Justice League Dark is a series that has been flying under the radar. While Justice League gets most of the attention as Scott Snyder continues to deal with the Multiverse, James Tynion is equally dealing with a serious crisis to the magical realm. Wonder Woman’s Justice League Dark officially made a name for itself after they dealt with the threat Doctor Fate’s helmet posed to the world. With the team officially assembled, the question now is what other surprises the magical corner of the DC Universe have that the Justice League Dark must deal with. Let’s find out with Justice League Dark #14.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Alvaro Martinez Bueno
Inker: Raul Fernandez
Colorist: Adriano Lucas
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At the Hall of Justice Wonder Woman is woken up when her room is covered in flames. A voice calls for Wonder Woman too meet them. When Wonder Woman gets out of bed she is in her costume. She immediately knows she is in a dream.
Wonder Woman then meets up Giovanni Zatara, who has his face mutilated by fire. Wonder Woman mentions that Zatanna has been trying to save Zatara for a while. Zatara mentions that Zatanna has the power to save them all. On the other hand, Zatara says that Wonder Woman has the opposite power as dark magic entangled her soul.
Wonder Woman says she let go of that power but Zatara reveals that the magic power still resides within her and her adversary is after that power. Wonder Woman thinks that Zatara is talking about the Upside-Down Man. Zatara reveals that Upside-Down Man has made a deal with the actual one they have to fear and she is building an army as they speak. He goes on to state that when she gets her last recruit the Justice League Dark will fall.
As Wonder Woman is going to inquire on who that is, the Upside-Down Man appears to take Zatara back. Zatara final warning to Wonder Woman is that the Witching War is about to begin. He then casts a spell to wake her up.
Wonder Woman wakes up and immediately calls Zatanna to tell her about her dream. Zatanna tells Wonder Woman the team has been trying to reach her for over an hour as they are dealing with an army of vampires.
During the Justice League Dark’s fight with the vampires Zatana asks Khalid Nassour and Kent Nelson if they got their spell ready. They both say they are just about done and get the final step of the spell ready.
Meanwhile, Man-Bat, Detective Chimp and Swamp Thing continue to hold their own against the vampires. Kent and Khalid finish their united spell that creates a mini sun in the church they are fighting in to cause all the vampires to turn into ash.
Zatanna contacts Wonder Woman back to find out why she contacted her. Wonder Woman first apologizes for not being with the team. She then says she’ll tell Zatanna the bad feeling she is having when they are back from their mission.
At the Oblivion Bar Wonder Woman reflects on how heartbreaking it is to see Blue Devil in a statue for after what happened in Myrra. Traci 13 jokes that it doesn’t fit the bar’s look. Wonder Woman says she hopes to find a way to get Blue Devil out of his situation.
Traci 13 breaks down when she starts talking about how the Oblivion Bar is starting to feel like a tombstone. Wonder Woman tries to talk to Traci 13 but she is unsuccessful. Traci 13 walks away believing she deserves what is happening because magic doesn’t normally come with happy endings.
Constantine suddenly speaks up and says Traci 13 is not wrong. Wonder Woman says that she’s been told over and over that magic leads to death and destruction. She says the Justice League Dark have shown that there can be hope in magic. Constantine reminds Wonder Woman of the human factor in magic.
Wonder Woman then reveals that she has been told that she is the key to ending all of magic and the world. She goes on to say someone has been helping her so far and she wants to find out who. Constantine tells Wonder Woman to think of the person that has been with Wonder Woman every step of the way only to a few months ago step back.
Wonder Woman suddenly realizes who that is and tells Constantine to tell the others to meet her at the Hall of Justice. Wonder Woman walks away saying that she now believes Circe has been responsible for what has gone on since the beginning.
Back at the church the Justice League Dark finish cleaning the place up. During their conversation Detective Chimp brings up how he believes someone sent the vampire army to attack. Detective Chimp suddenly finds a cat and when he grabs it by its tail the cat scratches him. Zatanna tells Detective Chimp to get back to work while also agreeing she also has a bad feeling for what is going on.
In another part of the church Klarion finds his cat (Teekl). Man-Bat shows up and Klarion is quick to put him under a spell. Klarion than proceeds to play into Man-Bat’s insecurities. Klarion then convinces Man-Bat to create an even stronger serum to scare his teammates.
After Man-Bat flies back to the team, Teekl tells Klarion to meet with the others. Klarion agrees and decides he will be back to play with the Justice League Dark later.
At Montego Bay, Jamaica Klarion meets Solomon Grundy, who is heavily burned. Papa Midnite tells Klarion that Grundy’s brain has rotted away so there is no point in talking to him. While Papa Midnite’s brainwashed servants serve Klarion drinks the Floronic Man appears. When the Floronic Man tries to pet Klarion’s cat, Teekl freaks out and starts powering up.
Eventually Circe shows up and the time for magic to meet its new Goddess has arrived. Circe then announces that the Witching War has begun and not even the Justice League Dark can stop them. While staring at the Moon, Circe finishes the announcement by saying that she already knows that the Justice League Dark are calling Eclipso for help. End of issue.
The Good: After wrapping up the major story arc around Doctor Fate the question was were the Justice League Dark would go after such a big event? James Tynion IV answers that question with Justice League Dark #14. Through this issue Tynion sets up the next major threat in the form of the cabal that Circe is assembling. At the same time, there are several character sub-plots that continue to create greater interest in this series.
One of the most impressive parts of Tynion’s work on Justice League Dark is how he has given every character on the team an arc to follow. That was once again the case with Justice League Dark #14. In particular, he moves forward the ongoing plotlines for Wonder Woman, Zatanna and Man-Bat. All three characters are highlighted well in the middle of setting up the next major crisis for the team as a whole.
