Justice League Dark is a series that I only recently started reading. Having finally caught up on everything James Tynion and Alvaro Martinz Bueno have done with this series I have been impressed. This series has done a very good job in defining what it’s role is within the DC Universe as the Justice League Dark team deal with all the magic based threats. Wonder Woman taking the lead along with Zatanna has given the series some name recognition. The team staying small has actually benefited all the characters Wonder Woman and Zatanna have recruited. Especially as the Justice League Dark have been combating the threat of a villainous Doctor Fate and other magical threats. Now everything the team has been dealing with has reached its peak. How will Tynion wrap things up? Let’s find out with Justice League Dark #12.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Alvaro Martinez Bueno
Inker: Raul Fernandez
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: A few months ago Wonder Woman leads the other Justice League members to the basement archives housing dark magical artifacts that only everyone knew existed except Flash.
Wonder Woman says that while the Hall of Justice was built to be a beacon of light there are dark forces hiding in the shadows of the world because of magic.
In the present Doctor Fate is sending people through a portal to meet their fate. Khalid (a previous wearer of the Doctor Fate helmet) says he wants this to be over fast so he doesn’t think about how disappointed he is in Nabu. Khalid says he still believes in the version of Doctor Fate that taught him about order. Doctor Fate says Khalid will serve order but Khalid just wants this process over with quickly.
Nearby Detective Chimp, Jason Blood and Swamp Thing discuss what is going on. They suddenly hear a rumble in the sky as blood starts to rain down on the area. A lightning bolt strikes the ground as Doctor Fate identifies this event as coming from chaos.
Back to a few months ago Wonder Woman tells the other Justice League members that they need to create a covert team capable of fighting the dark. Wonder Woman goes on to say she will lead the team. Martian Manhunter agrees with Wonder Woman to create this Justice League under her leadership.
After the others leave Batman warns Wonder Woman that while she has operated near the magical world neither her nor him understand it. He goes on to state that the darkness of the magical world can change a person, something Wonder Woman understands.
Back in the present the chaos versions of Wonder Woman and Zatanna confront Doctor Fate. Chaos Zatanna states that Doctor Fate’s attempt to strip the world of magic is a coward’s path that will allow them to win. Wonder Woman then shows Doctor Fate the new Lords of Chaos, made up of chaos versions of Detective Chimp, Man-Bat and Swamp Thing.
As that happens Khalid asks Jason Blood to help him with something.
Flashing back to the past Batman tells Wonder Woman about how when he studied magic he learned that there are only rules in that part of the world because magicians decided to have them. Zatara even told him, when asking about what would happen if the most powerful sorcerers unleashed their full power, the world would be changed to a point of being unrecognizable. While Wonder Woman says she has experience fighting Gods, Batman states magicians are people with the power of Gods who have luckily kept to themselves. Batman warns that by announcing that they want to impose the Justice League’s sense of honor and judgement they will react in ways they can’t predict. Hearing this Wonder Woman admits she is afraid in doing this.
In the present the Lords of Chaos fight Doctor Fate’s forces. Doctor Fate struggles to fight them all off, with his helmet looking like it is melting. Once Khalid joins the fight Doctor Fate is backed into a corner as he tries to tell Khalid to stand down. Khalid says he won’t so Doctor Fate turns his magic against him.
When that happens Kent Nelson leads John Constantine and Phantom Stranger in starting to break free from within Doctor Fate’s helmet.
Seeing this from nearby Jason Blood asks Chaos Zatanna to lend him some power. The Demons Three show up and help Jason Blood in trying to get Doctor Fate’s helmet off Nabu. They are eventually successful in removing the helmet, which allows John Constantine, Kent and Phantom Stranger to be freed.
Sister Symmetry attempts to help Nabu but is stopped by Chaos Doctor Chimp, who removes her cape and transforms her back to Madame Xanadu.
The Doctor Fate helmet starts to act on its own and attacks everyone. Jason Blood, John Constantine, Khalid, Phantom Stranger team up with Chaos Zatanna to bind Doctor Fate’s powers within the helmet. The group are successful in containing Doctor Fate’s power and in the process Wonder Woman, Zatanna, Detective Chimp, Swamp Thing and Man-Bat lose their powers as the Lords of Chaos.
With everything calmed down Kent tells Zatanna she must be very careful what she does next with the Ruby of Life. Zatanna admits she can’t be the one who makes that decision since she questioned to much to wield the Ruby of Life.
Back in the past Batman asks Wonder Woman why she would want to assemble a magic-based Justice League if she is scared about fighting magical threats. Wonder Woman states that no matter what they all live in the same world and it is not right to pretend the magic corner does not exist. She then says she wants the dark to fear them.
Back in the present Wonder Woman picks up the Ruby of Life. Kent tells Wonder Woman to believe in the world and stitch the wounds back together.
Wonder Woman then announces to all the beings of magic that she and the Justice League are there to lead magic on a brighter path that will get them out of the dark. She then announces she along with Zatanna, Detective Chimp, Swamp Thing and Man-Bat are the Justice League of the Dark and will protect everyone.
Wonder Woman then crushes the Ruby of Life in her hand. End of issue.
