Justice League Dark is entering 2020 in the middle of “The Witching War” still going on. This latest storyline for Justice League Dark has given rise to the new Injustice League Dark led by Circe. Thus far the Injustice League Dark have been able to push our heroes against the corner as they were not prepared to face such a threat. Things got really bad in Justice League Dark #17 with Circe controlling Wonder Woman’s body and leading an invasion of the team’s headquarters. That is on top of Wonder Woman being stuck in a purgatory-like location with the Upside-Down Man. How will things turn out for the Justice League Dark next? Let’s find out with Justice League Dark #18.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Alvaro Martinez Bueno
Inker: Raul Fernandez
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: In the Collective Unconscious world while attacking Wonder Woman with various creatures Upside-Down Man mocks her over her current situation. Upside-Down Man explains that he has been learning about Wonder Woman’s world since Nabu stole their power and kept them locked up for over a millennia. He goes on to say that he has learned how powerful the art of deception is, which allowed him to see through Circe’s hunger for power.
Upside-Down Man then offers a deal that would be a double cross for the deal he made with Circe. All he asks for is what Wonder Woman is willing to offer her ultimate destroyer.
Over at the Hall of Justice, Solomon Grundy unsuccessfully attempts to break the door down to the mystical trophy room. Papa Midnite states that they won’t be able to break the door down without matching the same level of magic power that Wonder Woman used to create the lock.
Circe, who is still controlling Wonder Woman’s body, takes out a coin and uses it to summons Drakul Karfang, who immediately demands to know who would disturb him. Circe admits to being the one responsible for summoning him. Drakul Karfang knows that Circe is in control of Wonder Woman’s body.
He says he requires payment and retribution for doing any sort of command. Circe says that she will give Drakul Karfang Wonder Woman’s body to feast on if he breaks down the door the rest of Justice League Dark are hiding behind. Drakul Karfang accepts the offer and fires off a massive fire breath blast to the magic door.
Beneath the Hall of Justice, Kent Nelson shows the others that Drakul Karfang is close to breaking down the door that is protecting them. Detective Chimp, who has been turned back to be a regular chimpanzee, freaks out. Kent says he could turn Detective Chimp back to normal but it would take time because of the level of the spell Circe used which they don’t have at the moment.
John Constantine notices that Zatanna has stepped to the side and goes to check up on her. After healing her tongue Zatanna admits that Circe is powerful and that they can’t let her get her hands on Eclipso.
Zatanna asks Constantine if he has any tricks up his sleeves that could help him. After a quiet moment Constantine suggest using the armory of mystical weapons that the Justice League assembled. Eclipso tells Zatanna to listen to Constantine and use the mystical weapons.
Back in the Collective Unconscious world, while trapped in a glass cube and covered in insects, Wonder Woman tells Upside-Down Man he is just a mirror of Hecate’s magic. She goes on to say Upside-Down Man is all the terrible magic compared to Hecate’s incredible magic and that they hate each other because she sealed his half away. Wonder Woman then says her offer is to fix things as Hecate and Upside-Down Man are supposed to be one and that she can find a way to make them whole.
Upside-Down Man laughs at Wonder Woman’s offer because of how terrible it sounds. Wonder Woman says he knows she is offering him more than what he is mocking her for. Upside-Down Man still doubts the possibilities of Wonder Woman coming through with her offer. Wonder Woman says that if she isn’t able to go through with her offer than she will not stand in Upside-Down Man’s way.
Upside-Down Man finally accepts the offer and says he will give Wonder Woman her body back and the means to tap into the magical power that resides inside her. He then says that if Wonder Woman does not accomplish what she said she would he will consume all of magic alive.
Witchfire reappears and is taken captive by Upside-Down Man. Wonder Woman says Witchfire wasn’t part of their deal. Upside-Down Man agrees and bites Witchfire in the neck. He then tells Wonder Woman that she is running out of time.
Back at the Hall of Justice, the Injustice League break down the door to the magical armory and start overwhelming the Justice League Dark members. The Injustice League quickly start ganging up on Kent Nelson.
As that happens Khalid Nassour talks to the Doctor Fate helmet saying that he knows Fate wants to improve the world and that he is their way to win this battle. Khalid then says “It’s time to show all of magic a new Fate.” End of issue.