With Wonder Woman we see that she still can’t shake the fact that she is still an outsider when it comes to the magical corner of the DC Universe. Though she has become highly involved with magic at this point there are still a lot of thing about this world that she is not fully aware off. Exploring this through the conversation Wonder Woman has with both Zatara and Constantine push that idea forward.
Which brings up the even greater point of how important to the balance in the magical world that Wonder Woman has become. Specifically, with Zatara revealing that Wonder Woman still has the magical power that led into the Witching Hour event not to long ago. That power still residing inside Wonder Woman keeps her being an integral part of what is going on with the magic corner of the DCU beyond just being the leader of the Justice League Dark.
Through all this Tynion does a great job in showing how Wonder Woman is still learning how to interact with all these magic-based characters. There isn’t the same tone of voice to Wonder Woman’s dialogue when she speaks to Zatara, Traci 13 and Constantine. There is almost a sense that she is still figuring out best how to handle interacting with everyone. That is not the same Wonder Woman we see in series’ outside Justice League Dark. But it is also fitting since she is still new to this world and helps build a better connection between the reader and Wonder Woman’s character.
In a similar respect, we see that Man-Bat is on a similar path as Wonder Woman. The key difference is that Man-Bat he is not only new to the magic-based conflicts but also has not made a name for himself as a hero. This is still a new role for Man-Bat to play. And we see that is something that is starting to play into his insecurities that Klarion taps into.
Now with Klarion giving Man-Bat the suggestion of creating a greater serum for others to fear him there are a lot of questions as to where Tynion is taking the character. This could easily morph Man-Bat to serve a sub-boss-like role if he takes a serum that transforms himself into a more powerful version of himself. If he does that there is a big chance he’ll lose the humanity he has maintained in his current form as Man-Bat. Having that hang over this story gives Man-Bat a strong sub-plot that adds to what Circe and her cabal of magic users are doing.
All that said, Tynion looks to be setting up Zatanna to have the biggest and most personal story arc in Justice League Dark. Even though she wasn’t the star of Justice League Dark #14 Tynion pushes forward the story between Zatanna and Zatara. Wonder Woman talking about how one of the things that is motivating Zatanna right now is her search for a way to save her father is deeply engaging. This instantly makes Zatanna a character you root for more to see her accomplish her goals. As all the magical crisis continue to move forward it’ll be very interesting to see how long Zatanna’s mission to save her dad goes.
Along with these strong character focused scenes Justice League Dark #14 was a good showing for the team itself. Even without Wonder Woman to help them we see how efficiently the Justice League Dark fight as a team. Now that they are officially a team Tynion can focus on the chemistry they have in the middle of a fight. That showed with how every member was able to work together efficiently enough to give Kent Nelson and Khalid Nassour time to create their mini-Sun spell to defeat the vampire army.
Speaking of which, it was great to see both Kent and Khalid fighting alongside the Justice League Dark. It’s still not clear if they are official members of the team or just part-timers. Personally I hope both Kent and Khalid are permanent members of the Justice League Dark. Not only would they give the team two additional powerhouses it would also be great to see Kent and Khalid’s mentor-protege relationship be explored more. Tynion showed the potential of that relationship with how they teamed up for the final spell against the vampire army at the end of the fight.
With all that development being done for the team it was interesting to see Tynion quickly build a new Anti-Justice League Dark team. Circe, Klarion, Solomon Grundy, Floronic Man and Papa Midnite are all powerful magic users. Seeing them together made for a formidable threat with a lot of potential. Especially with Circe declaring a Witching War beginning between her newly formed cabal and the Justice League Dark elevates how big of a deal this story will be. How they actually end up working together given how they normally work for their own individual purposes will be interesting to see.
As more minor sub-plot, for now, Tynion continued to show a focus on Traci 13, as he gave her a whole page talking with Wonder Woman. The more we are seeing Traci 13 the more we see how much everything that has happened has weighed on her. She isn’t able to put up a strong facade in front of others as she has done in the past. There is an air of uncertainty with the direction Tynion is taking Traci 13’s development. Having that working on the background does make you wonder how Traci 13 will factor into Tynion’s greater plans for this series.
As always, Alvaro Martinez Bueno delivered great artwork throughout Justice League Dark #14. Bueno’s artwork is at such a high level that even the talking head scenes have a greater sense of importance because of his art. He makes the scenes carry the dramatic tone that helps elevate the conversations Wonder Woman and Zatara have at the opening scene. He also delivers when it comes to action sequences, as shown with the Justice League Dark’s fight with the vampire army. The different power levels of the Justice League Dark were put on display that furthered how well they all worked together.
The Bad: The one spot that did not fully hit with Justice League Dark #14 goes back to the villains Circe assembled. Outside of Klarion, all the villains in the cabal came across as typical evil people. There wasn’t much time for them to stand out. Even Circe’s dialogue sort of fell flat the longer she talked. So while the Anti-Justice League Dark line-up is impressive Tynion will need to dedicate time to developing the villain roster to be more than a group of stereotypical villains.
Overall: Justice League Dark #14 lays down a solid foundation for the rest of “The Witching War” storyline to build from. James Tynion’s understanding of all the members on the Justice League Dark is on full display in this issue. The character arcs set up for Wonder Woman, Zatanna and Man-Bat in particular help drive several plot points within “The Witching War” set-up. Having Alvaro Martinez Bueno back to handle art duties further elevated how well the set up for this new story arc turned out.
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