The Good: With how much DC Comics has struggled to get over their magic corner a slow build was what this core element of the DCU needed. In going with a story that developed over the course of twelve issues, plus a few tie-ins, James Tynion was able to spend time developing all the major players of DC’s magic corner. Closing this first major storyline with Justice League Dark #12 fully established this series as something to keep an eye on.
At this point while the core members have been operating together for a little while they have not felt like a complete team. Up until now they have had a bunch of individual moments for Wonder Woman, Zatanna and Detective Chimp but nothing that makes a statement to the DC Universe they are the Justice League Dark. That all changed with how Tynion crafted Justice League Dark #12.
By balancing the final chapter of this battle with Nabu’s Doctor Fate between past and present day scenes Tynion was able to emphasize the importance of having the Justice League Dark. Wonder Woman made it clear that the Justice League and DCU as a whole needed to stop ignoring the magic corner. The flashback discussion between Batman and Wonder Woman made it clear that just letting the rules magicians created for this corner aren’t enough anymore. Things have become too chaotic in the DCU to play such a hands off role.
While their discussion established the role that the Justice League Dark serve it also put over how dangerous this decision is. Even though Batman and Wonder Woman are the most experienced members of the Justice League with magic they still show fear along with respect to this corner. It is not something the Justice League can simply jump into without some push back. That understanding by both characters also explained why it wasn’t until Justice League Dark #12 that the team under Wonder Woman’s leadership was finally established. With the crisis the core Justice League Dark were able to overcome made the official announcement that they are what the magic corner needed.
Through all of this Tynion is able to firmly position Wonder Woman’s role as the leader of Justice League Dark. Even when she knows that magic is something that should be respected because it involves mortals controlling power of Gods, Wonder Woman puts this mission on her shoulders. She is someone this corner needs as Wonder Woman is no stranger in making major decisions that someone can’t turn back from. The final page with the Ruby of Life being cracked showed that Wonder Woman was ready to help the magic corner as the leader of Justice League Dark.
Through this entire major story arc Tynion was also able to put over how important Zatanna will be as Wonder Woman’s 2nd in command. Tynion has done a great job giving Zatanna a ton of depth as her view of where she should be in the landscape of DC’s magic corner has come into question. Those questions have been the anchor of everything going on thus far and will continue moving forward as we see how she dropped the Ruby of Life when given the chance to make a decision.
At the same time Zatanna is not someone that can be taken lightly. She still served as the key to defeating Nabu, even when some of the strongest magicians struggled to defeat him. Having her be the one at the center of all the magic power that finally sealed Nabu within Doctor Fate’s helmet was a great way to wrap things up. Her command of magic and relationship with other magic related characters will be extremely valuable as she is getting her confidence back.
Through the development of Wonder Woman and Zatanna in this arc Tynion balanced it out with how big of a threat Nabu was. Seeing how the entire magical world had to team up to contain Nabu within Doctor Fate’s helmet showed how powerful he was. The fact that Nabu was executing his plan under the name of the Order showed why it needs to balanced out by Chaos. Without Order and Chaos the entire world can get completely out of control.
This made the fact that the Justice League Dark had to become the new Lords of Chaos to combat Nabu an even bigger moment. Seeing Chaos versions of Wonder Woman, Zatanna, Detective Chimp, Swamp Thing and Man-Bat was a fantastic visual. On top of it being a great visual Tynion showed us how big a battle between Order and Chaos can be. The entire battle felt like we were watching something that would take place in a big event that DC Comics was throwing.
With everything that happened Tynion established a strong set of allies for the Justice League Dark. While we don’t know if the five core members are the entire team the fact that John Constantine, Kent Nelson, Khalid, Phantom Stranger, Jason Blood and others can be called on is a great benefit for this series. Any of these or other magic-based characters we have seen so far in Tynion’s run can make great additions to the Justice League Dark team. Just one of them will make them an even stronger team than they already are, as shown with how they teamed up to defeat Nabu.
Alvaro Martinez Bueno once again delivered some fantastic artwork throughout Justice League Dark #12. Every issue Martinez Bueno has drawn for this series has made the story look like we are reading a big event comic book. This issue was no different. With how chaotic things got Martinez Bueno never lost sight of all the characters that were involved in the big battle. Everyone had time to shine and Nabu’s powers as Doctor Fate were on full display.
Marinez Bueno also nailed the emotional story beats as well. This was especially important for the flashback scene between Batman and Wonder Woman. He did a great job showing what both characters respect and fear of magic is through their facial reactions that matched Tynion’s dialogue for them.
The Bad: It didn’t get in the way of the overall story but it was disappointing that characters like Madame Xanadu was turned into nothing more than Nabu’s underling. She and Nabu’s other henchmen did nothing to affect the outcome of this issue. The only role they served was to either tuck their tails and run away or, in Madame Xanadu’s case, be returned to their normal form. While the focus was clearly on Nabu, hopefully in the future we see more than one or two big threats focused on when we get stories like this that involved the entire magic corner of the DCU.
Overall: Justice League Dark #12 was an excellent conclusion to James Tynion and Alvaro Martinez Bueno major overarching story arc involving Doctor Fate and Nabu. This conclusion firmly established the Justice League Dark as a team and why Wonder Woman is the perfect person to lead them. If you are a DC Comics fan don’t miss out on reading Justice League Dark. This is one of the best comics DC is currently publishing.
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