[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: James Tynion IV
Pencils: Daniel Sampere
Inks: Juan Albarran
Colors: Adriano Lucas
Letters: Rob Leigh
Detective Chimp has used drinking and his wits to get out of situations his whole life, but now is the time for him to get a sense of responsibility and fix Myrra, the magical world that he broke. Meanwhile, its a showdown between The Phantom Stranger and Nabu, a Lord of Order, with the fate of magic on Earth at stake. Both of these conflicts look a little out of control. Is there anyone that can save the day?
In Justice League Dark #6, writer James Tynion IV finds a way to write two simultaneous large-scale conflicts for the fate of the fabric of the magical universe with an emotional depth that is rarely seen in large, team books like this one. He was able to show us a new and relatively unfamiliar world in Myrra, while still letting us in to see Detective Chimp’s inner turmoil. We see a magical showdown between two beings more powerful than we could ever imagine, but are still keyed into what’s really important to an often-distant John Constantine. And everything is brought to life in spectacular fashion from the amazing art team of Daniel Sampere, Juan Albarran, Adriano Lucas, and Rob Leigh.
We begin on Myrra, where a very frustrated and lost Blue Devil has to lead the inhabitants of Myrra into battle every night against a skeleton army. Its the worst possible Groundhog Day scenario, as seen by the endless horde of skeletons shown on the first page, but Blue Devil has to muster up the willpower and responsibility to fight every day. What Tynion does so well here is that he makes us feel for both sides. There is no winner between Detective Chimp, someone who was given an unfair amount of responsibility he wasn’t ready for immediately after losing his best friend with little time to grieve, and Blue Devil, an actor and small-time superhero before his time on Myrra who was left to deal with a world that Detective Chimp broke. I really couldn’t feel mad at one of the other, just sad for both.
The art team does an excellent job of bringing these emotions to life. The lettering for Blue Devil is phenomenal and really gives the character the respect he deserves, and the facial expressions show a lot more of what he’s feeling than the dialogue. I very much enjoy the horizontal panel of just Blue Devil’s eyes. They say that eyes are the windows to the soul, and you can really see Blue Devil’s wearied soul in that panel.
We are then shown the imminent showdown back on Earth between Nabu and Phantom Stranger, and once again, art and lettering are king. The the serious expressions everyone has are able to elevate the mood to new heights, and the Phantom Stranger’s unique speech outlines give weight to everything he is saying. As always, the lettering for Dr. Fate is great, always portraying his extra-dimensional and all-powerful nature. This time, we are shown John Constantine’s eyes in the same style of panel so that we can see the true desperation he is feeling while watching this battle unfold.
The next scene is a heart-to-heart conversation between Wonder Woman and Detective Chimp, and it gives more emotional weight and more validation to Detective Chimp than any scene he has ever been in. You can truly get a sense of how much pain he is in just from the simple question he asks when we are shown his eyes, “Why?” Detective Chimp has felt so alone so often in his life that he cannot fathom why anyone, even his team members, would do this for him. Diana teaches Bobo how to move forward, and we as readers are better off for having read it.
Meanwhile, as the Phantom Stranger is sucked into the helmet of fate, the omniscient narration and the magnificent art fit perfectly even as Swamp Think and Constantine are losing home. The brilliant gold and pale silver are excellent colors to show off in this conflict, and Dr. Fates power has never been more clear. This is not the Dr. Fate that could be defeated or disabled relatively easily in the JSA, but rather Nabu, an all-powerful Lord of Order. Another truly amazing moment of heart and emotion, however, is when Constantine sacrifices himself as another attempt to buy time. I’ve never been a fan of the Constantine and Zatanna relationship, as they represent very different things in my mind, but I did feel for Constantine in that moment. It was a rare act of selflessness that could be appreciated.
As Detective Chimp is able to take responsibility to save the day, we see that the pain will never truly be gone, but that Bobo has come to terms with it. It is a lesson that few heroes outwardly deal with as much as Detective Chimp has in these last two issues. For a team book, Justice League Dark has had remarkably clear and intentional characterization where each character has their own issues to deal with, but they help each other. As the book ends and Swamp Thing arrives to warn the team of Constantine’s fate, the stakes only continue to build. We have the Otherkind on the verge of returning as well as the knowledge that the true Nightmaster is not Bobo, but rather Jim Rook’s son who is still out there. All of this makes me excited for what is coming.
I understand that James Tynion IV has a lot to juggle in the book, but I feel like whenever Phantom Stranger appears, he is too overlooked. Maybe that is part of his mystique, but Phantom Stranger always appears as a very powerful being who changes the course of events in some way, but we never learn more about him in the process. I understand this might not be his time, but nonetheless, I feel as though a little more about his character could have been revealed, as I know that Tynion has it in him.
Justice League Dark continues to present itself as a beautiful, well-thought out exploration of the magical DC Universe, this time with a lot more characterization and heart along with it. Each issue has something new and always leaves me wanting more.