52 Catch Up is a series devoted to looking at issues from DC’s New 52 and seeing how they’re faring now that they’re underway, why they’re worth reading (or not), and places we hope they will go in time.
The Justice League can’t combat all problems, despite their diverse roster and power-set. There are mystical and magical enemies and threats that have no basis in science or technology, that disrupt the world on a profound level. When such threats emerge, those who have experience must form together to take them on. They are the Justice League Dark.
Previously on Justice League Dark: Covering Issues #1 – #6
Several strange events take place around the world with no real connection to each other, and the Justice League is able to track them back to the workings of Enchantress. Superman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg go to investigate but are beaten back due to magical powers beyond their comprehension, a possibility that Zatanna relayed to Batman moments before. Feeling that she is needed, Zatanna takes off, and the alter ego of Enchantress—June Moone—finds her way to Dawn Granger (Dove)’s apartment to seek out Deadman.
Deadman possesses June to try and figure out what is wrong with her; meanwhile, Dawn’s car radio begins to speak to her in the voice of Enchantress. Elsewhere, Zatanna encounters a roadside disaster in which an upturned car’s radio begins speaking to her. Sensing dark magic, Zatanna encases herself in a protective trance but is unable to escape from it. Sitting in the street, everyone else around, including the EMTs, believe Zatanna is dead until John Constantine speaks magic and awakens her with one of her spells. A bit upset that John has one of her spells, Zatanna attempts to block his memory of it, but he disappears.
Shade, the Changing Man, attempts to summon Deadman to him, which frightens June into thinking Enchantress is trying to get her. Believing that she would be better off dead, June jumps off of the roof they’re on, only to have Deadman possess her and save her from the fall. Later on, the two of them are driving along when they hit someone—a simulacrum of Enchantress. Deadman tears the simulacrum apart from the inside out, but at the same time, the real Enchantress is aware of Deadman’s interference and her disdain for him grows.
Events throughout the world take on a more deadly turn: Resurrection Man is nearly buried by computers, Frankenstein fails to control the outbreak of a war in New Mexico, and Animal Man is unable to stop the Sphinx from devouring people in Egypt (and politicians blame the outbreak of violence on the lack of solid family values). Deadman, Zatanna, Madame Xanadu, and Shade bind together to take on the Enchantress, but Deadman worries more about June’s safety than the need to defeat the witch. The others take on Enchantress but fall victim to her spells and are unable to even get close to her; however, Constantine finds June and, knowing her true nature, begins to put her back together with Enchantress. Mindwarp helps with the process, causing Deadman much distress—especially once he and everyone else discover Xanadu’s part in the situation from the beginning.
Following the repair of Enchantress, everyone experiences nightmares of how things would have turned out had they not “worked” together. Xanadu begins to explain how this is possible when Shade’s nightmare takes form and everyone deals with the situation. Once the threat is gone, Xanadu has another terrible vision about how the end is coming, thanks to the Vampires, which leads us to a crossover event with I, Vampire characters.
Deadman: Boston Brand’s fast become one of the more enjoyable characters I’ve read thus far in the New 52. His background is very interesting—and I love how he’s connected in some ways to the Flying Graysons—and his journey to being a Superhero is quite unique. His ability to possess the body of anyone is truly a useful power, even though it has gotten him into trouble with Dawn Granger, and his seemingly invested emotional attachment for June Moone adds a personal note to the engagement with Enchantress. Add to that his very unique wit, and I think we’ve got ourselves a true hero, even though he likes to hide behind his selfish demeanor.
Supernatural Elements: When a team is often considered in the superhero genre, mystical powers and magic aren’t at the center of them—until now. Normally, a team would have only a couple of members with such powers, but this one is built around the concept, something I believe works well for them. I enjoy seeing how magic can triumph over pure physical prowess, and how even the smallest of members on a team can have great power.
Drug Usage: While I understand why Madame Xanadu is using drugs, I don’t believe it is appropriate. To show that she is capable and willing to get high because of the visions just smacks of a desperate plot device to me. There are plenty of other ways she could deaden the visions, legal and less harmful ways, yet it seems as though all she can do is to get high. That in and of itself should be reason not to: if all of the non-harmful ways don’t work, than the harmful one shouldn’t be explored simply because it works.
Female Outfits: This has become something of a recurring theme within the New 52 titles—and within many superhero comics in general. It seems as though it is impossible for a woman to wear protective clothing that doesn’t just cover her body in the most liberal usage of the term, and Zatanna’s outfit clearly shows much to be deserved in this instance. The older version of Zatanna from before the reboot was great, if even then a bit revealing, but the new version is too much. Not that I have a problem with the female form, but I read comics for their storytelling and action sequences, not for their cheesecake.
Madame Xanadu: Now that she’s been shown to be manipulative—more than once—will the rest of the team be able to trust her? She’s shown that she’s more than willing to maneuver things the way she wants in order to forestall future events that she perceives as bad, but her methods leave much to be desired. Even the more morally questionable of the team seem to have problems with her, and the fact that she has to get high on a normal basis to quiet her mind worries me; it could be a major factor for future plot development and team interaction.
Deadman & Dove: I’m not the biggest fan of the Hawk and Dove series (and neither are a lot of people, given that the line is being canceled in April), but the interaction between Boston and Dawn is truly interesting, especially when it comes to their notions of physical intimacy. It seems as though a conclusion of their relationship has occurred, but given that they’ve previous rekindled their romance, who’s to say that it won’t happen again?
League Acknowledgement: Initially, Zatanna sought out to take on Enchantress because Superman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg were unable to do so. She was able to immobilize Batman with her magic, and, even though it wasn’t just her alone, she proved that not everything can be solved with physical engagement. But, even though the title has the words “Justice League” in them, is the team actually an acknowledged division of the League? Do they operate with the sanction of Batman and the others, or are they their own team with no ties at all?