Justice League Dark #40 opens on the House of Mystery, floating through a pitch black void with familiar voice trying to find its bearings, the voice of John Constantine. The chain-smoking spellcaster has found himself drawn into the House by supernatural means. For this is not the real John Constantine, but a magical projection created by Zatanna. And this Constantine has a mission.
Using the magic stored within the House of Mystery, Constantine creates his own projection of Zatanna, and together, the two set out to rescue the real Justice League Dark from Pralaya. Knowing the power of Pralaya will be too great for the two of them to handle alone, Constantine and Zatanna move to the greenhouse within the House of Mystery and draw forth an infantile Swamp Thing. They hope to use whatever attachment it has to the Green against Pralaya and the void she has created.
Heading out into the emptiness, Zatanna and Constantine are able to draw Pralaya forward. The goddess laughs at their futile attempts to attack her with magic and is bemused when Swamp Thing attempts to fall into her abyssal form. However, Swamp Thing’s descent was part of their plan, as the Green has an attachment to the world tree held captive within Pralaya. And it is through the world tree that the Justice League Dark hope to win back the existence of the multiverse.
J. M. DeMatteis has had a good grasp on the characters for quite some time, and Justice League Dark #40 is no different. Thanks to some magic, Constantine is brought back into the fray, and his cynical approach is a welcome breath of fresh air to the proceedings. There’s some fascinating character play between Constantine and Zatanna here, especially since both are projections created by Zatanna’s magic.
Andres Guinaldo’s art balances unspoken emotions and cosmic wonder. Guinaldo’s facial expressions are one of the highlights of his art, as emotions take form on the page. Many artists are limited in their ability to convey subtle changes in their character’s emotional state, but Guinaldo excels at the levels, from Swamp Thing’s doubt changing to furious resolve or Pralaya’s growing uneasiness as she feels the magical tendrils growing within her. It all helps to draw the reader inward.
If there is one major flaw that can be lobbied towards Justice League Dark #40, it would be the focus on Constantine and Swamp Thing. Both Dr. Holland and John have just come off of their own emotional series finales, and so it’s a bit disappointing to see them receive so much attention here when most of the other characters only appear in Justice League Dark. When characters like Andrew Bennett and Frankenstein, who both held titles of their own in the past, only get a single line of dialogue between them, the balance is off.
The climactic battle itself also feels astray. There’s no real tension, and much of the issue plays with the idea of how the heroes are going to defeat Pralaya rather than if they will. It’s an interesting decision, within mainstream superhero comics – even one as off the beaten path as Justice League Dark, it’s assumed that the heroes will win in the end. J. M. DeMatteis seems to be trying to combat that assumption by obscuring the path they take. That decision though, means that much of the comic is playing towards the reveal, and one wonders if the series finale shouldn’t have been more focused on giving a resolution to all of the characters on the team.
Justice League Dark #40 is a good issue, but not a great sendoff to the team. While both the characterization and artwork is strong, the story’s pace and direction leaves a bit to be desired and precious little time for many that count those among the Justice League Dark.