When it was announced that some books were double, triple, or even quadruple shipping, I was certain that Justice League Dark would have a Felix Faust issue or something. It’s not that I don’t like Eclipso, it’s just that of all the villains you could push, it’s a pretty random choice. Eclipso has been bounced around from book to book in the New 52, and after Sword of Sorcery it didn’t really seem like anybody knew what to do with him.
Enter Dan Didio, the man who seems to think that “DC” stands for “D-list Characters”. Didio has previously stated his love for working with the lesser-known characters in the reboot, because you can do more with them and upset fewer people. Sometimes, it works, like in the case of the Phantom Stranger. Other times, like in the case of O.M.A.C., it doesn’t. Does it work in the case of Eclipso? Well…
So far in the New 52, Eclipso and/or his Black Diamond have appeared in multiple books, including Demon Knights, Sword of Sorcery, Team 7, and Catwoman. The book makes a mention of this in an editorial note, but does not require you to be familiar with any of these adventures to understand it. The slate has been wiped clean, and now Eclipso is free to do his own thing and be consistent about it.
One of the best things about the story is that it has a very dark tone. We follow a man named Gordon Jacobs, a scientist who was the a leader in solar energy until he was recently disgraced thanks to a failed project. Gordon has lost everything, including his job, status, and fiancée, and becomes a recluse desperately trying to find the discovery that will return him to his former glory. Gordon is a character who absolutely reeks of desperation, while also having an ego to match Lex Luthor’s. It’s a bizarre combination that makes him fascinating to read, because while he’s an unlikable jerk, we also feel sorry for the guy. One non-malicious mistake ruined his life, and it makes you feel for him, even if you want nothing to do with him.
This is not helped by the arrival of Eclipso into his life. Gordon somehow manages to get his hands on the Black Diamond, and in turn, the shadowy ne’er-do-well that inhibits it. Eclipso’s characterization is fantastic here. He’s basically a snake in the garden, claiming to be the shadow of God, and is offering Gordon immense power if he makes a simple blood bond with him.
The whole story is a “Deal With the Devil” scenario, and what makes it interesting is that it’s a really low-key one. There’s no exchange of souls, no towering inferno or portal from Hell, no arcane summoning, not even a clearly stated agreement. We get a less-grand scenario in which a man is talking to an imp trapped in a stone, with just enough realistic violence and emotion to make it really hit home for the reader.
This story runs on the emotions of depression and despair. Comparing the violence that happens on panel in this book to the violence in other comics is like comparing a spitball to machine gun fire, but the presentation makes it much more disturbing than heads getting torn off or bodies exploding.
The art compliments the storytelling perfectly. The book uses a variety of colors (courtesy of Nathan Eyring) but still looks very dark overall. The colors are used as much as they are needed, and Philip Tan and Jason Paz masterfully manipulate shadow to fit the book’s tone. There is a lot of heavy shading here, with characters appearing sketchy and with grainy textures, and it makes the light that is used really stand out. And the best part? Kirby Dots. The book utilizes Kirby Dots at key points to just amp up the creepy factor, and it works masterfully.
You know when you see a bit of art in a comic book and it just blows you away? This story has a bunch of those.
As a side note, while we’re still on the art, I feel I should mention that this is one of the better 3D Lenticular Covers DC’s done for Villains Month. I’ve found that the key to these being effective is to have as little going on as possible. Big, busy covers with a ton of stuff going on all over them are a bit hard to look at, but simpler ones with just a few points to focus on like this book’s cover really sell the illusion.
There’s not enough. I want more. I honestly, truly want more. This is a great origin issue, but I have no idea what the plan for Eclipso is, if there even is one, or if Didio just wanted to set the record straight with this character in the reboot, but the quality of the story in this book really makes me want to read more.
This isn’t a fault of the comic itself, so much as a fault of making it in the first place. Villains Month works because it’s mostly characters already in use in the current continuity. Two-Face is going to be the star of the next Batman and Robin story arc. Lex Luthor is going to be the star of Forever Evil, and pretty much all of Batman’s rogues featured this month have a part to play in the upcoming Forever Evil: Arkham War miniseries. Eclipso will inevitably appear somewhere down the line, but I fear it isn’t soon enough.
This is one of the best books this week, and if you’re interested in the magical side of the DC Universe, reading a creepy story, or are like me and you’re one of the seven Eclipso fans out there who doesn’t already work for DC, I heavily recommend it. The only reason I’m not giving it a 5/5 is because I feel like I should be accounting for my fan bias here.
Justice League Dark #23.2: Eclipso is available digitally and physically with a normal 2D cover for $2.99 USD. It is also available with a special 3D lenticular cover for $3.99 USD.