. His extensive work across the Vertigo line makes him the natural choice to pen to the title.

What happens?
The clairvoyant Madame Xanadu has a disturbing vision in which Enchantress has laid waste to the DC Universe, reducing it to a hell on Earth. Sure enough, the insane witch is up to no good, causing apocalyptic events of biblical proportions.

Justice League-ers Superman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg and Batman set out to stop her, but she makes short work of them. Step into the fray a super-powered team proficient in the black arts! The remainder of the comic sows the seeds for the formation of such a group, with the spotlight jumping between each future member.

What's the verdict?
Justice League Dark is, in many ways, a typical introductory issue. It lays the foundation for what is shaping up to be an epic storyline, but the focus constantly ebbs between members of the ensemble cast, so it's difficult to form an impression of any one of them.

As the name suggests, this is a dark offering more along the lines of the mature Vertigo titles than anything the core DC Universe has churned out in recent years. The publisher has certainly taken liberties assigning this a 'Teen' rating. With themes such as drug addiction, it could easily have passed for 'Mature'.

Vertigo fans will no doubt be delighted to see DC bring some edge back to its core line, though writer Milligan is perhaps guilty of playing for shock value at times. It's debatable whether it was necessary to make Madame Xanadu a junkie on top of everything else, and we could probably have done without the insight into Shade's unusual sex life.

Despite a few uncomfortable moments and some purple prose, the issue is an effective scene-setter, teasing the reader with the hint of a formidable threat to come. The fleeting glimpses of each team member are enough to whet our appetites ahead of their unification in future issues, and the ease with which Enchantress dispatches DC's most powerful heroes paints a chilling picture of what they are up against.

Artist Janin looks comfortable delivering disturbing double-page spreads of apocalyptic imagery. His character designs are life-like, though he has gone overboard with the pouty-lipped females. Colourist Ulises Arreola should also be commended for helping to achieve that gritty tone that has long been associated with Vertigo titles.

Justice League Dark is shaping up to be a interesting series with far-reaching consequences for the DC Universe. Vertigo fans will appreciate the return to edgy subject matter, and newcomers will find this a smooth introduction to the dark underbelly of the DCU.



> Buy the digital version of Justice League Dark #1
> Read our review of Detective Comics #1

Watch The New 52 introduction video from DC Comics below:

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