The Good: With how much has gone on in “The Witching War” storyline thus far Justice League Dark #18 slows things down to set up the finale of this arc. James Tynion takes the time to show us where everyone is at in the moment and what is at risk. In doing so Tynion sets up the incredible amount of tension that exists with all the decisions that characters make.
While things are contained to the Hall of Justice and the Collective Unconscious at no point do things feel small. Tynion does a good job in creating a sense that if things go beyond these locations it will be incredibly dangerous to the world. That sense of danger adds to how you are invested in the Justice League Dark finding a to overcome Circe and the Injustice League Dark.
Having that investment level adds credibility to how quickly the Injustice League Dark have established themselves as one of the biggest threats to the world. The entire time they are on screen the Injustice League Dark just come across as having all the momentum in this war. The Justice League Dark are continuously playing behind the eight ball. That is only further solidified by Drakul Karfang. As soon as the dragon appears on screen things appear hopeless.
Through all this Tynion is able to bring back history between Drakul Karfang and Wonder Woman from JLA: A League Of One back into play. Even though this may lose some fans since it is not the most well known Justice League stories Tynion does give enough info so you understand Drakul Karfang hates Wonder Woman. Circe knowing this when she offers Wonder Woman’s body to be consumed by Drakul Karfang furthers the narrative of how ahead of everyone she is.
This also helps add weight to the sense of desperation on Wonder Woman’s side as she has to battle against Upside-Down Man. There is a strong balance between Wonder Woman knowing what she needs to do to defeat Circe and possible consequences in making a deal with Upside-Down Man. It also speaks to Wonder Woman’s confidence that she can unite Hecate and Upside-Down Man that is willing to make this deal with such a menacing villain.
In doing so Tynion also makes Upside-Down Man an even bigger villain that the reader hates because of what he does to Witchfire. The lack of remorse when Upside-Down Man bites Witchfire and Wonder Woman’s shock over the action shows how he is not one to be messed with. This adds a lot of intrigue in how much time this deal between Wonder Woman and Upside-Down Man will be given since it could be the next story after “The Witching War” or be built as its own event down the line.
On the rest of the Justice League Dark’s side of things Tynion is able to show us how bad things have gotten for the team. The amount of solutions for the team seem to be very minimal with the way Zatanna, John Constantine and the others talk with each other. Figuring out that their only chance is using the mystical weapons that are in the armory shows how desperate things have gotten.
Which takes us to the choice of Khalid Nassour possibly sacrificing himself to become Doctor Fate again. Given what happened just recently with Nabu using the power of Doctor Fate to almost destroy the world there is no telling what will happen to Khalid when he puts on the helmet. At the same time, Khalid is the right choice to be the one to possibly become Doctor Fate. We’ve seen how Kent Nelson has come into his own as a powerful magic user without the need of the Doctor Fate powers. Kent could be the key in helping Khalid control the Doctor Fate powers if he somehow loses control at any moment.
Alvaro Martinez Bueno once again delivers high quality artwork that has now become expected from Justice League Dark. Bueno captures how creepy and intimidating Upside-Down Man is. This works well in how Wonder Woman is able to keep her composure while talking through being covered in horrible things by Upside-Down Man. Bueno also does a great job in capturing the grander scale of “The Witching War” with how he draws Drakul Karfang when he appears on screen and Khalid holding the Doctor Fate helmet.
The Bad: Though it is cool to see Tynion bring back JLA: A League Of One back into continuity the hate Drakul Karfang has for Wonder Woman will be lost on a lot of readers. That story is not one of the bigger must-read Justice League stories that will be at the top of everyone’s memory. New fans who have only read Justice League Dark since Rebirth or New 52 will also be left scratching their heads on that side of the story that is very important to what happens in this issue.
Overall: Justice League Dark #18 was a solid continuation of “The Witching War.” Things slow down in this issue as a lot of characters from Wonder Woman to Zatanna to Circe make choices that will affect the future of this series. In going with this direction for Justice League Dark #18 James Tynion and Alvaro Martinez Bueno build greater anticipation for how “The Witching War” will conclude.
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