Writer: James Tynion IV
Artists: Daniel Sampere, Raúl Fernández, Alvaro Martinez, and Various
Covers: Jonathan Glapion, Greg Capullo
Justice League Dark: The Last Age of Magic is a TP that begins with a promise that magic has changed. It ends with a threat that the invasion of the Otherkind can establish a permanent existence in our world if its story gains a substantial foothold. Against this threat rise Kirk (Man-Bat) Langstrom, Bobo The Detective Chimp, Wonder Woman, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, Constantine, and Blue Devil. Many secrets are revealed, but their discovery hides a revelation that the Otherkind may have already conquered the fabric of our reality.
The DC multiverse is continuing to adjust to the changes that have developed since the Source Wall sprung a leak. The Justice League, Teen Titans, and numerous heroes have risen to the threat of the challenges that threaten the world on a global, but non-magical scale. This is a great opportunity to introduce DC’s magic community to newer audiences. It’s also where the rules of magic are explained by showing how the rules have changed. This device is handled nicely and allows the reader to grow an understanding of the environment through careful plotting. James Tynion IV demonstrates his deftness for setting the stage.
This series opens with a whodunit scenario and everyone has secrets. Who doesn’t love a good mystery? The closeup is provided by Zatanna when she is attacked during a performance. Wonder Woman is there investigating and she provides the audience with an outsider’s perspective.
She wants answers and the other magicians don’t want her around when they hold a secret meeting and admit to not knowing how to stop the invaders.
Swamp Thing grudgingly tells Zatanna that he was spying because he didn’t want to get involved and Constantine claims he couldn’t care less. But they travel to the Tower of Fate with the princess, the simian detective, and the magician’s daughter. It’s a fun and motley collection hiding from themselves as much as each other.
The art here is just gorgeous. The Tower has never looked more menacing and its contrast to the glowing beauty the Tree of Wonder creates two environments that become competing backdrops to major plot revelations. The first is that Kent is no longer the vessel for Nabu. The second, that Nabu opened the door for the invading monsters called The Otherkind.
The Otherkind seek to destroy and consume all magic on earth and a war begun in the shadows threatens to unravel everything. They are led by The Upside Down Man and many weapons are revealed and used to fight him. Diana discovers a magical history, while a journey into Zatanna’s past reveals that speaking magic backward defrays the cost of using magic and balances chaos with order.
Later we see the result of Bobo’s handiwork as the new Nightmaster of Myrra, and the deeper character motivations that have long existed beneath the horned exterior of Blue Devil. It’s a delight to see this classic character treated so warmly.
The power of a story becomes prevalent near the end of this seven-book collection. The gem here is the nature of storytelling revealed through Kurt Engstrom’s scientific journals. The detached reporting tracks magical occurrences that reveal the experiences of I, Vampire and others. Engstrom’s method is corrupted when he finds a new story that he can’t read. It is written backward and refers to a danger called the RIP. Engstrom walks away promising himself and the person he has been speaking to that he will solve the problem in the morning, Which is when the reader can see that Man-Bat has been talking to The Upside Down Man the entire time.
My only real complaint is the name of The Upside Down Man. I like most of his look, although it feels very similar to popular villains from the Dark Multiverse and that could be for a host of specific reasons. But the name feels too much like a Stranger Things reference. A show I like, it’s true, but a name that is more creative would be an easier pitch for me when describing this story to others. The elements of this collection make it work, but it still feels like a distraction every time I read it.
Tynion tells a superb story. His understanding of the responsibility that magic demands of people and the elements are both insightful and imaginative. The Shadowpact alumni receive a welcome return and their inclusion in the JLD is a noble recognition of its need and value. Together this team will have the knowledge and heart necessary to defend the wonder we all experience in a world of magic.