Shade the Changing Man, fresh off his Secret Seven appearance in Flashpoint, gets called away from his magical blow-up doll to put together yet another rag-tag team of supernatural superheroes, this time to stop a particularly creepy looking and emaciated Enchantress.

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #1
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colors: Ulises Arreola
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Ryan Sook
Editors: Rex Ogle and Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously in… Oh wait, this is a completely new title! Shade the Changing Man is the possessor of the magical M-Vest, which is a magical artifact I am not overly familiar with. So far its purpose seems to be for networking between members of his team; he used it to summon members of the Secret Seven during Flashpoint, and Madame Xanadu uses it to summon Shade here. Other than that, we see Zatanna, John Constantine and a few members of the Justice League.

SHADOWPACT IT AIN’T

The opening of the issue gives us the cast in a clever way; Madame Xanadu’s tarot cards portray the team in their various roles–Zatanna of course being the Magician, June Moone being the Fool, John Constantine in an unspecified role, Deadman being Death, etc.

June Moone, the mortal part of Enchantress, encounters a large demonic being of some sort, then goes into a diner where everyone is watching a news report–and as a child points out, June is the one on TV! Apparently a large number of June Moone body doubles are appearing in the city, and in a graphic but exquisitely drawn two page splash panel they are getting mown down on the freeway. It isn’t often that we get what I consider to be really effective splash panels, but Mikel Janin packs enough into this, and it does a great job of setting the bizarre tone for the rest of the book.

I don’t much care for Shade, partially due to a lack of familiarity with him, but mostly because Secret Seven was such a convoluted and awful Flashpoint tie-in. Plus, his jacket is inferior to Leo Quintum’s in All-Star Superman. Nonetheless, I like most of the other members of this team; Xanadu caught my attention in Demon Knights (which, assuming the presence of Etrigan in the last page indicates his presence in this title–in fact, Jason Blood may have been on one of the tarot cards, now that I think of it–will be interesting to see whether Cornell and Milligan tie the two titles together), and I have always been a big fan of Zatanna, even if she is inexplicably wearing her fishnets on her arms now.

The art in this issue is really good; Janin’s name hasn’t been on my radar before, and I don’t know what else he’s done, but based on this issue I will have to give whatever else he does a try. I am a bit bummed out by the Zatanna redesign. Her old tux and tails costume was perfect, and befitting a stage magician. It was also very tasteful and decently conservative (fishnets aside). Her new costume is nice, though it shows more cleavage while covering her legs, but it doesn’t really distinguish her from other characters–her tux and fishnets were iconic, and I am disappointed DC would get rid of it.

A notable portion of this book is the appearance of the modern day Justice League; Cyborg, Wonder Woman and Superman go to investigate the source of the magical disturbances: a house where Enchantress has secluded herself in a small envelope. This scene has the only weak part of the book in my mind, as the JL discusses how they don’t like magic, and Wonder Woman comments that considering their absurd power levels and penchant for breaking physical laws, they might well be considered magic themselves. Cyborg responds that that certainly doesn’t apply to him, considering he is “an honest-to-goodness product of science and technology.” The exchange feels forced and corny, and I am not sure if Milligan is trying to make some sort of overarching meta-statement about superheroes or trying to explain something to new readers, but either way it fell flat for me. Enchantress attacking the Justice League has some delightfully twisted art, and was reminiscent a bit of Sandman.

BOTTOM LINE: GREAT ART AND AN INTRIGUING STORY

Overall the story seems to be going somewhere interesting, and the last page serves as a bit of a shocker, where Madame Xanadu’s years of seeing a non-linear timestream have left her a bit rattled, and we see things from her point of view. Janin’s art is absolutely gorgeous; DC really has it together with their art in this relaunch. From Manapul’s Flash to Lopresti’s JLI, Asrar’s Supergirl and Basri’s Voodoo, there is a very diverse range of artistic styles (Liefeld’s Hawk and Dove, anyone?), with MOST of it being really good. I give Justice League Dark four out of five stars; the story is probably closer to a 3.5, but the art really pushes it up a few notches.

Rating: ★★★½☆

 

The Author

Jimmy

Jimmy

Once upon a time, there was a boy. This boy grew up reading classic literature--Moby Dick, The Time Machine, Robinson Crusoe. At age six, his favorite novel was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He devoted his time and efforts into being an incredible nerd, mastering classical literature and scientific history for his school's trivia team. Then he got to college, and started reading comic books. It's been all downhill from there.
Jimmy's favorite writers include Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Gail Simone, Grant Morrison, Chuck Dixon, Mark Waid and Bryan Q. Miller. His favorite artists are Kevin Maguire, Amanda Conner and Alex Ross, and his least favorite grammatical convention is the Oxford Comma. His most frequent typographical gaffe is Randomly Capitalizing Words.

You can follow his lunacy on Twitter at @JimmyTheDunn

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7 Comments

  1. Rob
    October 3, 2011 at 12:53 am — Reply

    Shade’s a great character. I loved his 70 issue run Milligan did with him.

    This was a huge transitional time for artist Chris Bachalo too. It’s different from his work now, but you can tell it’s him. Plus he really grew as an artist for the fifty or so issues he did. After that it was a little hit or miss with artists like philip case.

    But the thing I remember most about Shade The Changing man… It had the best cover art! :D

    Some trippy (cool at the time) photoshop work by Brendan McCarthy, followed by some awesome Jamie Hewlett (Gorillaz)… and finally, some amazing painted covers by Duncan Fegredo, which are my all-time favorite covers!

  2. Armaan
    October 3, 2011 at 6:58 am — Reply

    Shade was a really creepy character here.
    And there’s something ominous about the way Batman told Zatanna she wasn’t stable enough.

    Justice League Dark indeed.

  3. October 3, 2011 at 7:41 am — Reply

    Shade was the only thing that didn’t really work for me, as Chris Bachalo seemed to do him the best, but that could just be nostalgia talking. Here he seemed a bit too Fabio for me. Hope it keeps up this vibe and doesn’t go magical bolts a’blasting, especially with Constantine. Would be nice to have a weird and unpredictable title in this relaunch where the solution isn’t just fighting, but quick thinking and trickery, like in Hellblazer or Sandman. Either way, i’m in for a while, loved the art and plot enough.

    • Rob
      October 3, 2011 at 12:12 pm — Reply

      It makes me sad that Chris Bachalo gets some harsh negative reactions now-a-days. I mean, he still gets a lot of positive reactions too… but he might be one of the most polarizing artists at Marvel.

      If you don’t like his work, I still encourage you to take a look at how his style developed while working on Shade: TCM! If you have a cool comic book shop that will let you open back issues, check out his work on the first 25 or so issues. Then check out his work on the next 25 issues!

      It was around issue 50 he started to tapper off the book.

      Oh, also… The first collection of Shade: The Changing Man (Peter Milligan’s run) “The American Scream” is on Comixology.

  4. Doctor Mango
    October 3, 2011 at 9:59 am — Reply

    I’ve only picked up about 20 of the new DC first issues (and will already be trimming back to about 10 for issue 2). But this was by FAR my favourite comic of the month. I hadn’t come across all of the characters before but the story telling was good enough that I didn’t have to know 30 years of comic background. And I thought the art (and colouring – let’s not forget the moody colouring) was brilliant.

  5. Rob
    October 3, 2011 at 12:27 pm — Reply

    BTW, the original Ditko 8 issue Shade: The Changing Man, is pretty fun but different. He was also in the Suicide Squad for a half dozen issues or so. But I still think Peter Milligan is really responsible for defining him.

    I think the Shade that showed up in Flashpoint: Secret Seven was more of the Ditko version. But I’m happy to see Milligan picking him up again on this title. :)

    Oh, and I think the scene with his “his magical blow-up doll” comes off a little more sad than creepy with a little history. OK, I’m done now. Carry on. :D

  6. Damascus
    October 14, 2011 at 4:25 am — Reply

    I wasn’t sure how I was going to react to this title. Having “Dark” in the title makes me think I won’t like it, even though I quite liked the Dark Avengers over at Marvel. I read this book and loved it though, I think the art is really strong, even background characters look like real people. There’s a guy in the diner that looks like he has to be a buddy of the artist’s or something, the level of detail in his face is ridiculous. The mood, the styling of everything was just superb. That giant sized version of the Devil creature from Legend in the beginning was cool, the splash page was pretty awesome and terrifying, there was just so much awesome to this book. Little things stood out to me, like when June Moone shows up at Dove’s apartment, I didn’t even get that it was her until you see Deadman listening from around the corner and the way his head tilted to hear better or whatever his reason, it just felt real. I did think that the scene where Cyborg, Wonder Woman and Superman are walking to the old farmhouse, that they looked really posed and not in a very natural stance; I think my problem was mostly in their arms, like they were flexing to show off their muscles.

    I also actually really liked Zatanna’s new look, I actually kinda love it. I do love the original, but this seems so much more natural and easier to blend in and manuever the world in. If I had my way though, Zatanna would put on big magic shows in Vegas and would wear her original outfit while she’s on stage and you know in situations where something breaks out quickly and she doesn’t have time to change, she can go to battle wearing the fishnets and tails. I think that would make perfect sense for her character and would give people the original too.

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